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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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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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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!

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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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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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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Finally, Family Engagement that is More Efficient, Less Work, and Leads to Happier Parents

Parent and family professionals are doing such important work, and we are inspired by your positive impact. With so much going on today, we hear some common themes from parent & family engagement teams:
  • How can I ensure I’m reaching all parents as a small/one-person team?
  • How can I steer parents from misinformation and ensure they get the right information?
  • How can I show the positive impact of the good work I’m doing?

Fortunately, things are changing in parent and family engagement – and Nearpeer, a new platform focused on family engagement, is leading the charge. Dr. Curtis Wright, SVP of Student Affairs at Xavier University of Louisiana, recognizes the power of this innovation. “Nearpeer has created a line of communication that is not contentious. It has built community with our families, and we have been so impressed.”New practices in family engagement are refreshing because the classic approaches like email, Facebook, portals, and newsletters simply aren’t enough in 2022. These classic solutions are hampered by an overall decline in older tech. Gmail is now 18 years old, and email overall is declining as a preferred communication method. Similarly, Facebook peaked seven years ago in 2015, according to the most recent Survey of College & University Parent / Family Programs. Plus, a staggering 75% of survey respondents report that they are dealing with misinformation spread across unofficial “rogue” Facebook sites and other similar social media pages.

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Students are the Experts

Over the last few years, trends at the University of Kentucky suggest that families have become more willing and eager to believe information provided by student leaders than by professional staff. So, if you are looking for ways to incorporate your student leaders’ expertise into more of your orientation experience, here are a few ideas from the University of Kentucky Big Blue Nation Orientation.

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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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Writing a Successful Program Proposal for the 2022 Family Engagement in Higher Education Conference

Having presented upwards of a dozen educational programs at AHEPPP conferences over the last 5 years, served as the 2019 national conference programming co-chair and taken on the conference chair role this year, it’s safe to say I’ve been around the program proposal block a few times! I know developing a proposal can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Below are some tips and tricks for writing a proposal that earns a spot in the final conference program lineup.

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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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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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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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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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Remembering Kris Stewart

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

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Nicki Jenkins Elected to the BOD

Congratulations to Nicki Jenkins! Nicki was elected by her peers to serve as the new member of the AHEPPP Board of Directors! Nicki will serve a three year term beginning in January of 2022.

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Have you Met Lexie McCarthy?

Get to know Lexie McCarthy, Director of Parent & Family Relations at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. Lexie is a two-time member of the Family Engagement in Higher Education National Conference Team and is this year's Technology Chair.

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National Conference Creates Lasting Connection

Like many, I fell into my career in higher education. I started straight out of my undergrad in the world of admissions. I took to the open road of the travel season, hustling to recruit applicants and convert admits into deposits. It was fun, but it felt forced. I wasn't as comfortable as other counselors. Small talk isn’t my forte and quiet was how I recharged. I am one of the few that would retreat to my hotel room after college fairs and a day of forced interactions rather than meeting up and debriefing high school visits and travel routes. For years this didn’t change, regional meetings, team outings and professional conferences were all the same--until I met AHEPPP: Family Engagement in Higher Education.

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