Chelsea Petree2019 Rising Alumni

Chelsea Petree

Chelsea Petree is the first Parent and Families Program Director at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York. Chelsea was hired by RIT for her role to establish communications and outreach to parents of RIT students. She developed a monthly newsletter, changed the campus culture to view parents as partners, and started engagement opportunities for families such as a study abroad trip and a parent-created cookbook. In addition, she has integrated programming around deaf culture to be more inclusive of RIT’s large deaf community. Chelsea says the Department of Family Social Science taught her how to think critically and creatively, use research to better understand the world, and consider all aspects of family diversity in her work.

Current Job

Director of Parent and Family Programs, Rochester Institute of Technology

CEHD Degree

PhD Family Social Science, 2013

Please list any professional accomplishments you wish to mention.

My most significant professional accomplishment thus far was establishing the Parent and Family Programs office at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). When I was hired as the director in 2015, there was very little formal communications or outreach to parents of our students. Since then, I have established communications and engagement opportunities that reach thousands of parents each month. Most significantly, I developed a monthly newsletter for parents—with a reach of 22,000 people—that educates RIT parents about deadlines, campus updates, and how to appropriately engage with students while letting them develop into independent adults. I have worked to change the campus culture to one of "parents as partners," educating my colleagues about the important role parents play and how we can engage parents in support of positive student development and student success. I am also very involved in the national professional organization in the parent and family program field: AHEPPP: Family Engagement in Higher Education. After serving on the board of directors for two years, I was selected as the president elect and will begin my term as president in 2021. I am honored to lead the organization in our efforts to engage and support professionals who work with parents of college students through research, education, and networking.

Volunteer activites

Between 2011-15, I led four service learning trips to Guatemala with University of Minnesota parents and students through an organization called Common Hope. On these trips, we volunteered with children in schools, built houses, visited families with social workers, and engaged in the communities. I further assisted with annual events and fundraising efforts with Common Hope. I volunteer for as many campus events as I'm able. This has included sorting donated goods at Goodbye, Goodbuy—our campus sustainability effort to reduce waste, packaging meals for the Hunger Project, and building house frames during the Habitat for Humanity campus event Framing Frenzy. I like to volunteer on campus as a way to engage with our students and support my colleagues. I was in the Leadership Rochester class of 2017. Leadership Rochester identifies emerging and existing leaders each year and brings them together for monthly sessions with key leaders, enabling them to understand and respond to the quality-of-life challenges facing the greater Rochester region.

What is your favorite memory from the University of Minnesota?

One of the best individual days was the day I defended my master's thesis, which was also the day I was offered a job as a research assistant in the Minnesota Parent Program. It was a double win that day—a new degree and a new research opportunity! What I didn't realize at that time was that this job offer would change my career path—a change that has done so much for me professionally and personally. My best memories (overall) as a graduate student at the University of Minnesota are the conversations I had outside of the classroom with my fellow students and FSoS faculty. I remember having such rich, meaningful conversations in the hallways and offices that taught me so much about my colleague's work and interests and the world.

What was the impact and benefit of your educational experience in CEHD?

The Family Social Science department taught me how to think critically and creatively, use research to better understand the world, and consider all aspects of family diversity in my work. These things have benefited me greatly in the creation of my office and in my everyday work with parents of RIT students. Additionally, throughout my studies, I appreciated thinking about my own family and connecting it to who I was as a (young at that time) adult. I liked the reflection of it’s not making excuses but understanding my own feelings and behaviors and knowing myself better. For better or worse, everyone has a family background that has shaped them, and I liked that Family Social Science could cross over into so many other fields and that everyone could relate to it. I think this has helped me to relate to people in my professional and personal life, and to better understand the world.

Who has inspired you the most during your career?

My boss at the Minnesota Parent Program not only got me started in this field, but also inspired me to always be creative, think outside the box, and to not be afraid to try (and sometimes fail). I owe my career to her. As I've grown as a professional, I find inspiration in my colleagues across the country who also work with parents. We all have our own strengths and never hesitate to uplift and support one another. I am inspired when I learn about a new program I'd like to implement; I am inspired when I can offer support in an area I excel in; I am inspired when we celebrate our accomplishments without envy.

When you have 30 minutes of free time, what do you do?

While I can't do this in 30 minutes, my favorite hobby is travel! To date, I've been to 24 countries. My favorite part of seeing the world is meeting people from different cultures and gaining an understanding of their everyday life...and the food :-) I also love to read, cook, crochet, and go wine tasting in the Finger Lakes with my friends.

How do others describe you?

I would say I'm very outgoing and adventurous, yet reliable and trustworthy. I am very passionate about my interests and loyal to the people I love.

How do you describe yourself?

I would say I'm very outgoing and adventurous, yet reliable and trustworthy. I am very passionate about my interests and loyal to the people I love.

What's a good book you'd recommend to others?

One of the best books I've read so far in 2019 is Far from the Tree by Robin Benway. It is about three siblings—all adopted to different families—who find one another just when each is going through a difficult time in their lives.

What gets you excited about work?

I get particularly excited when I can develop smaller, unique engagement opportunities for my families that are created through my personal interests. This has included a parent study abroad trip, a parent-created cookbook for students, and a local beverage and food tasting event. These things might have a smaller reach, but they are personal to myself and my parent participants.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As a very small child, a princess. As a medium-sized child, a doctor. As a teen, a musician. It turns out I ended up working a job that I didn't know existed until I was in it!

What is a "fun fact" about you?

I can name every world capital.