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President's Blog: From the Heart

The Flyer Family

By Eric F. Spina

Who doesn’t do better when mom and dad are in your corner? And how about lots of moms and dads?

As a university, we’re definitely doing better with the help of Flyer parents and guardians who comprise the now three-year-old Parent Leadership Council (PLC), a growing group of highly engaged parents who are working closely with campus leaders, Karen, and me to support not just their student but *all* students.

My fellow administrators and I are invigorated after every meeting (in person until March and now via Zoom!) and feel truly blessed by the passion and commitment these volunteer leaders demonstrate at every opportunity.

We have created a highly meaningful two-way street, with us providing insight to key aspects of the University and our operations, and the PLC members providing invaluable perspectives on a wide range of pressing issues. Just in the past few months, they weighed in on how we’re transforming the way we deliver education during the pandemic, and they've helped communicate our approach to other parents about lessening the risk of COVID-19 spread on campus. They’re offering advice on how we can support our students of color during the greatest racial unrest in our country since the civil rights era. And we have discussed the mental health needs on our and all college campuses that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Beyond that, the PLC families have stepped up financially to support some of our greatest needs. When COVID-19 abruptly halted learning on campus in the spring, they donated more than $38,000 to the Student Crisis Fund to help our most vulnerable students. They understand that we must remove financial barriers for high-achieving underrepresented students if we are to become a more diverse and inclusive campus and have helped support the Flyer Promise program, among other initiatives.

Deeply engaged, the PLC has tripled its membership over the past three years and is inviting other parents to become involved. In all, UD parents donated more than $1 million in private support last fiscal year that has directly impacted the experience of all students.

I’m humbled by their belief in UD and the power of a UD education. Listen to a few of the voices on the PLC about why they care so deeply:

“What I like about the PLC is that I can be involved without being overly involved in my child’s life,” says Melanie Twomey, of Potomac, Maryland, who co-chairs the council with her husband Andy. “For me, it fills the personal satisfaction of being able to understand what’s going on in her world, and without being a ‘helicopter parent.’”

“I thought it was lip service, but the University walks the walk that we talk about diversity and inclusion,” said Turqoise Loera of Milwaukee. “Gilbert and I raised our kids in a multicultural, socio-economically and racially diverse environment, and we want to be a voice.”

Mike Abrams, of Columbus, says he’s “enthusiastic about the direction” the University is taking. His wife Mary Ann ’79 adds, “We care deeply about the University’s mission and its commitment to the common good and Marianist values.”

Pete and Erin Ragland, of Cincinnati, co-chaired the PLC for its first two years. “It’s healthy for me to hear viewpoints of people different from me. That’s opened my eyes,” he said. “I think the PLC is a force for good. We’re not going to change the world, but parents having a voice is healthy.”

Our parent leaders say they value brainstorming with the administrative team and bringing their perspective to bear on issues. “Not all of the ideas lead to action, but they all give the administration a perspective on concerns and options to respond. It shows real concern and is part of what makes the school so special,” Melanie observes.

I’m so energized by their passion and resonate with their desire to bring the voice of parents to the table.

“Our voices," one says, "are what make our community the strongest."

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