As Clemson University and most institutions of higher education across the United States have transitioned to the world of online learning, an onslaught of information and communication has been thrown at students.

One of the charges University officials have reiterated is ensuring a similar level of communication trickles down to families.

Clemson students and their families go through a 2019 summer Orientation session.

Clemson students and families during a 2019 summer Orientation session.
Image Credit: Student Affairs Publications

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started ramping up across the nation, more than 20,000 parents of current Clemson students have received much of the same information that’s been disseminated to students, faculty and staff.

Communicating with families is not a novel concept at Clemson. Student Transitions and Family Programs — a department that has now been reorganized into different areas of Student Affairs — was responsible for publishing monthly newsletters for parents from 2015 through 2019.

As the 2019 fall semester progressed, Clemson officials were introduced to a new opportunity through an online portal known as CampusESP. It provided a chance to shift to a web-based, interactive medium to ensure more frequent communication with a critical audience.

Behind the support of Clemson Family Advisory Board (CFAB) chair Kelly Rose — a Clemson graduate and current Tiger parent — Student Affairs launched the Clemson Parent & Family Experience in January.

“The new Clemson Parent & Family Experience offers a great opportunity to customize events, deadlines and interest items that are specific to my student’s needs,” Rose said. “As a Clemson Family Advisory Board member, I love that this program allows the university to be more proactive in its communication while providing links to relevant information in one place. Thank you Student Affairs for this cutting-edge platform!”

Head shot of Kelly Rose, Clemson Family Advisory Board chair

Kelly Rose chairs the Clemson Family Advisory Board and was a staunch advocate for the new online portal Student Affairs uses for family communications.
Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

Leona Forrest-Dinkins and her husband Chris are CFAB members alongside Rose and also have enjoyed the chance to connect to all things Clemson. Their daughter, Barbara, graduated from Clemson and was a former Student Affairs advisory board member. They were first introduced to CampusESP through their son when he was enrolled at Coastal Carolina University.

“As a parent, it’s important for me to be aware of situations that may require some reinforcement from me,” Forrest-Dinkins said. “Students may be so focused on their day to day academic and social responsibilities that they may not deem it a priority to inform parents of situations, events or campus changes that may have a direct impact on them.

“Receiving the newsletter via email is very convenient for me and the outline makes it easy to read a few articles at a time. I can easily see key dates as well as choose from a number of key areas on campus to read about. I also love that I can discover or join communities that are of interest or importance to me and my family such as safety, student success or financial aid.”

Parents who have signed up for the Clemson Parent & Family Experience have enjoyed several new amenities, including:

  • Electronic newsletters: Parents can now receive newsletters weekly, biweekly, monthly or quarterly with information relevant to them based on communities of interest.
  • Communities: Parents can join specific communities within the portal based on the student’s experience. Communities include health, safety and wellness; campus life; career and professional development; and diversity and inclusion. The portal also supports communities based on a student’s classification (e.g. first-generation).
  • Event registration: Signup for major events such as Fall Family Weekend will take place through the portal. By engaging with the portal, families will be among the first to know once Clemson resumes holding events.
  • Timely announcements: Parents receive relevant information from Student Affairs and university leadership and direct access to special announcements.

Most families are signed up automatically as attendees of New Student Orientation. Those interested in learning more about the portal can register online.

The ability to communicate almost instantaneously with families has been a major benefit to staff in Student Affairs as well.

“This portal is a great asset in communicating with our families and we look forward to seeing them inside the Clemson Parent & Family Experience,” said DeOnte Brown, who spearheaded the efforts to contract with CampusESP and is in the process of shifting management responsibility to Josh Barnes in the Center for Student Leadership and Engagement. “This new portal provides our families with access to news and information of interest as they support students in their Clemson experience.”