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Parents: From Hovering to Helping

Submitted by Kyla T. Houston, Senior Conference Coordinator, Purdue University; & Ally Hodge, Director of Conference Services and Community Relations, Purdue University

Several years ago, the term Helicopter Parent emerged and unexpectedly, all attention focused on these parents and how to ground them. In the fall of 2005 University Residences developed the University Residences Parent Advisory Council after evaluating ways to work collaboratively with parents.

The Parent Advisory Council began with eight volunteer parents. Charter members committed to a minimum two-year term with meetings once a semester. A variety of topics have been examined during council meetings including marketing materials review, residential life programs, conduct processes, dining services, budgeting processes. In addition, the council members have had the opportunity to tour a variety of our residence hall facilities. Since its inception, the Parent Advisory Council has grown to nineteen parents and the topics covered extend beyond that of housing at Purdue. External topics include Purdue University police department presentations, student orientation program discussions, and student wellness office presentations. The council’s goal is to continue to develop synergies on our campus to enhance the overall satisfaction of our students and parents.

Click here to review the position description for members of the Parent Advisory Council.

University Residences provide all parent advisory council members with engagement opportunities throughout the year. While they are required to complete only one bullet from the list of nine responsibilities in the position description, many of our parent advisory board members participate in a number of events. Events include: Serving on parent panels during the summer orientation days, hosting a parent reception in their home town area, driving Golf Carts and distributing coffee and water during our check-in process, working parent tables during our check-in process, hosting parents at our family weekend tailgate or lunch & learn, or serving as liaisons at admission events.

The application process is a self-elect process available on-line. Selection is based off:

  • Geographical locations
  • Time commitment
  • What skills and experiences do you have that would qualify you for this advisory council position?
  • What have your experiences with University Residences and Purdue University been like? Please share good and bad.
  • Why do you want to serve on the University Residences Parent Advisory Council

The Parent Advisory Council began as the bridge between Housing and Food Services and parents but we quickly discovered that missing contact with the majority of our parents still occurred. It was decided to build upon the program and develop a monthly on-line newsletter that parents could sign up to receive electronically. We were able to tap into our internal resources and use administrators within university residences, administrators with specialized areas across campus, and our parent advisory council to serve as authors for a variety of articles.

The newsletter consists of ten annual issues. Two issues are in print and mailed to every student’s home address. The remaining eight issues are electronic and are only received by those individuals who have elected to receive the on-line editions. Topics initially included FERPA, roommate conflict suggestions, safety tips, alcohol education, and student developmental stages. Since then, we have expanded the newsletter to include a featured article in each edition with focus on the returning student issues and/or the sophomore experience.

In the fall of 2007 we expanded our parent initiatives by implementing the Parent Association. Any parent is eligible for membership in the parent association at the senate level by supplying their email, home address, student name, and hall assignment. There is no cost associated with the senate level. Additional levels are obtained through giving of a monetary amount.

All gift donations are earmarked for student leadership and development within University Residences. Parents can join at a variety of levels including:

  • The executive level ($25.00 gift). At the executive level they receive two T-shirts.
  • The representative level ($100.00 gift). At the representative level parents receive two T-shirts and four meal tickets.
  • The governor’s level ($250.00 gift). The governor level members receive two T-shirts, 4 meal tickets, a discount card to local venues, and a treat pack delivered to their student.
  • The president’s level (gift of $1000.00). Members at this level receive all of the governor benefits, plus two wind jackets, and campus president’s council membership.

In the 2007-2008 academic year we raised nearly $10,000 toward student leadership for University Residences. During the current academic year we have raised nearly $15,000 toward leadership and development.

We continue to grow and analyze the program to better serve our students and our parents. Future plans for the parent initiatives include surveys, partnerships with our alumni associations, and better utilization of our active members.

About the Authors

Kyla T. Houston received her Master’s degree in Organizational Communication from Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky. At Murray State University she was a resident assistant and later became a resident director for campus housing. She has worked at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN for the past eight years as residential life manager, general manager, and now senior conference coordinator for University Residences. While at Purdue University Kyla has become the parent liaison for all parent initiatives in University Residences.

Ally Hodge is the Director of Conferences and Community Relations for University Residences at Purdue University. In her role, she works directly with Continuing Education and Conferences, ensuring the success of more than 120 summer programs. In addition, she is actively involved with community relations in the greater Lafayette area. She is a board member for the Purdue Club of Tippecanoe County and an active facilitator for Leadership Lafayette facilitating numerous programs on leadership and customer service.

Prior to joining the staff at Purdue University, Ally gained more than 15 years of extensive experience in the hospitality industry, working for both the Walt Disney Company in Orlando and the Intercontinental Hotels Group based in Atlanta.

Ally is a graduate of Purdue University earning a BS in Restaurant, Hotel, and Institutional Management. She has been employed at Purdue for over 7 years.