December 2018

In this Issue

We would love your feedback! Send us suggestions, member profile nominations and job postings. Please email us at [email protected].

President's Perspectives

I love my job. Engaging families is, in fact, more than a job; it is a vocation. I get to grow alongside my parents and family members every day. I get to be an educator and a student. What a wonderful place to be.

In my last note as president of AHEPPP, I would like to share with you what worked for me in my job, in my vocation:

  • Listen deeply. Listen to hear. Every person you encounter is meant to be there and will enrich your life.
  • Be kind. Kindness never failed me. Kindness demands discipline, though, and makes me a better person.
  • Ask your parents and family members to give their trust to their children unconditionally. Trust is the biggest gift parents can give to their children.
  • Honor the fact that the deep bond between our family members and their children is sacred and necessary in our students’ lives. Appropriate parenting contributes to student success
  • Give back to your colleagues. Be a part of AHEPPP in a way you find enriching for yourself. One way is to apply to serve on the Conference Committee and the Board of Directors.
I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to have served you. I have learned much more than I have given. And I am excited to keep on learning from all of you. Please welcome your new President, Amy Swank of Gonzaga University. Amy is full of great ideas – don’t hesitate to contact her and learn what it means to volunteer for AHEPPP.


Best wishes,

[email protected]
President, AHEPPP: Family Engagement in Higher Education 
Director, Parent and Family Programs, Hofstra University


Back to the top of the page

Introducing 2019-2020 AHEPPP President Amy Swank

Amy Swank is the Director of Parent and Family Relations at Gonzaga University.  By providing appropriate avenues to stay connected to the university, and addressing questions and concerns related to their student’s needs, she has been able to forge positive and lasting relationships with the parents and families she serves. 

Amy’s commitment to intercultural competency and attention to the retention and success of students and staff of color is made evident by her decision to serve as a NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program (NUFP) mentor—the first NUFP mentor in Gonzaga University’s history. Amy currently mentors two undergraduate Gonzaga students who hope to enter the field and join the NUFP program.

Ten years ago, when Amy stepped into the Director role at Gonzaga, the Parent and Family office was non-existent. Within the first two years of her department’s existence, and with the help of a small team (one professional staff member and three student workers), Amy established:

  • A Parent & Family Council
  • Parent & Family Orientation program that continues to grow in attendance, currently attracting 2,500 Parents and Family attendees for 1,200 first-year students
  • An online newsletter; marketing and branding for the Parent & Family Office, which resulted in a 50% increase in family participation at events; and Fall Family Weekend events. 
With only a small office at her disposal, Amy has continued to add to her list of services which now includes the Parent/Family of the Year Award; Parent & Family Crew (a team of 35 student-leaders who are trained by Amy to work with families at Orientation); a summer NUFP internship opportunity; online Webinars, featuring campus partners, for families who cannot attend Orientation or Fall Family weekend; and an interactive online and in-person Parent & Family Crew student-leader training. In addition to Amy’s many achievements at Gonzaga, Amy has received the Outstanding Publication for Family Members Award (NODA 2014), Outstanding Parent/Family Professional (AHEPPP 2015), Best Institutional Initiative (AHEPPP 2016), Innovative Program for Parent and Family Speak (NODA Region 1, 2016), Innovative Program for Parent and Family Speak, (NODA National 2017), JASPA Ignatian Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Jesuit Student Affairs work (2018) and her writing has been featured in the NASPA Journal, Alaska Airline Magazine, MSN Education Online Journal, and NASPA Blog.
Even spending a little time with Amy, one will find it easy to identify her knowledge of Parent and Family trends, literature, and services. She is an over-thinker, reader, Coke Cola fanatic, lover of college football and a Washington State Coug at heart.

National Conference Update

Five Conferences of AHEPPP (To the tune, Twelve Days of Christmas)
By Nicki Jenkins, 2019 AHEPPP Conference Chair

At my first AHEPPP conference in two-thousand fifteen,
Everyone was super friendly. 

At my second AHEPPP conference I volunteered to be,
an ed. session helper
and check-in table groupie.

At my third AHEPPP conference I joined the planning team,
met some amazing people,
learned about AHEPPP,
and found the support that I need.

At my fourth AHEPPP conference I could not bear to leave,
So, I kept volunteering,
co-chaired awards,
learned from the experts,
and left the conference smiling.

It’s time for my fifth round, I wish for you to see,
You –  Can – Live – the – Dream!
Join in the fun,
propose an ed. session,
nominate someone,

Being a member of the AHEPPP Conference Committee team over the past two years has been one of the best decisions I have made for my own professional growth and for the growth of my institution’s program. I would feel lost without the guidance and support of my AHEPPP family, and I want all of you to experience that level of support! So, whether you are brand new to AHEPPP or have been a member from the beginning, I hope you will consider how your institution might benefit from AHEPPP resources and support and how you might contribute to building our AHEPPP family network.

