June 2014

In this Issue

We would love your feedback! Send us suggestions, member profile nominations and job postings. Please email us at [email protected].

In the Chair

I hope this note finds you well and enjoying the arrival of summer. For many of us summer means the conclusion of commencement, the start of orientation, time to re-energize and refocus on our mission of serving parents and families, and finding time to connect with friends and our own family.  

I am excited today to share with you some news that will keep all of us connected, too.  

I am extremely pleased to announce that Alyssa Willet was named AHEPPP Coordinator and officially started on April 28. For the past two years, Alyssa has worked to support higher education professionals who work with parents.  In her most recent position, Alyssa managed and created eNewsletter programs for college parents, marketed products and services in the higher education space and has managed over 150 client relationships. With a M.Ed. in College Student Personnel Administration from James Madison University, Alyssa will be an excellent addition to AHEPPP with expertise to grow and support our association’s activities and continued growth.

As the AHEPPP Coordinator, Alyssa is responsible for the overall operation of AHEPPP. Alyssa will provide primary support for our membership along with strategic and logistical support for the Board of Directors and other association activities. The Board of Directors has outlined a few specific ways Alyssa will support our work:

  • Setting a strategy for membership growth and continued support.
  • Coordinating our communication efforts – look for emails and newsletters from Alyssa on a more regular basis.
  • Supporting conference planning activities.

Alyssa lives in Broomfield, Colorado with her partner and works out of the Boulder AHEPPP headquarters. Please feel free to contact Alyssa with membership questions or suggestions for AHEPPP at [email protected].  You can also reach her at 920-333-2437. We are very excited to have Alyssa with us!

I am also thankful and very appreciative of those AHEPPP members who assisted this past year in our regional conferences. Without their assistance, we could not have served our membership in this way. A special thanks to all those who helped coordinate and plan these regional conferences.   

Midwest Regional Conference – University of Wisconsin – Madison

  • Stephanie Benson-Gonzalez – University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Patti Lux-Weber – University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Julie Murphy – Marquette University
  • Caitlin Wozniak – Marquette University

Southeast Regional Conference – University of Kentucky

  • Nancy Stephens – University of Kentucky
  • Cindy Beaman – Vincennes University

Northeast/Mid-Atlantic Region – Hofstra University

  • Susan Brown – Northeastern University
  • Dawn Bruner – University of Rochester
  • Nancy Hardendorf – Johnson & Wales University
  • Branka Kristic – Hofstra University
  • Kenya LeNoir Messer – University of Pennsylvania
  • Jacqueline MacKay – Providence College
  • Matthew Patashnick – Columbia University
  • Kathleen Watchhorn – Adelphi University
  • Brian Watkins – University of Maryland

West Coast – University of Southern California and UCLA

  • Lily Ball – USC
  • Maisha Beasley – UCLA
  • Tina Orkin – USC
  • Alexandra Price – UCLA
  • Maria Riley – USC
  • Beth Saul – USC

I am thankful for all of your help!  I know that those members who were able to attend appreciate the opportunity to connect and value these professional development opportunities.  

Our AHEPPP Board of Directors continues to move our association forward. We are thankful for your suggestions, support, and patience as we continue to grow as an association. Should you have any questions or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact Alyssa or me.  


Chad Barnhardt

  Chad Barnhardt
  AHEPPP Chair
  Ohio University

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Conference Corner

Join us in sunny San Diego for the AHEPPP National Conference on November 10 - 12 as we grow, support, and celebrate our work, our profession, and ourselves. The conference venue, The Dana on Mission Bay, provides a wonderful backdrop for our time together to explore best practices in our work with parents and families; discuss current challenges; share our successes; fellowship with friends and colleagues; and rejuvenate.  From the conference kick-off at the world-famous San Diego Zoo to innovative educational sessions and programs, the AHEPPP National Conference will inform and inspire you to better serve your campus community. Click here for a sneak preview of the conference schedule. alt

Conference Highlights

Pre-Conference Workshop for Professionals New to Parent Programs
Whether creating a program from the ground up or starting in a new position with an established parent/family programs office, this highly interactive session will help participants explore fundamental and critical issues and establish a strong foundation for their work. This special pre-conference workshop will provide opportunities to engage and interact with colleagues, learn together, and enjoy a mentoring lunch with seasoned professionals. Participants will also receive a complimentary copy of the Parent and Family Programs CAS Standards and Guidelines. The pre-conference workshop will take place on Monday, November 10 from 10:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Fee is listed below and includes continental breakfast and lunch. Click here to view the Pre-Conference Workshop schedule. alt

