10 Questions with Homecoming’s Leah Matusow

From being a Family Relations Captain for THON 2011 to a member of Students Engaging Students and the Women’s Club Basketball team, Penn State Homecoming Executive Director Leah Matusow has shown her dedication to Old State. As we celebrate Penn State’s first ever Homecoming Legacy Celebration, Onward State got a chance to talk with Matusow about Penn State Homecoming.

Onward State: Keeping with the Twitter theme, can you describe for us in 140 characters or less what exactly is the Homecoming Legacy Celebration?

Leah Matusow: A day to celebrate Penn State pride and tradition, educate others on Homecoming, and ignite the flame that it’s a year-long celebration.

OS: This year’s theme is “Forever Lions, Endless Pride.” What was the process that came to picking the theme? What does it bring to students understanding Penn State tradition?
LM: Picking a theme is difficult and definitely a process. There are so many thoughts that run through your head. You want to make sure that it is not similar to years past and that the words go together well. We select one of our meetings in the fall semester and start listing out words that come to mind when we think of Penn State, Homecoming, and the different events throughout the year. From there we start to put phrases together and eventually phrases become themes. There is a lot of discussion that goes on as well, and we really think about what the different themes mean to us. This process is a little different for each Executive Committee, but I am proud of my committee and how we came to our final decision. It becomes difficult to narrow it down to one theme from several, but for us there was a moment. The room got quiet and we just knew that Forever Lions, Endless Pride was it. Our official theme has a paw print between Lions and Endless, however it becomes difficult to insert that into text and other things so usually a comma is added.

Forever Lions, Endless Pride really encompasses, in my opinion, what it means to be a Penn Stater. You are not a Nittany Lion for a day, a week, or just four years, but you are one forever. The pride you pass on to your friends and family is endless and will always be there whether you choose to portray it or not. Our University is very rich in tradition and I think this theme really embodies the meaning of passing that tradition along for many generations. When you talk to alumni who come back to visit you see their passion for Penn State exuding them. Penn Staters are all around the world bleeding blue and white and knowing that they are forever lions and honored to pass along their endless pride. I think this theme should resonate with all students because it should comfort them in knowing that they will always have a home to come back to.

OS: The Homecoming Committee will hold its annual Homecoming Alumni Tailgate Competition. What are your ideal tailgating spirit, food and decorations?
LM: This year we are actually changing the name of this event to Tailgate Competition. We will be opening this event to students as well as alumni and are very excited for the different tailgates we will see. There are a lot of students and different groups who would embrace this competition. Of course we will be monitoring each tailgate for alcohol, but the Alumni Relations Committee has been working hard to revamp this event to make it more inclusive.

Personally, I love the tailgates that have blue and white everywhere. The food is homemade, the decorations are from the past and the present, and everyone is dressed in Penn State gear. The tailgates that are welcoming to people that pass by and allow everyone to share in the spirit of the football game is also great. When I am an alumna and come back to tailgate, I will definitely make sure to have hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and dip, and other food favorites. Blue and white will be seen throughout and I might even have a toast to the game that is being played that day.

OS: Leading the Homecoming Executive Committee is a year-long process of planning one of Penn State’s proudest traditions. What have been the biggest challenges you’ve run into?
LM: The Executive Committee is a group of strong leaders who are dedicated to making Homecoming 2011 the best to date. We all have a lot of different ideas and sometimes it can be difficult to come to a consensus. However, we spend a lot of time weighing the pros and cons of situations and what would ultimately be best for Homecoming. It has been a challenge in deciding what ideas we want to implement this year and which ideas we should continue to develop and pass on to Homecoming 2012. Sometimes you need to have a balance between what is new and what has been done before and I think we have worked hard to find a balance between the two. I think challenges are what makes the Executive Committee stronger and, in the end, are what make Homecoming a success.

