A family enjoys a special moment during move-in weekend last year.
At UCLA, thousands of parents and caregivers are eager to be engaged in this important stage of their children’s transition into adulthood. Historically, however, formal opportunities for university engagement were limited to Parents’ Weekend and the UCLA Parents’ Fund.
This dynamic is about to change, with the launch this fall quarter of Bruin Parents + Families, which will tap into the inherent energy and enthusiasm of Bruin parents and families as they seek to guide their students toward success. At the same time, the program will help parents build their own personal connection to the campus.
An initiative of Chancellor Gene Block, Bruin Parents + Families is a shared endeavor of the Department of External Affairs, the Division of Undergraduate Education and the Office of Student Affairs — areas that all have an investment in cultivating a successful relationship with a student’s family.
“Bruin parents and families are a vital part of our UCLA community,” said Judith L. Smith, dean and vice provost for undergraduate education. “We want them to understand the UCLA experience and be engaged in meaningful ways. I am very excited about this program and encourage high participation.”
Taking a break from the big move into Sproul Hall.
Several years in the making, Bruin Parents + Families was created under the leadership of Jacquelean Gilliam, director of the Office of Parent and Family Programs and former director of the UCLA Parents’ Fund. The idea for the new program began to form in response to what Gilliam called “a cultural shift. Increasing numbers of parents are becoming actively involved in their college students’ lives in a variety of capacities, from reaching out to faculty to negotiating roommate conflicts to offering parental advice.”
The Office of Parent and Family Programs is composed of Bruin Parents + Families, the UCLA Parents’ Fund and a new organization for all parents and caregivers of undergraduate students — the UCLA Parent & Family Association. These components are intended, said Gilliam, to “partner with parents and families, supporting and enhancing the educational experience of UCLA students through resource delivery, events, communications, charitable giving, volunteer opportunities and more.”
One valuable service Bruin Parents + Families will provide is a central clearinghouse for campus information. Over the years, a steady increase in phone calls and e-mails from parents and families to all corners of campus began to make clear the need for a “go-to” gateway to more effectively respond to their needs. Parents can now call the Parent Helpline at (310) 794-6737 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Devon Dickau, assistant director of Bruin Parents + Families, knows his way around campus as a Bruin alum and a former Daily Bruin editor. But navigating the campus may be daunting for newcomers. “UCLA is huge. We believe that size is one of the assets of our institution, but no one can know everything,” Dickau said. “We hope our office can act as the entry point for parents and families at UCLA. If they have a question or concern and don’t know where to go, we hope they will contact us.”
Hundreds of parents come to campus each fall for UCLA's annual Parents Weekend.
In addition to responding to parent inquiries, Dickau added, the new program aims to proactively reach out to UCLA families with diverse educational backgrounds and personal experiences. Some families, such as those of first-generation college students, may want to be involved with their students’ college life but don’t even know where to begin.
“Starting at UCLA – at any university – is a transition for both students and their families,” said Dickau. “We hope to bridge the relationship between UCLA and Bruin families and show them how UCLA is a college experience for them as well.”
Under development is a variety of involvement opportunities created specifically for parents. Last year, for example, Bruin Parents + Families co-hosted a series of Welcome Receptions at nearly a dozen California locations. Experienced Bruin parents of current students opened their homes to nearly 150 parents in each region, encouraging them to get to know each other and learn about life at UCLA. Parents will also be invited to volunteer at the annual Parents Weekend, Oct. 16-18, and other campus events.
One particularly engaged group of more than 100 parents has already signed on to the newly created Parents’ Council, the leadership board of the UCLA Parent & Family Association, which will help guide Bruin Parents + Families as it evolves. During move-in weekend, Sept. 18-21, council members will be on hand at specially designated Parent Lounges at De Neve Plaza, Hedrick and Covel residence halls to welcome and assist parents new to UCLA.