During the Fall semester of 2007, a talented but anxious contestant entered the “Ville Idol” competition and found out on Oct. 12, the day before the huge Taylor Hicks homecoming concert was to be held, that they would be opening for none other but Hicks himself, the winner of the fifth-annual “American Idol” competition.
On Monday, Aug. 3, 2007, tickets went on sale for the Hicks homecoming concert, and by the weekend of the actual concert, friends, family and faculty alike shared in the flustered and frantic days and hours preceding the opening performance and the long-awaited live appearance of the “American Idol” champion.
Move forward to August 2008. No anxious contestants looking forward to performing an opening for Hicks, or for anyone for that matter. Why?
This year, the Millersville University Alumni Association (MUAA), whose mission statement states a “[commitment] to continuous improvement of educational processes through its support to the University,” has decided to change focus.
According to Steve DiGuiseppe and Dianne O’Connor, executive director of alumni, special events & data management and director of alumni services (Executive Director of MUAA), respectively, the “focus” should not be thought of as a change so much as a shift, or a way to “tie things together” better, as O’Connor said between tight-smiling lips Thursday afternoon.
When DiGuiseppe and O’Connor talk about bringing things together they are not talking about cutting programs or events due to budget restrictions—economizing—as has been the popular conception.
The two showed a willingness to express clearly and honestly exactly why and how they thought their mission statement; a commitment to educational processess, was being typified.
For instance, rather than having a homecoming concert, the MUAA has decided to host what they are calling “Fall Fling 2008,” which will be held on different dates, all over the campus.
DiGuiseppe and O’Connor explained that this tactic of bringing people together for family-oriented, activity-oriented events allows the MUAA to “focus on homecoming as a whole.”
O’Connor, trying to hold back excitement, said “[this] will offer something for everyone…we’re just celebrating big for our 75th anniversary.”
And then it came out. The why was not so much a shift of funds, as has been thought, or a shift of ideology, which both DiGuiseppe and O’Connor repeatedly made a point to fundamentally oppose, as much as it was a way to focus on the actual “MUAA Goals” found on MUAA’s homepage—one of which both DiGuiseppe and O’Connor seemed to have deeply in mind: Enhance and enrich the experiences of students through contact with alumni.
The MUAA as an University organization has decided that for their 75th anniversary there would be no big concert or celebrity appearance—simply giving back to the university in accordance to their foundational goals and mission.
Both Diguiseppe and O’Connor lamented over the fact that fantastical and vastly expensive homecoming concerts bring a lot of revenue and attention but do not specifically achieve many if any of the MUAA goals.
Diguiseppe and O’Connor wanted to organize something that would engage students more, and also, if they could, manage to bring attention to the organization itself, which, in turn engages students more.
MUAA is located on 207 North George Street, and is responsible for, among other things, keeping the line between alumni and current students as open as possible.
Diguiseppe and O’Connor simply did not believe that for this particular Fall homecoming, another celebrity concert would achieve what a more global focus would achieve.
The “homecoming” this year will be a more general attraction, spread out between four days; Oct. 30 to Nov. 2, and will be organized around the students, families and alumni.
It will be a way for those factions of the university community to meet each other, talk on a personal level, share experiences and so forth.
“I hope that Fall Fling will be an annual event,” O’Connor said. “But that’s not to say that the MUAA won’t sponsor [events like the homecoming concert in 2007] in the future.”
Some of the events on schedule for “Homecoming” are a golf outing on Friday, 31 October at Crossgates Golf Course, a showing of KungFu Panda in the Club de’Ville on Saturday, and a concluding “Class of 1958 50th Anniversary Reunion” on Sunday.
The actual “Fall Fling” activity will take place on Saturday, 11a.m. to 5p.m., at Brooks Field and Boyer Parking Lot.
“Most of our programs, we have a huge marketing effort,” said Diguiseppe. “The students are always a big part of our planning of events.”