Welcome to the Parent to Parent Blog

The Parent to Parent Blog is run by members of the Penn State Parents Council that are dedicated to enhancing parent to parent communication. This blog is a partnership with the Penn State Parents Program. The blog will provide parent and family perspectives about their time at Penn State. We will strive to use the individual expertise of our Parent Council members to educate you about various topics, as well as the resources and services available from the university.

three parents volunteer at parents and families weekend by welcoming new students and their familiestwo members of the parents council volunteer at an information table during parents and families weekend

Advice for Freshman Parents Making the LEAP

By Brian Kruse, Parent Ambassador

We dropped off my freshman son for his LEAP summer session on June 29, 2016.  Now ten months later, I picked him up after his first full year at Penn State.  It’s been an exciting adventure for him, and a real adjustment for me.   I knew going in I was going to miss him, but I didn’t realize how much.   It’s hard going from being a part of your student’s everyday life to only seeing him 5 times in almost a year.  Being over 400 miles away, you can’t just pop in for a quick hello.

At first over the summer, we were excited and nervous about all of his new experiences.  The occasional text and rare pictures were a treat as we breathed a sigh of relief that he loves Penn State and was making the adjustment to college life.   The more he got settled in though, the more the reality of the change in our lives was setting in.   No more high school meets to watch.   No one to play hooky with and go skiing on a snowy weekday.  No one to take out the trash, mow the lawn or shovel the driveway for me.  I even missed the occasional bickering with his Mom…the peace and quiet is deafening.

It can be hard to remember in all the initial excitement that this is THEIR time and THEIR experience and it isn’t shared with us the same way everything else has been up through high school.  So how do you make that adjustment?  How can you stay connected without cramping their experience?  Every parent/student relationship is different, so there’s really no right or wrong answers.  But just in case it might help some new Penn State parents, here are a few things that helped me adjust to my PSU freshman’s first year:

  • Buy the Penn State Swag and show it off with pride! From T-shirts, to hoodies, to car magnets, I embrace it all.  Penn Staters are everywhere and they love to talk Penn State.  The swag sparks connections, conversations and of course the occasional random “We Are” shouts.   I even once got a special 10% “Penn State” only discount in a Mexican restaurant where the manager was an alum!  I’ve been from Maine to New York City to Key West this past year and wherever I go, there’s someone reminding me of my connection to Penn State and my son.
  • Watch every football game. Get the Big Ten Network and don’t miss a game!  I like football, but before this year I hadn’t watched college football.   Whether you like football or not, your student chose Penn State in no small part because of its spirit and sense of community.  A Penn State football game embodies the best of both.  Get up on Saturday morning, put on your best blue and whites, and count the hours to kick-off.   No one to watch with you?  There are plenty of great Penn State groups on social media that you can chat with during the game.   Now if you really miss your student as much as I did, you can play the DVR version of “Where’s Waldo”.  That’s where you tape the game and then after, slow scan through the camera pans of the student section to see if you can spot YOUR student.  Sounds crazy right?  I found him three times this last season!
  • Speaking of social media, take some time to explore all of different social media sites offered by Penn State and groups affiliated with Penn State. Reading daily posts related to the school and specific colleges or interests that I know my student is connected with, helps me feel more connected.  Occasionally, I’ll come across something that I think my son might be interested in and I’ll forward it and get the coveted text; “Thanks for sending that.”
  • Get involved!  There are plenty of opportunities for parents to be involved with Penn State.  I recently joined the Penn State Parents Program as a Parent Ambassador.   It’s great going to local admissions events to meet and share with prospective students and families.   Another great option would be to check with the Alumni Office about local alumni chapters in your area.  Even if you’re not an alumnus, many groups are happy to include parents of future alumni in their fundraising, community service and social events.

So, fear not, new freshman parents!  You too can share in the fun and excitement of the next four years because…WE ARE…Penn State Parents!

