President, Deans, Staff Welcome (and Reassure) 1st-Year Parents

Parents and family members were likely offering their 18-year-olds plenty of last-minute advice yesterday as they helped the students move into dorm rooms and prepare for their first year of college. At the same time, parents were not spared nuggets of wisdom offered by people very familiar with the Bowdoin experience.

Relatives of incoming students gathered in Kanbar Auditorium/Studzinski Hall for two different sessions to listen to the president, dean for academic affairs, dean of first-year students and several staff members speak about what incoming students might experience in the coming four years. These experts (many of whom have sent their own kids off to college) also offered a bit of advice to parents.

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BDS-7Barry Mills, president of Bowdoin College: …Let’s talk a little bit about Bowdoin about you — parents and family members. We want you to be an important part of Bowdoin for the next four years and beyond.

I am sure many of you have children who have gone to other schools, and you have sat through college presidents and deans telling you this is the last moment we ever want to hear from you — other than paying tuition — and that it’s all about giving your sons and daughters some space. And you’ve all been accused of being helicopter parents. The advice many of these presidents give is to withdraw and let their students live their lives.

So, in fact, we know and I know, given the world today, and the relationship that we have with our kids and I am sure you have with your kids, that this is not going to happen. You’re aren’t going to withdraw, because you’ve been close to them for 18 years. And frankly, in this world, I think we should be celebrating this bond between parents and children. It’s ironic that colleges and universities are criticizing these family bonds; I think they’re actually very important.

All that being said, you do have to give them space! They’re in college, you’re not. So read the parents’ guide. Log onto the website for the College news. Subscribe to the student newspaper, to the Bowdoin Daily Sun. It’s free, every day. Come and cheer the Bowdoin polar bears on the playing fields. Come to the art shows, theater productions, dance performances. Question your sons and daughters about what they’re learning. Test their ability to analyze problems. But please remember this is their time to try new things, to take classes they might actually find difficult, to learn a new art form, to try a new sport or activity. We know from experience that some will not succeed in all that they do here, but nearly all will succeed in much that Bowdoin has to offer, and they will succeed in truly remarkable ways. So most of all, you really should encourage your sons and daughters to be passionate about this Bowdoin experience. To get lost in what we call generous enthusiasms for learning. This is their four years of college.

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cristlecollinsjuddCristle Collins Judd, dean for academic affairs: …We hold out to our students an interpretation about what the “Offer of the College” means in the 21st century. If you haven’t read the “Offer of the College” recently, go back to the website and do so, and do so frequently. It’s an extraordinary statement about the promise of the Bowdoin education, and it’s a statement that has been renewed in our curriculum.

…You may need to encourage your child to seek help, to seek out a faculty member, to seek out office hours, to seek out study sessions, to work with other students. In other words, to seek out the assistance and the support that is readily available. Students who succeeded so well in high school often find seeking out such help difficult. Please, please, please remind them that help seeking is not a sign of failure, but rather it’s an effort to own and make the most of their education and what this place offers.

Our curriculum requirements and the promise of our education deliberately give students the lesson of choice. The opportunity to make choices, and along the way to make mistakes — about courses, about majors, about activities, about many other things. This is fundamental to the college experience and the growth of the student. In choosing Bowdoin, your sons and daughters have embarked on a voyage of discovery. Life here allows students to discover his or her intellectual passion, a passion that may or may not coincide with prior expectations or anticipated career trajectories. Your support for exploring those directions can be crucial.

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janetlohmannJanet Lohmann, dean of first-year students: …Here is the scenario that plays out over and over again. Your son or daughter calls you, or texts you, or FaceTimes you, and they say, “Bowdoin made a mistake. I don’t belong here. I’ve got no friends.” And they dump it all on you. And you, being the caring, thoughtful parent, take it all in and listen. Then you hang up incredibly concerned and worried, and in many instances end up calling one of us. The reality is, in most cases, your son or daughter has dumped all of that on you, and they are off, having pizza, hanging out with friends, and you are the ones at home, worried.

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meadowdavisMeadow Davis, director of residential life: …We spend a lot of time and energy training our student staff and training our peer advisors so that they will have the information that your sons and daughters need to be fully part of this community. So please encourage your children to get to know their proctor, to get to know their R.A. to get involved in their college houses.

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leanaamaezLeana Amaez, associate dean of multicultural student programs : …If I could give you a piece of advice as parents, it is to continuously challenge your kids to get comfortable being uncomfortable and to look for experiences that are different. You sent your children here to have a different experience from what they had at home. Five hundred and four students [in the first-year class] bring 504 experiences, 504 stories from their lives that are unique and different. This is an opportunity for your students to really meet and be exposed and to truly engage with folks that come from different backgrounds, who bring different gifts and different talents.

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alimcgrathAlison McGrath, staff clinician: …The incredible thing about Bowdoin is that anything a student is really passionate about, there is going to be somebody — students, staff, faculty — who want to help that student realize that goal. I ask you to continue to trust the process that you have done to help your student, your child come here today…and to reach out to the staff, to reach out to the services here.

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timryanTim Ryan, director of athletics: Twenty years ago today I was incredibly fortunate to be in the same position as your son and daughter getting dropped off as a first-year student at Moore Hall on the campus of Bowdoin College. One of my mother’s most prized possessions is a picture she has of me standing in front of the stone polar bear. So my piece of advice would be to take a moment and corral your student and get a picture somewhere on campus in front of a polar bear, because that will be something you value many, many years from now.

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randynicholsRandy Nichols, director of safety and security: Despite everything we do here in security and as a college to promote safety and a healthful environment, still it all comes down to the choices each individual makes and the friends they take. I’ll repeat that. It’s the choices you make and the friends you take. A good friend will be there for you, and will always keep your best interests at heart. So I encourage the students to make good friends.

 

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birgitpolsBirgit Pols, director of health services:  My piece of advice is to take advantage of the breadth and depth that Bowdoin offers. I hope that none of your students ever need our health services, but I like to think they will want to seek us out because they will see the value we can add to their Bowdoin experience.

 

 

 

thumb:Jamie Tatham