Message from Corey Landstrom, Vice President and Dean for Student Life

Hello from Decorah. We are on the verge of fall break, and I can tell. Students are ready for it. Faculty and staff are ready for it. I am ready for it. Why am I ready? It’s family weekend at my daughter’s college, and it will be the first time we’ve seen her in person since August. What I am not ready for is the 12-hour drive to get there. To help pass the time, we have the podcasts loaded and ready to go. We’ll also have our dog with us, and our daughter is very excited to see her. What about us? we ask. Of course she’s looking forward to seeing us and inviting us into her new home environment.

I know some of you won’t have an opportunity to see your child in person during this break or during the entire semester; I know for some it will be a year or more. I hope that in some way or another you are able to have ongoing, meaningful contact with them. Our daughter has found that the walk  her residence hall to her evening a capella practices is the perfect opportunity for a quick Facetime or call. We’ve found a rhythm for staying in touch that is working for her and us.

When I meet parents during ROAD, the question of communication often arises. There is no right answer other than making sure expectations are set and clear between parents and students. Assumptions do not serve well for managing relationships from a distance. For some families, a weekly touch point is sufficient; others might need check-ins multiple times a week. What the right amount for you and your student is depends upon your relationship and upon how your student is learning to navigate their college experienceAs a student, I found that I was constantly learning how to better manage my college experience.

For my first day of class, I carried all my texts to campus (I lived at home while in college). I quickly realized I did not always need to have them with me. That saved my back in a big way. Oddly, I think my daughter’s high school backpack was as heavy as the one I took to that first day of college classes. I also found it helpful to talk with professors after class or to visit them during their office hours. I also found that attending events on campus is another helpful way to continue learning—and I experience this even as a seasoned professional. You also get to meet new people, such as peers, faculty, and staff, when you do.

There are lots of things for students to navigate during college. Developing meaningful relationships. Choosing what organization(s) to join. Finding the right balance of time for study, work, and friends. Deciding on a major(s). Studying abroad, acquiring an internship or applied learning experience, or taking a semester off. These are some of the big decisions that students confront. Some of these may not be brought to your attention.

As parents, we can provide the best support by doing something challenging: simply listening. Students may appear to want us to make decisions for them. Often, however, they are doing a dry run through a plan and are seeking guidance and counsel. Our role as parents now is less about being the managers of their lives (such as in elementary and secondary school) than about being their consultants.

Students progress through these four years confronting change, disruption, discovery, and more. A scheduled break is a perfect time for them to take inventory of how they see their college experience progressing. Have they stayed on track with the plans they made? Do they need to make plans? What adjustments are necessary? Are they getting enough sleep, eating well, and including movement and exercise in their lives? Are they learning actively in the fullest context of their experience? Are they finding a sense of purpose in their daily lived experience? Can they envision the difference their talents, strengths, and skills will make in the world? Are they committed to making that difference?

My daughter did not travel home during her fall break last week. She experienced a campus that had slowed down tremendously. She took time to do things she didn’t have time to do when classes are in session. She took the opportunity to simply turn off. She slept. She went for runs. She read for pleasure. She binge-watched a favorite show. She gave herself a break. I hope that your student was able to take a truly restful and rejuvenating break. Christmas at Luther is just around the corner!