America's Greatest Homecoming provides student leadership opportunities
Tuesday, December 14, 2021
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Thousands of alumni and fans flock to Stillwater every year for America’s Greatest Homecoming, but many may not realize the amount of work done behind the scenes to pull off the largest student-run homecoming celebration in the nation.
Each year, students work tirelessly to ensure an unforgettable week of events for members of the Cowboy family. Members of the Executive, Steering and Big committees help plan and execute all of the major Homecoming events, including Walkaround, Harvest Carnival, Sea of Orange Parade and more.
The Big Committee has approximately 125 students who assist the Steering Committee with each event. The Steering Committee is made up of eight groups who handle many different aspects of Homecoming week. The groups include athletic pride, campus outreach, communications, Harvest Carnival, Sea of Orange Parade, public relations, university spirit and Walkaround.
After serving on the Steering Committee, students are eligible to run for one of the nine positions on the Executive Committee. Each position oversees a specific aspect of Homecoming and the Steering Committee and is responsible for that element or event.
This year’s Executive Committee is led by Executive Director Ariel Scholten, an agricultural communications major from Sebastopol, California. Scholten has a special place in her heart for the Homecoming tradition.
“I accidentally did my campus tour on Sunday and Monday of Homecoming week,” Scholten said. “The orange fountain dyeing was my first experience on OSU’s campus. I always think that happened for a reason.”
Scholten and the rest of the team are continuing a tradition of leadership that dates back decades on the OSU campus. During Walkaround, attendees can see the hard work the fraternities and sororities put into the house decorations to celebrate the week. However, many opportunities are available for students not affiliated with Greek life.
Tony LoPresto, a 2001 accounting graduate and former member of the Executive Committee, helped shape the impact residential life now has in the planning of OSU’s greatest tradition.
“The Alumni Association offers so many different events that week that it’s not just exclusively for Greek life, even though they are a huge part of it,” said LoPresto, who also served as Alumni Association board chair from 2019-2021. “I just always thought it was important to offer opportunities for everyone, no matter what type of student they are on campus.”
No year is the same for students serving in Homecoming leadership roles. Scholten has had a couple of unique experiences during her two years on the Executive Committee. The first was handling the planning process leading up to the originally scheduled centennial celebration in 2020 before it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Hearing we were going to postpone it a year was not the experience I was expecting,” Scholten said. “It was so valuable, though. I learned so much last year about what it looks like to know something is out of my control, and that’s OK.”
Her other unique experience is leading the first all-woman Executive Committee in Homecoming history.
“This is something I am personally really proud of,” Scholten said. “It has been wonderful to be able to bring attention to this fact. We have a female engineer on the team and a female biochemistry major, as well. It really is a very capable team that happens to be all women.”
Volunteering time with one of the many Homecoming committees benefits the organizations and attendees as well as the students who can take what they learn to heart and have pride in what they accomplish.
“Service has been an important thing to me and my family,” LoPresto said. “I especially enjoy service to organizations I love and care about. Being able to serve the Alumni Association and OSU was an important factor. Plus, it was great to be involved in what I consider our greatest tradition.”
Scholten also sees the professional growth she has experienced because of her time being involved with Homecoming.
“I have learned things are always more complex than they seem,” Scholten said. “There are always one or two or 200 more variables than I could have ever thought of. I have learned how to sit down and really think through a problem.”
Current students who would like to be involved in the 2022 installment of America’s Great Homecoming are encouraged to learn more at ORANGECONNECTION.org/homecoming.
Photos By: Gary Lawson and Phil Shockley
Story By: Will Carr | STATE Magazine