Caretaker to Coach

Caretaker to Coach: Encouraging Growth & Independence with your College Student

The beginning of the fall semester is here and admittedly; it looks very different than any of us had expected or hoped. Managing the pandemic has meant that many students are taking virtual classes and are living at home with family. This can be especially tough for first year students transitioning from high school to college, because while their classes have changed, much of their immediate environment has remained the same. As a parent or family member, there are still many ways that you can help create an experience that honors the transition to being a college student and encourages personal growth and development with your student.

  • Transition from Caretaker to Coach: Start letting your student be in charge of their day-to-day responsibilities. Does your student need to be up early for an 8am class? Let them be the one to set an alarm and get themselves up. It might be so tempting to drag them out of bed, but as college students they need to take responsibility for managing their schedules. Think about putting them at the helm for other “life stuff”. This could mean letting your student now be responsible for setting up their own medical appointments, preparing their own food, or doing their own laundry. If your student was living on campus and would need to do something on their own, have them start doing it now even though they might be living at home.
  • Offer Support, Resources, and Advice, but Don’t Solve Every Problem: This one can be tough. We all want to make sure our loved ones succeed, but your student will benefit more in the long run if you let them tackle their own problems. They might struggle or stumble, but it’s through that struggle that they learn to be independent and self-sufficient. As a parent/family member, know the resources, but let your student be the one to make a call, send an email, or reach out to the university. Let them give it the “old college try” first, then provide more assistance if they need it.
  • A New Phase of Your Relationship: If you have a first year student that is taking virtual classes and still living at home, it might feel like you still have a high school student because there hasn’t been a physical transition. Patterns of how everyone in the household operate and relate to each other might still feel the same. As your student progresses in their college career, the nature of your relationship will change as they grow into “adults.” Give room for this shift and keep communication open with your student.

Everyone at Family Programs wishes you and your student a safe and happy start of the fall semester. We are all here to continue to provide support, resources, and assistance to all of our UMass Lowell families. Always feel free to contact us at

Community Responsibility

Dear River Hawks,

Welcome back to UMass Lowell!

I know that this is not the start of the semester that you had hoped for. It’s not for me either. I have been serving the students at UMass Lowell for the past 35 years, and I must say that for the first time in my career, along with the excitement of beginning a new year and all the festivities that go along with it, I have a mixed feeling of imagining student life on campus differently with the trepidations that accompany the COVID-19 pandemic.

The faculty and staff have been extremely busy since April, developing plans for the reopening of the university, only to have to change them again and again, in many cases weekly. I want to thank all of you for your patience and resilience as we are now ready to embark on the reopening of the university together.

In my entire career serving students, I have never asked for something in return, as I am always fulfilled through my daily contacts with students and the privilege of watching you develop, both intellectually and personally. That’s why I chose this profession.

This year is different, though. This year I, for the first time, will be asking a favor of you. We have wonderful plans for the reopening of the university, but plans alone will not make us successful. The success of our plans depends on each and every one of you to understand your role in this process and how much the success of all of us depends on your absolute commitment to stay safe and follow the protocols we have put in place to ensure that we can continue to move past this pandemic.

Whether it be by social distancing, wearing masks, avoiding large gatherings, having safe and healthy practices, or understanding the impact that every student can have, the success of the university depends upon you personally.

UMass Lowell is committed to the well-being of university members, the residents of Lowell and our larger community. The spirit of collaboration is a university hallmark that extends beyond our campus. We must all share the responsibility for keeping our community safe.If you opted to live off campus this fall, you are expected to be a River Hawk ambassador to all your neighbors in your larger community. From senior citizens, to children and first responders, everyone should be able to feel safe, and it is your responsibility to ensure that your actions help keep our on- and off-campus community protected at all times.

This academic year is different. COVID-19 brings unique challenges and a new set of responsibilities. We need your assistance and compliance with updated rules designed to protect you, your peers and our community. Your behavior this semester will determine what type of on-campus spring semester is possible. Small outbreaks can lead to thousands of infections. Adopting new behavior and adhering to strictly safe conduct is critical to minimizing COVID-19 contagion.

