“You might be in the pit stop, zero, or your car is at rest. Then, the next thing you know you’re at 200 mph, just like that,” according to ENMU’s Director of Alumni Affairs, Robert Graham when discussing one of ENMU's biggest events of the year, Homecoming.
Graham and his colleague Melissa Sena are two of the main people who work hard to make Homecoming possible through collaboration with various departments and organizations both on and off campus.
“One of our objectives for Homecoming is to make people feel good about Eastern,” said Graham.
There are many variables that must be completed to perfection to make Homecoming possible, some of which include safety, the community, authorization, and collaboration. One of Graham’s most important goals of hosting a Homecoming is to have alumni return to the campus. Due to being in rural eastern New Mexico, Portales can be hard for people to return to. Graham considers this challenge of trying to bring more people back for Homecoming a geographical hurdle. Although there are about 5000 alumni in Eastern New Mexico and West Texas alone, many others live in larger cities throughout the U.S.
Another critical part of Homecoming for those planning is to avoid overexertion.
“An important lesson that I have learned is when you have limited resources, [you must learn how] manage them as wisely as possible and adopt a go-getter mentality and an attitude. I would say you have to remain positive throughout Homecoming, because it can be emotionally and psychologically stressful if you allow it to be,” said Graham.
There are many helping hands that come together to help make Homecoming possible for the students, faculty, and alumni of ENMU. Some of these helping hands are behind the scenes and are not always recognized for their hard work.
These people and groups include Melissa Sena, the community of Portales, Campus Police, Campus Life, ASAB, Physical Plant, Sodexo, the Department of Fine Arts, many student organizations, and Athletics, more specifically, Dr. Waggoner and his staff.
The Homecoming Parade is one of the more challenging aspects of Homecoming. Graham stated that Sena deserves 100 percent of the credit for the parade’s overall success. She is a very important part of the Homecoming Parade, as she helps make it successful through her customer service.
“It would be the appropriate gesture for me to acknowledge her contribution because her contributions are huge to the parade,” according to Graham.
Some of the more challenging aspects of the parade are getting the route approved and making sure it is as safe as possible. The safety improved alternate route was found in 2012, due to Highway 70 being under construction. Graham and his team also noticed that crowd attendance is necessary. After the recent change in the parade’s route, the crowd attendance grew.
Graham hopes to have 100 organizations participate in the parade this year.
“Something that is unique about our parade is the community plays such pivotal and critical role in the participation. So it really is a partnership between student organizations that participate and community organizations that participate,” said Graham.
Graham hopes for a turnout of 500 Alumni and students for the first Homecoming Tailgate. Invitations were sent to alumni who live in the Clovis and Portales areas in hopes of a larger turn out.
Graham also stated that he would like for the Alumni Board meeting to continue taking action, which will benefit current and future generations of alumni. Last but not least, he wants to start establishing a tradition where the alumni collaborate with student organizations each year, to assist with Homecoming and to further its success.
Attending graduate school and teaching at ENMU is helping Graham establish a better well-rounded understanding of the campus. He has a vantage point as an instructor and alumni, which helps increase his understanding for student interest and concerns. He has now been an employee for four out of the five years that he has helped with Homecoming.
“I actually volunteered in the Alumni Office the last year of my graduate studies. The person before me resigned. Then, I applied for the position and got it. It wasn’t the job I was looking for, it’s just how it unfolded,” said Graham. “Rural America has a lot to offer and for me working at Eastern and living in Eastern New Mexico and West Texas it’s been a way to open my horizons.”
Graham wants everyone to help celebrate ENMU. Homecoming should represent a celebration of teamwork and collaboration between various student organizations and alumni due to all the hard work, time, and effort that has been put into this event.