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Parents arrive at University for JPW

Ellyn Michalak | Friday, February 15, 2008

This weekend, for the 56th consecutive year, the parents of Notre Dame juniors will visit campus to get a glimpse of what their child’s life is like while they are away from home during the annual Junior Parents’ Weekend (JPW).

JPW began in 1952 when University president emeritus Father Theodore Hesburgh decided parents should become more involved in their students’ lives at Notre Dame before the following year’s graduation ceremony.

Every year, attendance for the event has grown and this year’s JPW committee expects approximately 1,750 parents to visit the campus this weekend.

“Though the scale has changed, the core purpose of JPW has remain unchanged – that is, giving parents an opportunity to share the social, academic, spiritual and residential life of University with their students,” JPW co-chair Brian Fremeau said.

He and fellow co-chair Leah Miller have been working hard to plan the event since April of last year. After months of preparation, Miller said she is looking forward to the event with feelings similar to those in her class.

“I am really excited about having my parents come to experience what my life is like here,” Miller said. “They will be able to see where my friends come from by examining their parents and be able to understand what makes Notre Dame so special.”

The weekend’s events will commence tonight with an opening gala in the Joyce Center for all juniors and their parents. The ceremony is the most formal event of the weekend and is a chance for the students and their families to become acquainted with one another over appetizers, dessert and dancing.

Saturday morning’s events are designed to be more specific to each individual student. Juniors will begin the morning participating in a college specific “collegiate workshop” in order to offer their parents insight into their academic life at Notre Dame. For lunch, the families will return to the student’s residence hall to socialize with friends and families of the other residents.

Following Saturday’s luncheon is the JPW mass, beginning at 5:30, University president Father John Jenkins, will preside. Saturday’s events will conclude with the President’s Dinner where Father Jenkins and junior class president Bob Reish will speak in addition to live entertainment.

The weekend will conclude with a Sunday brunch in the Joyce Center.

Many students study abroad during the spring semester of their junior year and, therefore, cannot participate in JPW. The committee has created a way for the parents of these students to experience the Notre Dame community by opening the event to seniors who studied abroad in the spring of 2007. Approximately 50 seniors and their parents will participate in the weekend this year.

Fremeau offers an explanation for the reasoning behind the timing of the event.

“Along with first-year orientation and Commencement, JPW is the only other major event focused on parents as official guests of the University,” he said. “The study-abroad programs have grown in popularity at Notre Dame, especially over the last fifteen years or so, impacting JPW somewhat, but the weekend still draws a major percentage of the class each year.”

Senior architecture majors, who are all abroad during their junior year, host their own parents’ weekend every spring. The program, called Expo Roma, showcases all of the senior’s work from their previous year in Rome. The students decorate the lobby of Bond Hall to look like Rome, fly in a professor from Rome as a guest speaker and present a slide show of their time abroad to their parents.

“I really liked [Expo Roma] last year because it was a really personalized Junior Parents’ Weekend for us archies,” Caitlin Shannon, a fifth-year architecture major said. “It’s a weekend organized by us, and it’s all about our experiences in Rome our junior year. It’s a very personal way to show our experience at Notre Dame to our parents.”

The University’s juniors are looking forward to this weekend with anticipation. For Miller, she sees it as a chance for her parents to be able to understand her life at Notre Dame.

“With my parents coming here, a lot of stories will be shared between my family and my friends and their families,” Miller said. “Having those memories will serve and a reminder to why we love this place so much.”