Volume 84 | Issue 5
September/October 2016

From the Chief Executive Officer: From Kindergarten and Beyond

John Taylor, Ed.D.
John TaylorI have vivid memories of a special day in August 2000, the first day of kindergarten for my oldest daughter, Nicole. My wife and I drove her to the front of our road where we took pictures and waited for the bus. It was a day of many emotions, as I was excited for this milestone moment of her growing up, yet I wanted her to stay my little girl forever. After she boarded the bus, we waved, and as it drove away I’m fairly sure I was holding back tears. Our lives had just changed, and now I was putting my trust in the public schools and teachers in our local community.

Fast forward to Aug. 23, 2013 as depicted in my Facebook post from that day.

Today Nicole is in her senior year, and I couldn’t be more pleased with her college experience and the professional colleagues who nurtured her development. She listened to her dad’s preaching over the years and got involved in college—in hall council, in student organizations, and as a resident advisor. Some of her supervisors have encouraged her to explore a career in student affairs, but she is more interested in saving the world in a different way: using what she learned in her environmental studies and sustainability major and hoping to join the Peace Corps.

While she is no longer the little girl who waved at me from the bus on her first day of kindergarten, I feel fortunate that Nicole has grown up under the care and guidance of wonderful teachers and expert professionals similar to those in college unions everywhere. As we embark on a new academic year, I encourage you to think about the students you will be teaching and guiding, as well as their parents who are counting on you to take good care of their children. Certainly the pendulum has swung over many decades from in loco parentis to helicopter parents.

The good news is that even the most knowledgeable parents don’t know as much as you do about taking care of students on your campus. Alexander Astin’s seminal work on student involvement validates the importance of engaging students on campus. Offering campus activities and programs, advising student organizations, and providing leadership opportunities will continue to be essential for engaging and developing students. The convenience stores and restaurants in our college unions fulfill many of the daily needs for the entire campus community, with managers being attentive to the desires of a diverse student population and individuals with special dietary constraints. Thousands of meetings and events are hosted in the college union annually, many of which include student participants actively engaging, learning, and interacting with one another.

In sum, the college union provides what is needed for students to feel safe and supported, and we can undoubtedly reassure parents that we always have the best interests of their students on our mind. And while parents are a little anxious when they drop off their child at college, in the end they have you to thank for nurturing, growing, and developing the young adults that emerge by senior year.