*video filmed by ACPA – College Student Educators International, via ACPA Social Media
“Honoring Parentless Students”
PechaKucha is, as as you discovered in the introduction to the video, a presentation where an individual talks alongside 20 images and slides, each turning automatically every 20 seconds. 20×20. According to PechaKucha, this presentation format was created by two architects, and initially as a result of the belief that architects talk too much! As a person with an undergraduate degree in communication, I would agree that most people talk too much when given an unrestricted set of PowerPoint slides.
And so, PechaKucha.
Aside from a space to tell a few stories (though, if given the time, I have dozens more related to this topic), I also took the opportunity to share some very personal reflections I have regarding the changing reality of how parents and families show up in education – and specifically, how the concept of parents and families show up in my own life. The landscape is changing.
And this should be no surprise. Over the past twenty years (arguably more), the landscape of families & non-families has changed significantly, and we should all be pausing to consider how parenting structures appear or don’t appear as it relates to children and college-age students. We should all consider adjusting our practice.
For example, “Mom’s Day,” or, “Dad’s Weekend,” The Office of Parent Programs, parent orientation, better funded opportunities for stateside families without including international students, letters home to, “Mr/s.,” or the plural of parent (“To the parents of…”) – these all come to mind, and knowing the list goes on and on.
So, what do we do, you might be wondering?
Furthermore, how do we support students who may not have the family or parenting structure that many of our programs assume? What about those triggered by these programs, or those left out by the simple mission of these traditions? How do we simply pause and honor someone’s actual, lived experience on their campus?
Aside from my hope and plan to research this very topic someday, for starters, you can evaluate your current practices and programs. Challenge exclusive norms, engage your alumni, program around the changing reality of families and students, and include those chosen-family friends and community members who may be supporting an individual just as much, if not more, than any relative could provide. Examine your school’s statistics and build bridges to colleagues across campus. Empower authenticity.
Next, be insistent. Pull students in to help you change the culture of your exclusive programs and traditions. Ask students frequently, “Who are we leaving behind?” “How can we edit or enhance the way we support all students?” “In what ways does [this program] exist as an exclusive body of opportunity for some more than others?”
Help students garner courage as they navigate these ongoing murky waters. Jump in those waters with them. And as you swim (or float or tread or splash) in those waters, invite others to jump in, too. What is not changing on our campuses is that students are showing up – how they show up, and with or without whom, is, however, truly evolving.
And in honor of this evolution, I hope this will inform your practice.
*photo provided by Idriss Njike (UCLA), co-host of PechaKucha, powered by ACPA