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Destined for Distinction: USM Prepares for Homecoming 2023

Mon, 09/25/2023 - 11:54am | By: David Tisdale

BandUniversity of Southern Mississippi (USM) student Victoria Walters says she loves being a part of the Golden Eagle family and everything that comes along with it, from the football games to the tailgating and hanging out with her Delta Sigma Theta sorority sisters – all moments that make her college experience memorable.

Her excitement is a widely shared sentiment among the USM faithful as Homecoming 2023 approaches, set for the week of Oct. 2-7, with “Destined for Distinction” serving as this year’s theme.

“Now that homecoming is arriving soon, my excitement naturally grows,” says Walters, a senior psychology major from Pearl, Mississippi who serves as president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. “I’ve always enjoyed tailgating, but participating in the homecoming tailgate is something truly memorable at USM.

“Watching the homecoming parade as everyone is passing through is so exciting. Reuniting with old friends and alumni as well as being able to network and mingle is something I truly look forward to during homecoming season. It’s an important part of the culture at Southern Miss and truly exciting to be a part of.”

Hunter Simmons, a senior public health policy and administration major from Cleveland, Mississippi, concurs with Walters, saying homecoming at USM is “one of the best times throughout the year to get the true, Southern Miss experience.”

But when he enrolled at Southern Miss in 2020, COVID regulations were in place, severely restricting social interactions that make the event what it is.

“There was no homecoming celebration. It was a hard year,” said Simmons, who serves as president of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. “But following COVID, our first homecoming was off-the-charts. Everyone, in every organization, was going all day and night to prepare floats and show our school spirit in everything we did.

“Homecoming makes me realize how lucky I am to have chosen Southern Miss and joined the Golden Eagle Family.”

USMUSM 2023 Homecoming events include, but are not limited to, the following:

Oct. 4-5: Presidential Inauguration Celebrations at the Hattiesburg and Gulf Park campuses

Oct. 6: 25th Annual Alumni Homecoming Golf Tournament, 8 a.m., Hattiesburg Country Club

Oct. 6: Alumni Hall of Fame Banquet, 6:30 p.m., Thad Cochran Center, Hattiesburg campus

Oct. 6: Friday Night at Spirit Park, 7 p.m., Southern Station, Hattiesburg Campus

Oct. 7: Alumni Association Annual Meeting, 10:30 a.m., Thad Cochran Center Ballrooms

Oct. 7: Homecoming Parade, 1 p.m. on Hardy Street in Hattiesburg

Oct. 7: Pregame entertainment at Southern Station, 4 p.m.

Oct. 7: Homecoming football game vs. Old Dominion University, 6 p.m.

USM alumni, including faculty and staff members at the University, are eagerly anticipating the week of activities as much as its students. Dr. Katie Anthony, who serves as interim dean of the USM Graduate School, says that as an undergraduate alumna, faculty member, and administrator, USM homecoming is always special to her. 

“Not only am I able to re-connect with friends and classmates from my college days, but I get to enjoy our university traditions year after year and reflect on the ways our institution continues to make such an amazing impact on students' lives and our greater community,” she continued. “It’s just one of the many reasons I am grateful for Southern Miss.”

Fellow alumna Laura Laughlin, executive director of Student Connections at USM, says there’s just something special about the nostalgia that homecoming brings.

“That’s my favorite part each year - seeing familiar faces and visiting favorite spots on campus makes me remember those incredibly formative college years,” Laughlin further noted. “I love seeing people of all ages experience and reminisce on their memories, too, all while seeing current Southern Miss students in the middle of their best days. It all provides this sense of connection to fellow Southern Miss faithful that just can’t be matched.”

Brandi Soule, customer service manager with iTech on the USM Hattiesburg campus, says homecoming week is for her all the good things about USM and the fall season. “The campus is full of life during this time,” Soule explained. “Enjoying all the fellowship of tailgating, parades, looking at the floats, listening to the Pride of Mississippi (marching band) play, and seeing all the Homecoming Court with friends and family is simply priceless.

“Then to be able to go into the Rock (USM football stadium) for the big game! Southern Miss football means family, fun, unity, teamwork, and love to me. My family and I are emotionally attached to this team and embrace it no matter the outcome. We always bring friends or family along to share the joy and experience of Southern Miss Football - we bleed black and gold.”

Kelsey Rushing, president of the USM Foundation, enjoys homecoming as a time to reconnect with friends and classmates and share old memories, as well as create new memories and make new friends.

"Seeing the crowds, experiencing the sights and sounds of the tailgates, and attending the various alumni functions makes for a very good time, a fun time,” Rushing said. “Being a part of the homecoming experience give me pride in Southern Miss and a feeling of nostalgia from my days as a student there.”

For more details about USM 2023 Homecoming, visit the Upcoming Events section of the Southern Miss Alumni Association website.