“TCNJ is just such a wonderful school that we want to continue giving back in any way we can,” said Marilyn.
For a little over four years, TCNJ’s Parent and Family Association (PFA) has helped parents of current TCNJ students remain engaged in their child’s education. Every parent or guardian with a child enrolled at the College is automatically a member and receives regular communications about TCNJ policies and programming, as well as information on resources available to TCNJ students. Members are also invited to take part in Family Weekend, which offers both “fun,” family-oriented programming as well as panel discussions on topics of concern to parents of college-aged children.
“At the College, we see parents as partners in the educational process,” said Magda Manetas, assistant vice president of student affairs. “Students are the focus, but the parents are an important part of the process.”
Manetas and Ceceilia O’Callaghan, associate dean of students and director of the career center, serve as liaisons to PFA. In this capacity, they work directly with PFA’s Executive Board. This group of 23 parents meets several times a year, provides college administrators with the parents’ perspective on institutional programs, and helps facilitate the parent-to-parent panels during Family Weekend and Orientation.
Marilyn Plastine said participating in the parent-to-parent panels is one of her favorite parts of being a part of PFA’s executive board. The topics covered in those discussions might range from what to do if your child doesn’t get along with his or her room mate, to what to do if your child turns into a party animal, to more practical concerns such as on-campus medical care for students.
“The [events] give parents of new freshman a chance to voice concerns and ask questions of parents who have been through it,” said Marilyn. “In turn, we can give [parents of freshmen] advice or information that helped us along the way. It’s a valuable workshop, and I’ve been really happy to participate—and have met some wonderful parents through my involvement.”
Joseph Conklin, another PFA executive board member, agreed. Conklin, whose son Joe is a junior finance major, said the parent-to-parent panel discussions are valuable because, “We get down to peer-to-peer level conversations. The information [comes] from a fellow parent of a child—the same type of person as you.”
In addition to its role facilitating these panel discussions, the PFA’s executive board has begun to take on “more of a leadership role on campus,” Manetas said. The group will be focusing its efforts on three key areas in the coming year. First, a Parents Fundraising Committee has been formed to work closely with the Office of Development in identifying ways parents can be more involved with giving to the College.
Second, the group’s Outreach and Hospitality Committee is working on a number of new initiatives, including a program through which TCNJ parents will accompany TCNJ admissions staff to college recruiting fairs. “Parents very often accompany their high school juniors and seniors to these fairs, and this is a great way to acknowledge the parents’ role in the college selection process,” Manetas explained.
Thirdly, a Programming Committee is planning a series of “Webinars” that will address common topics of concern for all parents, since the the parent-to-parent panels during Family Weekend and Orientation are often geared toward parents of freshmen. Some possible topics that could be covered include how the registration process and the housing lottery work, O’Callaghan said. The Webinars should be especially helpful to parents who can’t easily attend on-campus events, she added.
Conklin encourages all parents to be involved with PFA and play a greater role in their child’s education here at TCNJ. “If you’re the type of person who enjoys helping out, and likes to see things get done, then the Parent and Family Association is a great way to channel your energy,” he said.