Whiteboard Wisdom

Every Monday I have a team meeting with my co-workers* in room G427. It appears that G427 is also the venue for RAs (Residential Assistants) to gather on the last Sunday of the month to review and plan their programs. The left over meeting notes on the white board have been  amusing and informative for myself and my coworkers. And even better they have provided material for this blog post.

In September the RAs reviewed the success, or otherwise, of the orientation sessions in the first month of the academic year.

Showing good leadership, they realised that while it is important to reflect both on what went well…

Went well

… one should also be honest about what went poorly.

Went poorly

Hmmm… sometimes demand exceeds supply. And as my friend Loaf remarked “I wonder what they were doing with the ice cream that made it uncomfortable?” Indeed.

In October the RAs stopped to think about the needs of each particular cohort of students.

The Freshman…


The Sophomores


(I wonder if the Sophomores have an identity crisis because they are ‘forgotten’?)

The Juniors


and the Seniors. ( To support the end-of-an-era mood cue Greenday track here )


But it appears the RAs became stumped when considering the needs of their older student cohort.


I think I’ll manage okay.

* I have learned co-workers is  the preferred term here, not colleagues.

PS: My friend HSLC has shown some initiative and proposed what might go in the graduate column. Thanks for chiming in!

Graduates filled in


Fall Foliage Photo Essay


“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

“Autumn…the year’s last, loveliest smile.”

William Cullen Bryant

I first noticed myself doing it in September, but it wasn’t until October that the habit really took hold. I started to walk around campus with my phone in my pocket, ready to slip it out and take photos at any given moment. The colour palette of the landscape was changing daily. Green… yellows… orange…red… grey. Click, click, clickitty-click.


I found myself wandering off the path to kick my feet through the leaves like a school kid.


 I became drawn to the ‘shadow’ that the leaves create underneath the tree from which they fall.




One day I was driving on a narrow and winding road, through the woods, colours in full bloom, the sun setting in the distance, and leaves were drifting across the bonnet of my car. One even stuck on the windshield before flicking off. I felt like I was in the opening credits of a movie.


When I saw yet another tree I had been watching shed its final leaves the sadness hit me unexpectedly.



I am scared about the winter that lies ahead. Everything will be grey, and bare, and dark and cold.


Match Report: Homecoming Football Game


So we pick the action up at the tailgating party. After coming to the realisation that a tailgate party pretty much consists of people getting drunk in a car park, I sought an escape. I wanted to see how ‘American Football’  – or ‘Grid Iron’ – stacked up against rugby or Aussie Rules Football so I put down my red plastic beer cup and headed for the real game.

My entrance through the gates presented another awkward moment involving ID checks. Only this one went slightly differently to the one I described in the ‘Can I See Your ID? post. As I had a student ticket, I had to pass through the student entrance.

Ticket checker:          This is the student entrance.

Me:                            I know

Ticket checker:          Are you a student?

Me:                            Yes

Ticket checker:          Are you sure?

Me:                            Yes I am sure.

Ticket checker:          Can I see your student ID?

Me:                            Yes. (I hand it over.)

Ticket checker:          (Looks at it, hands it back sheepishly).

                                  I was just kidding! In you go.

Me:                             No you weren’t.

I brushed it off and entered. It was over two hours since kick off but the game was still in the second quarter. But we hadn’t actually missed anything.

Think of every cliché relating to American Football that you can. That’s exactly what lay before me. Cheerleaders. Dancers. Bleachers. Match statistics. Slow-motion replays. Over-enthusiastic ground announcer. Marching band. Flag-waving-baton-twirlers. Gatorade buckets. Kiss Cam. Dance Cam. Sidelines full of helmeted-padded-lycra-clad players itching to take the field. And 6400 yd² of luminous green turf.


I was grateful for all these distractions because the game was a little hard to follow.  It went like this. Stop. Start. Stop. Start. Kick. Throw. Stop. Referee’s announcement. Stop. Start. And so on. And on. And on.

