Welcome to the Parents of the Pack community, and to a new email series. A particular welcome to those who act as parents even if you don’t have the technical title.
Let me start by saying that, as a parent myself, I will be offering advice with a great deal of humility. I haven’t crossed the bridge of attempting to let my (still young) kids become adults, of balancing their independence with their safety and emotional well-being. I don’t envy you those hard choices, and I know I will face them myself in the blink of an eye. The point of this email series is to offer you the insights we gain working with your students, in case they prove useful.
1. Making Connections to Faculty in the First Year
We have noticed something important in our retention data -- we are more likely to keep those students who have declared a major by the end of their first year. We hope you’ll urge your students to seek connection with their professors, regardless of the subject matter. They should be brave about reaching out to meet with faculty they don’t yet know in the majors they are interested in. You can tell them that our faculty love talking about the joys of their own chosen field, so curious students will be doing them a favor.
2. Finding Meaning in Jesuit Education
We hope your students are grappling with who they are as people. As a Jesuit institution, we work to form them into men and women for others – not by telling them what to do, but helping them to ask the right questions, of us and of themselves. We know that they will sometimes struggle with these profound questions of who they want to be in life, and hope you will encourage them in that struggle. For a good primer on the principles of Jesuit education, see https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/teaching-transforms.
To help them learn, we have proudly created a student environment of diversity across lines of class, race, geography and every possible background. We hope your students find their people, those with whom they feel known, but also encourage them to reach across lines of familiarity. They don’t know yet who all of “their people” are, not really.
For some students, it may be the first time in their lives they have had the experience of being in a minority of any kind. We hope you’ll remind them to hold that feeling close and imagine what it must be to feel out of place every single day. Remind them to listen with open hearts, because chances like this don’t come often in life.
3. When You’re Really Worried
College students today report increasing levels of anxiety, depression and other struggles. Some of these rising rates probably reflect issues that always existed, but we do a better job of acknowledging them. We have taken some of the stigma out of seeing help, thank goodness. But it does seem as though the world has also become more difficult. Please know you can always reach out to us directly when you have serious concerns. Here is a description of our all-hands-on-deck process and how we respond, and here is a toolkit we’ve found particularly helpful for families. We are also particularly proud (though always improving) in helping students who might need help or accommodation.
As we start the new semester, we will gather together in a Day of Service on Saturday, January 18th, to celebrate MLK day. We’ll enjoy the often beautiful New Orleans winter and try not to get too distracted by our particularly bountiful spring holidays.
There is no higher honor than being entrusted with your students. I rejoice in their accomplishments, worry about them at night, and know that they will make you so proud.
Prayers and blessings,