Parents of current undergraduate students can take two college courses for free with the Parent-On-Campus Program at St. Thomas.
“Many parents are surprised when they find out that the university offers this as a benefit,” University Registrar Paul Simmons said.
This fall a total of 72 parents are taking courses on campus: 62 non-degree and 10 degree-seeking. This number is about the same every semester, Simmons said.
“I think it is an amazing opportunity for parents,” senior Kori Trenda said. “I don’t know a lot of other students who have parents in the program, and I have only had one or two classes that had parents in them. I think it should be advertised, because I think a lot of people do not know about it.”
Trenda’s mother, Ann Trenda, has taken five courses as a parent on campus.
“My favorite was probably Theo 305: Theologies of Justice and Peace, because of its impact on me,” Trenda said. “The subject matter covered history to current social justice and was so pertinent to current issues.”
Parent requirements and restrictions
Registration for parents is based on course space availability five days prior to the first day of classes, which gives students first priority to register.
“Many parents in the program already have some form of higher education and are interested in upper-level courses, so there are often more spaces available for them in those classes,” Simmons said.
Parents are allowed to take only undergraduate courses during the fall and spring semesters. They cannot take study abroad courses or courses at other ACTC schools, except for degree-seeking parents with majors or minors in the School of Social Work at the College of St. Catherine.
Student reaction to parents on campus
“My mother is more hesitant than me about taking the class. I am the one who has been pushing her to take one ever since we found out about the program,” senior Amy Zimniewicz said. “I think it is a great opportunity for our parents, especially those who may be empty-nesters like mine and have more time on their hands after work.”
Students have also been known to give their parents advice on what courses they think they should take.
“I have told my mom about Dr. Buri’s Psych of Marriage and Family class because I loved it so much and I knew she would too,” Kori Trenda said.
Senior Stephany Tejeda said she was proud of her mother when her mom took a class and was even more overjoyed when her mother chose to take a class she had previously taken.
“I think [taking the same course] made my mom more comfortable getting back into the school-mode since she had been away from the atmosphere for so long,” Tejeda said.
“I have found all St. Thomas students to be very kind and welcoming,” Trenda said. “All the students and professors that I have interacted with have been very helpful and polite.”
Parent Kathleen Nelson has taken four courses in the program and said she will miss attending classes at St. Thomas after her senior son, Weston Nelson, graduates.
“It’s fun, I really enjoy it. It’s my entertainment and I do it for me,” Nelson said about going back to school. “I feel like I am actually learning, and a lot has to do with my opportunity to interact and connect with my professors.”
Nelson said she would like to major in either history or art history and plans to take another course in both majors next semester.
“I love this learning community,” Nelson said. “It fits my learning style well.”
Ariel Kendall can be reached at email@example.com.