A Return to Childhood’s Gate

By Peggy Montella, Parent Ambassador (’86 Journalism, ’90 M.B.A. Marketing)

“When we stood at childhood’s gate, shapeless in the hands of fate, thou didst mold us dear old State” are lyrics that all Penn Staters sing, regardless of victory or defeat, after every athletic contest. As a second-generation alumni and current parent, I have taken those words to heart. Looking back, the six years I spent at Penn State did mold me. I was a shy 17-year-old from a small Pennsylvania town who picked Penn State because my father went there and I grew up watching Penn State football. I left after grad school as a 25-year-old with a great job offer in Maryland and an even greater boyfriend, who has been my husband for 24 years. I truly grew to adulthood in Happy Valley and consider it my erstwhile hometown.

As an alumna sending my oldest child to Penn State, it has been an interesting switch of roles. At the Spend a Summer Day visit, it was me regaling (boring?!) my prospective Penn Stater about stickies at the Diner (still delicious), ice cream at the Creamery (duh), and fun nights at the G-Man (now Primanti Bros). I told him how the 80s student section threw marshmallows at football games and how, regrettably, we most definitely did not know the words of the Alma Mater. Now, it is his turn to introduce me to new restaurants when we visit, show me the new buildings on campus, and not only does he know the Alma Mater, but he plays it proudly as a member of the Penn State Blue Band. It is “his” Penn State now.

This twist in roles made me wonder what my father thought when he dropped me off on campus as a freshman. He went to PSU on the GI Bill after serving in the US Navy during WWII. During his time at Penn State, he worked as a waiter in the ladies dorm of McElwain Hall…my sophomore home. It must have been strange moving his daughter into the dorm where he once served dinner. I recognize the feeling because I moved my freshman son into McKee Hall, which I called home when it was the graduate student dorm in the late 80s. It was a surreal experience because so much of the building was the same. Even as I helped my son unpack, I had to resist the urge to find “my” room!

Now that I have been a Penn State parent for a few years, I can say that I am equally appreciative of my history there and enjoying all the places like Otto’s and Primanti Bros. I am blown away by THON, which was a much smaller event in my day. There are many new, taller buildings going up downtown, but as long as we have landmarks like the Dorito church, the Tavern, and the Corner Room, it will always feel like State College (and home) to me.

I am grateful that my father lived long enough to see his grandson go to Penn State. It gave me comfort returning my son to campus after my father’s funeral to know that three generations of my family have now walked these paths, eaten in these dorms, and sat in some of the same old classrooms and restaurants. It is hard sending your children off to college, especially the first.  Knowing my oldest child would be at a place I knew and loved made it easier. Many things have changed from my father’s day to mine to my son’s but the spirit of Penn State remains the same. We Are and will always be…Penn State!

With a clear vision, mission and tagline in place the Penn State Parents Council is poised to make a positive impact on all parents and families

By Russell Napolitano, Parents Council, Son R.J (class of 2017) and daughter Betsy (class of 2019)

Since its formation in 2012, the Penn State Parents Council has been providing general guidance and support for Parents Program initiatives. Comprised of a group of 40+ parents and family members who volunteer their time to provide input regarding parent and family engagement and involvement efforts through various connections and forms of outreach. Over the past six months, the Penn State Parents Council leadership team launched a strategic plan initiative, which identifies four key goals, one of which focused on the development and refinement of a mission and vision.

The development of our vision and mission statements along with a tagline is the foundation to help us set the stage for completing all four goals. My role as Chief Operating Officer for a New York branding firm allowed me to bring my experience, knowledge and discipline to lead a team comprised of tenured and new Parents Council members who also brought a range of expertise to the process. In order to ensure that we were getting a 360-degree perspective to help inform our strategy, we audited many communications vehicles that would give us that more “personal” insight into the many challenges and opportunities that parents and families face when navigating through such a large university:

  • Our own experience being on the Parents Council
  • Our experience being parents and family members of students currently at Penn State University Park
  • A sharing of alumni perspectives
  • A review of Parents Program research and assessments and a review of information found on the Parents Council, Parents Program and Penn State Parents Facebook pages
  • A review of similar programs at other colleges and universities

All in all, we found no shortage of material that would help us understand the role that the Penn State Parents Council needed to play within such a diverse community – a community coming together from different racial, religious and cultural backgrounds not to mention a community coming together from many different states from east to west and from north to south. Through the aggregation of all of our findings, we created our vision, mission and tagline, which were officially launched during our April meeting over Blue-White Weekend.