One major difference in spectator behaviour was how the students responded when the visiting team had possession and were making an important play. Rather than simply ‘boo’ the opposition, everyone got out their key chains and jangled their keys. It must have terrified the opposition.

Half-time was all about the marching band. You can hear them here. And because it was homecoming weekend, they invited back alumni who had been part of the band to perform once more. But it wasn’t just former band members getting in on the action. On the sidelines was a group of middle-aged alumni cheerleaders  – pom-poms in hand – and when the flag waving girls marched out they too were accompanied by alumni. These former students were truly living up to the alumni motto: Students Today. Huskies Forever.™


I wish I could tell you more about the the game, but I just wasn’t enthralled. Give me a leaping AFL forward, a soccer striker on the penalty spot, or a rugby winger on a chip-and-chase any day. At least you can tell what they look like off the field. In their playing uniforms the American Football players remind me of the little kids in ski school lessons – all suits and helmets and identified only by a shirt number.

Once all the starting and stopping, and stopping and started was done, just 4 ½ hours after kick off, we lost 13-10. It seems our key chains weren’t scary enough.

PS: Five fun facts about American College Football

  • There are 52 players suited up to play on game day.
  • There are 105 players in the actual team.
  • They have 12 coaches.
  • The head coach is highest paid public servant in the state.
  • Every time possession changes (say from offense to defense) they sub on an entire new team. There is no such thing as an all-rounder.



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Homecoming football match?

Humans vs Zombies fun run?

Campus critters and creatures: a walk through local wildlife?

Photo essay on autumn leaves?

Homecoming exposed

After the deluge of water through the apartment and temporary relocation, a visitor from Australia, two trips to Boston, and a whole lot of study, I got kind of side tracked these past few weeks. So here are my well overdue thoughts on ‘homecoming’ week. What on earth is it all about?

Wikipedia says…

Homecoming is the tradition of welcoming back alumni of a school. It most commonly refers to a tradition in many universities, colleges and high schools in the United States. It usually includes activities for students and alumni, such as sports and culture events and a parade through the streets of the city or town.

But in the interests of thorough research, after all I am an ‘academic researcher’ now, I sought out out a few additional sources.

Female student 1: It’s when we celebrate school spirit.

Female student 2: It’s when the alumni all come back to tailgate.

Now while these responses helped me get my head around homecoming, it was this male student’s answer that lead to my ‘ah-ha’ moment.

Male student: It’s when we invite a school who is worse than us at football to play a match, so we can beat them and then celebrate how awesome we are.

The beauty of this last observation is that, for the second year running mind you, we lost the homecoming football match. We couldn’t even topple the ‘easy-beat’ school. But don’t truck in the counsellors just yet. Thankfully our institutional self-confidence gets a healthy booster from our basketball teams.


Across homecoming week, here is what I saw, heard and avoided.

The 2013 homecoming theme. Apparently every party needs a theme over here.

It Takes Two logo

This photo, which appears on the university’s homecoming webpage, reflects what they want you to think the homecoming parade looks like.

Uni parade photo

But it actually looked like this. The ratio of performers to spectators was about 25:1

parade in the rain 2

While I wandered past the parade, and I went to the homecoming tailgate party and football match, there was also a whole range of associated homecoming events that I missed. These  included:

  • Banner competition
  • The Lip Sync competition
  • Car Chalking
  • Royalty Pageant & Alma Mater Sing

In researching this blog, I came across the rules for each of these ‘competitions’ and I was amazed at the level of detail. Homecoming events here have a highly regulated series of competition rules and guidelines. I guess in this litigious society you can never be too careful. Someone may fall over, or the wrong frat house may mistakenly get the lip sync trophy on their mantle for the next 12 months. And don’t even get me started on the trouble that could brew if Jenna misses out on the Homecoming Royalty Court finals.

So to return to the question: what is homecoming all about?

A chance for undergraduates to dress up, sing, dance, parade and generally have fun celebrating their youth and awesomeness.

A chance for the Greek Life students* to prove their superiority over other Greek Life students.

