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The importance of student engagement at universities is well-established, but there's another population whose participation can be of great benefit to students: Parents. How do you positively impact the quantity and quality of parent engagement?
One simple way to encourage more engagement is to make sure that you have options that are accessible to parents who have different income levels, ability to get to campus, and availability of time. Hometown send-offs are a great way to engage both new and veteran parents that may not be able to travel to campus. Similarly, on-campus sessions are a fantastic opportunity for some parents, especially if held in conjunction to a time when they may already be traveling to campus (such as student orientation, move-in weekend, family weekend). Pair this with supplementary information given to parents either by email or physical mail. If your VP of Student Affairs gives a fantastic talk on talking to students about drinking during orientation, why not record it and email it out to parents early in the year? Sending out an eNews? Make sure to keep your articles pithy and to-the-point. Focus on just one or two important themes, and make sure parents can get the most critical information in a short amount of time. You can link to more in-depth information so that those that are so-inclined can still dive in.
Don't allow your university to be paralyzed by the fact that they can't offer all information in all languages. Encourage your department to take one small step to get started. Perhaps you can translate your FAQ page on your website, or link to the Spanish articles you've purchased. Even if you're not able to translate your entire eNews, sending a translated article each month can help parents with limited or no English skills feel more included.
It's important to get input from parents. We don't know what we don't ask, and in many cases your best ideas may come from parents themselves.
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