Quarterly Connector
August 2021 

In this Issue

We would love your feedback! Send us suggestions by email - [email protected].

President's Perspective

It’s that time of year. You are running family orientations nearly every day, or working hard to prepare for your orientation at move-in. The emails and calls keep coming in: “What should we pack?” “How does my student see their course schedule?” “Can my student change their room assignment?” Your colleagues are asking you to prepare for the semester, when you can’t see past August. You end your days exhausted and worn out, but wake up the next morning and put a smile on your face to do it all again. This is summer for those who work with families of college students.  

There’s more to the exhaustion this year, because you haven’t had a break since March 2020. The typically quiet months were anything but as you worked with parents during a global pandemic. Weekends and vacations didn’t feel like time off as you waited for the next big university message you’d have to share with your families. While you recognize that all of your colleagues experienced the same heightened work levels this past year, there’s something extra emotional about working with families during a crisis. You are likely physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted right now. 

As I seem to state in each newsletter, I’ve never been more impressed with AHEPPP members than in this past year. Your strength and resiliency are an asset to your university and the families your work with. Despite the challenges, you are always willing to go the extra mile and take on new responsibilities. You are all rockstars and motivate me every day to be the best I can be! The parents you work with appreciate you every day. Plus, the start of the semester (and hopefully a little break) is right around the corner! 

Your AHEPPP Board of Directors is working hard to create materials and opportunities to support you, during busy times and beyond. This year’s Webinars and Conference include topics that will stretch your knowledge and provide new ideas. Our newly-launched Communications Planning Guide and Survey Builder will guide your strategies and planning. We can’t wait to announce our next regional events (spoiler alert: you may get some in-person AHEPPP hugs and high fives in this spring!)

Perhaps most important are the opportunities to engage in the AHEPPP community as a volunteer. Volunteer positions in a professional organization are not just an amazing way to boost your resume, but also to build a support network and share ideas and implement programming that impacts your colleagues across the country. Upcoming volunteer positions include the 2022 Conference Planning Committee, the newly formed EBI Council, the Mentor Program, and the Board of Directors. I hope to see many of you take advantage of these new and enhanced committees and councils this fall!

During this busiest of seasons, hang in there and know AHEPPP is here for you! 

Chelsea Petree
Director, Parent & Family Programs | RIT

Leaders Wanted - Get Involved!

As a rapidly growing association with a small staff, volunteers are the lifeblood of AHEPPP: Family Engagement in Higher Education. Through the commitment, passion, and expertise of our membership, AHEPPP remains on the forefront of important issues in working with parents and families of college students. We are now accepting applications for the following positions: 

2022 Spring Summits Committee
2022 National Conference Chair
2022 National Conference Team
Board of Directors
Equity, Belonging, & Inclusion Council

Each role carries different responsibilities and a different time commitment. We hope the variety of opportunities allows you to find a fit and way to participate in the advancement of family engagement as a profession and benefit our beloved association. Complete job descriptions, details, and application forms are available online at

2021 National Virtual Conference  

Are you registered for the 2021 Family Engagement in Higher Education National Conference?

Join the premier community for parent relations on November 8-10 for this fully virtual opportunity. Together we will network, share, and learn innovative practices in the field of parent and family relations. You will be inspired and challenged by thought leaders and veteran practitioners from a variety of institutions and backgrounds!

Grow alongside leaders like you seeking intellectually demanding, creative, and open-ended learning on topics like:

  • fundraising with parents
  • creating inclusive environments for families
  • trends in communication, technology, and assessment
  • professional development and self-care
  • and more!

Early-bird pricing is available until August 15 with additional deep discounts for members and students! More information and frequent updates on programming, volunteer opportunities, and conference schedule will be available on the AHEPPP website.

Meet the 2021 Conference Keynotes

AHEPPP: Family Engagement in Higher Education is pleased to welcome award winning speakers, authors, and advocates Kelly Radi and Dr. Kristin Austin as our 2021 National Conference Keynotes.

Kelly Radi - "Activate Your Inner Super Hero" - November 9

Kelly Radi is a real-life Wonder Woman! 

She delivers high-energy, heartfelt keynote presentations that empower and inspire. Her powerful, relatable messages focus on personal accountability, healthy communication and nurturing relationships. Audiences leave refreshed and confident, armed with new perspectives and practical, action-based take-aways.

