Duke Parents Advisory Council Reflection - Fall 2020

Author name
Clay Adams


As families know, Parent and Family Programs hosted our first-ever virtual Family Weekend October 16-18 complete with 25 synchronous and 3 asynchronous events for guests to join. Overall, Family Weekend was a great success with over 2,300 attendees across these programs which focused on institutional priorities, signature programs, and current happenings. Also as part of Family Weekend, the Division of Student Affairs hosted its annual Duke Parents Advisory Council (DPAC) fall meeting.  

DPAC welcomed seven new families to help provide feedback and advisement to Vice Provost/Vice President for Student Affairs, Mary Pat McMahon; Dean of Students, Dr. John Blackshear; and senior leadership within the Division. Our newest members bring diverse thoughts and a variety of backgrounds including industry, non-profits, government, and previous board representation. Special thanks to all of the parents and families who applied to join.  

During the DPAC meeting, Vice President McMahon introduced our newest student affairs leaders and kicked off our time together with introductions welcoming our newest Class of 2024 Parent and Family Representatives. Then the council reflected on the myriad of happenings around campus and at Duke since our last summer online meetings. We reviewed lessons learned and potential impacts for the Spring semester. Duke, to this point, has experienced success in keeping our COVID-positive cases relatively contained. This has been due to immense efforts in testing, contact tracing, quarantine, isolation, and a little bit of luck. Although everyone would like the spring semester to return to a sense of normalcy, it is understood that our pathway forward will have many similarities to the fall. Meaningful conversation was had by all involving the impact of COVID, which touched on issues of housing, dining, social life, and career planning concerns.

Christy Piland, Class of 2024 DPAC member, reflected "I was honored to serve with such an outstanding group of parents and administrators over Family Weekend as part of the DPAC. It is so encouraging to be able to gather together to discuss initiatives that will continue to improve the well-being and safety of not only the Duke student body, but the community as a whole. As we move forward during this challenging time, I am grateful to know that we share a common goal of seeking a wholistic approach to developing resilience and a sense of shared responsibility and community among our Duke students."

Additionally, Dr. John Blackshear, Dean of Students stated “I enjoyed the opportunity to meet this group of engaged and thoughtful parent and family members who will serve as a sounding board for some of our most challenging and complex issues.” Dean Blackshear began his new role with Duke University on August 1 and serves as one of the Division of Student Affairs leaders who utilize DPAC for advisory support.

DPAC’s next virtual meeting is planned for the semester break.