Our vision

WE ARE a resource enriching the Penn State experience for all parents and families.

Why this vision statement works: Our vision clearly captures who we are, what we do and for whom we are doing it. It is our inspiration and aspiration that will guide us well into the future. It recognizes that we are a resource for parents and family members, including grandparents, siblings, relatives, friends and guardians who may have the responsibility of helping students successfully navigate the college years.

Our mission

The Penn State Parents Council is comprised of a representative group of University Park parents and family members who:

  • Make a commitment to volunteer our time and to share our knowledge and expertise across a range of initiatives and programs that support the mission and the goals of the Penn State Parents Program
  • Act as an advisory group working in close collaboration with the Parents Program to help undergraduate parents, families and students foster a positive and lasting connection to Penn State

We achieve a sense of balance between interests, knowledge, expertise, experience and tenure through the thoughtful recruitment of new members, and we make Penn State feel like a close-knit, supportive community by:

  • Welcoming a diverse group of parents and families into our University Park community
  • Learning more about on- and off- campus life at the University, including its administration, academics, career development, student activities, personal enrichment and sports programs in order to become better informed so we, in turn, can serve as a well-informed and knowledgeable resource
  • Helping all families and their students feel connected through the development of both on- and off-campus programs, services and outreach that address a wide range of needs
  • Listening and extending a helping hand to parents and family members who are seeking information
  • Sharing our knowledge and first-hand experiences through frequent communication via our website, newsletter, blogs and social media
  • Connecting with University administration to become better informed, share our concerns and support their efforts

Why this mission statement works: It captures all aspects of who we are, what we do and our overall intention.

Our tagline

Welcoming. Sharing. Connecting.

Why this tagline works: In just three words our tagline adders up to our vision and mission and applies whether we are speaking to internal or external stakeholders. Our actions, whether at programs, events or meetings must always being welcoming. We are committed to sharing our knowledge, talents, experiences and resources with one another and with parents and families so that we can help them become better informed. And lastly, we are about making connections across the entire Penn State community to help enrich the Penn State experience for all parents and families.

Stay tuned for my follow-up blog, which will take a close look at our core values; the personality attributes that guide our behavior in all that we do as Penn State Parents Council members.

Time Flies When You Love Penn State

By Mandy Rofe, Parent Ambassador

I cannot believe it is the end of my daughter Jacqueline’s freshman year. 

It feels like it was only yesterday when we were touring the University Park campus and immediately fell in love with Penn State.  It was a freezing day but we loved yelling our first “WE ARE”…as instructed by our reverse walking Lion Ambassadors!  Current students rushing around smiling and laughing and welcoming us to the campus. There was no doubt our daughter had made the right choice!

It feels like it was only yesterday when we were packing up to make the long drive from NY to deliver our only child to her destination.  That was a really long drive, and we were all feeling different forms of nervous. This would be the first time my husband and I would be without our child.  When we saw the sign for Penn State University we were all so excited!  When we finished moving her into her dorm we hugged and cried.  We knew she would flourish at Penn State…needless to say it was an even longer drive home!

It feels like yesterday we made our first visit to our daughter and attended our first football game! Wow, what an emotional experience. First, of course, to see Jacqueline…less than one month felt like an eternity!  Second, to experience what she was experiencing, watching that Stripe-Out Game feeling the amazing energy from the student’s section…having her text us that she was in the “S Zone,” just fantastic!! Even if you are not a football fan you must go to a game.  As the Blue Band played I had tears in my eyes, the school spirit is amazing.  Of course that first visit we also went to the Creamery, YUM…and visited the Arboretum, beautiful.  All the things we hoped for our child were coming true…a wonderful education, great new friends, tremendous school pride and more activities than you could ever wish for.

Fast forward and in a flash, her first year is about to be complete.  I am so excited to return to pick my daughter up in less than two weeks.  Part of me is sad for her that the year is over, although I’m sure she can’t wait to get a break, and part of me is sad for us that the year is over, although I can’t wait to have my daughter back in her room!!

We have all become part of the Penn State Family, I will miss it over the summer and I am sure Jacqueline will too.  Time flies…when you love Penn State!