The college parent-teacher association

We're coming up on mid-October and with that comes Colonials Weekend (aka free food and homework avoidance weekend). Admit it: whether they’re coming or not, you miss your parents. Parents weekend this year, however, has another significant meaning. In addition to expensive brunch reservations and family portraits at the Lincoln Memorial, there is the new parent’s council.

This past year, the George Washington University Parent Association Advisory Council (PAAC) underwent a transition to restructure and reorganize in the interest of getting more parents involved and being a more valuable resource to students and GW administrators. The original 30-member group will be dissolved this fall.

In 1993, Rodney Johnson started The Office of Parent Services. He was an assistant basketball coach who rose through the ranks to become executive director and founder of the Office of Parent Services. Johnson left in June 2015 after 30 years of service to the university.

Under the Office of Parent Services is the Parents' Association Advisory Council (PAAC). Over the years PAAC grew to a group of 30 elected members who were influential in enacting GW Colonial Inauguration, Colonials Weekend, Smoke-Free GW, and 4-Ride services. They would meet three times a year: fall (during parents’ weekend), spring, and summer.

This year, the parent council is being revamped. Ellis Gardner, father of a GW senior (and one of The Rival’s very own) Becky Gardner, has been a part of PAAC throughout his daughter's college career. He said that what was unique about GW’s parent council was that parents did not have to contribute any money in order to be considered for election. On a phone interview, Gardner gave profound insight on what is taking place with the new parent council.

Now, the Office of Parent Services is The Office of Student Support and Family Engagement. The new parent council, which Vice Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski referred to as the GW Family Ambassador Program, will no longer have a limit to the number of parents who can be involved. This is in order to increase the time, effort, and money that the parents’ council can provide to students. More people means more engagement, as summed up by Gardner. The Office of Student Support and Family Engagement also includes the CARE network, Colonial Inauguration, and student, parent and faculty support. The parents council is now a subset of a larger department.

The four focuses of the new program are: philanthropy (fundraising), communication (letter-writing, blogging, etc.), volunteering (working at events such as Colonial Inauguration and Colonials’ Weekend) and ad-hoc (a catch-all for anything else).

The restructure of The Office of Student Support and Family Engagement is not a result of budget cuts. On a phone conference call with the PAAC, according to Gardner, President Knapp refuted the idea that this was due to financial reasons.

The only concession is that the new parents’ council will not receive presentations about updates from GW organizations, such as the dining program and campus safety . However, in response, Gardner said, “This is 2016, and social media gives all parents and caregivers the opportunity to interact with Peter K. and the administration directly.”

“This is 2016 and social media gives all parents and caregivers the opportunity to interact with Peter K. and the administration directly.

It was a long time coming, but Gardner is happy with the new changes. With respect to Konwerski, he stated, “As a three time alum and an administration lifer, there’s no question in my mind that Peter K has GW’s interest at heart.” He continued, “I just think that adding the new Family Engagement model to the existing board of 30 leaders makes more sense than starting from scratch.”

GW did not decline to comment on the new program, but after multiple attempts at scheduling an interview, ultimately, the administration did not get back to me.

With Colonials Weekend this Friday through Sunday, there will be a shift from the 30-parent council to the new, wider group.

It’s a fresh start for the parents’ council. Although college is the time when you gain your independence from your parents, they still play a crucial role in one’s higher education. Putting money aside, their input and involvement in the college years is something that often goes unnoticed and undervalued. Perhaps this new restructuring that allows more parents to get involved will combat that.

Special thank you to Ellis Gardner for contributing to this article.

Originally published by Courtney Buble on on 10.10.16.

CampusBrandon Bish