Welcome to Carolina, Mom and Dad
By Megan Sexton, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-1421
When Melissa Gentry arrived at USC’s Office of Parents Programs in 2007, Parents Weekend drew about 3,000 people with five events on the schedule.
This year, more than 7,600 family members from 38 states registered for formal Parents Weekend events at Carolina. The schedule of events is so extensive it fills nine pages, including receptions, picnics, educational classes, a beach bash, informational sessions and a tailgate party.
The growth is a combination of parents wanting to be more connected to their students’ college experiences and USC faculty and staff members willing to share their time and insights.
“Several years ago, when we wanted to expand Parents Weekend, we asked deans, department heads and staff to think about ways they could contribute. The response surprised me beyond my imagination,” said Gentry, the director of communication and events for the Department of Student Life. “Faculty are opening their classes on Friday, staff are hosting drop-ins and receptions and giving the educational sessions in the Russell House. We could not do all of this without faculty and staff participation.”
“If I ever left the university and I had to pick a weekend to come back to visit, I’d come back on Parents Weekend. It’s so much fun, so many people are here, everybody’s happy, there’s good food and there’s lots to learn.”
Jerry Brewer, associate vice president for student affairs
The 45-minute sessions that run Friday afternoon at the Russell House are presentations about resources on campus, opportunities at the USC Career Center and study abroad opportunities. The weekend’s signature events include a Friday reception at the President’s House hosted by President Harris Pastides and Patricia Moore-Pastides, the Carolina Beach Bash at the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center on Friday night, the Parents Weekend 5K race Saturday morning and the tailgate party near Williams-Brice Stadium before the USC-Missouri football game Saturday. More than 5,500 people are expected at the tailgate party.
“We get great feedback from parents about the weekend. They love the opportunity to do so many things on campus, and they love the signature events,” Gentry said.
Jerry Brewer, associate vice president for student affairs, said getting parents involved is important both for their children and for the university.
“It’s a well-known phenomenon that parents are more engaged in their students’ college education than they have been in previous years,” Brewer said. “We want parents to support their students while they are here and we want them to be involved with the university.”
Brewer said some of that increased interest – both in their students and in the classes offered over Parents Weekend – can be traced to the demographics of the parents.
“Most of our parents are Baby Boomers. They grew up as an inquiring group. They are naturally inquisitive about what goes on,” he said. “We’ve increased the academic units offered on Parents Weekend, and that makes sense. You want parents to not just see the recreational and social side of campus, but the academic process as well.”
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