October 23, 2006

C.U. Hosts Parents

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The hallucinogenic subject matter of Plant Pathology professor George Hudler’s lecture on “Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds” does little to faze the average Cornellian, but is the same true for their parents? Cornell had a chance to find out this weekend as the annual First-Year Family Weekend kicked off Friday, featuring a weekend of lectures, a cappella concerts and the chance for parents to experience life on the hill.

Planned by the New Student Programs committee, First-Year Family Weekend is
#38 on “The 105 Things Every Parent of a Cornellian Should Do.” Friday, the first of the three-day program, offered open classes in every college on campus, with choices ranging from Culinary Theory to Architectural Design. Afternoon open houses, with over a dozen campus locales including Sage Chapel and the Cornell Abroad office, welcomed parents with tours and Q&A sessions.

On Saturday, the deans of each colleges hosted breakfasts for parents, followed by lectures and workshops on everything from Prof. Hudler’s popular fungus talk to a panel on “Housing Beyond the First Year.” Saturday evening, the Key Elements co-ed a cappella group had their fall concert, Rocktoberfest!, and President David J. Skorton displayed his saxophone skills at the C.U. Music Collage concert with the Cornell Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble and Jazz Ensemble.

The City of Ithaca also welcomed visitors for First-Year Family Weekend. A welcome letter to families from Ithaca mayor Carolyn Peterson touted Ithaca’s diversity—“beautiful scenery, wineries, elegant restaurants and funky bistros,” and encouraging parents to “[learn] what the first year at Cornell is like.”

The Ithaca Visitors Bureau saw an increase in activity this weekend as parents stopped by to inquire about area attractions. The Bureau reported that about 50 to 75 percent of the out-of-town walk-ins were Cornell family members.

Jessica Wiggins, who works at the Visitors Bureau, said that “you definitely see a lot of visitors on family weekend,” noting that many who stopped by were parents looking for ways to fill their time while students had homework. She said that the most frequent suggestions to inquiring parents were Taughannock Falls and the wine and art trails.

With Saturday’s warmer temperatures and lack of rain, many Cornell families headed downtown to Ithaca Commons, where red-and-white signs welcoming family weekend visitors decorated storefronts. Wiggins said that an e-mail was sent out to Chamber of Commerce member businesses to let them know of the expected increase in visitors for First-Year Family Weekend.

Student and parent response to the weekend was positive, with Thomas Murray ’10 saying that he thought First-Year Family Weekend was “a great idea.” Murray’s parents visited his PE class, and his brother sat in on his chemistry class Friday afternoon. “My parents really liked it,” said Murray, “[because] it gave them a lot to do.”

Similarly enthusiastic was Melissa Barry ’10, who said she “loved showing [my parents] around Cornell this weekend,” making stops at the Cornell Dairy Bar and Wegman’s. The First-Year Family Weekend festivities ended Sunday, with Cornell Hillel’s Jewish Student Union sponsoring the “Have a Nosh on Hillel” bagel brunch, that featured performances from a cappella group the Chai Notes and the Latin-Israeli dance troupe. Cornell Tradition also held a breakfast, and dining halls on North and West opened their doors to families for Sunday brunch.

In a letter addressed to parents and students in the First-Year Family Weekend schedule, assistant dean of students and event chair Lisa K’Bedford ’96, described the weekend’s purpose as “a time to walk in your student’s shoes and explore all that the campus and local community have to offer.”