Photo by Antyna Gould
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I am a third year English Major at the University of Maine. In my free time I can be found playing rugby, working out, or enjoying a good book.

With the current COVID-19 pandemic putting a halt to many on-campus activities, staying connected with each other has become difficult. The spirit of the University of Maine has remained unwavering in these times, and events such as the annual homecoming weekend have endured through the use of virtual events to keep the students connected to each other.

Homecoming weekend kicked off on Oct. 15 with a speech commemorating the Maine state bicentennial presented by professors Liam Riordan Adelaide and Alan Bird. The official homecoming opening was presented by President Joan Ferrini-Mundy, who welcomed attendees with information about UMaine’s future and a Q&A session for visitors. Following these opening events, the remainder of the weekend proceeded through various virtual events that represented multiple UMaine departments. Among these events were various coffee hours with schools including the animal and veterinary sciences, the horticulture and sustainable agriculture program and the food science and nutrition program.

Almost every department at the university has been represented in some way during this virtual homecoming. Even the Emera Astronomy Center hosted an event during which the Astronomy Center Director Shawn Laatsch gave guests a tour of the stars, and educated viewers on how to find celestial bodies at home. The involvement of these departments is a testament to the dedication of the university to promoting a culture of support and fellowship among the UMaine community.

Besides the various social hours with UMaine faculty, participants in the virtual homecoming took part in virtual tailgating before the broadcast of the UMaine versus University of Albany Homecoming football game from 2018. The event was streamed via Facebook Live and Twitter. It kicked off with opening remarks from President Joan Ferrini-Mundy and presentations from UMaine Black Bear Athletics Sponsors. The UMaine Alumni Band was featured as a performance during the halftime intermission. The band performance was the score to a slideshow of photos sent in by the alumni to reminisce about their experiences at the university over the decades. These images along with the 2018 homecoming game, presented viewers with a fond look back at UMaine history and served as a reminder that while students and alumni may be distant from each other at the moment, the experiences and memories the institution has created are timeless.

Even though it has been an unusual semester, homecoming royalty were still crowned. Students could vote through a Google Form for two contestants. Homecoming royalty was gender inclusive this year eliminating the gender binary that accompanies the titles of homecoming king and queen. This year, Emily McLoughlin and Juno Buendia won the title. 

Following the UMaine Alumni Band performance and the second half of the UMaine versus University of Albany game, a resounding win for the Black Bears, there were a few more events to close out this weekend’s festivities. These included several conversation hours with the College of Education and Human Development, the wildlife ecology program and a roundtable discussion with award winners from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The university has faced many challenges over the past few months in terms of socialization between students and keeping activities available to ensure that school spirit remains a facet of UMaine culture. The university’s ability to overcome these obstacles and make the most of these trying times is truly a testament to that enduring Black Bear pride.