October 25, 2023

Puccio plays major role in bringing Homecoming to life

Grace Puccio is photographed in front of the Alumni Center.
Matthew Strasburger | University Communication and Marketing

Matthew Strasburger | University Communication and Marketing
Grace Puccio, asssistant director of alumni and student engagement, is photographed outside the Wick Alumni Center.

A 2019 Husker alum, Grace Puccio jumped at the opportunity to give back to the university while continuing to make lasting memories. As the asssistant director of alumni and student engagement, she leads homecoming efforts across campus, bringing students, faculty, staff and the Lincoln community together to celebrate tradition and the Husker experience.

Talk a bit about your position, and specifically your role in Nebraska’s homecoming celebration.

In my role, I am responsible for a slew of things at the Nebraska Alumni Association but some of my favorite things include advising the Student Alumni Association, working with the Young Alumni Academy, and leading homecoming efforts across the university.

Describe the theme “Through These Gates” and talk about why this theme is special.

This year, the Husker community is thrilled to celebrate 100 years of Saturdays in Memorial Stadium. “Through these gates” allows all fans, students, and alumni an opportunity to reflect on the fond memories they’ve had not only on campus but in Memorial Stadium.

What does planning for homecoming look like? How early do you start the process? Which events require the most preparations?

Orchestrating and executing homecoming involves a great deal of teamwork, planning, and coordination — it puts my leadership and organizational skills to the test! Homecoming planning for the next year begins right after homecoming concludes. Committees of staff, faculty and students are responsible for all the logistics for the week full of events. A close partnership with numerous offices across campus including Student Affairs, ASUN and University Communications and Marketing makes Homecoming go off without a hitch.

What is your favorite memory while working with the Alumni Association?

While many fond memories come to mind, I can’t help but think of my first day at the Nebraska Alumni Association. On day one, I was welcomed back to campus as a professional with open arms and enthusiastic colleagues. Plus, I was able to walk out onto the Tom Osborne Field in Memorial Stadium — you can’t beat that. I am continuously amazed by the incredible work we are all doing to ensure students, fans and friends and alumni feel a strong sense of connection because Huskers Belong Here.

What does it mean to you to coordinate homecoming for your own alma mater as a University of Nebraska–Lincoln alumna?

Coordinating UNL’s homecoming is such a fun way for me to celebrate and give back to the university that provided me with not only a phenomenal education but with countless memories. My most sincere wish is that I am able to use homecoming to make a positive impact on all members of our Husker community — current students, fans and friends of the university and fellow alumni. I want to ensure homecoming remains a cherished tradition for many, many years to come.

Which part of the homecoming festivities is your favorite?

Cornstock is my favorite of all the homecoming festivities. There is no better way to end homecoming week than with a Ferris wheel, parade, live music, the student jester competition, food trucks and more on Memorial Stadium’s Plaza.

How has homecoming evolved over the years?

Homecoming has been a core part of student life for years, but when the Husker community celebrated 150 years of the university in 2019, the homecoming dial was turned all the way up. The idea of Cornstock was formed and due to the success of 2019’s homecoming, we’re striving to do more and more each year.

Is there anything students and Nebraskans would be surprised to know about the behind-the-scenes work of homecoming?

One of my favorite behind-the-scenes moments while planning homecoming this year has been the creation of a homecoming candle with Wax Buffalo. It has been so fun working with their exceptional team to create a scent and vessel that will ignite one’s sense and help give back to their beloved alma mater.

Talk about your time as a student at the university. Why did you choose Nebraska, and how did that shape your choice to expand professionally at the university?

Starting at a large state school over one thousand miles from home, where I didn’t recognize a single name or face on campus, was incredibly challenging. I knew that if I wanted to truly have the best four years of my life, I needed to fully submerge myself in the traditions and culture of campus. As an active student on campus, I had the opportunity to obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor and certificate in gerontology. My on-campus involvements included being an orientation leader, serving as a campus host, the president of the Student Alumni Association, on the executive team for my sorority and other organizations, and an energetic member of another handful of groups.

These roles and the strong mentors I had in them ignited my passion for student affairs and ultimately thrust me toward a career in higher education. When I was ready to take the next step in my career, I knew that UNL’s campus was where I wanted to be. Since being back on campus, it has been joyful connecting with staff and faculty members that influenced my collegiate experience and connecting with students to ensure they’re having the ultimate Husker experience.