Keynote Speaker
Dr. Madeline LevineWe are thrilled to share that our keynote speaker for AHEPPP 2014 will be Madeline Levine.  Madeline Levine, Ph.D. is a psychologist with close to 30 years of experience as a clinician, consultant, educator and author. Her New York Times bestseller, The Price of Privilege, explores the reasons why teenagers from affluent families are experiencing epidemic rates of emotional problems.  Her latest book, Teach Your Children Well, also a New York Times bestseller, tackles our current narrow definition of success – how it unnecessarily stresses academically talented kids and marginalizes many more whose talents and interests are less amenable to measurement. The development of skills needed to be successful in the 21st century - creativity, collaboration, innovation - are not easily developed in our competitive, fast-paced, high pressure world. Teach Your Children Well gives practical, research-based solutions to help parents return their families to healthier and saner versions of themselves by remembering that successful parenting is measured 20 or 30 years down the road, not at the end of any particular grading period.  Dr. Levine has been featured on The Today Show, Nightline, and various other media outlets.

Night at the Zoo  
Join us as we kick off our 3rd AHEPPP Conference at the world famous San Diego Zoo. Explore the grounds from 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. on your own or with a group of AHEPPP colleagues, then join us for dinner in the Zoofari Party Area from 5:00 – 6:30 p.m.
Zoo Experience includes:

  • Round trip transportation from The Dana to the San Diego Zoo
  • Admission to San Diego Zoo
  • Unlimited access to regularly scheduled public shows and attractions including public Guided Bus Tour, Skyfari Aerial Tram and Express Bus
  • Catered Buffet-Style Meal (A dinner after the park closes for just AHEPPP attendees from 5:00 – 6:30 P.M.)
  • Second Admission Ticket to San Diego Zoo – a one day visit, valid for up to 30 days (beginning November 11, 2014)

Family-Friendly Conference
AHEPPP invites you to bring your family to San Diego! San Diego is a great place to explore and has lots of options for your family members. The Conference Hotel, The Dana, and San Diego have lots of options for those traveling with children. Click here to learn more.

Hotel InformationMission Bay Sunrise
The Dana on Mission Bay is a great setting to learn and rejuvenate. This family-friendly hotel has two pools and beautiful grounds to explore. All rooms include flat screen TVs, refrigerators, microwaves, coffee makers, and in-room wireless internet access. We’ve made it easy for you to book your travel and hotel. With a conference hotel only 11 minutes away from the San Diego International Airport, it will be easy and quick to get to and from the hotel. Find all of the information you need about the conference hotel and travel on our website, listed under the 2014 Conference tab.

Submit a PechaKucha or an AHEPPP Talk - Deadline Extended
The Conference Program Review Committee is hard at work preparing for the 2014 AHEPPP National Conference. The committee has received some exciting proposals! There are a few additional hot topics that we’re hoping to include at the conference. We are seeking proposals on the following topics. Please pass along to your colleagues!

  • First Generation Students/Families
  • Parent Involvement in Career Education
  • Mental Health Issues
  • Sexual assault, alcohol and drug abuse prevention
  • Serving families of students with disabilities
  • Fundraising with parents

 We invite you to consider proposing a program on these topics utilizing one of our new presentation style formats: 

  • AHEPPP Talks
  • PechaKucha (Click here to see an overview of PechaKucha) 

If interested, please submit a proposal by Friday, June 27, 2014 using the Program Proposal Form, located at the bottom of the page. Contact Dawn Bruner [email protected] or Branka Kristic [email protected] with questions.

Call for Awards
The conference provides our association with the opportunity to recognize some of the shining stars and promising practices in the profession. The Awards Selection Committee invites nominations for several awards. Nominate your institution and/or a deserving colleague! The categories and awards are as follows:

Best Institutional Initiative – Small College/University (defined as < 5,000 students)

Best Institutional Initiative – Mid-Sized College/University (defined as 5,000 – 15,000 students)

Best Institutional Initiative – Large University (defined > 15,000 students)

Excellence in Publication – Newsletter

Excellence in Publication – Handbook/Calendar

Excellence in Publication – Website

Excellence in Publication – Video

Outstanding Contribution to Research and/or Literature

Outstanding Contribution to the Profession

Award nominations are due by 5:00 p.m. on October 1, 2014.

