Parent Preview gives families an edge on McDaniel college life

July 27, 2011

McDaniel put a new twist on orientation for first-year students by holding two overnight Parent Previews this summer, and nearly 200 parents and guardians from more than 14 states headed to campus to experience life on the Hill firsthand.

In the course of two full days and a night in the dorms, families got to know – on a first-name basis – deans, professors, staff members, a handful of upper-class students and even President Roger Casey. They slept in the dorms, ate in the freshly renovated dining hall, learned about academics, residence life, athletics and activities and discovered the resources and opportunities both McDaniel and Westminster have to offer.

Photos by Kurt Holter

“It’s beginning to feel like home,” said Deb Shapiro, who flew from her home in Newburyport, Mass., to become familiar with the place her only child, Lily Galzerano, would call home for the next four years.

Sophomore, junior and senior guides paved the way for a journey parents said they would not have wanted to miss. Guides Sara Krome of Union Bridge, Md., and Charlie Im of Reston, Va., both seniors at McDaniel, endorsed the mission of the parent preview, calling it a huge beneficial addition to orientation.

“All parents will benefit from knowing what offices and resources are here, but it is especially beneficial to families of first-generation students,” Krome said, adding that parents may learn about activities during the preview that they think their sons or daughters might be interested in.

The families counted the student guides among the top McDaniel resources.

“They picked great students to act as our guides,” said Art Widmann, whose son Andrew will be a freshman in the fall. Widmann and his wife Marianna traveled from Bowie, Md., and, over the course of two days, acquired a certain comfort level with sending their son away to college.

Parents Art and Marianna Widmann of Bowie, Md., and Kye and Kezia Phillips of Baltimore enjoy breakfast in Glar as the college’s dining hall is known to students.

The same is true of Kezia and Kye Phillips from Baltimore whose son Edgar is a member of the class of 2015. It makes a real difference when you know McDaniel’s president as “Dr. Rog” or even Roger and understand the McDaniel Plan that will guide your student’s studies – and importantly take home a three-ring notebook packed with information and contacts that make it easy to respond to the inevitable phone call with a almost familiar voice on the other end that says, “Mom, my throat hurts and I have a fever of 102. I feel awful.”

“I was really nervous about sending him away to school,” Kezia Phillips said. “But now I am comfortable with it.”

That’s exactly why Beth Gerl, vice-president of student affairs, started the summer program – so families are comfortable with their students’ home away from home, so they know what is expected of students, so they know how to support a successful college experience, so they feel part of the community and have a chance to meet and mingle with other parents.

Visiting McDaniel with her mother Hideko Aoyama was important to Dali Aoyama from Hyattsville, Md., since she had not yet seen the college. The first-year students have their orientation program Aug. 24-28 when they are on campus before the sophomores, juniors and seniors arrive. And, of course, families spend the day with students on move-in day.

First-year student Dali Aoyama and her mother Hideko Aoyama take a break between sessions in McDaniel’s Parent Preview.

And then, they say their good-byes, which may be a little sad and sentimental but, for some, have a silver lining.

“We’ll be empty nesters,” Art Widmann said, laughing. “We party in September.”

“Yes. Wooo-woo,” quipped Kezia Phillips, whose nest will also be empty.