By Ed Blaguszewski
Students First!, viewed from a different perspective, also means Parents First! That’s the philosophy behind creation of the campus’s new Office of Parent Services, which opened in early September.
“Parents and their children are typically partners in selecting a college,” says Michael Gargano, vice chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life, who launched the Students First! campaign last year. “Parents are co-purchasers of a UMass education, and they need to be connected to campus. The Office of Parent Services is designed to keep parents informed and to conveniently find the answer to any question they might have—from how to purchase a birthday cake to advice on navigating their child’s independence.”
Veteran administrator Jeanne Horrigan directs the center, located in the Undergraduate Admissions Center in the Mather Building; it is staffed by the New Students Program. To be successful, she says, her staff needs the help of faculty and staff.
“The more information we have about what is happening on campus and in departments, the better service we can provide,” Horrigan says. “Please send or e-mail us information about the kinds of parent calls you received in the past. Notify us of mailings you send, inform us when your office bills, places holds or does anything else that may cause a negative reaction. Be in touch if there is something new or unusual in your area. All of this will help tremendously.”
Parent Services is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and during business hours the phone is answered by a Parents First expert. During its inaugural year, the office will serve as the primary contact point for parents of new students. That involves answering calls, troubleshooting problems and communicating through bimonthly e-mails and a newsletter each semester.
“We want to guide parents through the university processes and assist them in their child’s transition to UMass,” Horrigan says. “Our parents won’t get lost and need to call multiple offices, and at the same time offices won’t be fielding as many stray parent calls. Everyone should benefit.”
Gargano observes, “Parent Services is really is part information desk part counseling office and part cheerleader. We want to help parents draw the dotted line of independence for their student and still be part of the student’s success. We want them to be connected in the right way.”