“You did it!” exclaimed orientation director Tabitha Enoch in her opening address to first-year parents. “You got a student to the University of Virginia.”
At U.Va.’s two-day summer orientation, students register for courses, meet their classmates and get acquainted with the campus – make that “Grounds” – they will be calling home for the next four years. Before the new academic year starts late next month, more than 4,000 students and their parents will have visited U.Va. for one of eight orientation sessions.
While their students-to-be searched for classes and digested academic requirements in a course selection workshop, parents got the chance to learn more about life at U.Va. and receive advice on the college transition from Enoch; Patricia Lampkin, vice president and chief student affairs officer; and Allen Groves, dean of students.
Lampkin opened with remarks on the residential atmosphere and community of trust that students find at the University. “We think of ourselves as a caring community with responsibility toward one another,” she said. “During their time here, your students will build a community that knows them and means everything to them.”
She explained that parent influence is a factor in student success, setting the stage for Groves to follow with his “Parents as Partners” talk.
After the famously sharp-dressed dean joked about wearing attire akin to KFC’s Colonel Saunders, he polled the audience – asking parents whether they were from Virginia, out of state, military, overseas and how many children the parents had sent to college.
The “winning” parent in the latter question, who received a roaring round of applause from the rest of the parents, will send her seventh, and final, child to college this fall.
Groves then addressed common parent fears and concerns for their students, including fitting in, managing unstructured time and achieving high academic performance.
“College is one of the great periods of transition in a young person’s life,” Groves said. “If you think about it, more happens between the ages of 18 and 24 than probably any other period in your life in terms of making you the person you are.
“The University’s environment is so student-driven and there are so many opportunities. Sometimes if students stick too close to what’s safe, they can struggle,” he said.
He was quick to add that most U.Va. parents do very well to avoid “helicoptering,” or displaying hovering, over-controlling tendencies toward their students.
“I think most parents are very good about understanding that when their son or daughter calls, to not say, ‘I’m going to come parachute and fix you up,’ but instead to say, ‘Okay, tell me what you’ve done to solve this,’” he said.
Groves followed with a crash course in all things safety at U.Va. He outlined the University’s relationship with students regarding security, the police and dealing with alcohol and drug-related arrests. He urged parents to remind their students to sign up for U.Va. Alerts, the opt-in emergency notification system that notifies users via text message when the University population faces a threat.
He also explained wellness programs like Counseling and Psychological Services, or CAPS, and showed parents online resources they could use to access safety and wellness information in the future, including websites for Sexual Violence Education and Resources and the Deans on Call crisis management system.
“We work hard to help [students] make good choices, but they need to understand that one mistake can be life-changing,” Groves said.
“The good news is, our young people are so bright, so focused and so driven that I don’t see a lot of stupidity, because they know what’s at stake,” he said, assuring parents that he and other U.Va. leaders would always be available to them.
“Know that we are here to work with you in any way” to make the student experience “the best it can possibly be.”
-- by Lauren Jones