Creating tradition with UBC Okanagan Homecoming

Local and Global Engagement | Strategy 18: Alumni Engagement
Theme: Collaboration
UBC alumni and students enjoyed a fun-filled evening at UBC Okanagan’s 2018 Homecoming Street Fest
UBC alumni and students enjoyed a fun-filled evening at UBC Okanagan’s 2018 Homecoming Street Fest

Since opening in 2005, UBC’s Okanagan campus has grown from 3,500 students to become a thriving part of UBC, with 10,000 students and a rapidly expanding community of UBC Okanagan graduates contributing their talents and energy to address society’s challenges.

Turning 15 next year, UBC Okanagan remains a very young university community — only recently did the population of Okanagan alumni surpass the number of enrolled students.

Students and alumni alike are keen to maintain meaningful and long-lasting relationships with UBC. To foster that spirit of engagement, the Okanagan campus hosted its inaugural Homecoming in September 2018, with more than 1,200 guests attending. The event represents UBC’s efforts to broaden and deepen alumni engagement — as represented by Strategy 18: Alumni Engagement in its strategic plan — through programs that cultivate pride, empower personal growth and enable contribution.

For this year’s event – happening September 27 and 28 – organizers are taking the best of the first Homecoming to make the 2019 gathering even more extraordinary.

“This campus is special. It’s a community-minded and entrepreneurial place that empowers students — and we know many of our graduates think of it as home, ” says UBC Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal Deborah Buszard.

 “We encourage our alumni and the community to come to campus to see what has changed. There is so much going on and it’s a great opportunity get reacquainted with old friends, tour some of our buildings, or even watch a soccer match featuring our own UBC Okanagan Heat.”

Being a teenaged institution means long-standing campus traditions simply haven’t had time to emerge and become part of the culture of the campus, which is emphasized by Adrienne Nolan, executive director of Development and Alumni Engagement.

“Our students and alumni have a great fondness for their university — the people, and the campus itself as a remarkable place,” says Nolan. “But we’re so young here we haven’t had a lot of time to develop strong traditions. Homecoming is a way we are building our sense of community and deepening that fondness for people and places.”

“Homecoming is our premier celebration of school spirit,” says Ms. Nolan. “It’s a chance for students, alumni, and the wider community to gather and celebrate UBC Okanagan right here on our campus.”

Homecoming is a weekend of festive gatherings and entertainment on campus, including a very popular open-air “Big breakfast” for students and alumni on the kick-off Friday morning; faculty-hosted Discovery Expo activities; a street festival with food trucks and live entertainment on Saturday; varsity soccer games; a wildly popular scavenger hunt across the campus; a top-notch golf tourney; and an evening of fine food and special entertainment.

“Positive moments of tradition create an environment for nostalgia — the street celebration, for example, which we call Street Fest — is a new way of capturing the feel of that for those who return to campus,” Ms. Nolan says.

Athletics, an important tradition

“Homecoming means so much to the university and our Okanagan campus because it’s building community for students, the school itself, and the alumni — and we all get to be a part of that,” says Steve Morrison, an alumnus of the Faculty of Management at UBC Okanagan. 

A lawyer with the law firm, Farris LLP in Kelowna, and active volunteer supporting UBC Okanagan Heat Athletics and alumni UBC, Mr. Morrison was a member of the UBCO Heat men’s basketball team that won the BC Colleges’ Athletics Association men’s basketball championship in 2009. He went on to become the team’s captain and lead the Heat when they entered USports Canada West league in 2011. 

Heat varsity athletics have enjoyed considerable success since UBC Okanagan joined the national league, but that BC title in men’s basketball was an important, hard-won milestone and point of immense pride for the young UBC campus in its early days.

Today, Mr. Morrison is helping add new traditions — as one of the organizers of a major Homecoming event. Set for September 28, the third-annual UBC Okanagan Heat Alumni Golf Tournament hits the links at the Okanagan Golf Club — the Heat golf program’s home course and site of the very first Canada West golf championship this fall.

“I’m really excited about Homecoming and the Heat Alumni Golf Tournament, as it’s a chance to reconnect with old friends and teammates,” says Mr. Morrison.

“The bonds and connections we made then, helped shape who we are now. Coming together as an alumni network to honour that and to work together on growing that opportunity — both for us as alumni and for the current student-athletes, students, and future UBCO and Heat alumni — is a privilege. Beyond that, it’s going to be tons of fun!”

With noisemakers provided by UBC Okanagan Homecoming’s presenting sponsor RBC, fans cheered on the Heat men’s and women’s soccer teams in Canada West action during Homecoming
With noisemakers provided by UBC Okanagan Homecoming’s presenting sponsor RBC, fans cheered on the Heat men’s and women’s soccer teams in Canada West action during Homecoming

Engaging today’s students as future alumni

Bachelor of Management student Kim Billinton was co-captain of the JDC West team at UBC Okanagan last year. The team of Management students raised funds for the United Way by running a dunk tank during Homecoming’s evening Street Fest.

“People from all faculties and their friends, alumni and family members were all there having fun and interacting,” says Ms. Billinton. “It was amazing seeing the attendees wanting to donate and having fun at the same time. That event benefited the community as well as the school spirit on campus.” 

Ms. Billinton was also a member of the winning team in the first-ever Homecoming Scavenger Hunt.

“It was the highlight of the weekend for me,” she recalls. “Two members of that team were graduating and two of us had a year left so we initially looked at it as a great last hurrah, but I think that experience led to a sentiment of wanting to return to Homecoming and experience those same feelings over again.”

Last year’s evening gala — Nourish — featured an inspiring talk by Jon Montgomery, 2010 Olympic gold medalist in skeleton and host of The Amazing Race Canada. The 2019 evening gala includes entertainment by Steve Patterson, host of the hit national radio show, CBC’s The Debaters, and gourmet long-table dining in UBC Okanagan’s newest facility, The Commons.

“I am really looking forward to Homecoming this year,” Ms. Billinton says. “Last year made me excited to come back and I know I will continue to make an effort to attend Homecoming post graduation.

“We always say campus is a community, and Homecoming really showcases that.” 

Visit the UBC Okanagan Homecoming 2019 site for information about Okanagan Homecoming events, including the Heat Alumni Golf Tournament and activities for alumni, students and the public.