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Bench helps launch national organization to promote family involvement in education
Matthew R. Snyder
Colleen O’Connor Bench, director of the Parents Office at Syracuse University, is a key player in efforts to launch an international organization to promote the role that parents and families play in their students’ lives in higher education.
Bench recently returned from a meeting in Boulder, Colo., where she was selected to serve a three-year-term as chairman of the nine-person board of directors for the Association of Higher Education Parent/Family Program Professionals (AHEPPP).
“I am honored to serve with this group of distinguished colleagues in the field of parent and family programs. I am thrilled to see the fruits of our labor finally come together after so many years of planning,” Bench says. “AHEPPP will assist colleges’ and universities’ parent programs to help parents navigate the educational process. Our ultimate goal, of course, is to help students to be independent and successful.”
Bench began her SU career in 1991, working one-on-one with parents and students as a liaison with various aspects of campus life. Bench was named director of the Parents Office in 1993.
In addition to SU, the new AHEPPP Board of Directors includes representatives from Johnson & Wales University, Miami University, North Carolina State University, Southern Methodist University, the University of Denver, the University of Minnesota, the University of North Carolina and Vincennes University.
During the association’s recent meeting, Bench helped set goals, develop a strategic plan and establish sub-committees. The organization will be launched internationally in January 2009, with plans for a national conference in 2010.
“The association will be a clearinghouse for professional development, as well as a resource center for seasoned programs and those just starting out,” Bench says. “Best practices in the field and emerging trends will be documented. A full use website will also be available that will include peer reviewed articles, research and assessment.”
According to its mission statement, AHEPPP “will be the pre-eminent provider of programs and services to administrators, staff and other professionals in higher education who strive to promote parent and family involvement. Because of the important role that parents and families play in their students’ lives, it is AHEPPP’s goal to help every college and university in the world to include parents and families in the higher education experience and promote those interested in helping accomplish this mission.”
Planning is under way for AHEPPP to provide an annual conference, regional associations, research and publication of relevant information, a speaker’s bureau, career and networking opportunities, and internships.
“One of the goals of AHEPPP is to focus on helping colleges and universities implement a Parent and Family Program on their campuses. We will provide the blueprint for this goal by coming up with strategies for colleges and universities,” Bench says.
Bench is nationally recognized for her work in developing programs and materials that educate families across the spectrum of the college student experience. In recognition for her contributions to the field, Bench was honored with a Chancellor’s Citation for Distinguished Service in 2003-one of the most prestigious awards honoring faculty and staff at Syracuse University-and with the Susan E. Brown Award in 2007, as the nation’s leading higher education family services administrator by the Administrators Promoting Parent Involvement.
Bench is a frequent presenter and consultant on the topic of parent involvement in the college experience. She is the recent co-recipient of a NASPA Foundation Grant to study historically underrepresented families at SU.