If you go

What: University of Colorado homecoming week

When: Monday through Sunday

Where: Various locations on campus

Cost: Varies

http://cusg.colorado.edu/content/homecoming-page

Last year as a freshman, Paris Ferribee didn't even know that homecoming was happening at the University of Colorado.

Ferribee, now a sophomore and vice-president of the Black Student Alliance, is helping the student group organize a walking float for Saturday's homecoming parade.

The University of Colorado has been working to reinvigorate homecoming in recent years, not only among current students, but among alumni who can provide key financial support to the university at a time when state and federal funding is increasingly limited.

"Homecoming's been a tradition for a lot of universities for a long time," said Ryan Chreist, who took over as CU Alumni Association director in July. "It hasn't always had a large emphasis on campus, at least most recently."

Alumni association making homecoming 'marquee' event for graduates Last year, the alumni association began a new initiative to rejuvenate homecoming with the new name Back to Boulder and new events to draw graduates back to campus. Chreist said around 1,000 people attended alumni association events in 2012, though he didn't know how that compared to years past.

"That's not exactly where we want to be, but I think it's a nice start in terms of helping to create some tradition around the event," he said.

In his annual "State of the Campus" address earlier this month, chancellor Phil DiStefano reminded the CU community of his goal to double alumni giving to 16 percent by 2016. On average, 15 percent of alumni at Pac-12 schools give back financially to their alma maters. CU's current 8 percent alumni participation rate ranks the university in the bottom of the conference.

To entice alumni to give, the university is working hard to engage with its graduates, including the alumni association's efforts around homecoming. For the second year, the association has invited graduates to attend "Classes without Quizzes," where alumni can sit in on current campus classes.

The association has also organized campus tours to show graduates what's new and different on campus since they've left.

"We want them to see the classroom site and remember what it was like to be sitting in that first intro class," Chreist said.

Chreist offered one possible reason for why more CU alumni don't come back for homecoming weekend specifically, and that's because they return other times of year for things like skiing, hiking and visiting family, he said.

"I think a lot of universities are struggling with homecoming in terms of what it means and what it means to come back to an institution," Chreist said. "For us, we live in a desirable place so people make it back at other times of year. Boulder is a great place to vacation."

Chreist added that there are some misconceptions among graduates who don't live in Boulder that the city and CU campus were destroyed by flooding in September. He's hearing concerns from alumni who aren't sure where to stay or what roads they can use, Chreist said.

So far, 800 people have registered for the association's homecoming events, a good sign that 2013 participation numbers are on track to top last year's numbers. CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard said this year the alumni association is centering its year around homecoming by making it a "marquee event" to engage with graduates.

"They're viewing it as one of the central engagement opportunities with alumni this year," said CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard.

Students working to create more buzz around homecoming

The CU student homecoming organizing committee has also ramped up efforts to make homecoming more visible on campus this year by adding events early in the week, according to CU homecoming committee co-director Stefan Hock.

When he tells other students his job, many stare at him blankly, he said.

"The response I get is 'We have a homecoming?'" said Hock, a senior environmental studies major.

Hock's goal was to incorporate as many diverse student groups in homecoming this year as possible in the hopes that students from all areas of campus will hear about at least one event.

Ferribee, whose student group the Black Student Alliance is new to the homecoming parade this year, said some of the lackluster homecoming feelings stem from the football team's mediocre performance.

"We have to improve on our school's pride," she said. "It shouldn't be based on the football team. The coaching staff for the football team has really improved the unity on the team. This year they're more like a family. Even if they do win or lose, I see a lot of them together supporting each other. If they can do that, why can't we do that for them?"

Contact Camera Staff Writer Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106, or twitter.com/sarahkuta