Family Weekend 2023: A Spirited Reunion for Students and Families

Sophomore biochemistry and molecular biology major Nikita Desai and her family shows their ‘Canes spirit at the Parent’s Weekend pep rally Photo credit: Paulina Manekas

The University of Miami’s campus buzzed with excitement as Family Weekend unfolded, offering students and their families a chance to reconnect and explore campus life together.

Running from Thursday, Oct. 5 to Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023, this annual event aimed to immerse families into campus life through activities like model classes, sporting events, a block party, outdoor movie nights and more.

“It’s a time to experience our spirit, tradition, campus life, and the great city of Miami,” said Micheal Baumhardt, the Director of Orientation and Commuter Student Involvement.

On Friday, Family Weekend featured a packed schedule. Professors opened their classrooms to families, providing insight into students’ academics. Faculty held information sessions on topics ranging from study abroad to Greek life.

Each individual school and college within UM hosted receptions, tours and dean’s meetings, enabling families to connect with faculty, staff and administrators specific to their student’s program.

Friday culminated in a pep rally at 5 p.m.. University President Julio Frenk, Senior Vice President for Student Affairs and Alumni Engagement Dr. Patricia A. Whitely joined in the festivities at the rally alongside Sebastian and his family, the Hurricanettes Dance Team and the Sunsations dance team.

ESPN hosted a live broadcast at the Pep Rally.

“Unique to this year, we have the ACC network coming in. They’re doing a live two hour broadcast of the ACC PM show,” said Baumhardt.

Following Friday’s pep rally, a block party took over campus from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.. Families indulged in a steel drum band, mocktails, photo booths, caricature artists, balloon animals, airbrush tattoos, carnival games, mechanical rides, petting zoos, food trucks and much more. There was also an outdoor movie screening and a glow-in-the-dark indoor climbing event to add to the festivities.

For many, the highlight of the weekend was the University of Miami’s football game on Saturday against Georgia Tech, an ACC rival.

“The football game is a major part of the spirit and tradition at the university here,” Baumhardt said.

Freshman finance major Zia Zelman said she’s looking forward to the game.

“I had so much fun at the last football game so I’m excited to show my parents what it’s all about,” Zelman said.

The organized events were a highlight of the weekend, yet there was a lot to do outside the events.

Students may also lead families to spots of their choosing. “Be okay with the unknown and let the students say, ‘I want to show you this sort of thing on campus, I want to take you to this restaurant in the city,’” said Baumhardt.

Families may take time throughout the weekend to follow the lead of the student to see other aspects of Miami life.

Freshman business analytics major Asher Nelson said, “I’m excited to take my dad to Koko, my favorite Mexican Restaurant in Coconut Grove.”

“I’m so happy to see my boy and spend the weekend with him,” said Chris Nelson, Asher’s dad.

Organizing an event of this magnitude is not without its challenges, but the growth in attendance over the years, now surpassing 5,000 participants, reflects the strong desire of families to be a part of this enriching experience.

“I ran statistics back to 2018 when I first started in this role and the total attendance was only 3,500, which is still a lot. But over the past five years, it’s gone up 1500 people and the weekend hasn’t even arrived yet,” said Baumhardt.

While orientation primarily focuses on settling students in, Family Weekend provides a further understanding of their life after about seven weeks on campus.

This event bridges the gap before Thanksgiving break, allowing families to spend quality time with their students before many head back home.