In a nondescript office building across Franklin Boulevard from the main UO campus, Cora Bennett and Tiffany Fritz are sitting across from each other inside a cramped, cluttered storage closet, just big enough for a small table equipped with four microphones.
Bennett and Fritz are talking about how parents and families can best support and communicate with their University of Oregon students as they hit the midpoint of fall term.
“It’s a good time to ask questions,” Fritz said, “about sleep, food, working out, the social-academic balance and reminding students about wellness.”
Fritz is director of parent and family programs at the UO. Bennett is director of student orientation programs. Their conversation is being recorded for a future episode of Flock Talk, the UO’s podcast aimed at parents and families of students.
The podcast launched last July and to date more than a dozen have been released. Topics include academic advising, managing midterms, the university counseling center, campus safety, what happens when nonacademic things don’t go as planned, preventing sexual violence and navigating university dining.
“The idea is to keep parents and family members engaged in as many as possible,” said Bennett, who serves as the primary podcast host.
“Parents and family members are a big influence in the way new students think about where they’re going to go to college,” she said. “They are the primary advisors, so it’s important they’re staying informed.”
Fritz said the podcast is a great way to do that. They can listen while doing others things, such as driving in the car, taking a walk or doing the dishes.
Part of the mission of the podcasts is to help parents and families, and by extension their students, navigate what can be a confusing university system.
“Going to college is way more complicated than it was,” Bennett said. “There are so many more systems. It’s not as rote as when family members might remember registering for classes in a gymnasium.”
Parents and families learn about the UO during IntroDUCKtion, the UO’s long-running summer orientation program, but “it’s a ton of information and it’s overwhelming,” Bennett said. “We wanted to back that up.”
The podcasts are intended to complement the communication and events offered by Fritz’s office, including a regular newsletter and parent and family weekend, Bennett said.
Oregon is among a handful of universities using the podcast medium to reach parents and families, reflecting the importance of keeping this constituency informed and engaged. The University of Iowa, Boston University, Manchester University and Utah State University are among the institutions that have launched such podcasts.
Bennett has been involved in university orientation for 18 years. Her personality and sense of humor make her a good host for the podcasts, Fritz said.
“Cora has been on this campus a long time,” Fritz said. “She has a fun personality — very conversational and easy to talk to.”
To date, the Flock Talk podcasts have been downloaded almost 3,000 times; the biggest single month was September, with almost 1,200 downloads.
The plan is to do a full year’s worth of episodes and produce some episodes aimed at parents and families of high school students, helping them navigate the college search process.
Flock Talk can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and other sites that feature podcasts.
—By Tim Christie, University Communications