By Nash Wills, Staff Writer
This past Saturday Thunderbird participated in its first ever Arizona State Univesity (ASU) Homecoming parade. The procession began at 8:15 in the morning when around 40 Thunderbird students and faculty, along with numerous other ASU organizations and clubs, set off in military style formation to complete the half-mile march down Mill Avenue. There were floats, fans, fancy cars, announcers, music, food, and everything else that makes a parade a parade. The entire event lasted around two hours and it appeared as though Thunderbird was well received by the larger university.
What is Homecoming?
Homecoming is an annual event for most colleges and universities in the United States that takes place in late fall. For big schools like ASU, the event coincides with a football game, usually played against an easy opponent, and includes other smaller events throughout the week which all culminates in the Saturday parade and subsequent game. The week, and more importantly the weekend, is a way for students and alumni alike to celebrate and revel in school spirit. For foreign students the idea of homecoming might seem to be just that…foreign. And maybe that’s because it is pretty strange. Nowhere else in the world do people take so much pride in their undergraduate institutions as they do in the United States. For myself, it took moving to Argentina in order to learn just how unusual things like homecoming truly are. I remember trying to explain to my host family why it was necessary for three F-16 fighter jets to fly over The University of Georgia football stadium before every game and not being able to get very far before realizing that there really was no explanation, only idiosyncrasies. I digress.
What the students thought.
Well, I’ll just let them tell you what they thought:
Travis Hookham (MAGAM ’17, US): “For me it was a surreal experience. After a quick stop for coffee we got there and just started walking with our flags. Sure there was a wee bit of confusion as to what our chant was to be, but after it was all straightened out we were set. You know, I think it was Jay Throne who mentioned that we’re making a statement by marching in this homecoming. And the funny thing is, he was right. All along the way I could hear people saying, ‘What is this?’ ‘What’s a Thunderbird?’ And then someone would respond, ‘Oh that’s that thing they bought,’ or ‘That’s that thing ASU merged with.’ So we were definitely making a statement, a statement that said: Here we are ready to be a part of this family.”
Ryan Todare (MAGAM ’17): “I thought it was good. Coolest part for me was hearing our name over the speakers followed by the fact that we are ranked so high as an international business school, as well as hearing one girl freaking out how good our school is.”
Andrea Kaloush (MAGAM 17): “I loved participating in ASU’s Homecoming as a Thunderbird! It was a fantastic opportunity to showcase our spirit on the Tempe campus. People seemed really enthusiastic when we walked by with the Thunderbird banner and with the flags from all over the world. It was clear that the diversity piqued the interest of the crowd and it felt great to be welcomed with cheers and smiles. I left feeling very optimistic about our future with ASU, and I look forward to partaking in more activities in the future!”
What I thought.
I never went to our homecoming parades at The University of Georgia throughout undergrad. Except for once, when I was at a bar on a Saturday and inadvertently ended up near the procession as it rolled on by. I don’t think that counts though because I didn’t purposely go. I never really wanted to go. I always thought it was kind of lame. And its not like time has changed my opinion either because there was definitely a point on Saturday morning, as I marched in rows of five down Mill Avenue, the Argentina flag in my hands, another flag incessantly waving into my face (unbeknownst to the holder), chanting “When I say thunder you say bird! Thunder! Bird!” and hoisting my flag into the air in rhythm with my word, which just so happened to be “bird,” whenever I thought to myself “how on earth did you end up in this situation?” And after thinking about it, I really don’t know the answer. I mean yeah, I’m in Thunderbird Student Government, and as a representative of the school it is my responsibility to go to things like homecoming, but is marching in a parade really the best way for a 70-year-old graduate institution to integrate itself into another school? I know that it takes putting one foot in front of the other and that small steps, over time, lead to long distances covered, but I can’t help but thinking that a Homecoming parade is an undergraduate-centric event.
I don’t want to feel like an undergrad. I want to feel like what I am: a student at one of the top ranked, most storied, and most prestigious international graduate level business schools in the entire world. A truly professional organization full of ambitious globally minded individuals all with the same goal of graduating and going on to both be and do great things in this world. A homecoming parade just doesn’t invoke those feelings for me and maybe that’s why I found myself wondering how I ended up in it. This all isn’t to say that I am not happy with the current situation between Thunderbird and ASU, because I am. Its not every day, and in fact may be unprecedented, that a large state run school purchases a historic and reputable institution like Thunderbird. It is always important to remember that we are a part of ASU because they wanted us to be a part of their university. I don’t think that has changed nor do I foresee it changing anytime soon and I am proud to be a part of both institutions.