Associate Director of Parent Programs Preparing for Reunion, Commencement Events

Camille Dolansky, associate director of Parent Programs and Development, makes daily contact with parents of graduating students.
Posted 05/16/07
Q: Camille, when did you come to Wesleyan and what were you hired in as?

A: I came to Wesleyan in April of 2000, as the assistant to the director of Parent Programs.

Q: What is the mission of the Office of Parent Programs and Development?

A: Our mission is to facilitate communication between parents and the University, as well as within the parent constituency, and to promote the inclusion of parents in the greater Wesleyan community. My job is to support that mission through our written communications with parents; and through the active engagement of volunteers, who focus their efforts in the following main areas: parent-to-parent outreach, career resources, communications and ParentLine, fundraising through The Wesleyan Fund, campus events and local Wesleyan club events.

Q: Who do you work with in Parent Programs and Development?

A: I work with Meg Zocco, director; Frantz Williams, associate director; and Beth Watrous, administrative assistant.

Q: What are some ways Parent Programs helps build relationships with students’ parents and why is this connection important?

A: We begin communicating with parents as early as the Early Decision admission phase of their student’s experience, and maintain regular contact with them throughout the four years via our publications, regularly scheduled email correspondence, the parents Web site, and our parent-to-parent volunteer outreach programs. We engage parents as volunteers, and as resources for future program planning. We serve as a front-line resource for parents who have questions about housing, health and safety issues, academics, dining, and student life, providing information and connections with other University staff as appropriate. As a result of these efforts, parents feel engaged with the University in appropriate and productive ways, and are better able to help guide their students to greater success while here at Wesleyan.

Q: What are some programs your office puts on? How are these staffed?

A: We work closely with the office of the dean of the college to provide Arrival Day programs for parents on academic and co-curricular life on campus. We work closely with special events staff to help develop Homecoming/Family Weekend and Reunion and Commencement programs of interest to parents. We work with regional clubs and networks on off-campus programs and special events for parents. We partner with the office of admission to host admission events and welcome parents to campus during WesFest. We work with other University Relations staff members to enhance fundraising success with parents. Many of these programs benefit from the active participation of parent volunteers and all are supported by colleagues all across campus.

Q: With Reunion and Commencement right around the corner, what is your schedule like?

A: We all are in high gear, in daily contact with many parents of graduating students, answering myriad questions about the weekend ahead and working with our special events team on last-minute details of the events specifically designed for parents. We join a few parents of graduating seniors in hosting two wonderful events: the Champagne Reception for graduating seniors, their families and friends and the Grandparents Reception for graduating seniors and their grandparents. At the invitation of President Bennet, parents working in the field of education may elect to march in a special section of the commencement procession to honor their graduating seniors.

Q: How often do you interact with students’ parents?

A: I spend a significant portion of each day talking with parents on the phone and corresponding with parents via e-mail, especially at key points during the year like just prior to Arrival Day, Homecoming/Family Weekend, and Reunion and Commencement. As time and financial resources permit, I visit parent volunteers, and attend off-campus events, such as summer send-offs and regional programs involving parents.

Q: What are typical questions or concerns parents have? How do you help answer the questions or resolve problems?

A: Questions from parents cover a very broad spectrum, from “where can I stay when I come to visit?” to “My student is graduating but hasn’t yet secured a job… who can help?” to “My student’s advisor is on sabbatical…to whom should he turn for academic advice?” In many cases, I’m able to provide answers myself. In other cases, I connect the parent with the appropriate person on campus. Many times, I simply listen long enough to help ease the tension. Parents often want to intervene, to fix whatever problem exists. I encourage those folks to allow their students to resolve their own problems. My answers often start with the phrase “Your student can…” It’s a difficult transition for many parents.

Q: What is the Parents Council?

A: All parents are “members” of the Parents Council, simply by virtue of being the parent of a Wesleyan student. It is simply a framework for involvement in the Wesleyan community. No dues are required, unless you take into account the cost of tuition! And membership is all-inclusive. Volunteer recruitment and engagement are conducted within this framework.

Q: What led you to work in Parent Programs? What do you like most about your job?

A: As the beneficiary of a small liberal arts university education, I was drawn to the notion of working with lots of creative, intelligent folks in a not-for-profit setting. Where better to do so than a highly selective liberal arts university? Working with parents has been a uniquely rewarding, and certainly educational, experience. I have been most pleasantly surprised by the long-term friendships I’ve established with many of the parents with whom I’ve worked. Ah, there’s that relationship thing again!

Q: How do you keep in touch with parents?

A: Our communication plan involves printed publications – the Handbook for Parents, the PARENTLINE newsletter, the welcome mailing for new families, correspondence from University officials – the parents Web site at; regular e-mails throughout the year; phone calls and e-mails to and from individual parents; volunteer recruitment and programming; parent-to-parent communications via our volunteer programs; and the ParentsTalk list, to name a few. We view communication as the key to involving this world-wide constituency in the community.

Q: What is your educational background and what were you doing before you joined the Parent Programs staff?

A: I earned a bachelor’s of art in sociology from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. I’ve enjoyed a rather eclectic professional life, working mostly in the non-profit world, such as Planned Parenthood and the Mental Health Association. Prior to my relocation from Florida to Connecticut in 1999, I was the Computer Services Specialist for the American Lung Association of Southeast Florida.

Q: Are you a parent yourself?

A: Spouse Greg and I are the proud parents of two extremely spoiled felines, neither of whom exhibit any interest or ability in pursuing a college education.

Q: What are your hobbies and interests?

A: I love — in no particular order — Sunday afternoon football, playing golf on a warm summer day, living the quiet life in the woods of Connecticut with Greg and the kitties. A good book is high on the list too. I’d love to learn to paint in water colors someday.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor