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Western’s campus welcomes students, their families at the start of Fall Family Weekend

A variety of events encourage family bonding

An illustration of families exploring Isamu Noguchi’s "Skyviewing Sculpture" in Western’s Red Square. Fall Family Weekend takes place from Oct. 21 to 23, 2022, and provides an opportunity for students to show their loved ones their favorite spots around campus. // Illustration by Maren Duffy

Those visiting Western Washington University’s campus this weekend might notice an unusual number of students wandering campus accompanied by their parents or chosen family members. From Oct. 21-23, Fall Family Weekend takes over campus with a wide range of events for students and their visiting families. 

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services Melynda Huskey said Fall Family Weekend is one of her favorite events to organize and witness at Western.

“I think it’s a way to put a bow on the experience of dropping your student off and having your family leave you on campus,” Huskey said. “It’s a chance to have your family see you at Western as your home, instead of as this new place.”

Huskey said she encourages students to take this time to play host and show their families around their residence hall and campus, and check out some of the fun planned events such as the Coraline showing on Oct. 21 in the Performing Arts Center, the Noguchi Exhibit at the Western Gallery, Escape the Libraries escape room on Oct. 21 and a variety of other events. 

Second-year Casey Clark is excited to show her family around campus and Bellingham. 

“I just really like Bellingham. It’s a lot different than my hometown,” Clark said. “This town is way more accepting and diverse in identities – not necessarily race, but identities…everyone expresses themselves here and I like it.”

Joining Clark in Bellingham are her two sisters (ages 20 and 17), her little brother (9) and parents, who she is looking forward to spending quality time with alongside other visiting families.

“I love seeing college kids my age walk around with their parents. I think it’s wholesome, it’s really sweet,” Clark said. “I feel pretty safe here, but parents being able to see that it’s a safe campus and that everyone’s comfortable here does a lot.”

Bellingham Marriage and Family Therapist Kellie Furlan has three children of her own that are around college age. She said an event like Fall Family Weekend has the potential to give parents, guardians and friends some necessary context about a student’s life on campus.

College can be incredibly stressful for both students and the families they leave behind, namely due to the identity shifts that come with changes in independence and responsibility, Furlan said. Furlan refers to this time as a “second toddlerhood.”

“When your kids are preschoolers, they’re out on the playground … they’re doing their thing and then they’re looking back and saying, ‘Did you see me? Was that good?’ or every now and then they’re saying ‘Can you help me? I want to do this.’ Or the parent goes over to help and the child says ‘I can do it myself. Back up!’’ Furlan said. “It’s really about listening to the level support that your kid wants but staying at the perimeter…it’s celebrating their achievements or being there to pick them up if they fall.”

As families adjust to an emptier nest and students adjust to infrequent laundry and thrown-together meals, Fall Family Weekend serves as a reminder that while transitions are taxing, they bring opportunities for reconnecting old relationships and starting new ones. As students and their families explore campus and Bellingham, they are able to witness other families going through the same experience.

“Our students have all kinds of families. Fall Family Weekend is a chance to see how diverse but also how similar families can be,” Huskey said. “We aren’t all alike, we don’t all have the same background, but there is a lot that we have in common.”

More information about the 2022 Fall Family Weekend, as well as additional upcoming events, can be found here.


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