Pomona College Magazine
Volume 41. No. 2.
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Pomona College Magazine is published three times a year by Pomona College
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Of Empty Nests of Cheers from the Pier
By creating a Parent Relations Program, Pomona hopes to keep parents connected.

As the swallows return to San Juan Capistrano in August, another noteworthy migration happens several miles to the north when Sagehens arrive in Claremont. Pomona College greets returning students and welcomes a new “brood” as they begin their four-year academic and social journey. This year, however, birdwatchers will see something new: the College is expanding its flock with increased programming for proud Mom and Pop Sagehens, too.

Few moments in life are as significant as that day fledglings leave the nest and prepare to soar on their own. For many, that independence begins at a college or university. Schools have a long tradition of preparing students for life away from the nest, and increasingly they’re developing programs to help parents with the transition as well. Pomona reaches out to parents through its new-parent orientation program and events designed to encourage and enhance family visits to campus; however, the College also recognizes increasing interest in a centrally coordinated effort to supply parents with information and programming throughout the school year.

Facts and figures attest to a strong and sustained interest in Pomona from its parents. Parent participation in the Annual Fund set new records for the College in 2003–04 and again in 2004–05, and interest in Pomona College Magazine, College-related news and Pomona-citings in the media continues to grow. Senior Director of Alumni and Parent Relations Richard Watkins notes that parental interest in the College is unusually robust. “We have many past parents who feel so good about Pomona that they continue to support the College after their sons and daughters have graduated,” he says. “They have no other affiliation to the College but they remain deeply connected to us. I am continually amazed at the number of parents of alumni who come to regional events. When I see a past parent whose child graduated in the mid-1970s, I am reminded about the lasting relationships that parents can have with this community.”

To foster that interest and strengthen existing ties between the College and parents, Pomona launched a Parent Relations program as part of its institutional advancement and development efforts, and appointed Lucia Miltenberger to serve as its director.

Miltenberger—working with Watkins, Assistant Director of Annual Giving Jerusha Ogden ’02 (who coordinates parental support to the annual fund), and other offices and programs throughout the College—planned this year’s parent orientation and revised the Parent Handbook. She is also exploring opportunities for parental involvement, including local and regional events. She hopes to serve as a bridge between Pomona parents and those offices on campus—such as the Career Development Office—where a parent’s network might be beneficial. She also plans to develop avenues for soliciting parent feedback for important communication tools such as the College’s Web site and publications.

As the mother of two college graduates, Miltenberger has an understanding of parental concerns; she also worked with Pomona students for five years in her previous position as the associate director of Pomona College’s Public Policy Analysis Program (see story below). She has been familiarizing herself with that particular rare bird—the Pomona Parent—by meeting with Mom and Pop Sagehens, including Jim and Diana Cusser of Mission Hills, Kansas, whose daughter, Sarah, is a senior. The couple has agreed to serve as volunteer leaders for the College’s parent relations efforts.

Jim Cusser takes a professional’s view when it comes to Pomona and parents. “First, like a physician, the parents’ group should do no harm,” he notes. “Pomona has an excellent academic culture, and we parents ought not tamper with that. The parents ought to contribute what we can to fortify what is already in place.” He also notes that Pomona parents, as professionals, have more to offer to the College than merely their offspring and tuition checks. “We are not only parents; we are also physicians, engineers, teachers, retailers, economists and attorneys. We are beginning to be recognized as honorary citizens of the Pomona community, and as such, we ought to contribute our share.”

Miltenberger also understands that Pomona has something invaluable to offer parents in return. “Parents support an institution with their interest and resources because they feel their children are receiving a good education in a supportive environment,” she says. Her goal is to create an equally supportive environment for parents through programming and information.

As a seasoned Pomona parent, Cusser believes that mothers and fathers have a defined role with their sons’ and daughters’ alma mater. “I’d like to think that parents can fortify a liberal arts experience with money, talent, ideas, cheerleading and, frankly, a letting-go,” he says, noting media coverage about so-called “helicopter parents” who become so wrapped up in their children’s lives that they forget a meaningful college experience equips students to navigate life’s waters on their own. To illustrate that sometimes delicate balance of being concerned parents who also leave plenty of room for their children to develop as adults, he relates the insight of a coworker from his days on Wall Street.

“She told me that she liked to go to watch and cheer on the sailboat racers in Rhode Island. I asked her if she sailed, and she told me no. She liked to cheer from the piers. Well, I feel like I am cheering for my daughter’s liberal arts education from ‘the pier.’ As loud as I cheer, I don’t think she hears me, and that’s all for the good.”
—David Scott

College Parent Knows Her Flock

Director of Parent Relations Lucia Miltenberger knows firsthand the issues parents of college students face. Her daughter received her undergraduate degree from the University of Portland, and her son received his from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington; both started out at other institutions before transferring to schools that better fit their needs.

³I think it¹s important for students to find the educational environment that¹s right for them,² she notes.

Before taking on her new role, Miltenberger served as associate director of the College¹s Public Policy Analysis Program.

Prior to her career in education, Miltenberger worked as an administrator for a hospice and a nursing home. Of her career path, she notes, ³After years of working with people at the end of their lives, I wanted to work with bright, enthusiastic people who were just launching their adult lives. I now have the good fortune of bringing student experiences and needs closer to parents.²

©Copyright 2004
by Pomona College
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