At Illinois State University appreciation runs deep for the importance of family support for those pursuing a college degree. Student success and family support are unquestionably linked.

The mission of the Parent and Family Services program, offered through the Dean of Students Office, is to be there for students and families by providing resources when difficult challenges arise. Student success comes about, according to the Dean of Students Office website, as result of “a collective partnership between the University, the student, and their family.”

One of the keys to serving students and families is communication, according to Associate Dean of Students Jill Benson. And, that communication starts early during the recruitment process. Interested high school students can make campus visits, which include sessions for parents with tips on how to prepare their students for success in college. In addition, during Summer Preview, which is online this year, the Dean of Students Office will have an online session to talk with parents about the resources available from Parent and Family Services.

Benson said sometimes family members contact the office over concerns about their student, but they want the contact to remain confidential. She said the office offers advice, referral, and information and can reach out to a student for the family.

There’s also the Dean on Duty program, which Benson called the companion piece to Parent and Family Services, with students as the primary users.

“When you don’t know who to call, you call the Dean on Duty,” she said.

The Dean on Duty is designed to help with complex, multi-layered problems when students aren’t sure what office to call for help, Benson said.

“We take those questions by phone, email, and walk-in,” she said. “There are six of us on rotation—two associate deans and four assistant deans.”

Someone is available from 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. every weekday that the University is open, with the office handling responsibilities for both Parent and Family Services and Dean on Duty. The only sticky part, Benson said, is not being able to share a student’s grades, due to federal laws protecting the privacy of student education records. But, all questions are welcome.

The office also produces a Parent and Family Guide and a Facebook page monthly newsletter that covers what students are going through at a particular moment be it registration or moving out of a residence hall. There’s also a Facebook group where only parents and family members of current students can post and comment.

“It’s very helpful, like a Yelp review,” Benson said. “It’s peer-sourced and gives you answers from a seasoned parent on a specific issue.”

Benson said that when parents or family members are mad or sad or confused, the important thing is to remember that they only want what’s best for their student.

“We want to meet them where they are at that moment,” she said. “We’re all hoping for the same thing. We want success for their student.”

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