Navigating the New Normal as a Drexel Family

Lisa Santore Daughen, chairperson of the Drexel Family Association, shares advice and her own experiences on remaining a resource for students while still allowing them to “drive the bus,” even considering the changes and challenges of our time.
Daughen (second from left) with her family last Christmas before the COVID-19 pandemic reached the U.S.

For all of you new Dragon parents, welcome to the Drexel Family! I am Lisa Santore Daughen, chairperson of the Drexel Family Association. Like many of you, we are Dragons through and through. My husband is an alum (BS ‘87) and we have more than a dozen family members that are current students or alums.

I hope you are all faring well in this “new normal.” Considering the changes and challenges of our time, it is necessary to consider the unique circumstances of you and your student’s welcome to Drexel.  

 As both of our children contemplated what they would study at Drexel, I suggested that they cultivate a “toolbox.” Regardless of where they land after graduation, this toolbox would contain skills, credentials, and experiences that they could tap into throughout their lifetimes. Little did I know it then that this would include navigating this extraordinary time, that of the current global pandemic.

Many of us agree that Drexel’s claim to fame is the co-op program. Our daughter, Tori, did three nursing co-ops in Philadelphia. She graduated from the Pennoni Honors College in 2018 with a BSN in Nursing and a Writing & Publishing Certificate, and subsequently she did a gap year split between working as a research nurse for University of Pennsylvania and living in Italy. While at Drexel, she completed one of her three co-ops at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). When she returned from Italy, she thankfully landed a nursing position in adolescent medicine at CHOP right before the mandatory quarantine, and she has been working as a nurse throughout the pandemic.

Our son, Christopher, began Drexel as a computer science major. He realized after his first co-op that he wanted to hone his skills away from perpetual programming/coding and move towards computer security. Drexel’s administration, academic advisors and the Steinbright Career Development Center were instrumental in supporting his efforts. He switched at the end of his sophomore year to a cybersecurity major with a computer science minor. Christopher started to navigate online classes early on in his freshman year so going “remote” has not been new to him. However, due to the quarantine, he completed his spring and summer terms entirely online while interviewing for his final co-op, which will be modified to working remotely.

I wish I knew from when our children’s Drexel journey started that being a student at Drexel is different from any other college or university. The pace is extraordinary due to the quarter system. Students need to stay organized. They should check their email several times a day. Midterms and finals happen before a student can blink. The support system includes professor accessibility, the Center for Learning and Academic Success Services (CLASS) for academic support, and each student has four advisors — academic, coop/career, library liaison, and Drexel Central — information for which can all be found via DrexelOne.

The key here especially due to the remote learning environment is that the student has to REACH OUT to the support system. Sometimes parental support is necessary to get something done, but the student has to try the options themselves before resorting to that measure, since the student is “driving the bus.” To assist parents in the support of their Drexel Dragon, Drexel Student Success recently rolled out the Drexel Family Portal which I suggest you all sign up for!

While we have lived in the suburbs of the city for the past 21 years, my husband and I are native Philadelphians. One of the wonders of being a Drexel student (and part of the Drexel family) is access to the vibrant city of Philadelphia. Its history, architecture, entertainment, cultural events, and restaurants are simply world-class. While social distancing measures have currently impacted these rich offerings, I am truly hoping your student will have the opportunity to engage in them within these new measures, and later on more fully while progressing through Drexel.

During these extraordinary times, the key word that sticks with me is this is the time to “reset.” Reset our priorities, our time, our approach.

If nothing else during these tumultuous times, we and our children are learning (or relearning) the lessons of patience, resilience and adaptability. These characteristics are so integral to dealing not only with our current situation, but whatever the future will be at Drexel and beyond, whether our kids’ journeys take them to graduate school, the corporate world, the military, or any other domestic or foreign destination. Our children will take with them the old adage “to take nothing for granted and make the most of each day” and each blessed opportunity, while being considerate of our families, our communities and our country.