Dear Ohio State Mansfield Colleagues,
In my last Bi-Weekly Report, I moved off of the topic of resource stewardship in order to refocus attention on research issues on the Mansfield campus. In this latest report, I wish to discuss yet another distinct subject mattter; namely, how we are moving forward on family engagement efforts called for by our Campus Implementation Plan (CIP). This is timely for two reasons. First, I am writing this report as I finish up my attendance at the National Council on Family Relations Conference (hello from sunny Phoenix!), where I have been exposed to the latest and greatest information from my field on all things having to do with families. Second, there is a brand new article on our Mansfield campus efforts that is “hot off the presses,” published today in Ohio State’s onCampus magazine. Check it out here:
Our CIP calls for us to become involved in a great number of outreach and engagement efforts with our surrounding communities and stakeholders over the next five years. From the CIP document itself we know that:
“The Ohio State University extends Ohio State University courses, curricula and resources geographically, to meet the educational needs of the people of Ohio through its regional campuses. Faculty, staff, students, and the campus has an entity should work to extend its expertise to address local and regional issues through research and service. By extending our expertise into the areas we serve, we build awareness of the university’s smaller campuses and demonstrate our commitment to improving the communities of which we are a part.”
Within the Outreach and Engagement section of our CIP, our campus has created the position of Family Engagement Coordinator in order to create and enhance connections with government, business, civic organizations and P-16 schools (3.1.B). Renee Thompson was hired as our Family Engagement Coordinator this past August, and since that time has spent an enormous amount of her time and energy in meetings with existing and potential partners in surrounding school districts, religious organizations, and business and community leaders. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, our strongest existing partner is the Mansfield City School District, thanks in large part to the tremendous leadership of Superintendent Dan Freund, himself a graduate of Ohio State who got his start on the Mansfield campus. The hope is that our activities within the Mansfield schools quickly will expand to other districts as they learn about the many and varied ways that we are seeking to raise college aspirations that will build pipelines to our campus.
Those who are not familiar with these sorts of activities might well wonder why our campus is putting such an emphasis on family engagement. In the past several years, there has been a lot of discussion in educational circles about the importance of engaging families. Here in Ohio, House Bill 1 established the requirement that all school districts participate in family engagement efforts. In the words of the bill:
“HB 1 establishes family and civic engagement requirements for Ohio’s schools, families and communities. Together, schools, families and communities work to ensure all children have the supports needed to graduate from high school prepared for additional educational experiences, the workforce and healthy lifestyles.”
Regrettably, relatively few practical ideas have been made available to help school personnel actually do something for and with the families of their students. To be clear, a respectable number of resources already exist that discuss actions school personnel can take to become more family-centered in their orientation to the educational process. But sorely lacking are resources that focus on what to actually do with family members when they come into contact with school personnel. In addition, over twenty years of research has made it abundantly clear that family members play a substantial role in their sons’ and daughters’ aspirations to attend college. At the same time, however, precious little attention has been given to the development of family-focused programs that can positively influence attitudes about student participation in post-secondary education.
The family engagement efforts provided by the Ohio State Mansfield campus have been constructed with these knowledge and practice gaps in mind. Some of our activities will include, but by no means be limited to, deliverables such as district-wide family engagement trainings for teachers and other school-based professionals, placement of our admissions counselors at regularly scheduled intervals on site at middle school and high school locations within the district, and hosting family visitation days on The Ohio State University at Mansfield campus for parents and students across the district. Additionally, through Renee’s leadership we will be taking advantage of other existing partnerships with the school districts – including perhaps most significantly the Algebra Project work being undertaken by Professors Lee McEwan, Terri Bucci, and Heather Tanner in the Mansfield City Schools – in order to create family-based components that augment this enduring and exciting work. Finally, there are plenty of indications that Renee’s increased familiarity with our First Year Experience, SMART Program, and Unity/Diversity activities on the Mansfield campus will generate other important
connecting points with the work being done in the school districts as the school to university pipeline is strengthened.
If you are familiar with additional programs and activities in the P-16 realm that might serve as further linkages to the family engagement work described here, please contact Renee Thompson in order to join in the dialogue. In turn, Renee soon will be reaching to the campus community in order to further articulate and refine how her efforts are associated not only with our regional cluster and campus specific strategic plans, but also our capital campaign activities. One way or the other, you are going to be hearing a great deal more from Renee in the upcoming weeks and months… stay tuned and GO BUCKS!