Because of all the challenges associated with COVID-19, It is very important that you understand some of the changes we have made to the Student Code of Conduct to ensure that we all remain safe, both on and off campus. New and updated rules include:

  • Failure to Comply: No student shall refuse to comply with the directions of university, city or state officials, including University Police, acting in performance of their duties. Failure to comply with university directives designed to limit spread/exposure to contagions (including viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, etc.) constitutes a violation of the Student Conduct Code.
  • Dangerous Conditions: No student shall knowingly create a condition which unnecessarily endangers or threatens the safety of any student or other persons or property off campus. This includes creating conditions which are unsafe for members of the community, such as hosting large in-person gatherings with close contact wherein students may be exposed to the existence of potential communicable diseases or wherein students may be harmed by being in the presence of such pathogens.
  • Health and Safety: No student shall refuse to observe any safety regulations or procedures. The following constitute a limited number of examples of this violation:
    • No student shall refuse to follow published campus expectations related to prevention or spread of communicable diseases, including but not limited to viral, bacterial and fungal outbreaks.
    • No student shall knowingly engage in disease-spreading behaviors within the campus community.
  • Violations of the Student Conduct Code will be referred to Student Conduct and may result in suspension from the university, or expulsion.

We are in the midst of a global pandemic and even among the young and healthy, COVID-19 complications can be long-term, unpredictable and tragic. These restrictions are enforced to protect your personal safety as well as those in the community who may have preexisting conditions and be at greater risk.

Below are additional resources to help you protect yourself, others, the university and our local community:

A historic pandemic has brought us to this time and this place, which means taking precautions and acting smart and responsibly. UMass Lowell is ready for the challenges ahead, but we can only be successful with your help. Together we can honor our promise to our students, our faculty and staff, and our communities to have a safer campus and provide the most exciting and successful semester that any college in the country can offer.

Larry Siegel, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

Celebrating the End of the Year

The end of the academic year is a time of transition for students, whether they’re just finishing up their first year or getting ready to graduate. As classes end and final exams begin, a “normal” end of the year is usually filled with recognition and celebration of all that was accomplished. This might be an awards night, a final club meeting, one last night hanging out with friends, or for seniors, commencement. During this time of year every member of our community is feeling the loss of these activities and milestones due to all that is happening with the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though the end of this year isn’t what anyone was hoping for or expecting, there are still ways to connect, celebrate, and close out the year.

  • Celebrate in a Special Way – Get take-out from a favorite restaurant, make a fancy dinner at home – anything outside of the regular routine can create a special celebration to mark the end of the year.
  • Connect with Your People – Encourage your student to set up some social time with friends and family using skype or zoom. Being intentional about times to connect, especially during the end of the year as we transition to summer, can help provide some important closure.
  • Celebrate Commencement at Home – Stream the UMass Lowell online commencement ceremony with family and skype in friends and family from away. The day can still be all about celebrating your student and the amazing accomplishments that they’ve made. Ask your family and friends to send cards or short videos congratulating your graduate.
  • Celebrate Grades “Throw-Back” Style – Remember when good grades earned a spot on the refrigerator? Now is the time to bring it back! Ask your student about their grades and hang ones that your student is proud of in the place of honor.
  • Make a Bucket List – Social distancing has been tough for everyone. Every time you think of something you would want to do with your student, or a way you would want to celebrate with your student, write it down and keep a list for when we are all able to go out and about.  

You and your student made it through a difficult time and a very unexpected end of the semester. There’s a lot to be proud of and a lot to celebrate.

Navigating a New Normal

The COVID-19 pandemic brought a significant amount of change and transition for students and families in an incredibly short amount of time. Families are working together to find a new “normal.” Diane Shelley, the parent of a current UMass Lowell senior shares her perspective on supporting her son in his last semester as a college student.

Diane and her son Steven, a senior biology major

“Spring break began with my son just looking forward to some downtime. Little did we know that his time home would be through the remainder of his last semester as a senior at UMass Lowell. I wondered how to help him stay motivated and social at the same time.

Do I let him sleep in instead of getting up at 7am every day?  I had to take a step back and remember that he is an adult and had the responsibility to decide this on his own.  I’m proud of him for attending all of his virtual classes, submitting assignments on time and completing tests.  Socially, we meet every day for lunch and dinner to “talk” about our days. The others in the household are all working from home so we each go to our work area in the morning, meet for lunch then have dinner together. It almost seems like our normal routines without the commute.

Checking in with each other is key. We talk about the classes he has and how it is going, asking about his friends and how they are doing and how his professors are handling virtual classes. His contact with his friends online is essential, you need conversations outside of the house. During his downtime he is gaming and talking with a group online and has set up a group for an online tabletop game.  This was not what he or I envisioned for his final undergrad semester, but we’ll help him get through this. 

While Commencement will not be happening on May 16, I will make it a celebration day to acknowledge his hard work over the past 4 years.  When Commencement does occur we will celebrate this milestone with family and friends!”