Homecoming for some, home for all

Laura Huenneke

By Laura Huenneke, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Alumni are flocking back to Flagstaff, greeting friends and walking the campus, renewing memories while discovering beautiful new buildings and grounds. The university tradition of Homecoming dates to roughly 1910, when several schools—including my own alma mater, University of Missouri—began inviting alumni to “come home” to join current students in celebration, with a football game as the highlight.

Homecoming presents a dilemma of sorts to faculty and staff who did not attend Northern Arizona University. Many of us are deeply attached to the institutions we’ve chosen to work within—the mission, the students, the place and culture that drew us here to stay. But the T-shirts for sale in the bookstore that say NAU Alumni seem off-limits if this is not our “home” institution.

It’s even more complicated for those who feel a stronger attachment to their graduate institution than their undergraduate alma mater. And some of us may have undertaken postdoctoral study, or moved once or more among institutions during our careers.

So which institution commands our strongest loyalty and emotional connection?

I’m fortunate. Northern Arizona University’s mission and values reflect those of the institutions in which I was educated—public schools offering diverse, high-quality opportunities to all, including first-generation students. And the relationships among NAU, Flagstaff and the spectacular Colorado Plateau “feel” much like the town-gown-regional connections of Cornell University, where I did my graduate study in Ithaca and the Finger Lakes landscape of New York. So I know I’ve come home, even if I can’t claim to be an alumna.

Thanks to all of you Lumberjacks who have chosen to devote your efforts to this institution—I hope to see you at the football game tomorrow!

Band playing at homecoming parade