Attendees describe her as authentic, relatable, and a masterful storyteller. Meeting planners appreciate her positive energy and can-do attitude. Organizations like Delta Air Lines, Leading AgeMN, Women in Trucking, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and several universities, high schools and colleges hire Kelly because she customizes content and implements strategies that help their employees and attendees avoid distractions, prioritize relationships and achieve objectives.

Kelly intertwines real stories, super hero history, and relevant takeaways. She connects, validates and inspires you to create a life of significance—both personally and professionally. After all, super heroes don’t just sit there. They take action!

She is a member of the National Speakers Association and earned the 2018 NSA Minnesota Academy Award. In addition, Kelly is the award-winning author of two books. Out To Sea: A Parents’ Survival Guide to the Freshman Voyage is a go-to resource for parents as they navigate the high school-to-college transition, and Wonder-Full: Activate Your Inner Superpowers (No Cape Required), a motivating “thought-book” for women of all ages.

Most importantly, Kelly is both a current college parent and a huge supporter of the work you do as family engagement professionals. She recognizes the time, talent, commitment, and effort you put in every day to help your students (and their families) flourish, grow and find success in the college years. 

Learn more about Kelly at

Kristin Austin, Ed.D. - "What's Your Balance? Spending, Saving, and Sharing Your Privilege as Higher Ed Leaders" - November 10

Dr. Kristin Austin (she/her) is a lover of talking, tacos, and Target. A  professional helper and lifelong learner, Dr. Austin has accumulated nearly twenty years of experience in the higher education sector, rotating as a senior-level administrator, or a full-time faculty member, all within functional areas that promote diversity, access, inclusion, and retention. Starting with her first professional role as an admissions counselor, Dr. Austin designed and implemented a comprehensive multicultural student recruitment campaign, the first of its kind at the university. From there, she continued crafting progressively responsible career experiences at domestic and international universities while always centering the personal and academic success of underrepresented student populations. 

Simultaneous to pursuing research and professional endeavors that emphasize equity, Dr. Austin also began offering inclusion and diversity education to small businesses and teams via her non-profit, K.E.Advancement, Inc. Rooted in a posture of cultural humility, Dr. Austin's goal is to catalyze individuals and structures to questions: "Who is at the table?" "Who is missing from the table?" and "Who is unaware the table exists?" Dr. Austin currently serves as Director of I.D.E.As. (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access) at Rewriting the Code, Inc., a national not-for profit organization dedicated to retaining college women in technology majors in order to increase the representation of women in technology careers. 

Dr. Austin holds a Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership & Administration, a Professional Certificate in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, a Master’s degree in Counseling, and a Bachelor's degree (her favorite degree) in Social Work. For the past 12 years, she has also been enrolled in Parent University, where she has been blessed to learn from 3 small, and forgiving professors, ages 12, 10, and 6. Dr. Austin is also married to a fellow education professional. For these reasons, her favorite get-a-way is to Target…. alone.    

Learn more about Dr. Kristin Austin at

Membership Matters

There is no other organization solely dedicated to supporting your work with families and providing you a community of colleagues who understand what you do. We are grateful for your support and partnership and look forward to a wonderful year. Thank you for renewing your membership and a sincere welcome to those who have just recently joined!

AHEPP Member LogoThis quarter we welcome 9 institutions to our professional family:

Blue Ridge Community College
Biola University
Coe College
Colby College
Dennison University
Indiana University - South Bend
Jackson State University

Northwest Mississippi Community College
Rhode Island School of Design

We also welcome back Embry Riddle (AZ) and Virginia Tech after staffing changes!

AHEPPP & NODA Joint Session

October 22 | Orlando, FL - Join AHEPPP in partnership with the NODA Parent & Family Network as we present "Recapturing the Magic: Family Engagement in 2021 and Beyond" at the NODA Annual Conference. This pre-conference will run from 8:00 am-12:00 pm EST. Are you presenting at NODA or other upcoming events? Let us know by emailing [email protected].

10 Things to Consider Before Pursuing at Ph.D. or Ed.D.

Our association is a community of family engagement experts, but did you know that we’re also a community of family engagement scholars? Many of our members have recently completed their Ph.D. or Ed.D. or are in the process of their doctoral work. Perhaps you’re deciding whether or not to “go back to school.” The following is a Top Ten Tips list to consider when deciding or preparing to pursue a doctorate.

