In response to a state directive, the University of Oregon is asking students who are parents to fill out a questionnaire, which will provide data to help address disparities that impede the academic success of those students.
In mid-May, the Office of the Registrar emailed all UO students a student parent survey in compliance with the Oregon Legislature’s Senate Bill 564 and following guidance from the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.
The survey will help the UO identify students who are parents and work in conjunction with the Student Well-being and Success Initiative and the Students as Parents Needs Assessment, which are part of the Office of Assessment and Research in the Division of Student Life.
“This bill is a good step because it helps us get more of an idea of who student parents are and what needs they have,” said Whitney Donielson, coordinator for nontraditional student engagement and success in the Office of the Dean of Students. “On the survey they can talk about their concerns, so we know what we need to be advocating for and helping them with.”
One student parent at the forefront of advocacy is Alyssa Callender, a master’s student in prevention science who works as a student parent advocate for the Nontraditional Student Program. As the mother of a young child, Callender has personally experienced the challenges of being a student parent at the UO.
“It’s really been a lot. I don’t know how I’ve been doing it,” Callender said, noting that responsibilities like child care are not faced by all UO students. But for students like Callender, providing care can often conflict with academics.
“It shouldn’t have to be parenting or education,” Callender said. “The university has a lot of room for growth, but it takes the people with the decision-making power to acknowledge that changes are needed.”
One change on the horizon is an advocacy group for students who are parents, guardians and caregivers, spearheaded by the Nontraditional Student Program, the Nontraditional Student Union, and campus partners. They are combining survey data and their own research to help better support those students through resources, programs and services.
“There’s no reason not to move forward with supportive programming,” Callender said. “There’s no reason not to invest in it. We are always going to have parenting, caregiving and guardian students.”
To learn more about the student parent advocacy group or get involved, contact Donielson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—By Anna Persell, Student Services and Enrollment Management
—Top photo: A 2022 graduate celebrates commencement with child