Less is More

As I sit paused in between orientation sessions, I practice a moment of mindfulness. I soak in the warm Carolina sun, smile at the crowds of excited families, and relish the feeling of familiarity. New Student and Family orientation has arrived, we are in person and seemingly back to all things pre-pandemic. We made it. And I begin to reflect…

I think first about our big events, they were different. Wildly different. Unlike anything we had done in the past, we stripped down programming and began to reimagine activities. For our resources, we continued to elevate access and increase support and did so at no additional cost to our program. Maybe less might actually be more?? We know that families aren’t looking for flashy, they are looking for variety. As a team, we rode the wave of change time and time again and didn’t hide the sway from our parents or partners. I am confident it made us a stronger resource for our families. Over the course of the last year, we have continued to not only meet but exceed goals. Parents felt the authenticity of our efforts and the ripple effect was positive. For this year, our gains are so much more having done everything with significantly less.

I continue on to think of the hundreds of parents and families we have had the opportunity to meet both on-screen and in person. The smiles. The gratitude. Even in their moments of panic and concern, most would still offer kindness. Their patience and understanding have continued to be refreshing. I’ve said it time and time again, we must approach our most recent parent and family groups with grace.

Understanding that their experience as a parent over these last few years and the transition they are braving alongside their student is nuanced. It would be foolish to not acknowledge this and instead offer the same systems and resources in the ways we always have. Now is different. Less is more, and that’s not a bad thing. One of my favorite words is extraordinary not because of the way it boasts but rather the opposite. How it is broken down, extra-ordinary. Ordinary- simple, every day. Extra- to take the simple, every day and make it just a little bit better. Who wouldn’t want that?

I pause here and smile. I’m still not sure how we got here. So much of the last few years have been challenging and it all feels blurred. But if I break it down, there is so much good in the achievement of this moment and although our planning efforts are already well into November of 2022 I am reassured and at peace. I am still smiling, this has been a year not without its challenges but certainly full of its accomplishments. We did so much good with far less and it is refreshing.

Kerri Fowler is the Director of Parents & Families Services at North Carolina State University and a member of the AHEPPP Board of Directors.

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