College Parents

Graphic by Rosy Tahan/The Gazelle

Family Dynamics: The College Parents Program

The College Parents system was designed to replace the Brothers and Sisters program largely due to lack of participation in the former process.

Sep 18, 2016

The Class of 2020 has arrived on campus and the College Parents program is in full swing. The program, announced earlier this year, places four or five incoming freshmen with a pair of sophomores, giving new students the opportunity to speak candidly with more experienced members of the NYU Abu Dhabi community. In an interview conducted by The Gazelle prior to the launch of the program, its founder Chris Wheeler described the initiative as one where students from the Class of 2019 act as so-called parents.
“[Students are] encouraged to provide a real perspective of NYUAD,” Wheeler said.
Now that the program has launched, The Gazelle has spoken to Wheeler again. Given that this was the first year of the program, he was impressed.
“I think generally yes, it's gone pretty smoothly. We weren't really sure what to expect from the program as this year was more or less a pilot scheme, so our expectations were very open,” Wheeler said.
The College Parents system was designed to replace the previous Brothers and Sisters program which suffered from low levels of participation. 144 members of the Class of 2019 signed up to be college parents, which meant that no freshman went without a college parent — an immediate improvement on last year’s initiative. Wheeler said that he believes the other major issue — that freshmen may not be able to engage with one single parent – has been largely resolved.
“I think most people who wanted to engage found that they could, which wasn't always the case with Brothers and Sisters,” Wheeler said.
Penelope Peng, a sophomore enrolled in the College Parents program, shared her thoughts on the benefits of the scheme.
“I think the College Parent initiative has been a great opportunity for both freshmen and sophomores. I personally wish we had this program last year, because there are so many things that you can only learn from a student's perspective. The opportunity to speak candidly is incredibly important,” Peng said.
Incoming students from the Class of 2020 may not have the luxury of comparing the new initiative to that of the Brothers and Sisters program, but this has not prevented them from sharing positive thoughts about their experience. Freshman Jack Adeney said that he believes the College Parents program was one of the most important factors in ensuring that freshmen settled in properly at NYUAD.
Wheeler thinks that the College Parents program will be able to survive coming years.
“There's lots of room for improvement, but given that this year was a pilot program it's been really, really pleasing,” Wheeler says.
In terms of improvements, Wheeler sees the potential for a welcome event allowing students to meet their College Parents upon arrival at NYUAD. While he told us it was logistically impossible for it to happen this academic year, one such event may take place in 2017.
Perhaps one of the most important indicators for the success of a program such as this is the participation rate of rising sophomores in the next academic year. Current freshmen will decide whether to sign up as parents based on their own experiences with the program.
James Pearce is Deputy Features Editor. Email him at
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