Here are a few ways you can get involved NOW:

  • Apply to be on the 2019 Conference Committee! It takes less time than you imagine and is a great way to get to know colleagues and learn more about AHEPPP. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions or concerns that you may have about joining the team! Applications have been extended until December 21!
  • Submit an article about your campus or conference experience to the AHEPPP Insights Blog. AHEPPP is a sharing community, and we want to know if you are doing something outstanding at your institutions! Don’t be afraid to share your success! We want to celebrate WITH you and learn FROM you.
  • Host an AHEPPP webinar about a program or initiative that has been successful on your campus - maybe even a program that won a 2018 AHEPPP Award or an educational session that you presented at the conference.

AHEPPP is growing more and more each year and that could not happen without the support of our membership. So, jump in, join the fun, and be an active part of AHEPPP’s story! 

Book Review

The Campus Cure: A Parent’s Guide to Mental Health and Wellness for College Students
Author: Marcia Morris, MD

As practitioners working with families at the college level, we often help families navigate through a variety of student situations – and many of the issues brought before us include concerns with student mental health and wellness. It is well-documented that mental health on college campuses has been a rising crisis across the country in recent years and often becomes the topic of discussion among family engagement professionals. 

Marcia Morris is a psychiatrist on staff at the University of Florida with more than 20 years of experience working with college students. Additionally, she has two college-aged children so she not only brings professional understanding to her research and insights in this book, but also the perspectives of a loving parent offering guidance and support. 

In the introduction, Morris states startling statistics that she supports in the Notes and Bibliography sections, including, but not limited to:

  • one in four college students report having been diagnosed with or treated for a mental health disorder in the past year;
  • less than 40% of college students are academically ready for college;
  • sexual assault rates are at an all-time high, with one in four women having been assaulted by the time they graduate.

Family engagement practitioners who do not possess a formal counseling or social work degree already know the challenges of working with families with students in crisis. We strive to offer compassion and support, while also attempting to maintain boundaries so we don’t overstep into these professional areas.

The book organizes topics into three main sections – problems, pressures, and crises, which take the reader from more common issues (depression, anxiety, substance abuse, etc.) and moves to more serious issues of suicidal behavior, sexual assault, and psychosis. As she addresses each topic, Morris offers real-life examples of student situations drawn from her years of experience, that outline how the issue was addressed and how she and other colleagues engaged the family to offer the student holistic support and a path toward healing. As she wraps up each topic, she offers parental advice, “final tips for helping your student” so parents and families have specific guidelines to provide effective student support.

I appreciated the research-supported data Morris offered as she addressed each topic. Her welcome inclusion of family support as necessary and helpful when students face various mental health and wellness issues is very evident. She is forthright about encouraging students to authorize parental access to treatment discussions and plans. Throughout the book, she provides detailed information about the various mental health conditions, signs to look for, and takes all aspects of the student experience into account, including perfectionistic tendencies and financial stressors.

On my own college campus, our counseling services professionals see increased demand for services as each semester progresses and all too often, students may be placed on a “wait list’ after an initial intake appointment. Throughout the book, Morris often highlights her immediate accessibility to students on her campus, describing how she meets with students during their initial appointment or the day after – and not just with students in crisis, but also those experiencing depression and anxiety. My concern with this is that I’m not sure how realistic this access is on most of our campuses (though admittedly I am envious!). The book is primarily intended for parents of students and this approach may promote expectations that some of our campuses are simply not able to meet. One other comment is that Morris does not acknowledge the changing constellations of today’s families and always references “parent” and uses either “mom” or “dad” in every student example.

This book is an excellent resource to include on your bookshelf. The comprehensive information that Morris provides about mental health and wellness support the issues that we face every day in working with our families and students. Our families will benefit from our referrals to the information provided in the book when needed, while increasing our own awareness and knowledge of the various challenges students and families may be experiencing.

Shari Glaser
Director, Family Engagement
Western Michigan University
AHEPPP Board Member and Treasurer

Membership Update

In 2008 AHEPPP was founded as the Association for Parent/Family Program Professionals as the premier national association for higher education professionals who work with the parents and family members of college students.  In ten years our association has grown exponentially to include members nation-wide from all areas of higher education. At the 2018 National Conference a new logo and tagline were unveiled, celebrating our growth and inclusive network of professional. 

AHEPPP: Family Engagement in Higher Education is dedicated to facilitating meaningful and lasting contact with college and university parents and family programs by establishing a national support network. 

NEW! Membership with AHEPPP: Family Engagement in Higher Education now includes up to four members on your campus. This means, you can share your member benefit with your colleagues across campus. Development, alumni relations, career services, disability services, and senior level student affairs staff as faculty are all welcome and encouraged to join the conversation. Please invite your colleagues and maximize your membership today! New additions can be added to your account by emailing [email protected].

