University Relations initiative focuses on engaging parents

Author: Margaret Hay

Barbara Kelly

The University Relations Parents Program invites parents—of current students, prospective students or alumni—to become engaged in the life of the University, says Barbara Kelly, Parents Program assistant director.

The program, established in 2011, engages parents of current students through a monthly e-newsletter sent to parents of current students and a quarterly e-newsletter sent to parent of alumni (“lifetime parents”).

Included in the newsletter are 10 to 20 different informational pieces on campus services, with links to resources and assistance for students. The response has been remarkable, says Kelly, with each mailing resulting in 60 to 100 questions, comments and compliments.

Crucial to communication with parents is Kelly’s relationship with staff from various offices including the Office of Financial Aid, the Office of the Registrar and the Office of Student Affairs. Kelly includes representatives from these offices and others on an advisory board to coordinate communications with parents. Members of the advisory board learn about each other’s departments and can provide students with more information about services across campus.

Many colleges’ parent programs focus their energy on the first-year experience, providing orientation programs, move-in day activities, and weekend gatherings for parents throughout the students’ first year. By sophomore year, parents typically don’t have as much interaction with the college.

Kelly envisions engaging parents of sophomores with a series of events beginning with move-in weekend, a football-game event and a webinar just for sophomore parents.

This August, parents have been invited to welcome parents of incoming first-year students. Kelly has already lined up more than 60 volunteers parents for move-in welcome.

Mentoring will play a big role in the future success of engaging the “lifetime parents” of University graduates. More than 300 parents have expressed an interest in mentoring parents of current students.

Also planned for spring is an expansion of an event dear to Kelly’s heart—an annual Mass celebrating the mothers and women of Notre Dame. In 2012, Mothers of Notre Dame Masses were held the Sunday after Mother’s Day at six locations around the country including California, New York and Hawaii. Many more locations will be added in 2013.

“We welcome our Notre Dame parents’ commitment to, involvement with and support of the University,” says Kelly.