New Program Helps University Families
By Julia Gavin
Sending a child off to college can be difficult for parents who dread being distanced from their student’s daily life. To help with the transition, UMass Lowell is introducing the Parents Program, which will offer parents and students support and resources throughout the year.
“We know parents have a huge influence on the decisions students make so it only makes sense to partner with our parents,” says Karen Humphrey-Johnson, director of the program. “Our goal is to engage parents in our community and offer support and resources that will keep them informed and help them better support their students.”
Since its formation in March, the Parents Program has assisted more than 1,200 parents during moving day, at Family Day and in one-on-one meetings. During nine orientation programs offered for parents this summer, 600 participants learned more about the University and had an opportunity to tour downtown Lowell. Humphrey-Johnson said that parents felt better knowing more about the city their sons and daughters will live in while studying at the University.
One parent who has already seen the positive results of the Parent Program is Corinne Simonelli who participated in events earlier this year.
“The Parent Program is welcoming and builds enthusiasm as well as a greater understanding of what our students are experiencing and how we can be supportive of their endeavors,” says Simonelli. “The Parent Program has been very beneficial to our family as a whole.”
In addition to supporting parents, the program aims to better engage them in the University community and offer them ways to meet their parenting peers. The program plans to expand programming in the future to include both fun and service opportunities, including a parents’ night at the Tsongas Center. The program’s events also offer parents opportunities to meet others working through the same transition related to sending a student off to college.
“Our approach is different from that of many other universities, since our program is part of the division of Student Affairs,” says Humphrey-Johnson. “Others usually combine a few events to offer a weekend for parents around their family day, but we go beyond that and offer year-round support.”
Toward this goal, the office provides programming for parents related to challenges their students may face throughout the year. Registering for class and advisory appointments are the topics for October.
“By introducing subjects based on the academic and community calendars, information comes at relevant times allowing for a greater sense of organization,” says Simonelli. “Great two-way conversations result between students and parents since everyone has the same foundation of knowledge.”
Humphrey-Johnson has already heard from numerous satisfied parents who, like Simonelli, have taken part in the program and plan to use its resources again as their students progress at UMass Lowell.
“We aim to problem solve and want to be one-stop shopping where parents can have their questions answered without having to call many different departments.,” says Humphrey-Johnson. “Our hope is that, in the end, our students feel more supported and have greater success.”