Every year, when thousands of transfer and first-year students enroll at Rutgers University—New Brunswick for the first time, departments in and outside of the Division of Student Affairs engage them through events like Convocation, Carnivale, Involvement Fair and others to ensure that they are aware of the resources and opportunities available at the university.
Though maintaining student engagement and success is crucial, of course, there is also another group crucial to this transition: those students’ parents and families.
“I feel like it’s important for parents to be involved in and part of their child’s education,” said Lisa McConnell, a school board member and a member of the R Family Council. “We do have to let them learn how to stand on their own two feet, of course, but we should also be involved in advocating for them in terms of giving input to Rutgers as an organization.”
Every summer and winter, the Parent and Family Office runs Parent and Family Orientation programs for incoming parents. This one-day program includes information sessions with a variety of university offices and departments, a student panel, and a campus bus tour, among other activities.
“Last year, we had twenty full days of Parent and Family Orientation in the summer,” said Mary Ann Schrum, who works as the assistant director for Parent and Family Programs. “On any given day, we had up to 150 parents there for a full day of programming about academics, financial aid, Rutgers Police Department, Dining, and just about everyone at Rutgers. It’s an incredible program.”
Parent and Family Orientation is just the beginning of parent and family engagement at Rutgers, however. The Parent and Family Office releases a twice-monthly newsletter for parents and families, runs a Parent and Family Weekend, and holds biannual town halls to answer any questions that parents might have.
These resources and events are popular among parents, who are often looking for ways to stay connected with their children and their experiences at college.
“It’s just been nice to connect with other parents and learn about their experiences,” said Melissa Montuori, who also serves on the R Family Council. “Each of us is a resource for the others in knowing about what’s going on around campus, and, in turn, we are a resource for our adult children.”
The R Family Council is a body of Rutgers—New Brunswick parents and families who work closely with the Division of Student Affairs to help families foster a positive and enduring connection to the university. Council members commit to volunteering their time and sharing their knowledge and expertise to support the division’s mission and goals.
“We do different things at different parts of the year, depending on what’s needed,” said Lisa McConnell. “For example, at the beginning of the school year, we do a campaign where we try to call every first-year student’s parent, and just let them know that we’re a resource for them.”
The members of the R Family Council work in subcommittees—including Social Media and Communications, Welcome Committee, and Events Committee—to distribute information, provide programming, and perform outreach to other parents.
“I’m a marketer, so I’ve focused my efforts on becoming a resource for other parents and getting the word out to them about the R Family Council,” said Montuori, highlighting her work for the council’s website, as well as its newsletters and town halls. “Participating in the council has been a great opportunity to gather and share information about something that can be a pretty huge and daunting organization.”
Finally, there are also other networks of information—like the Facebook page for Rutgers Parent and Family Programs—that keep parents in the loop.
As the work of the R Family Council and the broader Parent and Family Office continues to expand, its members and leaders are looking forward to growing the council and taking on more of a role at Rutgers.
Schrum highlighted new efforts, including a new Parents Fund, greater recruitment and engagement of parents for the R Family Council, and more input from parents on how Rutgers can better engage them.
“I think what we have found is that parents should be partners with Rutgers,” said Schrum. “Parents can help their children be more successful in college if they have a relationship with the university, and students find great strength in knowing that their parents are there to help them.”
“When parents understand that Rutgers is there to support them as well, it makes all the difference in the way that they feel about the university, and that engagement is so important.”
You can learn more about the R Family Council and Parent and Family Programs by visiting their website.