Parents' Weekend expected to draw a record 3,500 visitors

Some 3,500 parents, other family members and friends are expected to visit campus for the annual Parents' Weekend, which begins Friday with a welcome from Provost John Etchemendy and ends Saturday with student performances.

Unless predictions of rain – and possibly snow – showers dampen travel plans, the organizers of the annual Parents' Weekend expect to break an all-time attendance record this weekend.

Elaine Enos, executive director of the Office of Stanford Events & Protocol, expects her staff and volunteers from throughout campus will welcome about 3,500 parents, family members and guests for the event, which begins Friday with a welcome from Provost John Etchemendy and ends Saturday with the Parents' Club's annual showcase of student performance groups.

Registration for parents is at the Arrillaga Alumni Center. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday and 8:30 to 2 p.m. on Saturday. The event, sponsored by the Office of the President and Provost, is offered to parents and other family members without charge.

Preregistration is up 6 percent from last year, when Parents' Weekend hosted a then record-setting 3,300 family members.

Enos says the increase may be due to a new, more user-friendly registration system and extended registration deadlines. A more robust Parents' Weekend website also has been created, attracting an increase in Internet visitors.

But Enos suspects the events themselves, which range from community center open houses to discussions about each class year with academic administrators, encourage parents to return year after year.  Nearly half of the attendees this year are expected to be families of upperclass students.

"We feel the general nature of the weekend itself – and how it has been redesigned regarding the various events – has made it an event parents want to return to," she said.

That new design includes a greater number of tours. Parents can take special tours that, for instance, highlight the campus architecture or recount damage created in the 1906 earthquake. And if the predicted rain showers do, indeed, materialize, Enos says the Stanford Bookstore is stocking plenty of umbrellas and ponchos to go around.

"The majority of events will be indoors, but some of the tours may be affected. Otherwise, an exciting weekend is on tap for all," she said.

Among the most popular offerings of the weekend continue to be "Back to School Classes," which are taught in four different sessions across two days. Faculty members teaching this year include Mark Applebaum, associate professor of music, whose talk is titled "Inside the Jazz Improviser's Mind." J. Christian Gerdes, associate professor of mechanical engineering and program director of the Center for Automotive Research, will talk about "Driving Safely into the Future," and Sean Mackey, chief of the Division of Pain Management and associate professor of anesthesia, will speak on "The Strain in Pain Lies Mainly in the Brain."

Also popular with parents is President John Hennessy's question-and-answer session, which annually fills Memorial Auditorium. A Parent Resource Fair, introduced for the first time last year, will again be held Saturday morning so parents can interact directly with staff members who provide services and resources for their children.