Students are keeping the ’Canes spirit alive

Members of the Homecoming Executive Committee share how they pivoted this year to plan a ’Canes Spirit Week that continues to generate excitement and honor tradition.
UCheer at a Spirit Night pep rally, Oct. 9, 2020

Every fall semester, the Homecoming Executive Committee (HEC) plans and hosts a week of events fostering the spirit and tradition of the University of Miami. This year the ’Canes spirit will be bustling, but homecoming traditions were completely reimagined and redesigned in an effort to unify the University community during noticeably different times. 

Zoria Telfare, chair of HEC and a senior majoring in exercise physiology on the premedical track, along with her three vice chairs—Grace Tenke, Bhavana Srikakolapu, and Kevin Xu—came together at the beginning of this semester to plan a week of events. If not for the pandemic, they would have been able to begin planning five months earlier, in March. 

“It was definitely an adjustment for us,” said Telfare, “coming from planning a big week of homecoming celebrations to this year, where we still are planning events but definitely on a smaller scale.” 

Plans for the week include both in-person and virtual events and will culminate with Hurricanes Game Day on Oct. 24, a football watch party for students on the Intramural Fields. Team contests—including the Alma Mater singing competition, the Organized Cheer dance competition, and the King and Queen Pageant—are sidelined this year but are replaced by events such as an outdoor movie screening at the Lakeside Village volleyball courts on Thursday evening, Oct. 22, and ’Canes Spirit Day on Friday, Oct. 23. Popular events like Donuts with Duerk and Pancakes with Pat were added to this year’s lineup as well. 

Determined to not let the campus community down, the goal, Tenke said, is to bring ’Canes together but in a safe way. 

“I’m excited. I think we did a good job adapting to COVID,” said Tenke, a junior majoring in finance. “In the past we were always encouraging these large events, but now we’ve had to dial it back.” 

Telfare, Tenke, Srikakolapu, and Xu each had to rethink the way their committee operates. Within HEC, there are subset groups that perform specific tasks for many of the competition-based events. Now that those events aren’t taking place this year, Telfare and her team were encouraged by their advisor, Josh Brandfon, to create new events that embody tradition and ’Canes spirit. 

“As with all of our student groups and departments this semester, HEC was challenged to overhaul their normal way of doing things,” said Brandfon, senior director of the Department of Student Activities and Student Organizations and Student Center Complex programs. “Even with a shorter time to plan than they are used to, HEC worked for several weeks with a variety of campus offices to help ensure their events are both safe and spirited." 

The group landed on ’Canes Spirit Week: We Bleed Orange and Green, a slogan they believe encompasses their mission of getting students, faculty, staff, and alumni energized for the week. 

“People joined the committee with the intention to do one thing, and now we are faced with shifting our mindset,” said Tenke. “It was a challenge, but we've done it with poise and grace, I think.” 

Srikakolapu, a senior studying biology and political science, said bringing the “boom” of the fireworks without actually having fireworks was an extreme challenge on her fellow committee members, but they are proud of the outcome. 

“Being one of the biggest traditions on campus, it also means there is a very traditional way of planning homecoming,” said Srikakolapu, who has been a part of the organization for three years. “Seeing how we really have to make a new tradition out of this was really difficult to all of us, but I think we did the best with what he had, and I’m really excited to see how it all turns out.”

Xu, a health science major, said there are advantages in this different homecoming experience. Instead of being siloed within their own committee, HEC relied heavily on campus partners, including Hurricane Productions and Student Government, to make this week happen.   

“This week was a huge collaboration from everyone involved,” said Xu. “Everyone was so flexible with their time and effort. Everyone has busy schedules, but we’ve all come together so gracefully to make sure this is a spirited week of celebration.” 

See the full schedule of events for the week.