The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

Higher Education Administration: M.S.


Educational Administration and Higher Education


School of Education

First Advisor

Christine Imbra

Second Advisor

Michael Mills

Third Advisor

Robert Reff

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

Students, Mental Health, Parents, Student affairs, Crisis


The purpose of this study was to examine the formal policies and informal criteria used by Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) administrators in making decisions regarding notification of parents for students with mental health concerns. The study also explored the expectations in making parental contact and if those expectations were realized. The role of the Virginia Tech tragedy on policy and procedures was also addressed.

The results of this study were obtained through semi-structured interviews of one administrator at each of the seven MnSCU universities. Participation was based on identification of the administrator making the majority of parental notification decisions at each institution. Three of the interviews were conducted in person and four were phone interviews. Field notes were taken and an audio recording of each interview was done. Each interview was transcribed in its entirety. Triangulation occurred through review by an outside observer and feedback provided by participants of both their interview and the collective identified themes.

Results indicated that while MnSCU administrators do not rely on formal policies for parental notification, they are guided by federal, state, and system regulations. Informal criteria and procedures allow each situation to be addressed individually and decisions to be made on what is best for both the student and the University. Expectations for parental notification included supporting student and University decisions, providing information, taking the student home, if needed, and coordinating follow-up care. All of the participants articulated both positive and negative experiences in parental notification. While the Virginia Tech tragedy has not changed the number of parental notifications, at the institutions studied, participants said it had been the catalyst for more numerous and extensive discussions relating to campus safety, identification of students of concern, and the impetus for Student Behavioral Intervention Teams.

Several related themes also emerged as significant. ., These included an increase in the number of students with significant mental health issues, the importance of collaboration between divisions of the University and with community partners, and the lack of campus resources to meet student mental health needs.


I am grateful for those who have contributed to this work and, in truth, have been along for part, or all, of my journey, of which this document is merely a chapter.

Dr. Imbra has patiently guided me though the Higher Education Administration program. From the classroom to advising, her advice has been invaluable. Dr. Mills and Dr. Reff have added their professional knowledge and passion for higher education to the evaluation of this thesis.

Being a part of several cohorts has enabled me to learn from many professionals and future professionals in the higher education field. Their perspectives have added much to my understanding. Special thanks to my thesis writing partner, Robin. The number 210 will always hold meaning for me.

For the past 2 years I have been learning the vision and the details of student affairs under Dr. Overland, Dr. Gillilan, and Mr. Bulisco's leadership in the Division of Student Life and Development. Their philosophy of caring for students and working tirelessly towards the goal of creating a University that provides challenge and support for its students has been wonderful preparation for a higher education career.

My best friend, Sherry, has seen so little of me these past few years, and I have missed her. But, we have yet to see the world together, so we will wipe the dust off our suitcases and start planning our next adventure at the completion of my degree.

My kids are probably more excited to see this thesis done than I am. They have endured much for the cause and have learned to never ask "How is your thesis coming?" Being along as they walk through their own college experience has added much to the depth of my understanding of the challenges and opportunities for growth that higher education provides.

My extended family, especially my mom and dad, have been so influential in all that I am and all that I do. Their example of community service, and lifelong learning, in addition to unwavering support of all my dreams, cannot be underestimated. They will always be my example of love and caring.

My husband, Mark, has been my biggest cheerleader and the calm through many storms. I especially appreciate these past few years when he patiently supported all three of our children and I through college.

"Privacy isn't everything; life is everything. We lock people up, we take their civil .liberties away if they are a danger to themselves. But we can't call the parents? What kind of nonsense is that?"

-Dr. Paul R. McHugh, former chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at John Hopkins School of Medicine (2009)



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