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Bringing parents home

Mel Flanagan | Monday, February 18, 2013

More than 1,300 juniors and seniors spent this past weekend providing their parents with an intimate look into their lives and experiences at Notre Dame at Junior Parents Weekend (JPW).

Junior Parents Weekend allows students to both celebrate with their friends and give their parents inside access to their academic, social and professional activities.

“[My parents] live down the road from Notre Dame, so I see them enough and they know campus very well,” junior Grace Hatfield said. “But showing them the lab I am a research assistant at, introducing them to my favorite professors and just hanging out where I love and study were things I’ve never been able to do before.”

Hatfield and the other JPW participants began the weekend’s events with an Opening Gala held Friday night in the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center and Joyce Center Fieldhouse.

Saturday’s events included collegiate workshops for the individual colleges and luncheons in each residence hall. University president Fr. John Jenkins celebrated JPW Mass on Saturday night and the evening was capped off by the President’s Dinner.

The Mass and Dinner represented the highlight of the weekend for junior Pat Laskowski.

“It made my parents and I feel … important,” he said. “We got all dressed up, experienced a grand celebration of the Mass, enjoyed delicious food and heard Fr. Jenkins speak about the significance of the weekend.”

The weekend concluded Sunday morning with the Closing Brunch in the Joyce Center Fieldhouse.

JPW junior co-chair Elizabeth Owers said the weekend’s events went smoothly.

“There were no major mishaps, everything went off without a hitch and, most importantly, the students and their parents all seemed to have a great time,” she said. “Given that so many students are abroad, we are very pleased with the turnout.”

The weekend was challenging to plan, Owers said, but well worth the time and effort to provide parents with an idea of what their sons’ and daughters’ everyday lives are like.

“It is structured so that our parents can see our dorms and classrooms, meet our professors and most importantly meet the people we’re sharing our experience with,” she said. “At this point in our college careers, we’ve established ourselves pretty well academically and socially, so we can give our parents a good idea of what we love about Notre Dame and why we call this place home.”

Junior co-chair Melissa Hallihan said the JPW Executive Committee and advisors were instrumental in the planning process.

“It’s been such an amazing opportunity as I got to meet many of my fellow juniors, communicated with parents and University staff and got an inside look into all the work that goes into planning events here at Notre Dame,” she said.

For some students, JPW was not an opportunity to meet their fellow juniors, but a chance to take advantage of an opportunity they previously had missed out on. The University invites seniors who missed JPW while they were abroad to participate in the events during the following year.

Senior Colleen Heberlein was abroad in London last spring, but said her parents still wanted to visit her on a weekend that was not occupied entirely by football.

“It seemed like the perfect opportunity for my parents to visit before the craziness of graduation,” she said. “Also, my parents heard great things about JPW from parents of my older friends and did not want to miss out on the experience.”

Heberlein signed up for JPW with one other senior and met up with others at the events. Despite being in the minority, she said she felt very included at the three major events.

“I did feel a little out of place and old at first, but I sat with senior friends at the events which helped,” she said. “It was obviously geared toward the Class of 2014, as it should be, but we never felt left out.”

Although she enjoyed her experience at JPW, Heberlein said she and fellow seniors wondered why the University doesn’t hold a parent’s weekend sophomore year when far fewer students are studying abroad.

“I wish my friends and I had been able to experience it together last year, but my parents were still able to meet a few of my friends and we had a great time,” she said.