Many departments within the university utilize Facebook pages to share information with the world. The Office of Parent Services (OPS) has a Facebook page for the purposes of sharing family/student support information, announcements, and tips. Many student clubs/organizations/individuals also have Facebook pages and groups (i.e. Rideshare, Buy/Sell). Unlike a Facebook page which is public, a group is private and community-based and often connects people around a specific topic. The main difference is a group is closed meaning you have to get permission to join the group. Just like students the UMass Amherst Parents Association (UMAPA) Advisory Council also has a Facebook group. It’s called Family to Family.
What is the purpose of the UMAPA Family to Family Facebook Group?
One of the goals of the Family to Family Facebook group is to provide avenues for parents/family/guardians to network, connect with, and support each other. To that end in 2015 Neena Verma (Former Chair of UMAPA), Kathleen Sweeney Small (Former Board Member – emeritus) decided to join the trend and started the UMass Amherst Family to Family Facebook Group. Family to Family is for all undergraduate parent/guardians of current and alumni students. The group was created by and is managed and maintained by parent volunteers (in their spare time 😊). It is not monitored 24/7 and posts and comments do not reflect the opinions of the University nor the Office of Parent Services. Representatives from the Office of Parent Services and support areas are members of the group not to respond to posts/comments but to learn more about families and what’s on their mind.
All in all, the group provides a medium for families to connect and support each other – after all it’s not only our students transitioning to another chapter in their lives but also us as parents/family members.
Are there rules?
The rules are described in detail online in the “About this Group” section. Since its inception, family volunteer admins/moderators are committed to keeping this private (closed) group a productive, positive, and safe place for other families. There are common sense rules that fit the purpose of the group. In summary, we ask families to also:
- Be kind and courteous and treat everyone with respect
- Being part of a group requires mutual trust.
- Be mindful of students’ and members’ need for privacy
- Refrain from being political
- It’s simple. There are other forums for political and controversial debate/discussions. This isn’t one of them.
- Recognize the humanity in everyone
- No hate speech, discrimination, harassment, bullying or degrading comments
In addition, self-promotion, spam and irrelevant links aren’t allowed, and we reserve the right to remove non-productive posts/comments without notice.
What is it not?
As stated earlier, our Family to Family Facebook members share experiences and knowledge and therefore are great assets to each other. However, university policies and procedures change from time to time, so it is essential that as families we take the time to review the UMass Amherst website and/or contact the relevant department before commenting, giving advice on a particular topic, or embracing others’ opinion as facts. We also need to remember that one size does not fit all when it comes to students’ development and college experience. What may have been the best course of action for one family may not be right for another. The Office of Parents Services website is a wonderful resource as well as the Single Stop Resources page. These are great sources to refer your student to for information (or the My UMass app).
In short, if you have questions on the University stance or communication on a topic, we encourage you to contact the university directly. Remember, we are families with opinion and experience to share NOT University administrators, faculty, or staff who know the ins and outs and are well equipped to assist in various situations.
How can I utilize the Family to Family group?
We are continually learning about new features to enhance the group. It’s quite the experience! The following are some effective tools to use:
- Type any topic of interest in the search bar (identified by a magnifying glass and located on the left side of the page). All discussion threads related to that topic will get highlighted and will be available for you to review more easily thus providing you with a wealth of feedback on the topic from fellow parents/families.
- Use the Topic Tags icon on the right side of the page (known as Popular Topics in Posts) to find relevant posts. Please note that not everything will be tagged. The goal is to make it easier for the user to find information and to reduce redundant posts. What is nice is it automatically sorts topics by newest first. So, the next time you have a question about study abroad for example, just go to Topic Tag, click on Study Abroad, and scroll through!
Are you interested in joining?
Many of us (Kathleen and I included) have formed friendships through the group and according to members, the group helps them feel more connected to life on campus and their students. So, if you are not a member of the UMass Amherst Family to Family Facebook group, we invite you to join the group to connect with other undergraduate families. In order to join, you will need to answer three specific questions, including agreeing to adhere to the rules of the group. Note: You will not gain access otherwise.
Penny Nichols-Cordero is the parent of a senior and the Chair of the UMass Amherst Parents Advisory Council and Kathleen Small is the parent of a former UMass Amherst student and a former member of the UMass Amherst Parents Advisory Council.