Family Weekend 2019 Recap

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Parent and Family Programs

Duke University hosted almost 1,200 families for Family Weekend 2019 on October 25-27. The event formally kicked off Friday morning with a welcome from Vice Provost/Vice President for Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon and other student affairs administrators in Penn Pavilion. Mary Pat introduced herself, talked about her plan for stepping into her new role, and highlighted what she has loved about Duke so far in her first three months. 

Afterwards, events occurred across campus from academic lectures to student performances, identity center open houses to participant-centered wellness events like yoga and indoor rock-climbing. Families could attend almost 100 events throughout the weekend. Parent and Family Programs staff witnessed the exciting buzz and helped families navigate picking which sessions to attend. 

Highlighted events on Friday included two faculty guest lectures in Reynolds Theater. Dr. Brian Hare led an engaging discussion about animal brains and behaviors, using this as a platform to inspect the wonder of our own species. While families had rave reviews about the lecture, Duke’s celebrity puppies—members of the on-campus Puppy Kindergarten—certainly brought the entertainment factor to the next level. Next, Dr. Susan Rodger led another mock class on computing and animation. Dr. Rodger not only gave families a glimpse into her classroom at Duke by introducing some basic programming problem solving, but she also talked about the advancement of computer science in K-12 education—past and future. We’re so thankful for the opportunity to share an opportunity with families to be “students for a day” in our annual Family Weekend mock lectures! 

President Vincent E. Price attended his second Duke Family Weekend, entertaining a full house for his remarks. He answered audience questions including those about creating an international brand and reputation for Duke as well as preparing for the ways that technology will continue to impact the landscape of higher education. Following the formal program, he stayed for lingering questions from families. 

Hosted by Duke Libraries, this year's "Duke Moms and Dads" program on Saturday featured Dave Barry, humor columnist and author, who was accompanied by his wife, Michelle, and introduced by their daughter, Sophie, a member of the Class of 2022. Sophie spoke of her dad's "shenanigans" that she recalls from an early age, and Dave confirmed with his quips and comments that his ability to share humor and parody are alive and well.  Frankly, he was hilarious!  But, what was most meaningful about this year's program was that Dave was scheduled to participate in this program a year ago, but Sophie became seriously ill and her arrival to Duke was delayed.  Having this take place this year with a healthy Barry family was incredibly impactful on multiple levels for our community. 

This year was the first time in recent years that there wasn’t a home football game during Family Weekend; nevertheless, families supported the Blue Devils! The Viewing Party on Crown Commons was packed before the beginning of the Duke-UNC game. There were no empty chairs in sight. Smells of popcorn and cotton candy, a giant projector, and fans of all ages set the stage for a very exciting game. The a cappella group Lady Blue graced viewers with a beautiful and fun halftime performance. At the end of the night, our only complaint was conceding to that other team in a lighter shade of blue. 

The Duke Parents Advisory Council (DPAC) also met on Saturday. DPAC has existed for over a decade, providing feedback and insights to student affairs senior leadership. Over the years, the parent members have been privy to behind the scenes decision-making, learning about new initiatives, and many hard hat tours. Given that Family Weekend 2019 served as DPAC's first meeting with our new Vice Provost/Vice President for Student Affairs, Mary Pat McMahon, Saturday provided a chance to reset and reconsider how DPAC would support student affairs divisional senior leadership. The morning focused on welcoming DPAC's newest members, reviewing meta-trends in higher education, and mutual discourse on effective partnerships with families. Overall, the dialogue was spirited, insightful, and yielded a future model for DPAC that will include topic-based mini-consultant breakout groups on issues that student affairs is addressing. 

Sadly, Sunday meant families had to wrap up their weekends and say their goodbyes to Duke and their students.  Parent and Family Programs is grateful for yet another opportunity to welcome families to campus and enable them to spend quality time with their students in one of the places that has become their student’s home. Our favorite moments always include working the check-in table in the Bryan Center and watching reunions between students and families. The genuine excitement on both sides will fuel our planning for Family Weekend 2020. Until then, keep in touch!

- The Parent and Family Programs Team