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Holy Cross Creates New Office of Parent and Family Engagement

The recently launched office will build on the College’s existing partnerships with families, further enhancing the student experience
April 5th, 2022 by 
Family standing on campus at Holy Cross

Holy Cross has long embraced families as important members of the College community, especially for their key role in student success. With the launch of the College’s new Office of Parent and Family Engagement, Holy Cross is further strengthening this partnership. Although the office is devoted to parents and families, its ultimate goal is to support student development and enhance the student experience, says Cathleen Doane Cannon, inaugural director of the Office of Parent and Family Engagement and special assistant to the vice president for student affairs.

“Research tells us and what we know from our own observations, family involvement can be a positive influencer on student achievement, student wellbeing and student success,” Cannon explains. “We recognize that although students are the drivers of their Holy Cross education, family involvement is important on their journey through emerging adulthood.”

The office’s first initiatives include the launch of a new landing page for parents and families on the College website and a parent webinar/podcast series, “From the Hill to You.” The series is recorded, so families can participate live or access the information on their own time. The kickoff session, “From The Hill to You: Student Mental Health,” aired in February to a great turnout and positive feedback from families, Cannon says.

This session featured members of the Counseling Center and the Office of the College Chaplains and offered families a chance to learn more about current mental health initiatives, as well as campus resources available to students and how families can support their students.

“I think it’s just a great example of how I hope this office can help us as an institution think about what we’re putting out to parents that can enhance student development,” Cannon shares.

In her new role, Cannon is excited to serve as a primary point of contact for families, answering their questions or connecting them to other campus resources that they, or their student, could contact. To help inform the office’s trajectory, Cannon is gathering feedback from families and will continue that process, formally and informally, with both parents and campus partners. She encourages families to complete the Family Information Form to ensure they are receiving email and print communications from the College.

Cannon, who joined the College in 2008, says she felt drawn to Holy Cross for its strong sense of community and mission: “The Jesuit value of educating the whole person — mind, body, spirit and community — and the importance of searching for meaning and purpose in life… these are the philosophies that continue to shape my work and fuel my commitment.”

Previously, Cannon spearheaded Family Weekend, which she will continue to lead in her new role, and also directed the Gateways Orientation programs. “Although much of my time at Holy Cross has been student-focused, families have always been an important component of my work,” Cannon says. “I’m excited to be building on the foundation of my past experiences in launching this new department .”

Cannon envisions that this new office will also help to facilitate connections between different pockets of parents. “Parents, even without us involved, are wonderful supports for each other and are able to share the inside scoop of Holy Cross,” Cannon says. “We see families here on Family Weekend and the excitement as they are meeting the friends of their students and each other’s families. There is a strong desire for that connection and community.”

Cannon hopes even closer alignment between the College and families will allow students to benefit from consistent messaging about how to get the most out of their education — like the importance of exploring, getting involved, taking a risk and understanding that it’s okay to have challenges and that support is available, including from their families and campus resources.

“Parents and families continue to play a vital role in supporting their students, even after the students have settled in at Holy Cross,” says Michele Murray, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, who led the office’s creation. “With the new Office of Parent and Family Engagement, we are providing a consistent source of information, so parents and families have the right tools to effectively coach their students through the triumphs and tribulations associated with college life.”

“Families have reached out thanking the institution and Michele for moving in this direction,” Cannon shares. “It just furthers my excitement to build relationships with parents — and for the conversations that I have already started to have to help address questions and concerns, and to think about possibilities for the future.”

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