Leaving the Nest, Joining the Flock
I’m what the University of Oregon Alumni Association calls an “adopted Duck.” I didn’t graduate from the UO and I’d never even been to Eugene until I flew out for my Oregon Quarterly job interview. Yet, after three-and-a-half years on campus (nearly as long as it takes most students to earn an undergraduate degree), I consider myself, more or less, a Duck.
That claim will gain legitimacy in September when my daughter steps onto campus as a UO freshman. I couldn’t be more pleased with her decision. A strong student with an adventuresome spirit, she had many options. She weighed those options, and chose the UO for all the right reasons: a wide range of academic programs to explore before she settles on a major; a beautiful, safe campus that’s not too big and not too small; an inclusive, welcoming, and respectful community; a good selection of study-abroad programs; and, thanks to in-state tuition and a partial scholarship, the possibility of graduating with little or no debt.
Before coming to the UO, I worked at other higher-ed institutions, and one thing I’ve always looked for is how willing a college or university’s faculty and staff members are to send their own kids there. If my daughter wants to kvetch with other students about the perils of running into one’s parents on campus, she’ll have plenty of company. For my part, I’ve already been congratulated on her great decision by many of my colleagues—some graduates themselves, others Duck parents . . . like me.
I met parents from all over the country at IntroDUCKtion, the university’s two-day summer orientation for new students and their families. Some were former Ducks, others were completely new to the university. Yet they were all proud, all excited, and all impressively knowledgeable about the UO. The students were grouped into small “flocks” and toured the campus, met with advisors, enrolled in their first classes, and got to know their new peers. Meanwhile, parents and family members listened to presentations on such topics as equity and inclusion, financing our students’ educations, campus safety, and “letting go.” Clearly aware that they were speaking to members of the generation that gave rise to the term “helicopter parent,” orientation staff emphasized, repeatedly, that our students’ University of Oregon education would be just that—theirs. They chose their courses and registered for their first term on their own, meeting up with us at the end of the day for dinner with completed schedules in hand. My daughter’s included classes in art, journalism, psychology, and sociology called Art and Human Values, Visualize a Better World, Mind and Brain, and Social Inequality. She lamented that the rock-climbing class she wanted was full and that the psych class might make for an overly ambitious first-term schedule. She talked about the other classes she wants to take in coming terms, and the classes her friends—some of whom she’d just met that week—were taking. It was exciting for both of us.
I always look forward to September when campus reignites with the energy of a new flock of students, a new academic year. This fall even more so, as my daughter prepares for her first term of college, and I embrace my new role as a Duck parent. I’ve marked my calendar for the first Family Weekend, and I really mean it when I say,
Ann Wiens, Editor