Parents and families mingle via UAF’s new networking site

Jeremia Schrock / Sun Star Reporter
September 13, 2011

New Student Orientation Coordinator, Damien Snook, explains the newly created networking site for the families of University of Alaska Fairbanks students, Nanook Family Network, on Sept. 9, 2011. Erin McGroarty/ Sun Star

New Student Orientation Coordinator, Damien Snook, explains the newly created networking site for the families of University of Alaska Fairbanks students, Nanook Family Network, on Sept. 9, 2011. Erin McGroarty/ Sun Star

For the McLaughlin family of Dayton, Ohio, the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) is very far away. Mary Beth McLaughlin made her first trip to Alaska in August, when she brought her daughter Jess to UAF. Like most parents who see their students off to an out-of-state university, she had questions about campus and life in Fairbanks. One day, while exploring the university’s website, she read about a service called the Nanook Family Network (NFN).

The Nanook Family Network is a forum where UAF parents and families can share photos and swap stories. The site resembles Facebook and gives its users options to add photos, make status posts and join groups. The network is the brainchild of Damien Snook, the New Student Orientation coordinator.

Snook launched the site in summer 2010, but only 25 people registered. In summer 2011, he mailed out postcards announcing the site to relatives of incoming freshmen. Since then, the site added over 100 additional members.

The network fills a resource need for student families, Snook said. “I thought it was a good idea because we have, essentially, nothing for parents,” he said. Although UAF hosts family orientation in the fall, there are neither any other yearly events nor an association for families. Snook sees the site as a low-maintenance way for UAF to interact with families and for families to interact with each other, he said.

While Snook sees the site as a “social hub,” he also sees it as an informational resource for parents. McLaughlin is one parent among many who had her questions answered on the site. “Since we live so far away it was great to see other people are just like us, trying to figure out traveling and … staying on campus for the holidays,” she said.

Lori Vaughn is another parent who uses the network. Vaughn first read about the site after receiving one of Snook’s postcards. She lives in Laurel, MD and traveled to Alaska several times, most recently to see her daughter off to UAF.

While Vaughn hasn’t sought help from neither Snook nor the site, she might start, she said. “I hope to use the NFN to stay in touch with other parents, get any ideas from them about how they’re coping with a child so far away at college and … to hear from Damien or others about what is going on at the university.”

Nicole Warner, a freshman in natural resource management, said the network is a good idea. While her parents don’t know about the site, she plans on suggesting it to them. “Considering my mother is a novice at Facebook, I actually get excited when she gets involved with [it],” she said.

“I’m her first child to go to college, and I have a feeling she is more worried than I am,” Warner said. “It would be good for her to find support and tips.”

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