Department of Educational Administration


Date of this Version

Spring 5-3-2013


Robertson, L. E. (2013) How College/University Administrators Handle the Disgruntled Parent (Master's thesis).


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Masters of Arts, Major: Educational Administration, Under the Supervision of Professor James V. Griesen. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Loreal E. Robertson


This qualitative study explored how student affairs and academic affairs professionals communicate with parents of undergraduate students who attend MidPointe University (MPU). The literature review indicates that there has been little research conducted on the nature of the interaction between college and university administrators and parents. Available research studies indicate that administrators communicate with parents with more frequency than expected, considering the past findings. Millennial students are sheltered, pressured, unique, and are overly involved (Howe & Strauss, 2007; Elam, Stratton & Gibson, 2007). Parents of today’s students are making an extra effort to be involved in the lives of their children and want to support them, especially when it comes to education.

Semi-structured in person interviews were conducted with nine student and academic affairs professionals with varying levels of experience in these fields. Interviews took place on-campus at a large Midwestern, predominately white institution. Administrators in the offices of University Housing, Financial Aid, and Admissions were able to share their personal experiences and encounters with angry parents, share how they diffuse anger, discuss the protocol that their offices have (or do not have) for dealing with frustrated parents, and offer advice to new professionals who may experience this situation in their careers. Senior-level administrators who took part in this study admitted to not communicating with parents as often as they have in the past; however, if a parent concern is brought to their attention, the level of anxiety from the parent is typically high. Findings indicated that administrators should communicate regularly with parents and that listening to their concerns, maintaining professionalism, and working to solve the issues are strategies that are best to utilize when working with frustrated parents.

Adviser: James V. Griesen