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Keeping Connected this Spring

How are we already several weeks into the spring semester? Time flies when you’re welcoming new and returning students and families for the start of the semester, building communication plans, planning events, and preparing for the busy summer to come. 

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Meet your interim AHEPPP Executive Director, Kim Sterritt

We sat down and asked Kim Sterritt some questions about her new role, her favorite thing about AHEPPP, and what family means to her! 

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Get Ready for Family Engagement in Higher Education Awards in 2023!

Get Ready for Family Engagement in Higher Education Awards in 2023!

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Board of Directors – An Insider View

As you all know, we recently went through a Board of Directors election. As a current Board member, it is an exciting time to welcome new members to the table and get them engaged in AHEPPP leadership.

When I first joined AHEPPP, the Board seemed a little intimidating. It took me a few years to realize that the Board of Directors were professionals just like me who wanted to make a difference in AHEPPP. I want to share a little about my own experience so that everyone understands what it means to be a member of the Board of Directors.

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Parent & Family Council Guide

Whether you've been a member of AHEPPP for ten years or ten weeks, you know that one the most popular questions and troublesome pain points for our field is the creation or revamping of a Parent & Family Board or Council on campus. You also know that the AHEPPP community is always willing to share their experiences, templates, or plans.

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April 2022 BOD Report


In late-April, your AHEPPP Board of Directors met for our Spring Board Meeting in Los Angeles, CA. As promised in December, I am excited to share a summary of our meeting. In our two days together, we talked about more I can share in this space, but here are the highlights:

New resources for members. We have more things coming your way! I don’t want to spoil any launches, but keep your eyes out this summer for Discussion Zone calls and a couple new guides to support you in your work with families.

AHEPPP Awards. AHEPPP Awards are a way for our members to show off their work, share ideas, and show that we are the true experts in the field. Earlier this year, we began a review process for the awards to make sure they are equitable and accessible. In light of findings, we have decided to postpone the 2022 awards in order to celebrate all members’ successes this past year at our gathering in Orlando. In 2023, the awards will come back even better than before with some adjustments that will make the process fair and easier to navigate.

2022 National Conference. The Board of Directors is very proud of Kayla Albano and her Conference Committee for the work they are putting into planning our first in-person conference in three years! We were able to receive a thorough update from Kayla, including hearing the goals of the conference and schedule highlights. We’re all pretty excited about AHEPPP Takes Epcot following our time of learning and connecting! Along with our excitement, we also recognize that there are members of our community impacted by recent legislation in Florida who may prefer not to travel  to this location. Please know we respect everyone’s decisions, but hope you feel you have a safe place within the AHEPPP family. AHEPPP leadership remains committed to our values.

EBI Council. The EBI Council is working hard on new initiatives to better support our members, diversify our membership and leadership, and build strategic partnerships within and outside of AHEPPP. We are excited to continue our commitment to equity, belonging, and inclusion in our organization and community.

Leadership opportunities. We are excited to share that there will be TWO openings for Board of Directors members! Being on the Board of Directors is a fun and rewarding way to make a difference in family engagement and support of your colleagues on a big scale. The call will go out in August so please consider applying to be our newest Board members. Or, if you know of someone who would be great in the role, encourage them to apply!

Thank you, as always, for your engagement, support, and energy surrounding all things family!

Chelsea Petree, Ph.D.
AHEPPP President

Meet Kim Sterritt

Get to know Kim Sterritt! Kim is the Director of Parent & Family Programs at The University of Alabama and a long-time AHEPPP member and volunteer!

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Get To Know AHEPPP’s Heart: Executive Director, Lindsay McKinney

We’re excited, for the first time in the blog’s history, to learn more about the individual behind AHEPPP’s day-to-day operations, from the “Big Email” communications to managing AHEPPP’s digital presence to welcoming and supporting each one of our members along their journey. Lindsay McKinney currently serves as AHEPPP’s Executive Director and does her job so well that sometimes we forget she is the only full-time staff member of this organization.

What led you to your role with AHEPPP?

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Fall 2021 Presidential Update

Dear Valued AHEPPP Member,

For the first time in two years, your AHEPPP Board of Directors met in person for a two-day retreat in Raleigh, NC last week. After the hugs and excited greetings, we dove into work and discussed in depth the growth of our association, needs of our members, and our plan for 2022 and beyond.

As many of you have shared, 2021 was, in many ways, even more difficult than 2020. Along with navigating the continued impact of COVID on your campuses, there have been more incidences targeting our Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) community in both professional and personal spaces. Some of our members are hurting, and we hear you. 

AHEPPP recognizes the critical need for equity, belonging, and inclusion in our association, work, and lives, and this continues to be a core value of the organization. The language we use -“equity and belonging” as opposed to “diversity” - is intentional and based on feedback from our members and the newly-formed EBI Council (read more in this Insights blog post). The Board of Directors acknowledges that we have a lot of work to do in this area and, though we may make mistakes along the way, we will never stop striving to be a safe, supportive and inclusive space for all of our members. We welcome the hard work that is ahead of us, and invite everyone to be part of the continued conversation. 

