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  • Collaboration Looks to Support Parent Engagement at RIT

    April 12, 2019 | By NACE Staff

    Special Populations
    A son discusses career paths with his father.

    TAGS: best practices, internships, spotlight, career development

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals

    In 2017, the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) conducted a parent survey to explore their experiences with RIT. The survey revealed that, while parents identified cooperative education as their top concern, they were least familiar with campus resources related to co-ops and career planning.

    “This was despite the fact that parents and students communicate frequently about these topics,” explains Chelsea Petree, director of the RIT Parent and Family Programs Office.

    “The survey found that 90 percent of RIT students talked to their parents about their career plans and 96 percent reported that they value their parents’ opinions. Furthermore, parents indicated that cooperative education was the topic about which students most often sought their advice.”

    The survey results underscored a need for more information in this area, Petree adds. More specifically, parents were least familiar with campus resources during their student’s second year.

    “This is a time when students are making significant career decisions, such as solidifying their choice of major, obtaining internships and co-ops, and building their career toolkit,” says Janine Rowe, career counselor in RIT’s Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education.

    “Parents can guide their students effectively because they know their personality, but parents need the support of effective co-op and career resources.”

    To this end, the RIT Office of Career Services and the Parent and Family Programs Office—which fosters relationships between parents and the university to support student success—partnered to promote existing resources and develop new ones to help parents help their students during their career exploration and job search.

    The Parent and Family Programs newsletter—titled Your Student’s Second Year—provides in-depth information on topics most relevant during this year. Created in collaboration with Career Services and Cooperative Education, the newsletter focuses on cooperative education and career planning to help meet parents’ requests for information. The newsletter is sent out each fall prior to Thanksgiving break.

    In addition, the monthly RIT Parent Newsletter not only shares information about campus-wide career fairs, but it now includes a wider variety of information, including details on boutique career fairs, information on how to use the career portal, and career-related discussion topics for over break.

    “One of the major outcomes of the collaboration is it has encouraged us to be mindful about working with students’ parents and families,” Rowe says.

    “We use proactive communication because we want to engage parents at happy times—such as orientation—when there’s positive association with the university. We take that opportunity to introduce ourselves and our services. We want them to know us through positive communications before immediate concerns arise.”

    Rowe says that the initial priority of the work in this area was to put information in front of parents based on the survey results.

    “Previously, they didn’t know what they wanted to know,” she says. “We used the mechanisms we have in place at RIT and through Chelsea to provide them with key information about co-op searches and deadlines.”

    Petree explains that many resources were already in place.

    “One example,” she says, “is that before this initiative, I knew we had large career fairs twice year. However, I didn’t know that there are also several major-specific career fairs. This relationship has helped me better understand the range of resources we have across campus that can be helpful to parents.” 

    Although RIT conducts its parent survey every other year, Petree hasn’t had the opportunity to dig into the 2019 iteration’s data yet.

    “I’m hoping they show good things,” she says. “Research and data can be tough because it may take more than one cycle to see differences. I hope, however, that because of our efforts and collaboration, we see positive movement in this area.”

    Rowe understands that there are several reasons that working with parents can be challenging for career services offices, including a lack of specific training. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth the effort.

    “Keep in mind that parents are key advisers for our students,” Rowe says. “Plus, career services offices have the advantage that there is a lot of information that we can share with parents that doesn’t violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act [which protects the privacy of student education records], such as information about the types of services we provide, our events and workshops, and more.

    “If we develop resources that are general and helpful to parents, we can help short circuit a lot of that fear and anxiety career services advisers may have about working with them, and at the same time enlist valuable allies in the ultimate goal of helping our students find fulfilling careers.”

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