Parent Orientation Popular


Recognizing that mothers and fathers are more involved in their kids’ decision-making processes and often accompany them to campus for orientation, many universities offer concurrent sessions specifically geared toward parents.


“The attendance has increased every year,” said Chris Greer (Dean of Students). “When I went to college, my folks dropped me off, waved goodbye and that was about it. But parents are more involved in everything these days. They really want to know where they are sending their son or daughter. We try to educate them about the university experience, in a fun way, and make them feel comfortable sending their kids here.”


The parent orientation schedule begins on Monday evening with a pop quiz on such diverse factors as how much, on average, students will spend on entertainment and incidentals; how many alcoholic drinks they will consume; and how many hours they will study on a weekly basis. There are also questions related to students’ anticipated GPA and how long it will take for them to earn their degrees.


“Students take the same quiz in their first session and, through the miracle of modern technology, we are able to compile those results before the parent session,” Greer said. “We give parents the quiz, asking them to respond first the way they think their son or daughter would have and then reach a consensus at their table in terms of how the majority of students would answer each question. A faculty member sits at each table, moderating the discussion. There is a core group of faculty who reliably participate each year, sometimes in all five sessions. Every year a few more faculty members give it a try and usually become regulars. They have a great time with it. …


“The quiz is followed by a reception hosted by the NMU president or provost. Parents seem genuinely amazed that faculty participate in the program and hang out at the reception afterward to talk with them one on one and that they are able to mingle with the president or provost. It makes it more personal for them.”


An academic session Tuesday morning will cover liberal studies, program and graduation requirements, advising and FERPA.


“Parents don’t necessarily like FERPA, but they seem to accept it once we make it clear that it’s not just Northern’s policy; it’s a federal law from 1974,” Greer said. “Even though it limits the information we can give parents, we encourage them to call if they have any questions. We would rather have them let us know their concerns than sit and worry about them. The number of calls we get from parents has increased dramatically.”


There is an optional bus tour and picnic at Lower Harbor Park on Tuesday afternoon. Remaining sessions focus on the financial aspects of the university experience; living on campus; and health and safety issues.


Staff members attend the last session of the three-day program and sit at a table with a group of parents. It is at this session that Greer plays the “infamous tapes, which are kept under lock and key.” They are recordings of students made many years ago, strictly for illustrative purposes.


“On the tapes, parents hear the student’s end of a phone call home about a problem,” Greer explained. “One is on grades. Another is on homesickness. One is on a conduct issue. One is, ‘I’m going to my boyfriend’s for Thanksgiving this year instead of coming home to see you.’ Parents discuss how they would and should react to these situations. Some are light-hearted, but each gives us an opportunity to talk about the related services we offer.”


The orientation ends with wrap-up points for parent survival and lunch. Greer said the response to the program is consistently positive.


“Every summer we have parents walk up to us and say they’ve been through orientation elsewhere and this one is so much better. I can say that without tooting my own horn because I didn’t develop our program. We’ve made a few changes, but it was really good when I got here. Parents find it worthwhile, whether they are sending their first or third child to school. They are grateful that we do it.”



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Updated: June 14, 2004