1. WHAT’S YOUR WHY? – First things first, answer the question: “Who/what is this for?” Are you doing this for yourself? Is it necessary to advance your career? Is it something you’ve always wanted? There are no wrong answers, but it is good to be clear about your intentions. 

2. DO YOUR HOMEWORK  Pick the program that meets your personal and professional goals and interests. It has to work for you. From academic rigor and requirements, to faculty backgrounds and experiences, to time to degree completion, programs come in different shapes and sizes. Whatever you decide, make sure you will have an awesome adviser. Several contributors recommend choosing a cohort model if possible, so you have built in support. 


  • Find a friend - Before you even begin, find someone or you can lean on, who knows exactly what you’re experiencing. Perhaps it’s colleague who also completed their doctorate while working? You could also choose to connect with someone else in your cohort, or an AHEPPP member in a different program. If you are a full-time professional with a family find someone else who shares these experiences. They know the variety of challenges you are facing and you can encourage each other along the way. 
  • Structured Support Systems - You can take advantage of your institution’s student support systems. They are for staff who are students, too!

  • Family Communication – Take a page out of your own book and communicate with your family! Make sure your family and friends understand what you are doing, the time commitment involved, and how often you’d like/need them to check in with you. Need some resources on family adjustment to college?... We might know some people who can help (wink!).

4. SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS – You need to think about your life as a pie. If you go back to school, what piece can you remove or take away for a bit, so you have time for all the work of a doctoral program. Focus on the experience and the scholarship, rather than on perfect grades. As they say: “Bs get degrees.” A grade is not an indication of the work you are capable of doing.  

5. CREATE A ROUTINE – Once you’ve decided, find a routine for your class work that works for you. Keep your commitment to yourself and let others know what you are doing for some accountability. 

6. BUT PACE YOURSELF – It is a marathon, not a sprint. You are making a commitment for the next 3 to 6 (or more) years of your life. Be prepared for the long haul. If you need to give yourself a break, do it! You don’t need to be working all the time and you deserve something that is fun and mindless, even if it is reality TV.

7. MAKE LISTS – Print lists of what you have to do for your program and post them where you work. These lists provide a visual reminder to take things in bite sized pieces. Plus, it feels great to cross through line-items as you complete them! List recommendations include: 

  • number of payments left to pay off the degree
  • number of months left in the program
  • list of all assignments for that semester with their due dates
  • list of degree requirements (IRB submission, oral defense, etc.) 

8. DECIDE EARLY – Figure out your dissertation topic before or very early on so that everything you work on in your program can be used in your dissertation. The sooner you can catalog possible sources the better off you will be when it is time to write your dissertation. 

9. BE KIND TO YOURSELF – Be kind to yourself, always. You are your own worst critic. Know that you will face Imposter Syndrome at some point in your program. Tell it, “NO. I’ve got this!” You have what it takes. Period. You have what it takes.

10. USE THE AHEPPP NETWORK – If you are writing about parent and family programs, use the AHEPPP network!  You can use this community to find a university to conduct research, to send out surveys to parents, affirm your methodology and read your research. Many authors of parent and family research are AHEPPP folks. Don’t hesitate to reach out to presenters and authors about their work!

Many thanks to the following AHEPPP members for their contributions to this list!

Lindsey Bray, University of Memphis
Dr. Lady Cox, Auburn University
Dr. Christine Self, Texas Tech University
Brian Watkins, University of Maryland
Laci Weeden, Georgia Tech

If you’d like to continue this conversation, check out the roundtable style educational session, Thinking about or Working on your Doctorate!? How will it impact your career, life and everything in between from the 2020 Family Engagement in Higher Education National VIRTUAL conference.

Check out more tips, tricks, and insights for your important role on campus on the AHEPPP Insights Blog.

Job Postings

Are you hiring? Our job board exclusively serves industry experts, putting your opening in front of the most qualified higher education leaders. 

Looking for a new opportunity? The AHEPPP Job Board provides a comprehensive list of job openings in the field of parent/family engagement as well as other partner areas within higher education such as Orientation, Enrollment Management, Advancement/Development, Alumni Relations, and Senior Level Student Affairs roles. 

Click here to check it out!

Questions? Please contact

 Stay In Touch

alt  alt alt