ECU’s new chancellor is diving into campus life when he officially takes office on Monday.

Philip G. Rogers, who is the university’s 12th and youngest chancellor, is starting his tenure during homecoming week.

Along with meetings with his cabinet and other groups, Rogers is scheduled to meet with students and participate in Cannonball Kickoff, the official start of the weeklong celebration, on Monday afternoon.

He also is participating in a virtual conversation about the university’s future on Thursday.

University of North Carolina System President Peter Hans announced Rogers’ selection in mid-December. A former chief of staff at East Carolina University, Rogers served as senior vice president for learning and engagement with the American Council on Education since July 2018. The council is a research, policy and advocacy organization for the nation’s colleges and universities and represents more than 1,700 public and private higher education institutions.

“Dr. Rogers is a driven leader who brings energy and vitality to ECU,” Hans said in December. “Philip is invested in ECU for the long haul and will bring steady, stable leadership.”

In a Jan. 18 column penned for The East Carolinian newspaper, Rogers wrote, “I look forward to forging genuine and meaningful partnerships with our talented faculty, staff, students, our loyal alumni, and many others who care so much about our university.

“As we move forward together, I’m eager to embrace and champion ECU’s valued assets, such as our dedication to academic excellence, our passionate athletics program, our commitment to advancing rural health care, and our role as a driver of regional economic development — all of which will sustain and grow the university’s profile and impact in the days ahead.”

Rogers, a father of two, grew up in Greenville. His father, Greg, has served as pastor of Oakmont Baptist Church for more than 30 years. His mother, Leslie, is a former assistant vice president for student services at Pitt Community College and served as interim director of ECU Career Services from 2015-18.

His wife, Rebekah P. Rogers, earned two degrees from the university. Rogers also is the great-grandson of an early student of the East Carolina Teachers Training School.

A university spokeswoman said it was coincidence Rogers is starting the same week students celebrate their Pirate pride.

Early in the fall semester Justin Janak, ECU director of campus activities, and other administrators realized the university’s traditional weeklong homecoming celebration would fall victim to the pandemic restrictions that limited gatherings even in outdoor facilities as large as the 50,000-seat Dowdy Ficklen Stadium. So there wasn’t a push for homecoming celebrations.

Recognizing the students had already given up much of the traditional college experience, Janak and the other administrators decided homecoming would be postponed instead of canceled. From that, “Home Sweet Homecoming Spring 2021” was born.

“Our goal was to create a homecoming experience for students,” Janak said.

Mainly a series of virtual events with some in-person activities, the week is a way for students to engage on campus whether they live there or not, he said.

It’s also a way to make up for not having spring break.

“I think this will be a really good respite without having the spring break and a full week off,” he said. Students will continue with their regular class schedules and then participate in homecoming activities.

A new tradition is being established with this event, the selection of a “Captain of the Ship” in lieu of the traditional homecoming king and queen.

“It’s a little bit more centered on Pirate spirit and Pirate involvement along with academics,” Janak said. “What we’ve done is open it up to any student.”

In past king and queen contests, one male and one female candidate were nominated through an organization, Janak said. Now everyone can apply.

Forty-two students applied for this year’s event, Janak said. He anticipates the number will increase in coming years.

A judging panel conducted virtual interviews with the candidates this week. The top 10 finalists will be announced during Monday’s Cannonball Kickoff. Students will vote for the finalists Tuesday through Friday. The winner will be announced during Saturday’s homecoming baseball game.

Another important tradition, the homecoming parade, is getting a virtual makeover.

Instead of traveling on floats along a parade route, This year’s event will feature decorated golf carts taking a jaunt from the student parking garage to the ECU letters in front of the main campus student center.

Emcees, drawn from faculty and staff, will provide commentary as the carts go by and will interview participants, not unlike how some television networks broadcast the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Janak said.

Outgoing Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson is this year’s grand marshal.

“Dr. Mitchelson has been in the parade for, I don’t know, decades now it feels like because he loves homecoming parades,” Janak said. “This is kind of going to be his last one as staff member and chancellor. It should be a lot of fun and a way for students to feel like they are going to be in on the action.”