But really, homecoming is simply a really long pre-match show for the football team.


*the alpha, gamma, epsilon folk for those of you who haven’t read this blog with a fine-tooth comb.


The 2013 homecoming results

And the Winners Are…

Greek Organizations

1st Place: Alpha Epsilon Phi, Beta Theta Pi, Tau Kappa Epsilon

2nd Place: Delta Zeta, Sigma Chi

3rd Place: Kappa Kappa Gamma, Alpha Delta Phi, Sigma Alpha Epsilon


Fee-Funded/Cultural Centers

1st Place: Asian American Cultural Center

2nd Place: African American Cultural Center

3rd Place: UConn Marching Band, Kappa Kappa Psi, Tau Beta Sigma


Non Fee-Funded Organizations

1st Place: UConn Irish

2nd Place: Global House

3rd Place: Student Alumni Association

A Beginner’s Guide to Tailgating


“A tailgate party is a social event held on and around the open tailgate of a vehicle. Tailgating, which originated in the United States, often involves consuming alcoholic beverages and grilling food. Tailgate parties usually occur in the parking lots at stadiums and arenas, before and occasionally after games and concerts. People attending such a party are said to be tailgating.” Wikipedia Tailgate Party

It was with trepidation that I agreed to attend the pre-homecoming game tailgate with one of my roomies and her friends. I knew there would be food and alcohol. I had been warned to not to wear any good shoes. Other than that, the sole source of my knowledge on tailgating came from this scene in the movie The Silver Linings Playbook. As someone who prefers to drink in local pubs, smart restaurants, or small wine bars, I knew that this would be an out-of-my-comfort-zone activity. Especially considering that I was taking a ride with others and therefore had no control over when I could leave.

When I first agreed to go, I thought that tailgating was a minor addition to the main event of the day – an afternoon football match. Little did I realise that the tailgate party was actually the main event. The match started at midday, and I was told to be ready by 8:30. AM. In the morning. So we would have plenty of time to tailgate. At this revelation, I nearly backed out of the outing. But the ‘big game’ was on the list of things I must do while in America, so I sucked it up and tagged along.

Things I learned / observed:

  • Tailgating is for everyone: undergraduates, graduates, alumni, families with babies / children / teenagers, older people, even supporters of the opposition.
  • Each parking lot had a different category of tailgaters divided according to age (students or alumni) and vehicle (cars, RVs*, buses and U-Haul trucks). As you walked from one to parking lot another, the number of people, the types of cars, the music blaring, the games being played and the set up was distinctly different.
  • The more elaborate set ups included couches, had separate tables for food and beer pong, and ladders to climb and sit on top of their buses or truck.
  • The undergraduate students travel from the campus to the field in a convoy of a dozen yellow school buses. They then trek across the fields to join in the tailgates hosted by the fraternity and sorority houses.
  • Many people just come to the field to tailgate, and then go home without bothering to enter the stadium. A bit like going to the Melbourne Cup and never laying eyes on a horse.

Tailgate packing list

  • Picnic table, fold out chairs, cooler, banners and flags (Go school!).
  • A cooler and ice for drinks
  • Red plastic cups (naturally)
  • Chips and salsa, pulled pork, coleslaw, burgers, cheese, and meat for grilling
  • Soda, beer, beer and more beer.
  • Game ticket (only if you want to leave the carpark)


Alumni playing ‘Cornhole’


Students playing ‘stump’


Graduate students playing ‘beer pong


Tossing the football around.


Fraternity and Sorority students playing something with a carton of eggs and a whole lot of beer.


Every single section of grass surrounding the stadium was filled with tailgaters.


Going beyond simply wearing a school t-shirt or cap…

PS: Evacuation is over.

Thanks for your sympathetic responses to my last post. We have now been returned to our apartment which the Res Life staff had dried, cleaned, painted and restored to a better than original condition. In a happy coincidence of perfect timing, my personal shoe salesman from NYC rang on Tuesday to tell me about a special one day sale on boots this week… I wonder if he follows the blog???