Ariel Oeffinger is ‘Homecoming Royalty’ at Indiana University
Indiana University in Bloomington held its Homecoming festivities on Saturday — and those with Switzerland County ties saw a familiar face honored during halftime ceremonies.
Ariel Oeffinger, a Switzerland County graduate who is now a senior at Indiana University, was honored as Homecoming Royalty.
Indiana University did away with the concept of Homecoming Queen and Homecoming King a few years ago, instead choosing to honor two students on the campus of more than 44,000 for their all around academic and community efforts.
“How the Homecoming Court works at IU, is that you can either be nominated or be a representative of a student organization,” Ariel said by phone this week. “Then you have to fill out an application through the IU Student-Alumni Organization. You apply representing a student organization, so there were people on the court representing IU Student Government, Kelly School of Business. I represented Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law fraternity (where she currently serves as its President).”
Ariel said that once all of the applications are submitted, the IU Alumni Association chooses their top 12 candidates based on the application. The application is open to any member of the student body.
“Those top 12 go through an interview process,” Ariel continued. “After they chose us for the top 12, that meant that we were all on the Homecoming Court. Then, to be Homecoming Royalty, you go through the interview process — I sat in a room with about 10 people who represented different offices on campus, different administrative directors on campus. They asked me questions about my experience at IU, how I got two where I am today. A little bit about my service and my experience. Then after the interview, the student body voted.”
Ariel said that the two finalists who are honored as Homecoming Royalty are selected through a process that accounts for one-third from the application; one-third from the interview; and one-third from the student body vote.
Ariel’s resume during her time at Indiana University certainly merits the honor that she has received.
Along with currently serving as the President of the Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law fraternity; she also serves as Vice President for Women in Law; and is an Undergraduate Engagement Coordinator for the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs.
She has served in a wide variety of internships, from the Philanthropy and Fundraising team for the IU Foundation to serving as a legal intern for Justice Unlocked. She was also a legal intern for the Ken Nunn Law Office and Seeger Weiss LLP; and was an ODNI Research and Writing Intern for the U.S. Department of State.
“When I got to IU I was just really overwhelmed,” she said. “I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer, but I really didn’t know what that really meant or what I needed to do to get there. So I just sort of threw myself into a bunch of different stuff.”
Majoring in Law and Public Policy and Nonprofit Management with a minor in Homeland Security Studies with a focus on Security and Infrastructure; Ariel is currently in the O’Neill Honors Program and the O’Neill Indiana Leadership Program.
But perhaps what brings her the most pride — and causes her to be a role model for many students coming after her — is that she is at Indiana University as a 21st Century Scholar and a Hoosier Scholar.
“Being a 21st Century Scholar, I just felt so lucky to have my tuition covered by the state,” Ariel said. “I am also a Hoosier Scholar, which is my covenant scholarship. I’m in a very lucky and blessed position, financially, in college, so I felt that I needed to honor that in a way by doing the best that I can while also building myself up for the time that now when I’m applying to law school.”
Homecoming Day this past Saturday began with Ariel doing what she does best — staying busy and engaging people.
“Saturday for me started at like 6:30 in the morning,” Ariel said. “I had my Homecoming Court stuff, but I had also organized something for the alumni of Phi Alpha Delta. The undergraduate chapter and also the chapter at Maurer School of Law partnered together to have a tailgate event. We had food and games. The first part of my day was spent there mingling with the law students and the alumni.”
Then it was on to other obligations.
“After that I had gone to the Devault Alumni Center,” she continued. “It was called the ‘Hoosier Huddle VIP Event’, but it was a lot of people from the IU Alumni Association and general IU alumni. I spent my time up until the game there just talking with different alumni. Then I walked over to the football game after that.”
The Homecoming Court of 12 had to be at field level by halftime, so Ariel arrived and was escorted onto the field, where the 12 were able to speak with different people and dignitaries prior to the announcement.
And then there was the announcement.
Ariel was honored along with Yahnea Gentry, who represented the Group Scholars Program (a program similar to the 21st Century Scholarship Program) as this year’s ‘Homecoming Royalty’.
So what was it like to hear your name announced in front of the 53,000 fans in the IU Football Stadium?
“It was cool,” Ariel said. “I didn’t have any expectations, I was just happy to be there, It’s an honor in itself to be on the Homecoming Court. IU has 44,000 students and I was part of that 12 who got be on the court.”
But she laughed when something happened that she’s too familiar with.
“When they called my name, they didn’t say it correctly, so I didn’t realize that it was me,” she laughed. “They didn’t say my last name right and they didn’t say ‘Vevay’ right, so I wasn’t exactly sure if it was me or not. Then I was excited as people were walking over to me. I just looked at my mom (Sarah Oeffinger) and I was like ‘Oh my gosh! I won!’.”
Following the halftime celebration, Ariel said that some of the people who conducted the interviews came up to her and spoke of how well she and Yahnea
had done on the interviews. Again, Ariel approached it all with humility and grace.
“I thought it was cool that the two of us won,” she said. “I’m a 21st Century Scholar and she’s a Group Scholar, which are both scholarships within the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs at IU. That doesn’t happen a lot. You don’t see a lot of students from our backgrounds on the court, so we had that mutual connection of being in those scholarship programs. I was really proud of that.”
So now Ariel turns her attention to the application process for law school next fall.
She will apply to the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University, but a trip to the East Coast and New York has peaked her interest in attending law school in New York.
“I was in the New York area this summer, and it poses a lot of really great opportunities to just be in that area,” Ariel said. “I really liked it there. I just felt like everywhere I was and everywhere I walked, people were willing to teach me and sort of guide me, being from a small town and going to New York City. I felt really welcomed there.”
No matter where she ends up, Ariel Oeffinger will always have roots here in Vevay — and those who know her know she’s going to do great things.