University News

Family Weekend showcases student life

Weekend attendance surges by about 300 families, up from 1,400 last year to 1,740

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, October 24, 2016

Though Family Weekend opened with rain and gloomy skies, the weather did not dampen the spirit of the festivities. This year, 1,740 families visited campus, a significant jump from about 1,400 last year, said Mikele St-Germain, assistant director of event and conference services.

Over the weekend, the coordinating committee aimed to foreground the range of academic opportunities at Brown, allow families to experience student life and ensure that everyone was having fun, wrote Carol Cohen ’83, senior associate dean for class advising, in an email to The Herald.

These themes were echoed in President Christina Paxson’s P’19 welcome speech Friday evening. Paxson praised the University’s “unusually self-motivated” students and how they are “driven by the idea that their work will make an impact on the world.”

She also mentioned the freedom to direct one’s education — enabled by the open curriculum — and said it leads to classrooms of passionate students energized by the courses they take. In addition, Paxson discussed campus activism and the role students have played in changing University policy and building new programs, such as the First-Generation College and Low-Income Student Center.

Though Paxson’s speech is usually followed by a keynote address from the parent of a current student, this year attendees heard a “keynote concert,” St-Germain said. John Pizzarelli P’20, a renowned jazz guitarist and singer, performed with his wife Jessica Molaskey P’20, a Broadway actress and singer.

The weekend was packed with concerts put on by student a cappella groups and other music ensembles, Shakespeare on the Green’s production of “Hamlet,” sporting events — including a football win against Cornell — and open houses for different centers around campus, including the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice and the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center.

Faculty members hosted academic forums that covered a range of topics, such as the genetics of autism, race and justice in America and the 2016 election. There were also presentations on undergraduate education, campus life and alumni connections.

“We wanted to find a balance between allowing parents to spend time with their kids and (organizing) events they want to attend,” St-Germain said, adding that the committee tried to limit the number of overlapping events so that parents did not have to miss anything.

Families cited Brown’s rigorous education and friendly community as reasons for their overall positive impressions of the University. The racial, cultural and educational diversity of the University were also mentioned as key attributes.

Sanjai Narain P’18 and Renu Narain P’18 said they liked how professors were always approachable and available to their son when he was deciding on a concentration. “He found opportunities that we could not even have thought of,” Sanjai Narain said.

John Calaway P’20 and Laura Calaway P’20, who live in Houston, Texas, said it was “nice to be in an environment where people are more progressive in their thinking,” and Brown seems to be the “picture-perfect college experience.”

Parents also admired the University’s commitment to both sports and academics. Thomas Frongillo P’20 and Rita Frongillo P’20 said they liked that the opportunity was available for their son to continue his sprinting career here.

But above all, parents said the most important thing was that their student seemed to be happy.

Daniel Feinstein P’20 and Rose Ann Wasserman P’20 said they hoped their daughter “wouldn’t get burned out” by her heavy workload with classes and extracurricular activities but that she seemed to be enjoying it. “I didn’t know, until we really came, how much (our daughter) loves it here,” Feinstein said.

John Wu P’20 said he liked the extensive library resources available and was satisfied that his daughter has access to everything she needs, from food to books. “I just want to make sure she’s happy,” Wu said.

Bearing in mind the University’s goals to become more diverse and inclusive, the coordinating committee also has plans to keep families who are not able to travel to campus updated on the weekend’s events, Cohen said. The upcoming newsletter mailed to all families will feature the highlights of Family Weekend, and the committee has sent relevant materials to families who have requested them, she added.

“This is one of our favorite events to plan,” St-Germain said. “It’s nice to see all of the families so excited.”

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