All month long, Purdue University Northwest (PNW) has embraced the celebratory spirit of homecoming, and on February 20, that pride culminated into one grand bash at the Hammond campus—the “MANE” Event.
Both the women’s and the men’s basketball teams took to the court, challenging the Ferris State Bulldogs. Crowds of students, alumni, and PNW supporters lined the Fitness and Recreation Center, and two very unique experiences framed either side of the gym. Organized by the PNW Alumni Community, Strategic Events team and Homecoming Committee, the Alumni VIP Area and the Student Fan Experience offered attendees exclusive, court-side access to the games, plus one-of-a-kind treats to accompany their viewing experience. The Student Fan Experience is a brand new aspect of the PNW Homecoming festivities, and the entire event brandished a “Roaring” ‘20s theme.
“The ‘MANE’ Event is one perfect example of how we’ve changed the way we’ve communicated with both our alumni and student population in the last few years,” said Ashley Gerodimos, Executive Director of the PNW Alumni Community. “The opportunities we’re giving alumni to play an active, engaged role on campus are more accessible and exciting, and we’re really forging a stronger relationship with the students here now. Eventually, they’ll graduate and come back to this event as alumni themselves.”
Gerodimos said that a wealth of aspects draw PNW alumni back to campus events; for one thing, PNW Athletics are NCAA Division II now, more frequently enticing the sports fanatics to games. For another, the connections students make at PNW always seem to follow them after they graduate, calling them back to their undergraduate (or graduate) stomping grounds to thank a professor for the impact they had on their lives.
“One of the consistent reasons PNW alumni come back to our campuses is our people,” Gerodimos said. “Professors and colleagues, amazing people that have changed lives and continue to draw people back to reconnect.”
What better way to reconnect than over a beer named in honor of PNW? Byway Brewing Company, located in Hammond, curated the food and drink at the Alumni VIP tent, and featured its very own PNW Golden Mane Ale.
“Can you imagine catching up with your favorite professor over a PNW Golden Mane? That would be the best,” Gerodimos laughed. “The Byway Brewing team have been incredible partners and stewards to PNW, more like family than anything.”
Other sponsors for the event included Purdue Federal Credit Union, and White Castle and Pepsi, who curated the food and beverage for the Student Fan Experience.
“Purdue Federal Credit Union could not be any more supportive,” Gerodimos said. “They’ve truly embraced PNW Pride, and we’re very grateful.”
Matt Scheuer, area sales manager for Purdue Federal Credit Union, said he was thrilled to be in attendance for the event.
“We’ve been very excited to bring the Purdue Federal vision into Lake County, and to further our mission in Northwest Indiana,” Scheuer said. “PNW has been a fantastic partner to work with.”
Students in the new Fan Experience section enjoyed mocktails featuring Pepsi products. Many raved over the Jay Gatsby and the Cuddles on the Beach concoctions.
Students and alumni alike echoed Gerodimos’ earlier sentiments about the event’s appeal to both demographics.
“I feel like tonight is a real convergence of school spirit,” said Hector Cabrera, a PNW communications student who helped facilitate the event. “I’m really stoked to see the community become one, these alumni and current students mingling. There’s a melding of those two perspectives, past and present, converging in the middle. Regardless of ages and backgrounds, everyone is united by this one event tonight.”
Alan Heintz, who graduated from PNW in 2002 with an MBA, enjoyed the Alumni VIP Area with his wife and friends.
“This is a very enjoyable, successful event,” he said. “We heard about it and decided we couldn’t miss it.”
Brian Gonzalez, an alumnus who just graduated from PNW last spring, grinned as he showed off his gold wristband allowing him access to the alumni experience. Gerodimos teared up when she saw the former student ambassador, now turned alumnus.
“I love everything about Purdue Northwest, I have the PNW license plate holder and everything!” Gonzalez said. “PNW has done a lot for me. I had great professors who really believed in me and helped me achieve my vision of success. I will always support everything they do here, and it’s always good to reconnect with peers.”
Gonzalez said the next PNW event on his radar is Purdue Northwest Day of Giving in April. He’s looking forward to giving back to the university that helped shape him and his business career.
Austin Stanley, a financial advisor with Northwestern Mutual, cheered beside his intern Shawn Gomez, a current student at PNW, as a player from the women’s basketball team slam-dunked.
“This is my first time at this particular event,” Stanley said. “It’s a really cool one. It’s great to see the PNW team bring back their alumni and demonstrate the strength of their program.”
Rick Costello, director of Athletics at PNW, has watched Homecoming transform over the last several years into the extraordinary celebration it is today.
“February 20, 2020 is a pretty great night to have a Roaring ‘20s party,” he said, “and it’s a great night to have so many alumni back on campus. I’m proud of Northwest Indiana for embracing all things PNW.”
The PNW Pride fell to the Ferris State Bulldogs in nail-biting close games—the women’s team finished with a score of 57-50, and the men’s team finished with a score of 92-89—but that didn’t prevent the students and alumni in attendance from having the time of their lives. Gerodimos said she hopes the “MANE” Event, which is only in its second year, continues to grow.
“The PNW Alumni Community is comprised of more than 65,000 alumni,” she said. “In the last few years, we’ve really tried to lift our engagement level in that community, and it’s working. Attendance to events like these keeps growing as we incorporate more of them. Nearly 500 people have RSVP’d to the VIP Alumni Area tonight, which is incredible.”
Gerodimos continued, “Alumni and students are seeing exciting things happening in our community, and they want to be a part of them. We’ve formed a tight-knit bond with our students transitioning to alumni, and I’m excited to see that bond continue to strengthen.”
For more information about Purdue University Northwest, visit https://www.pnw.edu/.