300 Words


Notes from a Davidson classroom

Student with helicopters flying above himWatson classroom 310 on a Monday morning in June is a small ark of research students funded by The Duke Endowment, two each from the endowment’s four beneficiary schools.

There is a familiar Davidson face; beside her, a student in a Johnson C. Smith t-shirt. Furman Paladins offer pointers on their university’s library loan system. A Duke psychology student’s quotable coffee mug says, “Talk nerdy to me.”

Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology Lauren Stutts shepherds discussion. Students report in pairs about peer-reviewed research relating to psychological resilience among college students—the focus of a $3 million research grant of The Duke Endowment. (See June 16 news story on www.davidson.edu.)

Today, the research publication titles and the survey categories cited offer provocative topics: Socialization of parental attitudes and beliefs in the student. Goals of a college education as seen by the student. Goals of the student as seen by the parent. Effects of parental bonding and discipline, education and protection. Behavioral control versus psychological control. And, wait for it…. helicopter parenting.

Just what is contextually appropriate parenting for college students? What is contextually appropriate parenting for a particular college student?

Stutts takes a spot survey: “How often were you in touch with your parents your first year at college?”

Answers range widely. Discussion ensues. “I wish we had high school data.” “In some cases, helicopter parenting might be better than no parenting.” “Lack of autonomy can lead to a ‘maladaptive outcome’….”

At the end of the hour, a look ahead to surveys that will go out to families of the incoming Class of 2018—first-hand data that these eight students will help cull from and apply to their own collegial cohorts, and beyond.

But first, a time-honored stress buster: birthday cake. Meredith Nakano, Davidson 2015, is turning 21 this sunny June day.

“Happy birthday to you….”


About Author

John Syme '85

Senior Writer John Syme graduated from Davidson with a French degree in 1985. After gigs in newspaper, advertising, translation in France and cross-country travel writing in the United States, he returned to alma mater in 2001. He has no immediate plans to graduate again.

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