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6 Effective Summer Strategies for Family Engagement

Summer is a pivotal time for colleges and universities to engage with their students' families. With the right communications strategy, schools can cultivate a sense of belonging, keeping families informed while building trust and supporting student success.

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Taking Judgment Out of Uninvolved or Unavailable Parents and Families

As parent and family program professionals, I imagine most of us thoroughly enjoy the families that are actively involved and engaged.  We are thrilled when they register for our events (and actually show up!), grateful when they provide donations to our programs and inspired when they want to connect with other families. These parents and families remind us of our “why.”  Realistically, we can’t expect everyone to provide this form of support. Therefore, I want you to take a moment to consider these questions:

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Start with Something: Parents as Allies in Suicide Prevention

Just over a year ago, Inside Higher Ed published an article, “Parents Unaware of Students’ Mental Health Struggles,” detailing a study completed by YouGov on behalf of UnitedHealthcare. The study found that students were reporting mental health issues at much higher rates than their parents perceived. At the time, the Director of our Student Wellness Center brought this to our team in Parent and Family Programs with the question, “What can we do?” We had to do something. 

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Message from President-Elect Nicki Jenkins

Dear AHEPPP family,

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How 3 Institutions Harnessed Tech to Scale Their Family Engagement Strategy and Success

A comprehensive family engagement strategy that covers the entire student lifecycle is important and impactful. It’s also a lift that many small teams struggle with. When resources are tight, leaning into technology can be the helping hand that allows you to scale.

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Beyond “Mom & Dad:” Using a Gender Inclusive Approach to Family Engagement

We are fast approaching that time of year when we begin welcoming and onboarding new students and their families. In the world of family engagement, this can mean that we are deep in planning out our communication strategies or are planning events like family orientation and family weekend. As we continue planning and implementing our initiatives, it’s important to take a pause to ensure that our approach is inclusive and welcoming to all members of our community. One way to do this is to utilize gender inclusive strategies in how we communicate to families and how we implement events. 

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DEI Legislation Across the Country

It feels like I come to work almost every day and learn about new bills that members of state legislatures are proposing or are going into effect that seek to limit the work that is being done to make colleges and universities more inclusive (see a map of what is happening in each state published by the Chronicle of Higher Education). This is an assault on the work that so many institutions do to help both students and employees feel that they belong. It also sends messages telling people who are not part of the majority population that they are not equal. This form of government action makes me think of times when this country treated people as less than and codified it into laws. Think of the Japanese internment camps, Jim Crow, the treatment of Native Americans, and Supreme Court rulings. To retain control of the narrative on our campuses, legislation is proposed or passed that identifies what can and cannot be taught. DEI is the current target. 

AHEPPP recognizes the effect these policies have on our members and colleagues. DEI work is hard. It is emotional, stressful and takes a great deal of time to make just the slightest difference. But it is vital to help make our institutions, workplaces, communities, and country more welcoming. Yes, guilt is going to be involved. It comes from learning how to be a better person. So, when a state legislature enacts a bill that says topics cannot be discussed that will make one group feel guilty, they are more worried about people realizing what has been done in the past than they are about what can be done in the future. This affects how people do their jobs, many of whom work at public institutions that are in states that are enacting these laws. I am sure there is a lot of soul searching for those who are in these situations. And some might say that you should get a job in a state that is more welcoming. But it is not always that simple. In addition to the complications of the job search process, there are so many other implications to consider, such as family needs, pay and affordability of housing. It is not always feasible. So, they continue to do the work where they are. 

As a new member of AHEPPP (I joined in 2022) and a new member of the Equity, Belonging and Inclusion Council, it is good to see that the professional organization is looking to think critically about the impact legislation has on its membership and reinforce its commitment to being inclusive. Members of the EBI Council were engaged in discussions about where future conferences could be held, and the impact location has on member participation. These discussions are also being had at the Board leadership level as well, prompting a focus to develop materials to better guide venue decisions for the organization moving forward. I encourage you to complete the recently distributed Climate Survey. Our intention is to better understand membership perspectives on how we are living up to our commitment to be an inclusive organization for professionals that work with family members? And the EBI Council is also discussing how we may support our members who live and work in states where this type of legislation is in effect. It does not look like these trends are going away any time soon. This may sound like a promotion for what AHEPPP is doing. But it is important for people to know that ALL its members are supported and that they are seen and heard. These are challenging times for many people in higher education. But we can work through it by being aware of what is happening and supporting each other. We all need to!

Living the Remote Work Life: Working with Parents and Families in a Remote Position

During the pandemic, like many others, I embraced the remote work lifestyle and the work-life balance and flexibility it provided. I loved cooking lunch and having my dogs with me all day. So, when Cornell University advertised their Director of Parent & Family Programs position with a possible remote option, I was highly interested. In March 2022, I was thrilled to get the opportunity to start building their new family engagement program while still living in Memphis, Tennessee.

