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Designing Interactive & Engaging Family Orientation Programs

If you’re a Family Engagement professional, chances are you’ve spent your fair share of time sitting through classes, presentations, meetings, speakers, etc. Chances are also good that some of these experiences have been energizing learning opportunities, while some might have fallen flat…nap time, maybe?

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Picture This: Family Weekend with a Twist

What is the most important aspect of Family Weekend at my college?  It is not the events we plan, the modality, the swag (although some of our swag is pretty sweet), or the food we serve -- it is the connections we are forging.  

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AHEPPP Endorses College Ready

As the only association dedicated to student success through informed parent and family engagement, AHEPPP is proud to endorse College Ready: Expert Advice for Parents to Simplify the College Transition. This parent resource written entirely by AHEPPP members.

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Inclusive Practices and Supporting Special Family Populations

I heard a presenter this week that was talking about goal setting. He said to set a big goal and then little goals in order to reach that big goal. I think this is great advice as it pertains many things we do for parents and families especially when talking about race, diversity, inclusion and social justice. 

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Navigating New Student Orientation During a Pandemic

It’s safe to say that in February 2020, we were all living the dream. Everything was open, on-campus activity was a buzz. And, for the most part, life was as normal as it can get. 

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Addressing Anti-racism with Families

Following the murder of George Floyd this summer, our Division of Student Affairs was charged with adding or enhancing anti-racisism work in every department.  For some, such as the Office of Housing and Residential Education, it was not a difficult task, as the department was already doing a marvelous job of comprehensive anti-racism programming and training with Resident Assistants and the on-campus population.

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Other Duties as Assigned: My Experience as a COVID Test Observer

We all will certainly have very distinct memories of life during COVID that will last a lifetime. There are many experiences from the last several months in my personal and professional life that I know will stick with me—including my newfound responsibility as a COVID test observer. 

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