Family Engagement During Welcome Week

As orientation season ends another begins, Welcome Week!  Many campuses are buzzing with fresh new faces of faculty, staff, and students.  Their optimistic attitudes about the possibilities of the fall semester, coupled with an eagerness to feel the spirit of campus pride, make this the most vibrant time of year! Welcome Week is a special time.  Welcome Week indicates that its the beginning of a new academic season.  It is also a time where colleges and universities typically have the attention of all its students.  Students often expect to be oriented at the beginning of the year through a host of events and activities that help remind them about the numerous resources and services available. 

Often, Welcome Week showcases the best of academic and student affairs.  Move-in day service opportunities for upperclassmen students and student activity fair days where students can familiarize themselves with the various student organization options are offered on most college campuses.  Also, students have the chance to learn more about Greek fraternities and sororities and participate in signature campus events that make the college experience second to none. 

However, when you think about all of the dedicated time and effort placed on helping students feel welcomed and connected.  Equally as important are the involvement and engagement opportunities for the parents and family members that have ushered each student into this new year. As AHEPPP Family Engagement experts, we are all too familiar with the highs and lows of beginning a new year for parents and family members.  Although an exciting time of year, it also serves as a milestone marker for many that bring about lots of uncertainty, change, and fear.

At my campus, we recognize the challenges that families face during Welcome Week, so we provide a few chances for families to connect and serve.  The move-in day process can be complicated for many families, but a source of rejuvenation for others.  It can be challenging to balance and manage all the emotions of the day. However, we feel we have found a positive balance where families can gather, decompress, and set aside the inevitable letting go process of the move-in day! 

The University of Texas Arlington’s Parent and Family Center has hosted the annual Move-In Day Family Cookout for over twelve years.  At the Cookout, there is excellent food, music, and fun for the entire family to enjoy.  Our guests interact with University faculty, staff, and student volunteers throughout the whole event. 

Most importantly, we have volunteer opportunities for families that have launched Freshman, Transfer, or International students.   They serve as Family Ambassadors at our Move-In Day Family Cookout.  They meet and greet incoming parents and family members.  They listen and learn about their experiences, offer sound advice and words of encouragement that often help settle some of the parental anxieties that might be re-surfacing. 

In the past, I’ve had the privilege of hosting Move-In Day Party Carts.  In the Party Cart, we rode around campus on a golf cart with our closest campus partners, whom I affectionately call our “friends of the family.”  We blasted loud, energetic, happy music and strategically gave away University swag items, Kleenex tissues, and promotional flyers to our upcoming family-centered events.  I’ve also hosted welcome back BBQ’s for our off-campus students and their families and so much more.  Unless you’re living under a rock, you may have stumbled upon other great ideas from institutions across the country on the AHEPPP website.  AHEPPP provides a fantastic resource where best practices in our field can be shared.  Check out our website, the latest issue of the Insights Blog Post or scroll through the Facebook group to catch up on new and innovative ideas for family engagement options during Welcome Week. 

A few of my favorites include letter writing and calling campaigns from families to families, luncheons and meet and greets, live group chats, parent blog posts, back to school or the first day of class photos by Moms for Moms, convocation volunteers and so many more.  AHEPPP professionals are doing great things in the field and have provided numerous possibilities of involvement to try and incorporate throughout the year.  

All in all, parents and family members of today’s generation of college students are all too familiar with the expectation to connect with their student’s school. Secondly, they are aware that with connection comes involvement and engagement to help their students with the varying transitional challenges they may face from year to year.  It is our responsibility to hone in on that desire and eagerness to serve and use it to the benefit of our institutions, and the greater good students. When families engage and help one another, they are more likely to give, support, and connect others to your institutions. 

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