Top 5 JWU Charlotte Homecoming Highlights

JWU Charlotte welcomed students, staff, faculty and alumni to Homecoming 2023.

Homecoming, which traditionally takes place in the spring for the Charlotte Campus, featured numerous celebratory events over the course of a week that allowed members of the JWU community to show off their Wildcat pride!

This year’s theme was “Make it Yours,” which encouraged people to select from a wide range of planned activities that best suited their interests.

We’ve narrowed it down to the top five highlights that made this homecoming one for the record books.

1. JWU Lights Up the Sky

A skyscraper in CharlotteCharlotte skyscraper shines blue and gold in honor of JWU Charlotte’s 2023 Homecoming.

JWU Charlotte is uptown, surrounded by the city’s skyline which includes the 550 South Tryon Street building – a staple skyscraper that’s 786 feet tall. The iconic building operates the Charlotte Lights program, which allows area organizations to display their brand colors to encourage people in the Charlotte area to support their unique causes, initiatives or events.

To kick off Homecoming 2023, the building shined Wildcat colors, blue and gold, on the first day of homecoming week.

“JWU Charlotte is a part of the uptown community geographically, and part of the greater Charlotte community. Our university is known locally, primarily because of the contributions made by our students and alumni that can be seen in the volunteer work they do and in the businesses they launch or work for,” said Director of Student Engagement, Crystal Hutson, who led the planning for Homecoming 2023. “Hundreds of cars, if not thousands, could see the uptown building shining our school colors and were alerted to our celebratory occasion – what a way to start homecoming week!

2. A modernized Homecoming Court

The JWU Charlotte Homecoming Royal Court membersHomecoming 2023 Royalty Court poses during the coronation.

For the first time, Johnson & Wales University Charlotte decided to retire the traditional homecoming court labels of king and queen, opting to identify the top two most-voted candidates as Royal and Gold.

Also, for the first time, students of all years – first-years through seniors, could apply to be on the court. A panel of JWU staff and faculty conducted interviews with applicants to learn more about their involvement on campus and interest in being titled Royal and Gold. Nine students were selected for the Homecoming 2023 Royalty Court and students voted to select winners.

The JWU Charlotte Homecoming Royalty winnersRhys White (pictured on the right) took home the title of JWU Royal and Zoe Rice (pictured on the left) took home the title of JWU Gold.

“We have decided to move forward with this modernized method of selecting our homecoming court and winners, as we feel it aligns with the university’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusiveness and belonging,” Hutson said. "We want to give all of our students the opportunity to get involved in the homecoming court experience, and eliminating requirements as it pertains to gender and year classification allows for an increase in the amount of people who can participate."

3. Homecoming Games and Tailgate

What’s homecoming without a game – or in JWU Charlotte’s case, games! The week featured six home athletic matches which included games for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as the season opener for men’s tennis.

For Saturday’s homecoming signature game, the men’s team scored a victory with a 102-68 win over Warren Wilson.

The JWU Charlotte Men's basketball teamDirector of Athletics, Trudi Lacey ’20 MBA, poses with the men’s basketball team.

“It was great to see our JWU Community and visitors attend games during homecoming week. Our student-athletes work so hard both on and off the court and they truly appreciate our great fan support,” said Assistant Director of Athletics, Christopher Charles. “All the games were well attended, and the success that the teams enjoyed during the week only increased the homecoming excitement campuswide.”

Contributing to that excitement was the annual Saturday Homecoming Tailgate, which takes place in the parking lot of the Wildcat Center. The event featured food trucks, games such as oversized checkers and Jenga, a mechanical bull and a live DJ.

Two students playing JengaTwo students play Jenga during the Homecoming Tailgate.

“The parking lot was full of students sporting their JWU t-shirts and our school colors,” said Assistant Director of Student Engagement, David Bateman Schieler. “Socialization is the main reason people enjoy homecoming, which is why we wanted to provide unique opportunities during the tailgate experience that would drive engagement and allow participants to create new memories. It was well received.”

4. Alumni Offerings

Four students sitting on benchesJWU alumni gather during homecoming weekend in the Charlotte Campus courtyard.

Alumni attended Homecoming 2023 events that were specifically curated for them.

“So many of our alumni poured into Johnson & Wales when they were students and we want to make sure they forever feel that connection to our university by providing opportunities for them to connect with other graduates while back on campus,” said Regional Enrollment Manager Christopher Plano '93, '95 M.S.

Alumni participated in various activities that included a Chocolate Tasting hosted by the College of Food Innovation & Technology, the Homecoming Tailgate, the Men’s & Women’s Varsity Basketball Teams games, a Bourbon Tasting hosted by the College of Hospitality Management and the Alumni Reception held at the Doubletree Hotel adjacent to campus.

“It was great to see dozens of our alumni return to campus to enjoy these events. This would not have been possible without the support of our academic departments, who stepped up to make sure our alumni received top-tier experiences, Plano said.”

5. Student-Led Activities

JWU Charlotte’s Homecoming is student-led, meaning students take the lead in creating the weeklong activity schedule, with assistance and oversight from the Office of Student Engagement.

“Homecoming is a time to celebrate the student journey, and at Johnson & Wales we feel it’s only right that our students have a major say in what events should be held. With them at the wheel, homecoming festivities are guaranteed to reflect the interests that make up our diverse student body,” Hutson said.

The most popular scheduled events were One Ton Sundae, where students were served ice cream sundaes to-go, allowing them to grab a treat in between their classes; the Super Smash Bros Tournament for gamers; the Sneaker Ball, which encouraged students to sport their best footwear; a live concert, featuring artist Celena Lena; and Neon Night, which featured laser tag, glow in the dark mini-golf, an airbrush artist to personalize homecoming t-shirts and glow sticks.

Students holding their sundaes from the One Ton Sundae event at JWU CharlotteStudents show off their One Ton Sundaes in their to-go JWU branded cups.

“I think this year’s ‘Make it Yours’ theme that students came up with was reflective of how we approached homecoming as a whole – giving students the control to shape this special time in their lives,” Hutson said.


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