Parents let go, students connect

Dana Rader

KSU Way program combines efforts for families of freshmen

Theater major Jill Jones takes a group of potential students around campus. She said she hopes to help incoming freshmen gain a better understanding about Kent State and their first year of college. DAVID RANUCCI | SUMMER KENT STATER

Credit: Steve Schirra

Twenty-nine incoming freshmen and 35 parents took a break from their summer vacation to get a glimpse at what life will be like as a Kent State student as a part of the “Spend a day the KSU Way” program Saturday at the Kiva.

“Our goal is to help new students and their families gain a better understanding of what the Kent State experience will be like in the students’ first year,” said Brenda McKenzie, associate director for the Center for Student Involvement.

The program, which ran from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., was created by McKenzie and Terri Capellman, director of First Year Experience. It replaced last year’s student program called “Connections” and the parents’ program called “Roots and Wings.”

“We saw a need,” Capellman said. “We did individual programs last year. I sponsored a student program and she (McKenzie) sponsored a parent program, and it only made sense to combine efforts and resources.”

Capellman and McKenzie had nine student peer leaders who helped them host the day’s activities.

The peer leaders engaged students in activities that were designed to connect them with the other first-year students and help them become familiar with the campus, while the parents learned ways to let go.

In a presentation called “College is NOT Grade 13,” Debbie Barber, assistant dean for the College of Education, Health and Human Services, told parents to avoid being “helicopter” parents.

“It’s the idea that parents are so close to kids that they hover over their kids and when a problem arises they come to the rescue,” Barber said.

Barber also encouraged parents to cut the “cell phone umbilical cord.”

“Help them become independent,” she said. “Get them to interact with other students instead.”

Meanwhile, the students already started interacting with each other. The peer leaders had them do an activity called “Knots of People.” In groups of seven and eight, the students had to cross their hands and hold two other group members’ hands in the center. With all members connected, the students had to figure out how to untie themselves and form a circle. The students stood in the circle, introduced themselves and asked the peer leaders questions about college life.

Most of the students’ questions were about how the food was on campus, parties and what the rules were about having significant others in their dorm rooms.

The students also participated in a mock class. They were given a syllabus and experienced what a typical first day of college would be like. Afterward, the students and their parents had lunch with Capellman, McKenzie and the peer leaders.

Although the catered lunch with white tablecloths and cloth napkins did not accurately portray what lunch as a college student will be like, the time provided students and their parents the opportunity to talk with peer leaders about the university and what to expect.

At the end of the day, students ventured off with the peer leaders to explore the campus. The students were given typical scenarios and a time limit to find their way around.

McKenzie said she feels that the day was a success.

“I think we got across the message that we were trying to get for both family and students,” McKenzie said. “And I think we made some connections between family and students.”

Contact academic affairs reporter Dana Rader at [email protected].