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JPW brings together students, parents for weekend of events

| Monday, February 19, 2018

The class of 2019 and seniors who spent the spring semester of their junior year abroad welcomed parents to campus Friday for Junior Parents Weekend (JPW), an annual University tradition.

According to the JPW website, the weekend featured a variety of events for students and parents including a gala, a Mass, a president’s address and a Sunday brunch. JPW’s executive chair, junior Maureen Schweninger, said in an email that, based off visitor feedback, JPW 2018 was “an incredible success.” [Editor’s Note: Schweninger is a former sports writer for The Observer.]

Photo courtesy of Rachel Belans
Junior Rachel Belans, right, cultures cells with her parents in a lab in Jordan Hall of Science on Saturday.

“As a junior student, I was on cloud nine with meeting friends and family through different events,” Schweninger said. “ … I was really struck by how the Notre Dame community embraced our families this weekend and the opportunity to thank our families for all they’ve done to form us for this community now.”

With the availability of the new Duncan Student Center, Schweninger said, there were possibly more changes to JPW this year than ever before.

“The gala was especially different, with four levels of programming in Duncan and student performances throughout the night,” she said. “And the brunch was also hosted in the Duncan Ballroom, with open seating and a brunch buffet for guests to come in on their own time. I think the changes offered a great variety of social spaces for our families.”

Alongside such changes, Schweninger said the JPW committee did its best to make the events accessible and affordable for more juniors.

“This meant widening the range for the gala’s recommended attire, as well as promoting financial assistance for tickets, housing and travel through the Office of Student Enrichment,” Schweninger said.

The weekend opened with the gala Friday night, which gala chair junior Daniela Iezza said in an email is the exciting moment in which students get to introduce friends and Notre Dame families to their own families.

“The Duncan Student Center buzzed with chatter, music and laughter as classmates and families came together to begin one of the most memorable weekends of the Notre Dame experience,” Iezza said.

The gala was an exciting challenge, Iezza said, due to its new location.

“We had so many amazing things we wanted to show off, and for our inaugural year in the student center, we were blessed to be able to do just that,” she said. “We had portrait photographers, an awesome DJ, hors d’oeuvres, drinks, dancing and a wide variety of incredibly talented student performers all working together to give life and variety to our evening.”

The weekend also featured academic workshops that allowed parents to experience students’ chosen colleges. As the chair of the Arts and Letters showcase, junior Emily Hirshorn said her goal was to help parents see the value of a broad liberal arts education in a “warm and welcoming” manner.

“It was really such an honor and really rewarding experience because you can represent the college that you love and also bring people together in the community for that morning,” she said.

As leaders of the JPW planning process, Schweninger said she and a committee met weekly to touch base on different aspects of the program. Another big part of the preparation, she said, was answering hundreds of emails over the last few months alongside junior Joe Crowley, the JPW vice chair.

“What drew me to become one of the leaders for JPW was the mission of the weekend,” Crowley said in an email. “All of the planning of JPW is dedicated towards creating a weekend which facilitates the encounter of parents with those people and experiences their student has come to call their very own Notre Dame family.”

A particularly powerful moment, Crowley said, was seeing families engage in “quality conversations” during Sunday brunch, drawing parents further into students’ experiences as members of the Notre Dame family.

“[When] a parent meets a professor whom they’ve heard so much about, visits their son or daughter’s favorite study spot where countless hours of sweat and thinking have been expended or finally gets to have a conversation with another student who has come to play such a role in their own student’s life; it is in these moments that the mission of JPW is fulfilled and defined, in these moments when our community extends a little further to encompass our parents and their love for us now and their dreams for our futures,” he said.

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About Kelli Smith

Kelli Smith is a senior at the University of Notre Dame. Originally from El Paso, Texas, she served as Editor-in-Chief at The Observer for the 2019-20 term. She is pursuing majors in political science and television with a minor in journalism. // Twitter: @KelliSmithNews

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