Whitman faculty teach, parent college-aged young adults

Audrey Davis

Beginning at 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19, Family Weekend will commence, uniting Whitman students with their parents for the next three days. Many Whitman staff members can relate to the visiting parents, as their own children are also in college and going through the same things.

Barbara Hoffman, assistant director of the Off-Campus Studies Center, has three sons, the eldest of which is a first-year at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. Living close to campus, she has found it to be beneficial in preparing him for his own college experience.

“I think our proximity to college students has provided a lot of teachable moments for our family about drinking, language and behavior in public. There’s nothing like a sea of red solo cups across the alley to help start a conversation with a son about responsible drinking in college,” said Hoffman in an email.

Jan Crouter, associate professor of economics, recently had two children involved with the college process, a daughter who is a recent graduate of Colorado College and a son who is a current sophomore at Willamette University.

As is the case with many parents, she began truly learning about her children at the very beginning of their interactions with entering college: the application process.

“In each case, their application essays made me see my children with new eyes. They only shared their essays with us (my husband and me) at the final editing stage, and it was really interesting to see the close-to-home topics they each chose for their essays (my daughter’s essay was lighthearted and funny, and my son’s was more serious) and the way they chose to reveal themselves,” said Crouter in an email.

And, like many Whitman students, her children are no exception to finding new interests around their college campuses.

“Adjusting to college led our kids to new interests and habits, some of which have surprised us. Of course, this is appropriate and good, but it is also strange!” said Crouter in an email.

Similarities between the ages of her students and children have also led to interesting coincidences relating the two.

“Occasionally we will realize that we both have common acquaintances as my relationships with students and my kids’ relationships with friends and friends of friends overlap, and that is both an odd and fun thing!” said Crouter in an email.

As children of both staff members and proud Whittie parents are adjusting to life in college, their families are making adjustments to their home life.

“Being 1,700 miles away can be a little tricky at times, but the distance also forces [my son] to be independent and it forces all of us back here in Walla Walla to adjust to this new normal. A lot of other parents have asked me how I’m doing having my oldest far away at college. I think they expect me to be really sad, but frankly it’s been a good transition,” said Hoffman in an email.

Having children making the same transitions as their students means that staff members can share the same worries many parents of Whitman students may be experiencing in the transition into the collegiate academic world.

“For both of my kids, it was a big leap from high school to college-level academics, and it is a huge relief to know that they’ve been able to do it,” said Crouter in an email.

With this relief of knowing a successful transition has been made, parents can relax and allow their children to enjoy furthering their education away from home.

“He loves everything about college, and I certainly don’t want my college-aged kid living in my basement––it’s time for him to go away and make the transition to adulthood. And he’s chosen a college much like Whitman in that he is well supported as he transitions to adulthood,” said Hoffman in an email.

Staff members with similarly aged children of their own not only understand their childrens’ experiences better, but can then also be more sympathetic toward their students.

“I can empathize with what it’s like to be a college kid who’s busy, sleep-deprived and sometimes stressed,” said Hoffman in an email. “I think I’m sometimes motherly with some of my study abroad advisees because that’s part of who I am: I’m a mother.”