If you have a question about the conference or need more information, please contact [email protected].

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Membership Spotlight

AHEPPP has a geographically diverse membership. With 124 institutions as a part of AHEPPP, in each newsletter one or two members and a board member will be featured. This month, read about:

Megan Koontz, Member
Megan KoontzHometown: Lorena, Texas – just south of Waco. I’ve lived in Nashville for the past two years.

Hobbies: traveling and exploring Nashville, being active and outdoors, baking, reading, blogging, spending time with my boyfriend, friends and maltese, Maizie

Current Institution: Vanderbilt University

Q: Tell us how you first started working in the field of parent relations.
A: I began my role here in the Parents & Family Programs office in January of this year. Prior to that, I was an event manager for the office of Special Events here at Vanderbilt. The office of Special Events works closely with the Parents Office on our annual Family Weekend, so as an event manager, I became quite familiar with the processes of the Parents & Family Programs office. I had always admired and respected the Parents office, the lasting impressions it gave to the undergraduate parents, and the vast variety of responsibilities the small team managed to tackle successfully. When a position opened, I knew I had to apply.

Before coming to Vanderbilt, I worked as an event manager at Baylor University, my alma mater. In that office, I closely worked alongside the Parents League team, and those experiences were the initial catalyst for my interest in parent outreach and engagement. My background is in journalism and public relations, and I sincerely enjoy putting those skillsets to work in my daily communication with Vanderbilt parents.  

Q: What programming are you implementing in the upcoming year or what initiative have you implemented that you’re most proud of?
A: Our biggest annual project is undoubtedly Family Weekend. We have spent a lot of time evaluating what topics parents want to hear more about and what types of events they’re excited to attend, and all-in-all, we receive overwhelmingly positive feedback year to year. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to collaborate with our campus partners to ensure that these crucial topics are explored with our parent audience and to witness those experiences unfold.  

Additionally, we have really focused on our social media efforts. I think it’s obvious that social media is here to stay, and while it will evolve, more and more parents have an online presence. Therefore, it’s crucial to engage with them on that level, as well as through the traditional mailed publications or websites. I have really loved the challenge of discovering valuable content, as well as plugging the more lighthearted posts (for example, Vanderbilt trivia) to relay to parents. Even better, we are able to receive instant feedback when parents respond via Facebook or Twitter. While it’s a relatively newer concept, I think it’s important to capitalize on those communication outlets. It’s instant, convenient and succinct.

Q: What do you love about the field of parent/family relations?
A: I have been fortunate to work in a few different areas in the university setting—positions that paired me with alumni, as well as fellow staff and faculty. Of all of the relationships people may have with a university, I believe parents are the most enthusiastic and intentional. Generally speaking, most parents really seek to have a warm and positive interaction with their child’s university. They are earnestly seeking information and are appreciative that an entire office exists to serve them. I really love that this role affords me the opportunity to genuinely help parents—whether it be answering their calls on our Helpline, replying to their emails, or finding information to relay to them in our publications. No day is typical, and I appreciate the range of engagement opportunities I have on a daily basis—if I’m not working on our monthly e-newsletter, I might be planning Family Weekend events or meeting with a campus partner to discuss new activities. I really love the variety this position offers me.  

Q: What has surprised you the most about working with parents and family members?
A: I think I am mostly surprised by the range of parenting styles that I witness. Some parents are very heavily involved, while others take more of a backseat to the college experience. This creates a dilemma of how to engage them all in a meaningful way without stepping on toes. Also, I am pleasantly surprised at the level of respect and attention I am given because of my role. As a 20-something who does not have children, I was initially intimidated that parents would not value the information I could offer them simply because I am not a parent. Thankfully, I was wrong—like I’ve already mentioned, parents seem endlessly appreciative that an entire office exists to serve their needs.

Q: What advice do you have for other new professionals in this field?
A: I would encourage any new professional to be patient—patient with their own learning and patient with handling the needs of parents. First of all, it’s impossible to instantly learn everything you need to know to effectively serve parents—so cut yourself some slack and if you don’t immediately have an answer, end the conversation with confirmation that you will absolutely find an answer for them. Always leave the parent feeling confident that you are hearing them and taking them seriously—no matter how big or small their concern may be. And then do whatever you need to do to help them. In the end, most parents just want to be heard, so take the time to lend a listening ear. Often, your interaction may be the only contact a parent may have with their child’s university in the entirety of four years, so do everything you can to make it pleasant.