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Reflecting on the Diversity of the December Holiday Season

Originally Posted on December 6, 2019 by Lona Davenport, updated November 29, 2021

December is here, and traditionally in the U.S. that means it’s time for all things merry and jolly. December can be a joyful time, as there is a convergence of festivities and traditions to celebrate this “holiday season.” There also tends to be a heavy focus around Christmas as the pivotal religious holiday and cultural event. In a U.S. society where about 70% of the population identifies as Christian (Public Religion Research Institute [PRRI], 2021), and where a large focus centers on Christmas, how can we recognize and honor other religious and secular holidays that coexist? How do we create spaces, events, and policies that are sensitive to various identities, observances, belief systems, and worldviews?
This article shares ways we can reflect on this topic, helping us move toward a more inclusive December holiday season, as well as a more inclusive campus climate that supports diverse religious identities.

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No More Helicopter Parents

We’ve all heard about helicopter parents hovering over their students and ensuring everything goes right for them. If things go awry, they are there to pick up the phone, put a post on the Facebook group, or write a scathing email. I’ve also heard of the snowplow parents, they push all obstacles out of the way to make sure their student has a smooth experience. 

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Just 35 Items to Create the Perfect College First Aid Kit

Sending our kids off to college is both thrilling and terrifying at the same time. We want them to experience “the BEST years of their life” (no pressure, right?) while doing all the fun things we did…or perhaps the things we missed out on. We never want to see them hurt physically or emotionally, but the truth is they WILL stumble- whether it’s a bad grade, a bike accident, food poisoning, mono, insomnia, or heartbreak. Ultimately, it’s not the stumbling we fear, but how and when they get back on track. One last gift you can offer is a fully loaded COLLEGE FIRST AID KIT that will help your student help themselves. Jill Grimes, MD, a family physician who has worked extensively on a college campus (and a mom of two college kids) offers her list of what students really need at their fingertips:

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Summer Professional Development - The Future of Student Affairs

During the academic year, I struggle to make time for “learning” in the sense of professional development. What I have started to do, to address this gap, is create a folder on my desktop of reports or research projects I want to read in the summer. Even with orientation commitments, I am better able to block off a little time in my schedule to advance my knowledge of the work we do but reading about the great work and research of others.

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Book Review: The Stressed Years of Their Lives

Our students are stressed more than ever before. Families preparing their students to attend college have a variety of books and other media to provide advice and practical information about their student's transition and how to help them prepare. As higher education has turned to a greater focus on mental health and wellness, families also want to understand how they can help prepare their students and help if something goes wrong. The Stressed Years of Their Lives by B. Janet Hibbs and Anthony Rostain provides knowledge and advice for families as they prepare for college and their student's college career.

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New Student Orientation Approaches and Ideas

New Student Orientation is a year-round activity at most campuses, there is nothing like summer orientation. Typically, some of the largest orientation sessions you will see are a great opportunity to showcase all that your institution has to offer to students and their families. Not only will students and their families experience the various programs, resources, and services at your campus, but it is an exciting time to try new, innovative ways to entice families to engage with your office.

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Supporting Student Parents

Since the creation of our Parent and Family office at Ohio State in 2009, we have focused primarily on the parents and families of our undergraduate students. Though our email communications and programs like Family Weekend and Sibs and Kids weekend are open to everyone, our mission has centered on our “traditionally” aged 18–22-year-old undergraduate students and their families. Obviously, this focus makes sense at Ohio State as we have 44,000+ undergraduate students on our Columbus campus, families who want to be engaged and limited office resources. We have engaged graduate and professional students in some capacity at events like Family Weekend and Sibs and Kids Day, but this has been secondary to our overall focus.

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The Great Resignation and What it Means

The Great Resignation. What is it? How does it affect you? Recently, I started coming across TikToks from Millennials celebrating their resignations from their jobs. It was clear a weight had been lifted from them. They were tired, fed up, and ready to move on to something better.

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In loving memory of AHEPPP founding member, Sheila Hrdlicka

We are deeply sorry to say goodbye to AHEPPP Founder, Sheila Hrdlicka, who passed away January 4, 2022, in Durham, NC. At a time when colleges and universities were just beginning to encourage parental involvement, Sheila was a pioneer in the field. Her work with parents and families began when she became a member of the University of North Carolina (UNC) Parents’ Council. Her organizational and planning skills impressed UNC administrators so much that they invited her to become the university’s Parents Office Coordinator. That position led to her appointment as Assistant Director of New Student and Carolina Parent Programs, a role she filled for twelve years. 

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New Data on Family Engagement & Services

I’m pleased that the 2021 Family Engagement and Services at Colleges and Universities – our 10th biennial survey – is now available! Each time we post a new report for that survey, I can’t help but think back to the first effort in 2003 and consider how much has changed. In 2003, we parent/family practitioners were still in the early stages of finding each other. Our main source of connection was at the annual APPI conference (Administrators Promoting Parent Involvement), hosted by Susan Brown at Northwestern University. (The first conference was in 1998). Aside from that, we were trying to track each other down at NODA conferences, or we were stalking one another at NASPA and ACPA, hunting for any programs that related to parents and hoping to meet someone who did what we do.

What we knew in 2003:

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Remembering Kris Stewart

In loving memory of former AHEPPP president and founding member, Kristine (Kris) Stewart.

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Engaging Families with Facebook

Remember this statement – Facebook is your friend. Use it. Share it. Be proactive with it. Most importantly, engage with families on it. A few years ago, the Mountaineer Parents Club at West Virginia University decided to utilize Facebook groups to communicate with families. Our official Facebook page was often inundated with personal messages from prospective and current families asking us similar, if not the same questions.

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