New group supports student parents

Student parents and their families enjoy Family Fun Night at the Fieldhouse.
Student parents and their families enjoy Family Fun Night at the Fieldhouse.
Posted on

A new student organization that supports and connects student parents with each other is forming at Grand Valley.

The group is open to any of the 900 undergraduate students who are parents, said Jeannette Bunda, a student who is majoring in English, Spanish and elementary education and has a 4-year-old son.

Bunda said the new group will help create opportunities for student parents and their families to meet each other and have family-friendly fun. Her son, Jackson, stays at the Children’s Enrichment Center on campus while Bunda is in class. “Sometimes I will see him and other kids enjoying activities on campus,” she said. “It’s comforting to know that he’s so close to me while I’m at class.”

Sharalle Arnold, director of the Children’s Enrichment Center, said the idea for a new student organization formed after the Center’s Advisory Council evaluated campus trends, both at Grand Valley and nationally, with students who are parents.

“Student engagement is linked to student retention, and as the number of student parents increase, more resources are needed for them,” Arnold said. “It’s important that they have access to child care and other resources needed for them to succeed as a student.”

Lisa Hickman, associate professor of sociology and member of the CEC Advisory Council, said the number of undergraduate student parents is on the rise both at Grand Valley and at universities across the country. Hickman and Arnold stated in an article they wrote for the fall 2012 issue of the College of Education’s Colleagues Magazine that of all the parents enrolled in higher education, more than one million are found at four-year institutions, comprising 13.1 percent of their total population.

Hickman said the CEC Advisory Council is focusing on collecting more detailed data on undergraduate student parents at Grand Valley regarding family-friendly policies and programs on campus. “We look forward to learning more about student parents and how we can continue to support them so they get the most out of their Laker experience,” she said.

Arnold said, “This new group will provide an opportunity for student parents to meet each other and learn more about the resources available to them and their children at Grand Valley.”

For more information about the new group, contact Sharalle Arnold at (616) 331-5437 or arnoldsh@gvsu.edu.