Q: What would you say are some of your strongest beliefs about current parents and families of college students?
A: I reiterate that parents and parenting situations are all different. It’s important to not have a “cookie cutter” response for issues, simply because all parents and situations are unique. In order to continue building authentic relationships with parents, I believe it’s vital to tailor messaging for every individual person, as much as possible. Parents will continue to be involved in their students’ experiences, and maintaining positive engagement with those parents is the very purpose of why our office exists.

Q: What changes do you think we will see in the field of parent/family relations in the next 5 years?
A: Knowing that parenting styles seem to shift from generation to generation, I foresee parents becoming more and more involved in their students’ experiences. And again, I think social media will really drive the way we communicate with parents for the indefinite future. Parents are privy to much more information than they were exposed to even five or ten years ago, and being that they have the option and availability to instantly absorb and respond to information will directly impact their involvement.

Brian Watkins, Vice-Chair of AHEPPP
Brian WatkinsHometown: Resides in Cheverly, MD but was born and raised in Jackson, MI
Hobbies: Can I have one of these? (I have a very active 4.5 year old son)
Current Institution: University of Maryland

Q:Tell us how you first started  working in the field of parent relations.
A: My work in parent relations started in my first full-time job out of graduate school. I was the director of campus activities and student involvement at Arcadia University, and part of my role included assisting with new student and parent orientation. Working with parents was always something I loved.

Q:What programming are you implementing in the upcoming year or what initiative have you implemented that you’re most proud of?
A: There are several programs and initiatives I'm proud of.  One of the programs we're implementing in the upcoming year is a short video highlighting student development theory and why it's important. The video will feature staff members from across the division of student affairs discussing their favorite theory or the one that guides the work of their office. The purpose of the video is to provide parents with an overview of the "why" behind the "what" and promote student competencies (including independence). It's also a way for us to leverage online learning/technology with parents and family members.  Another program we're implementing is a Terp Family Service Adventure to Flores, Guatemala in January 2015, which is more of a volunteer vacation than an alternative break.  It will be a fun opportunity for families to travel together, be of service to families in Guatemala, and enjoy a few adventure excursions.

Q:What do you love about the field of parent/family relations?
A: I love working with parents and families as they support their students during such an important time of learning and growth. It’s incredibly rewarding. I also enjoy working with parent volunteers, since they are so eager to contribute to the university.  Their pride and passion is terrific. Lastly, I love that my work is never the same; there is always a new and unique challenge, experience, issue, etc.

Q:What has surprised you the most about working with parents and family members?
A: I’m an ENTJ, so I don’t like surprises.  I’ve learned to expect the unexpected, especially when working with parents.

Q:What advice do you have for other new professionals in this field?
A: The best advice I can give to a new professional is: Don't take anything personally.  I know it's easier said than done sometimes, but this is very important to remember.  When parents are venting and although it seems like their frustration is directed at you, it really isn't.  You just happen to be on the receiving end of someone who is trying hard to support his or her son or daughter—and, perhaps, in the only way they know how.

The other advice I have is to not be afraid (or too proud) to reach out for help, or just to let others know what you’re experiencing.  This is especially true in times of crisis.  There are many of us who have been through incredibly difficult situations on our campuses.  Sometimes the only bright spot for me during a difficult time were the thoughtful notes and phone calls I received from colleagues in our profession who understood what I was experiencing.  Whether you need a listening ear or words of encouragement, we’re here for you.

Q:What would you say are some of your strongest beliefs about current parents and families of college students?
A: The majority of today's parents are Gen X, so they're my people.  I’m convinced some of us are crazy.  I keep telling myself it comes from a good place.  If I say that enough times it will be true, right?

Q:What changes do you think we will see in the field of parent/family relations in the next 5 years?
A: Gen X parents are very comfortable with technology, so we will continue to see a generation of parents who expect the use of technology for interaction and easy access to information.  We need to prepare accordingly, and technology should be adaptable/mobile-friendly.  I also think use of social media among parents will continue to increase. While my son’s grandma uses Facebook to view photos and take selfies (yep, not kidding), as parents we use social media as yet another method to interact with people, groups, institutions, agencies, etc.  The unfortunate reality is that when we ignore technology or fail to adapt to new technology, we can become irrelevant.

