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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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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Creating a Family Council – Reflections After Two Years of the Family Round Table

I will be the first to admit that I was not sure a family council was the correct course for Ohio State. How do you structure a group when you are trying to make it representative of over 45,000 undergraduate students’ families? Even if we can structure it appropriately, could we provide the level of staffing needed to support it? When our Parent and Family Relations Office was restructured in 2009, the question of having a family council or advisory board was a point of debate. The new office, with a renewed focus on fundraising, created the Parents Advancement Council (PAC), which has a focus on family engagement around fundraising and advancement. Beyond the specific work of the PAC, it was decided that dedicating resources into engaging all families versus concentrating resources into a selective family “advisory” council was the appropriate course of action. With a single staff member leading programming and communications for all families and an additional staff member leading fundraising and advancement efforts, this made strategic sense. For over 10 years the office found remarkable success providing communication and programming for all families while continuing to build on successes in family fundraising and advancement, WITHOUT a specific family advisory board. 

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Supportive Spectator Model

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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!

Making the Most of May

As Higher Ed professionals, when we think of May many of us instantly think of May 1, the deadline for enrollment for many of our campuses, also known as National College Decision Day. Others may consider Commencement ceremonies and wrapping up the academic year. Undergraduate students and families, they may have their minds fixed on final exams and summer travel. But did you know that May is also Mental Health Awareness Month? Now, I feel confident that there are no real ties between the two, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t serendipitous; because whether the decision is where to go to college or which first professional contract to sign, landmark decisions and major events come with major stress. Now, typically, I am not one to couple activities of importance. I’m more of a one-major-event-at-a-time type of person, but if ever there was an opportunity to capitalize and double-down on activities that could benefit one another, May might just be the month for it.

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Let's Talk about New Student Orientation

Preparing our families for New Student Orientation is a full-time endeavor. From preparing programming to working on communications – parents are at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Besides, the parents are the ones who decide the date to bring the student to campus. They are the ones who ask the hard questions – what’s advising like? What will my student need to be successful? How will my student be able to juggle this class with his/her obligation to the band? Etc. 

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Expanding Your Team through a Partnership that Benefits Families & Campus Partners

The Background

Hello!  This is Whitney from the University of Cincinnati where we have experienced unprecedented growth over the last twenty years fueled by athletic success (including a move to the Big XII Conference) and nationally ranked programs, such as our #1 co-op program. In the last ten years, we became a Carnegie Classified residential campus with demand for housing dramatically outnumbering our number of beds. A larger student body means they need more resources, more housing, more classes, more everything. And, it means more families, too! It was time for Parent & Family Programs (PFP) to get creative in meeting their needs.

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Using Parent Volunteers

When we think of school volunteers, many of us immediately envision PTA-style bake sales and booster clubs. While the enthusiasm is the same, the role of a college parent volunteer is, by its nature, a different experience. At Emerson College, we have a Family Ambassador program of approximately 16 members. The program has worked well and maintains appropriate boundaries for the needs of our campus of 4,400 undergraduates.

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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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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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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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Jobs for Recent Grads: How to Help (or Hinder)

Parents are increasingly concerned about their student’s employment during and after college. As a result, they have become more involved in their grown children’s search for jobs and summer internships. The involvement is understandable…competition for these positions grows with 2 million students graduating each year, plus a fluctuating job market and the effort is more difficult. Parents are anxious to get a return on their investment after four (or more) years of tuition, as well as get their child financially independent as soon as possible to manage any outstanding debt from student loans and move out.

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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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Don’t Forget About Spring & Summer Enrollees & their Families

The spring semester brings about new beginnings for students and their families. In the previous semester, incoming students may feel more acclimated to their surroundings, have a better sense of support resources and services, and may have met lots of new diverse people both in class and through on-campus social events. It’s important that we ensure that all students and their families feel that same sense of belonging and acclimation in every enrollment period each year.

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Settling in, Sustaining, and Keeping that AHEPPP Feeling



It was wonderful meeting so many of you during our time in Orlando. I hope you all had safe and smooth travels home. 

Personally, returning from a conference, particularly an AHEPPP conference, comes with mixed emotions. On one hand, there is travel fatigue, a bit of exhaustion, and the overwhelming feeling of catch-up that has filled my inbox. On the other hand, I am elated with inspiration and excitement; empowered by “my people” and ready to improve and implement all the things. My proverbial cup runneth over from being with colleagues who understand the ins and outs of our work; to the ones who “get” what we do with no need for explanation.

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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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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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