Janak said it may be better than watching the floats pass by on East Fifth Street because there will be a “behind the scenes” aspect.

Students and the public are discouraged from gathering at the student center because of social distancing guidelines. They can watch the parade beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday on the ECU homecoming Facebook Live page.

Another popular homecoming event, the skit competition traditionally features student groups competing before 4,000 students at Minges Coliseum.

This year the groups will post 60-second video clips on ECU homecoming’s Instagram in a series of brackets that will narrow until the winner is crowned on Friday.

“It’s a cool thing they are doing this year to make that event happen, but we are very hopeful there is a light at this really long, challenging tunnel and in the fall we’re back to a more traditional fall,” Janak said. “We want to get back to 3,000, 4,000 students cheering in Minges as the show goes on. There is no replacing that kind of atmosphere or that kind of energy.”

The following is a summary of the list of events taking place. Visit https://homecoming.ecu.edu/ for more details plus links to register for virtual events and to view them.

Monday

  • Campus Recreation and Wellness Virtual 5K Kickoff, 8 a.m. start.

This is the first homecoming 5K. Although a virtual event, participants can show their speed.

  • Skit Competition Bracket Challenge – Kickoff, 8 a.m. start.

Performances will be posted on Instagram and students will vote. Each day the bracket will be narrowed. The winner will be announced Friday.

  • Cannonball Kickoff, 4-7 p.m. on the main campus Student Center Lawn.

The kickoff to the week’s events will feature a special performance by the ECU Marching Pirates. Only 200 students can be accommodated and they must register to reserve a spot. Along with an appearance by new Chancellor Rogers, there will be virtual activities including Make and Bake with Gwendy’s Goodies, ECU Trivia and a Netflix Teleparty movie.

  • Banner Competition, all day at the Eakin Student Recreation Center.

Organizations will create awe-inspiring banners that showcase their Pirate pride and incorporate this year’s theme. Banners will hang in the Student Recreation Center and the winners will be awarded Spirit Cup points. Photos of the banners can be viewed on the ECU Homecoming Facebook page.

Tuesday

  • Pirate Nation Scavenger Hunt. 8 a.m. various locations.

Competitors must answer trivia questions, snap a photo/video and explore new places. Two different hunts are offered, one for people living on or near campus and another for Pirates living all over the world.

  • Captain of the Ship Voting on Pirate Port, all day.

ECU students can login to Pirate Port to view the top 10 Captain of the Ship candidates and vote for their favorite. Voting ends 5 p.m. Friday.

Wednesday

  • Pirate Nation Gives, A 24-hour online fundraising event.

Thursday

  • Student Activities Board presents Throwback Bingo. 7:07 p.m.

This virtual event features singalongs to favorite songs from the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s while playing virtual bingo game.

Friday

  • Canned food drive, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Student organizations will collect canned and nonperishable foods to be donated to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.

  • Golf cart parade decorating, noon-6 p.m. at the main campus student center parking garage

Student organizations decorate their golf cart to reflect the theme “Home Sweet Homecoming.” Due to COVID-19 restrictions, organizations can only have up to five students decorating at one time.

  • Skit competition bracket challenge wrap-up, 5 p.m.

The top three skit competition winners, chosen by judges, will be announced. The fan favorite is determined by the bracket challenge.

  • Paint it Purple Friday, all day.

Students, alumni and community members are asked to wear purple every Friday.

Saturday

  • Homecoming parade, 10 a.m. on ECU homecoming Facebook Live

Watch on ECU homecoming Facebook Live the homecoming parade and Float Competition. It’s a precursor to the homecoming baseball game. Vote for your favorite golf cart.

  • Captain of the Ship announcement, time to be determined.

The 10 finalists will be recognized during a recognition ceremony at the homecoming baseball game. From the finalists, one student will be further recognized as the “Captain of the Ship.”

Sunday

  • Homecoming virtual 5K wrap-up, 5 p.m.

Visit ECU Homecoming Facebook to celebrate the miles logged and funds raised to support the Campus Recreation and Welles RW Priority Fund benefiting CRW Student Employee Academic Scholarships.

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