Students reflect on first in-person Homecoming since 2019

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Clare Sheedy | Senior Staff Photographer

Pitt students gather at the Cathedral of Learning on Saturday night for the annual Homecoming Fireworks and Laser show.

By Brandon Raglow, Staff Writer

For many Pitt students, last year’s Homecoming was another loss in a year fraught with online classes and canceled events. With a new semester underway, students reflected on their Homecoming weekend, which was the first in-person Homecoming for first-year and sophomore students.

Isabela Garcia, a junior information science and history double major, went to the Homecoming game on Saturday as well as the fireworks and laser show, and said they reminded her of how things were before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was a lot of energy, a lot of people, all crowded,” Garcia said. “It just really reminded me of normal times.”

She also said the fireworks and laser show following the game brought a lot of energy to campus.

“It was fun, it was very energized,” Garcia said. “It kind of seemed a little bit like a rave because they had the lasers going and then the fireworks.”

Additionally at the Homecoming game, Pitt’s Alumni Association announced the Spirit of Pitt awards, which they instituted last year as a more inclusive, non-gendered replacement for the Homecoming king and queen. De’Jovia Davis, a senior urban studies major and Ian “Monty” Montelius, a senior Pharmacy major, won the awards.

Danielle Obisie-Orlu is a junior international and area studies major and was one of the nominees for the award. As a member of the Homecoming Court, she said she thinks it will do a lot to bring people back to the community.

“I think they were really ambitious coming back from a full-on pandemic — however, I think they also highlight how much people are happy to be back on campus,” Obisie-Orlu said. “And really the emphasis has been placed on making people feel welcome and making people feel like they belong. I think that ambition has really gone a long way because you see a lot of students are really just excited to be back and in community with people.”

Another Homecoming court member, Evelyn Seasholtz, a senior early childhood education major, said she agreed with Obisie-Orlu.

“I feel like the sense of community was kind of lacking after the past year and a half due to the pandemic,” she said. “I think a lot of the programs this week have brought back that sense of community.”

Lucca Spence, a junior environmental science major, attended the Homecoming Beat Series on Friday, and said he participated in the activities offered, including airbrush tattoos.

“It’s great. I got an epic dragon tattoo, the line was a bit long, but I’m just having a good time. I had a bit of time between classes and I just stepped in,” Spence said. “I didn’t even know anything was going on. I think I only went to the light show freshman year. I’ll probably be around for the light show, and I think that’ll be cool.”

Pitt organizations, such as the Alumni Association, organized many of the Homecoming events — like the one Spence attended. Avery Krouse is a Blue & Gold Society ambassador and a junior rehabilitation sciences major. Krouse said Blue & Gold Society ambassadors preside under the Alumni Association and planned almost all of the Homecoming events. 

“It’s really just about upholding Pitt traditions which is one of our pillars as Blue and Gold ambassadors,” Krouse said. “We just really keep the traditions going here year after year and Homecoming is one of the biggest.”

She also said there were some difficulties that arose amid an ongoing pandemic.

“I definitely think it’s been a little different and challenging just switching from a fully COVID year and now coming to in-person. I think there have been challenges in terms of marketing the ideas,” Krouse said. “But overall I think that it’s been a very successful event and a lot of people have been very encouraging and enthusiastic about attending this Homecoming.”

Anna Cawood, a junior political science and history major, works as a student building safety concierge, ensuring that students swipe their IDs to get into campus buildings. She said she feels the University handled alumni on campus well.

“All the alumni got passes to come into the buildings, so that was really organized and that was nice,” Cawood said.

Brooke Buche, a sophomore industrial engineering major and a member of the University’s dance team, said she’s excited for the various Homecoming events that the dance team is participating in. 

“For Homecoming we’ve been doing events all week. We have a lot of alumni dancers coming in to support us from the stands,” Buche said. “We have a new dance we’re doing in the third quarter. We’re just excited to have all the alumni back.”

Buche said being a first-year on campus last year was very different compared to this year, and Homecoming was an exciting addition. 

“Last year I was a freshman on campus and there was really nothing for us to do ever,” Buche said, “So this is a big change, and it’s been awesome.”

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