College is a family affair and meeting the needs of a variety of constituencies of parents and families will continue to evolve.  Our students and parents are changing.  Many students come from blended families, single parent, and same-sex parent households.  There are first-generation issues that remain critically important to address, and international students and their families are becoming a greater presence at many colleges/universities. The “traditional student” and “traditional family” becomes a “modern student” and “modern family.”

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Back-to-School Programming Ideas

In each newsletter, we will provide you with some new and different ideas to incorporate into your programming. As you are planning for back to school and move-in, here are some fun ideas to support parent engagement.

First Day of School Photos – Texas A&M University
First Day of School Photos from Texas A&M UniversityTexas A&M University New Student Parent and Family Programs had the idea to give parents a nostalgic experience by creating “first day of school” photos. It's an easy idea to set up a table, grab a chalk board or white board and have students write messages to their family during the first week of school. It's great content for your parent Facebook page. All students did sign a photo waiver. See the full album on Facebook by clicking the First Day of School Photos title.



Facebook Cover Photo for Parents – University of Louisville
University of Louisville Cover Photo

Every now and then you may still see a mini van with a  “Proud Parent of an Honor Student” bumper sticker. Glenn Gittings, Director - Special Programs/Parents Association at the University of Louisville, gave parents a new kind of bumper sticker for their social media by creating a “Proud Parent” Cover Photo for Facebook. It is an easy design but something your parent community will surely love.


Letters from Home – University of Arkansas
Letters From HomeAlison Leach, Assistant Director of Parent and Family Programs at the University of Arkansas, wrote, “Letters from Home started in 2010 as a way to help parents and family members help their students adjust to their new home/journey. We encourage families to write letters of encouragement, hopes for the upcoming year, and advice for their student’s college experience. From there, they submit the letters to us and we hold on to them until the first two weeks of school. We’ve found that this is traditionally the hardest time for our students, so we deliver them during this time to help them transition.

When the program originated, we simply had parents submit letters via e-mail. They could either attach a Word document or write their letter in the body of the e-mail. Now we have implemented a Google form, which exports everything into Excel and allows us mail merge the content into letter format on customized Letters from Home stationary. This eliminates the timely process of hand formatting the letters and presents a branded item to the students as well.”

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What Would You Do?Question Mark

With the end of the semester,  parents are likely calling your office about grades. In this scenario, there are a couple of different situations to consider. What would you do?

You receive a call from an aunt who serves as guardian and the financial support person.  She is calling concerning her nephew’s official grades for the end of the term.  She indicates that according to her student, his grades are not accurate and that he has been academically dismissed for the upcoming term due to a grade point average of 1.275.  Her student denies this and she says she does not know what to believe.  He is to study abroad later this summer and she assumes that if he is academically dismissed that he will no longer be able to go.  

She would like you to please advise her and indicates that her nephew is present in her home and that he knows that she is making this call.  He told her that he should have earned a grade point average of 4.0 for the term.  His story does not make sense to her and she asks for your assistance to help unravel this mystery.  Her nephew is also involved in a TRIO Student Support Program for First Generation and low-income students.  

Reflection Questions

  • How would you assist this family?  
  • What issues do you consider before responding?

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Job Postings

AHEPPP hosts a Job Posting page. It’s free for anyone to post a position in the field of parent relations. As a member you will be notified when new postings are listed. Please send postings to [email protected].

This past month the following positions were posted:

  • Director of Parent Relations & Programs,  University of California, San Diego
  • Director of Parent & Family Programs, Miami University
  • Assistant Director, Parent and Family Programs - University of South Florida
  • Assistant Director, Campus & Community Involvement - Trinity University

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Upcoming Conferences/ Events

Parent Fundraising Conference
July 16-18, 2014 | San Francisco, CA

November 2-5 | Orlando, FL

AHEPPP National Conference
Novmeber 10-12 | San Diego, CA

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In the News: What You May Have Missed

As a busy professional, you may not always make the time to read every article about parents or catch every new resource available to families, so we've included a few from the past two months that we think are worth reading.

Going Off to College
Rob Lowe On Sending His Son Off to College
UniversityParent's Guide to Supporting Your Student's Freshman Year
Letters to My Son As He Goes To College
Navigating the First College Year: A Guide for Parents and Families

Having 'The Talk' With Your College-Bound Student (An article about finances)
More Grandparents Footing College Tuition Bills, Study Says
Match.com Scholarship Competition

Athletes, Academics and Parents
Parental Role in Athletes' Academics

This Dad’s Pictures With His 3-Year-Old Show Just How Hilarious It Is To Be A Father

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