The University Record, May 6, 2002

Committee aims to enhance parental communication

By Joel Seguine
News and Information Services

A committee to examine how the University can better coordinate communication with parents of undergraduates has been established by Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs.

“Our intent,” explained Ann Hower, director of New Student Programs and committee chair, “is to coordinate communications about campus life in general, not to communicate about the activities of individual students.”

The Standing Committee on Parent/Family Communications brings together representatives from University Housing, LS&A, the College of Engineering, the Alumni Association, and the offices of New Student Programs, Financial Aid, Development and Undergraduate Admissions.

“While our primary relationship is, of course, with our students,” Monts says, “parents are asking for more information about campus events and resources.” As a result, he is working with the many offices across campus that deal with parent inquiries. The goal is to find more efficient methods of providing information, perhaps through a parent Web site or e-mail announcements, both of which have been used effectively on other campuses.

The committee met in March with Helen E. Johnson, a national expert on parent family issues, who confirmed that parents of this generation of undergraduates are extremely interested in what their students are experiencing on campus. The group has determined that the first order of business is to survey parents about the kinds of communications they would like. They will use Web-based surveys and focus groups during the summer to explore areas of parent interest.

“We all know that the breadth and depth of offerings on campus is a source of pride. It is not easy, however, to know where to begin when questions arise,” Monts says. “I have high expectations that this new standing committee will discover innovative ways of directing parents to the University’s many Web sites, services and events. Parents are an important constituency and we want to keep them informed.”

Other members of the standing committee are: Brett Ashley, director, U-M Marketing Communications; Peggy Burns, assistant dean, LS&A; Pamela Fowler, director, Office of Financial Aid; Alan Levy, director, University Housing Public Affairs; Lisa Payton, program director, Undergraduate Education, College of Engineering; Jo Rumsey, assistant executive director, Alumni Association; Ted Spencer, director, and Jim VanHecke, assistant director, Undergraduate Admissions; Margaret Thackston, director of Major/ Planned Giving; and Gretchen Weir, assistant to the senior vice provost.