The importance of traditions

Cassie Luke[1]By Cassie Luke
Assistant Director of Housing and Residence Life

Homecoming Week is my favorite time of the year. Year after year, Lumberjacks return to campus to celebrate NAU’s past and to cheer to its future. I love Homecoming Week because it provides me with a number of opportunities to watch our students discover NAU traditions and to show off their True Blue NAU pride.

As the assistant director for Freshmen Connections, my job entails helping our 4,100 freshmen not only transition to university life but to feel like they are a part of the university. I want all students to have great memories of their time here and to feel incredible school pride. Traditions play an important role in fueling that pride by creating a shared experience for all. As such, my staff and I try to promote campus events that will build community and link students to campus life.

I also have the privilege of serving as the adviser to the Chain Gang, a student club whose mission is to uphold the traditions of the university. In a custom dating back to 1936, Chain Gang members tap the Homecoming dedicatee. You may have also seen them in their orange shirts at football games wielding the Chain Gang axe for the “big chop” that ushers in the football team. The Chain Gang is committed to linking students to traditions and passing them down from one class to the next.

As Homecoming approaches and alumni return, I am reminded of how tradition binds past, present and future Lumberjacks. I am honored I get to influence that, even in small ways, through my two roles.

traditions blog

Here are a few of the ways we have—and will—encourage freshmen (and all Lumberjacks) to get involved in tradition.

  • The Letters The youngest tradition at NAU finds the freshman class forming the NAU letters for the annual photo.
  • Running of the Freshmen In 2008, freshmen began the tradition of putting on their NAU best and running on to the field just ahead of the football team to kick off the season.
  • Traditions Day Carnival This day is all about being a Lumberjack and blending the old (the Mr. Lumberjack Pageant, now in its 37th year) with the new (chili cook-off, carnival rides and more) and reviving a few, too (bonfire, tug-of-war competition and best beard on campus award).
  • Homecoming Everyone is invited to watch the downtown parade and keep their eyes out for the historic logging wheels—the centerpiece of the annual parade since 1932. On the way to the parade, students are encouraged to grab pancakes at the new Flapjacks and Flannel event on the North Quad. For the many pancake-lovers out there, I hope this becomes a tradition!
  • Homecoming Football Game End the day by cheering for your Jacks!

What other traditions should be part of the freshman experience? Email me at or tweet me @naureslife.