Member-only benefits include:

  • Member-Only Website Access: Access a library of content and resources on our website including: CAS Standards, Journal Articles, best practices, parent program survey results, association newsletters and many more program resources to help you support parents and families.
  • Network of Parent and Family Program Professionals: Hear about the latest job openings and share program ideas, structures and plans through our member-only Facebook group.
  • Job Postings: Be the first to hear about new job postings relating to parent and family programming. All members will be notified of postings through our membership email. Do you have a job you would like posted on the Job Listings page? 
  • Reduced National Conference Registration: Enjoy this benefit of membership to save money and network with amazing professionals from across the country. AHEPPP's National Conferences are not to be missed as they provide a great network of professionals. You're sure to walk away with some amazing ideas to take back to your campus.
  • Regular AHEPPP eNewsletter: AHEPPP's eNewsletter provides you with recent news about college parents and families, event and conference alerts, membership highlights including program best practices and many more highlights all to help you provide the best resources for your parent and family community.
  • Webinars: AHEPPP offers member only webinars to support your professional development. Topics change seasonally and archived webinars can be accessed online at any time. 

AHEPPP Insights

AHEPPP Insights is a space to connect on all things related to parents & families of college students and how to best serve them as campus administrations, faculty and practitioners. Please enjoy this sampling from November 2018 by Debra Zarecky of Colorado College. 

For many parents and families, especially for those with first-year students or those who are first-time college parents, Family Weekend is an eagerly anticipated opportunity to reconnect and enjoy time together while exploring their student’s “home away from home.” For some students, however, Family Weekend can be an uncomfortable or even painful reminder of family who will not be visiting, whatever the reason. Especially on a small campus of about 2,000 students, it is quite obvious who has visitors and who does not.
As part of Colorado College’s institutional commitment to inclusion, the Office of Parent and Family Programs works to find ways to make Family Weekend an event that both celebrates all members of our campus community and welcomes parent and family visitors.
Words matter. A few years ago, we changed the name of our event from Family Weekend to Family and Friends Weekend to embrace all of the ways in which students define and experience family. One CC student said it well, “Family are the people who move and shape and build you but also that ground you. I definitely consider the people who I’ve become really close to in the last four years as members of my family.”
  • Invite student government or other student groups to plan and sponsor an event. Students know what draws other students’ interest. A carnival and fun fair planned by the first-year class committee, a performance by a student band, or a t-shirt tie-dying event put on by the outdoor education student interns draws a higher turnout of students without visitors than an academic lecture coordinated by an administrative office. Parents and families will appreciate these events, too, because they get a glimpse into what students like to do for fun.
  • Work with campus partners to subsidize costs. For example, the Fine Arts Center at Colorado College waives their admission fee for all visitors during the weekend. Likewise, the art school associated with the Fine Arts Center offers free drop-in, hands-on art activities. Because it was underwritten by a number of academic departments, the major jazz concert event we staged this year was also free of charge for the first hundred students who wanted to attend.
  • Make sure the message that “all are welcome” gets out in multiple ways. Make a list of events that do not require registration or payment. Work in tandem with campus communications colleagues and student leaders to circulate it widely to students via email, social media networks, video monitors, posters, table tents, and even text-messaging platforms.
  • Involve attendees. Families who are able to attend Family and Friends Weekend are usually more than willing to “adopt” a student who does not have any visitors. While this often happens organically, consider making an explicit invitation to adopt a student for one or more events during the weekend part of your pre-event communication.
  • Create special opportunities. To encourage strong student-faculty relationships both in and out of the classroom, the Colorado College Office of Student Life implemented a Breaking Bread initiative over 15 years ago. Each year, this program provides financial support for nearly 200 meals that are hosted by faculty and staff in their homes. This year, we partnered with Student Life to make Saturday evening Breaking Bread dinners part of Family and Friends Weekend. For over 100 students without weekend visitors, five members of our administration team welcomed them to their homes for a special meal. In addition, the Student Alumni Association sponsored a special dinner hosted by local alumni, giving students and alumni a chance to meet each other and strengthen their “Colorado College family” connections.
What does your institution do to make Family Weekend an inclusive and engaging event for both students with visitors and those without? I invite you to share your ideas in the comments section or in the AHEPPP Facebook group!

Job Postings

AHEPPP is happy to post job openings for all institutions regardless of membership. Positions will be posted on the website, posted in our members-only Facebook group and will emailed out to the AHEPPP membership. The cost is free and job information can be posted by emailing [email protected]. Positions will be posted for 60 days unless otherwise noted or requested.

Program Manager – Operations and Technology, Florida International University
Assistant Director for Fraternity & Sorority Life, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga
Program Coordinator, Parent & Family Programs, UC San Diego
Assistant Director of Transition, Inclusion and Diversity Excellence, Fort Hays State University
Director of Development, Syracuse University 
Associate Director, Orientation and New Student Programs, George Mason University

Stay In Touch

alt  alt alt alt