OS: Homecoming Week is surrounded around the Parade and Pep Rally leading to the Homecoming Game against Purdue. Can you describe some of the other events that are held throughout the week?
LM: Before the Homecoming week of events even begins, there are several events that occur in the fall. First, we have our Homecoming Day of Service. This is open to all students to get involved and volunteer in the community. Following this event is our Homecoming 5k, which will be October 1st, 2011. There is a pep rally, a great race course, food, and performances after the race is over to entertain the students and community members that participate. This year, Spirit Week will precede the Homecoming week of events. While the details for this week are still being worked out, we are very excited that we will be giving Penn State students an opportunity to show their spirit and pride through possible dress up days and other events that will be announced at a later date.

Homecoming week kicks off with the Homecoming Dance Competition and SPA/Homecoming concert. The Dance Competition gives student dance groups a chance to showcase their talent and the winner will have the opportunity to perform at the Pep Rally. The concert is a collaborative effort with SPA who brings in a performer. It is really a great night and way to kick off Homecoming week. On Monday, we have our East Halls Celebration. This is something that is geared toward first-year students, but open to all students. It takes place in Findlay Commons in East Halls and gives students an opportunity to meet the Homecoming Courts, participate in some trivia, and learn more abut Homecoming. Tuesday is our Past to Present event and For The Glory Talent Show. Past to Present takes place in the HUB and showcases pictures and trivia from the past and present. There are decorations galore, food, performances, and a lot of fun. The Talent Show is a chance for event and overall competitors to display their skills in front of an audience. The event is open to the public and performances range from air bands to music groups to juggling acts. Wednesday is the Best of Penn State Carnival and Field Day. This event takes place on the Old Main lawn and is also open to the public. There are carnival games, blow up activities, food, raffles, and our DJ playing music. All of these events lead up to the weekend, which includes the Ice Cream Social, Parade, Pep Rally, Tailgate Competition, and football game!

OS: Which Homecoming event is your favorite?

LM: This is a tough question, but if I had to pick one I would say it is the Homecoming Parade. I love that the streets are filled with Nittany Lions, young and old, eager to see the floats and the different performing groups. To hear the cheers as you ride through the parade and see the smiles on the faces of everyone is really infectious and makes you think about what Penn State means to you. After walking in the parade for two years and riding on a flatbed last year, I really grew to love the parade and what it means to Homecoming. There is something about it that gives you chills when you are walking through the streets of State College. The little kids are so excited to see the different themes and get candy from the walkers. Everyone is yelling Penn State cheers and singing songs. I think this is the event that really brings all Nittany Lions together.

OS: What does “For The Glory” mean to you?

LM: For The Glory is more than just three words and a phrase. It is something that I have come to live by at Penn State. Everything that I do here is For The Glory. These are the words that start our Alma Mater and why I continue to give back to this University. For The Glory means doing what you can to contribute to Penn State and give back to a place that has given so much to me. I am proud to sign my emails FTG and I will continue to live with this phrase in my mind because it keeps me grounded and reminds me why I do the things that I do.

OS: What has been your most rewarding part about being involved in the Homecoming Committee?
LM: Being involved with the Homecoming Executive Committee has been so much more than I ever could have asked for. I have learned so much about this University, Homecoming, and what it means to be a part of a 17-person team. There are many challenges that come with being on this committee, however there are a lot of rewards as well. For instance, being able to see all of our new ideas and vision for Homecoming 2011 come to life is incredible. It is awesome to have a big hand in putting on one of the largest Homecomings in the country. I have really enjoyed seeing my committee grow and learn a lot about themselves as well.

OS: Of course, some fun questions: Are you Team Edward or Team Jacob?
LM: I am not the biggest Twilight fan, but I can tell you that if it were between Team Twilight and Team Harry Potter, Harry Potter wins all the way!

OS: What is your favorite hideout place on campus?
LM: It might not be a hideout, because many people can find me there, however I love to be in 209 HUB. You can sometimes find me taking a nap on my adviser’s couch or just relaxing in there to get away from some of the chaos that can occur. I love the people that work in there because they are so supportive and always willing to lend a hand or listen. It is my go to place when I need to get work done or need a break. Dance party Friday’s don’t hurt either!

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