Office of the President

August 20, 2014

Kids in college: The new role of parents

Michael K. Young

Acceptance into a university is a defining moment in the life of a student. And for parents, it is similarly pivotal. After taking some time to savor the news and celebrate, many parents relish the vision of their son or daughter standing on the threshold of independence and a new identity, ready to embark on the long journey from home to college to kismet.

With summer days dwindling, the start of school is only weeks away. Following on the heels of other parents, you are about to step into a whole new role. Congratulations and welcome!

At the UW we believe that a strong student-parent-college partnership is essential to the success of every new Husky. Traditionally, we have engaged parents in this relationship through Parent Orientation, a summer program dedicated to demystifying the UW experience. Managed by the Office of First Year Programs, Parent Orientations provide opportunities for parents and families to learn all about the UW and the many resources we offer to help students transition to university life. One of the great outcomes of this program has been an expansion of our parents-as-partners activities.

Last spring, through Parent and Family Programs, a Division of Student Life initiative, we launched our first Husky Parents 101, a free educational workshop geared toward parents of all undergraduate students. The response was incredible thanks to our topic, “student career development,” which was identified as the number one area of interest in a 2013 survey of parents and families. Event attendance reached capacity just three hours after it was announced. We were just as thrilled by the tremendously positive post-event comments — a strong indicator of how much parents appreciate and enjoy being a part of their student’s support team.

Focus groups hosted by Parent and Family Programs are another way for parents to partner with the UW community. The gatherings are small, allowing for more opportunities to dig deeper. At our first two meetings this year, parents learned tips to quickly become involved with the University, how to successfully participate in a student’s experience without being intrusive and where to find the best resources about careers, internships, majors and job skills development. In turn, the UW received some creative ideas to better support parents and their students’ Husky Experience.

The UW is frequently asked if it offers a Parent and Family Weekend, and the answer is “we’re working on it.” Plans to expand parent volunteer opportunities are also under way. In the meantime, schools and colleges across our three campuses are working to increase opportunities to loop parents and families into UW activities. We are excited to forge ahead on this path. We know parents are not just writing checks anymore. In our modern world, parents are having a huge impact, a fact that is confirmed each time Marti and I visit China and are greeted by crowds of enthusiastic parents eager to engage in the development of their college students.

We can’t wait to partner with you and all our active Husky parents to ensure that your student has a great Husky Experience, successfully graduates from college and reaches a meaningful, rewarding destiny.