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Regatta: Celebrating 15 years of a campus and family tradition

“You Gotta Regatta!” That’s the slogan you’ll hear around campus every September as excitement builds for IUPUI’s homecoming tradition. Now in its 15th year, the canoe races along the downtown canal have become a staple for students, alumni and community members alike.

Megan Goley, second from the left, stands with her siblings at the 2017 Regatta. Megan Goley, second from the left, stands with her siblings at the 2017 Regatta.Family is at the center of this year’s Regatta. For the first time, the event is being held during Family Weekend, an opportunity for students to bring their families and supporters for fun events around campus.

It’s a sentiment that is close to home for this year’s executive director of Regatta. Megan Goley, a junior at IUPUI studying psychology, attended her first Regatta when she was a kid.

“My brother was involved in Regatta his first year as co-director of race operations; I went, and it was so fun,” she said. “I was immediately enamored with how many people were there, and of course when you’re like 11 or 12, you really look up to the college students.

“They used to float these rubber ducks along the canal and all the kids would play with them, so I made it my mission to collect as many as I could. My whole family went, and since then it has become an every-year thing.”

The history

It all started in 2009 when Stefan Davis, retired executive director of IUPUI Alumni Relations, worked with alumni to create an event to celebrate campus, similar to the Little 500 in Bloomington. One of the alumni he reached out to was David Nguyen.

“We called it Regatta because we were thinking about where this event could happen, and it was gonna happen on the canal,” said Nguyen, who is now an associate professor of urban education, leadership and policy in the School of Education at IUPUI. “As alumni, we got to mentor the students around not only event planning but creating structure around the event, judging, there was a festival aspect, performances and those sorts of things.”

Nguyen, who graduated with a joint J.D. and MBA from the McKinney School of Law and Kelley School of Business in Indianapolis in 2006, was in charge of developing some of the rules and regulations for the canoe races. In that first year, the races were held on the 10th Street side of the canal, by the IU School of Medicine, and eight teams would row to the finish line at the same time. Now the races start near the Blackford Street bridge, and teams row in heats to record the fastest time.

“You cannot miss the excitement from the teams because these students, alumni, or faculty and staff who are rowing are creating for themselves little mini memories for them around the Regatta and around IUPUI,” Nguyen said. “Look at their smiles and see how much fun they’re having. You can see all the friendships not only being made but also being renewed.”

It’s the event as well as the camaraderie that has Nguyen coming back year after year; it even shifted his career path. When he started working with Regatta as an alumnus, he was a practicing attorney. After working with students, he learned he had a passion for mentorship and teaching.

“The reason I’m a professor is because of the Regatta,” he said. “Getting to do this with students at IUPUI, I really found being on a college campus again and working with students so fulfilling for me that I went back to school to get a Ph.D.”

The tradition continues

David Nguyen tips over during the Regatta canoe race. David Nguyen tips over during the Regatta canoe race. Nguyen still participates in Regatta and has even raced (and tipped over) in the canoes. It’s an event he also shares with his family: his mom, who is also an IUPUI alumna, and his two sons.

Goley is leading the event and continuing both her family’s and IUPUI’s tradition. She and fellow students on the Regatta board will put on all the events, including the canoe races, the dog costume contest and the food trucks.

This year they also added a new activity to help attendees navigate Regatta.

“It’s a great guide through everything the Regatta has to offer, and it’s called the Regatta Passport,” Goley said. “It has all the different main activities to hit, and if you hit seven things and you check them off, you can get a free merchandise item of Regatta, like a T-shirt or a notepad.”

The passports will be given out at the information tent as well as maps and schedules for the day’s activities. Goley and Nguyen agree, you don’t want to miss the canoe races. And the impact that Regatta has is one that spans generations.

“I have so many great memories attached to Regatta, so for me to be able to create that for other people and to start those traditions with their families is super meaningful,” Goley said. “Fifteen years is a huge milestone, and I hope it continues for years to come.”

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