Parent and Family Orientation a Partnership for Student Success

Brian Willess, Cal State San Bernardino

April 21, 2017

New student orientations are critical programs for the academic and social transition into any institution of higher education. Orientation sets the foundation for new students and provides resources, both academic and social, to assist them toward their academic and professional goals and achieve student success. At California State University, San Bernardino, like many campuses in the region, the majority of our first-year students commute to campus from home and might not take full advantage of campus resources, such as academic advising, tutoring, supplemental instruction, health and wellness services, student engagement opportunities and other student services. 

In 2014, the Orientation and First Year Experience (OFYE) Office at Cal State San Bernardino was established and a key component to its development was the assessment and redesign of the parent and family orientation program. Like many institutions, we know that the majority of our new students are the first in their families to attend college and might not have the support at home to assist them with their college transition. We also know that parents and family members are going through their own transition into the campus community. They have questions, often times many more than their students, and they have their own anxiety and concerns, ultimately they want the best for their students.

Over the past two years, we have enhanced our parent and family orientation, which fosters a partnership between them and our campus community. Previous parent and family orientation was only offered one time over the summer, usually on a Saturday, and the program was designed for 2 hours. In addition, the program was limited to room setup and capacity, which was about 350 guests. The orientation team, along with campus stakeholders, came together to redesign our parent and family orientation. Looking at other campus models, best practices and prior assessment data, we developed a parent and family program that better reflects the needs of our parents and families. We now offer a one-day parent and family orientation in conjunction with our freshmen orientation program. We have enhanced our program to include topics of financial aid and ways to support student money management, academic overview and degree requirements for students, campus safety and campus housing, and throughout the program, we provide resources and tips on how parents can support their students achieve success. 

Being a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) we also offer parents and family members an option to self-select if they would prefer to participate in our Spanish-speaking program. This program is structured with the same content as our English-speaking program, just in Spanish with faculty, staff and students. Over the past two years, we have had an attendance of parents and family members of 543 in 2015 and 550 in 2016. Like any program, we are constantly assessing and reevaluating our parent and family program and make edits to best meet their needs. The feedback that we receive is very positive about the overall program and the information we provide. What they are most grateful for is the opportunity to be a part of their student’s college experience. Since many of our students are the first in their family to attend college, this is a new experience for the parents and family members as well. Sometimes it’s the smallest jesters that have the biggest impact, and we believe the time, resources and energy to cultivate a positive partnership with our parents and families has a big impact on the success of our students. For more information about the Orientation and First Year Experience Office, log on to

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