A common theme of our discussions last week was the desire for consistent transparency with our membership. In order to do this, we plan to provide the following to our members moving forward: 1) summaries of the Board’s in-person retreats twice a year; 2) targeted Insights Blog posts that explain the work we do; 3) opportunities to connect in a variety of ways with our membership to make sure we are hearing all voices. We also want to encourage our members to familiarize themselves with the association Bylaws, which outline AHEPPP policies and processes, available on the AHEPPP website.

On the heels of two of the most difficult years of our lives, AHEPPP strives to be a space where we can all provide one another grace and support the collective understanding of our work and appreciation for us as professionals and individuals. We are grateful to be in the position to make change alongside you—our members and our friends. 

Please find our December 2021 meeting notes here, including agenda highlights, 2021 successes, and the 2022 work plan.

Thank you, valued AHEPPP member, for your engagement in and support of our association. I’m looking forward to seeing you in the new year!

Chelsea Petree, Ph.D.
AHEPPP President

Membership Spotlight on Ben Williams

Meet Ben Williams Director of Director, New Student Orientation & Family Engagement at Georgia State University. Ben is the Region 3 Chair and a member of the Equity, Belonging & Inclusion Task Force. Ben will also be hosting an AHEPPP family engagement Spring Summit in 2022 in Atlanta.  

How did you become involved with AHEPPP?
When I got my new role at Georgia State, joining AHEPPP was a top priority and when emails came out I said yes! It's been a great experience.

Tell us how you first started in the field of Parent & Family Relations.
I started working in family engagement when I became the Assistant Director of Orientation at Georgia State. It has been a great opportunity to build a program back up and engage with family members across our 6 campuses.

What has surprised you most about working with parents and family members?
The incredible opportunities to build partnerships that help students and families succeed. Some of my favorite interactions start with frustrated families that allow for us to work together to support their students success.

What changes do you think we will see in the field of parent/family relations in the next 5 years?
I think we will need to focus on how family members are important partners in the enrollment, retention, and progression conversations on campus. Leveraging data to tell our stories of how engaging families help us contribute to student success.

When you're not working with parents and families, how do you like to spend your time? 

As a PhD student and dog dad, most of my time is spent with loved ones and in books. I love my work, but know it is crucial to find ways to recharge my batteries.

What is the last book you read?
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Who inspires you? Why?

I am continually inspired by my mom, even though she is no longer here. She grew up in the geographic center of Texas with dirt floors and went on to do all sorts of wonderful things. In her final years, she was a House Mom for Delta Zeta at Texas State and reminded me each day it is not our experiences, but how we respond that show who we are.

If you had to eat only one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
breakfast....all the pancakes and bacon. :)

Get to know Liz Vigil

Get to know Liz Vigil., Senior Family Outreach Specialist at New Mexico State University. Liz is the Region 6 Chair for AHEPPP and a member of our Equity, Belonging, and Inclusion Task Force.

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Membership Spotlight on Lynanne Jamison

Get to know Lynanne Jamison Ph.D., Director of New Student & Family Programs at Virginia Commonwealth University. Lynanne is a long-time AHEPPP member and volunteer and currently serves at the Conference Committee Assessment Chair.

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Mentorship: Advice for Success

Like many institutions, Ohio State had to cancel our 2020 commencement celebrations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Though a long time coming, on August 7, we were able to bring together our graduates, their families, and their loved ones for a celebration of their time at Ohio State.  As part of our evening together, Ryan Day, Ohio State’s football coach, and Christina Day, his wife, served as our graduation speakers.  The Days are very involved in the Ohio State community and focus their efforts on the mental health of children.  You can read more about their On Our Sleeves work here.  On this night, they took turns providing our graduates advice on their future successes.  

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Mentally Preparing, Navigating, and Transitioning back to “Normal”

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on every part of our daily lives -- routines have been all but lost, and modalities of connection and communication have been forever altered. For those of us lucky enough to have supportive institutions, this time has provided an opportunity to try new things and meet the needs of families in unique and different ways. On the flip side, this time has also gravely impacted our energy levels and mental health. As vaccine distribution increases there is a beacon of hope that many of our campuses and departmental operations will return to bustling in-person communities for Fall 2021.Yay! 

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With a Steady Stream of Anxieties, AHEPPP is My Remedy

For me (as I’m sure for you), fall is typically a time of exhaustion and excitement. Those feelings are folded together into a series of programming that helps my team and I connect with students and families. The events are generally joyful and the exhaustion is typically acute; bound to four or five solid days of early mornings, late nights and countless conversations with strangers (that drain the introvert in me). My anxiety is usually high during this time of year, but I have found ways to control it and find comfort in keeping busy - and in banking my 20K daily steps running around campus. 

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