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On Parents Weekend’s 50th, Parents Office turns 30
Fifty years ago, Syracuse University began its formal tradition of students’ parents visiting campus for a fall weekend to meet the people and places new in their student’s lives.
During Parents Weekend 2003, the Parents Office, part of the Division of Student Affairs, is celebrating its 30th anniversary of service to the students, parents and families of SU and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
“For half a century, Parents Weekend has grown and developed, both in the number attending and also the types of activities,” says Barry L. Wells, senior vice president and dean of student affairs. “The feedback we have received about this particular event, as well as the Parents Office, is positive and appreciative, which tells us we are providing families with the support they need to, in turn, support their students.”
Colleen O’Connor Bench has served 10 years as director of the Parents Office. Here, she discusses working with students, parents and families and how SU has changed its services and programming to meet the needs of different generations.
Describe how Parents Weekend has changed over the past decade.“In addition to the ever?popular events, we have incorporated interactive and informative special interest sessions for parents based upon their feedback, such as information sessions from Center for Career Services, the Department of International Programs Abroad, the housing selection process, involvement on campus, and so on.”
How is the weekend geared toward the needs of families, not just parents?“Though we do serve families in general, our focus is on the primary support group for our students. In most cases, this is parents, but is sometimes grandparents, older siblings, etc. Our programming is not particularly geared toward other family members but we do find ways of making them feel welcome ??even with something as simple as an ‘SU Sister’ or ‘SU Granddad’ button!”
What has the trend been in the numbers of parents participating in Parents Weekend?“Our registration numbers have climbed steadily each of the past three years. We expect that around 2,200 families – more than 6,000 people – will attend Parents Weekend 2003.”
How can students and family maximize their time together for three days?“I would suggest that students and parents communicate their expectations ahead of time to alleviate stress. Parents must acknowledge that students may not be able to attend every scheduled event with them due to homework, class meetings, assignments – and that’s okay! While on campus, I would suggest that they establish times and locations to meet in advance. Most importantly is that they spend quality time getting reacquainted.”
What programs do parents seem to most enjoy while on campus?“The obvious favorite is the football game — the majority of those we speak with plan to attend with their student(s). Beyond that, parents tell us that they love simply spending time with their students, seeing their residence halls, meeting their new friends, and meeting their students’ academic deans, faculty and home college staff members. Parents also enjoy the fact that we showcase students’ talents – in a College of Visual and Performing Arts ensemble, a play, the Black Celestial Choral Ensemble or the Campus Cabaret. Mostly, parents want to make sure their student is ‘doing okay,’ making friends and connecting to the SU community in some meaningful way.”