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AU Family Plays Important Role at University

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Family of four hugging
Robb Cohen, Gail Schwartz, and daughter Alex Cohen, SPA/BA ’23

For Robb Cohen and Gail Schwartz, Parent Leadership Council (PLC) executive committee members and parents of Alex, a first-year student in the School of Public Affairs, there is no shortage of ways to be involved with the AU community. Robb and Gail are connected to campus through Hillel, the Center for Israel Studies, the PLC, and their relationships with faculty, staff, and leadership at the School of Public Affairs.

Because their Baltimore, MD, home is less than an hour from AU, they enjoy  occasional campus visits for lecture series, meetings, and day trips to see Alex. The current health and safety restrictions recently have kept Robb and Gail from walking around the beautiful AU campus or enjoying a special family dinner at Chef Geoff’s. Fortunately, with Alex home, they can still experience their favorite AU highlight. “My favorite spot on campus is wherever my daughter is at the time,” Robb says, “As long as she’s there, it doesn’t matter where we are.” These days, Robb has engaged, too, in AU’s online format by joining Alex’s virtual PE cross training class.

Within Alex’s first few months at AU, Robb and Gail quickly realized the great depth of what AU has to offer—both in the classroom and outside in Washington, DC. Alex’s International Crisis Management course extended beyond the classroom into embassies and federal offices. These unique hands-on opportunities allow Alex to “experience the issue not just academically, but practically,” Robb says.

Furthermore, they are impressed by the excellence of AU’s faculty. Robb notes that the AU professors are available, engaging, and bring real-world knowledge to the classroom with professional experiences directly related to their teaching disciplines. Robb and Gail encourage all AU students to get to know the professors because they will be great resources beyond students’ time at AU. “These professors have direct relationships and serve as bridges to people who can be helpful to students in their careers,” Robb says. “That’s where AU can add value that other places can’t.”

As executive committee members of the PLC, Robb and Gail engage with the university through volunteerism and philanthropy. Their motivations for giving back to AU are simple: they believe AU does good and important work and they want to set an example for their daughters. “We want our kids to be philanthropic and involved throughout their lives in things that are important to them,” Robb says. “Staying involved helps keep them on that path.”

Reflecting on Alex’s first year at AU, Robb and Gail remember what it was like to be an incoming parent. Robb’s advice to families of incoming AU students is to stay involved with the university and to encourage their students to create connections with faculty and staff. “If your student knows what they’re interested in, encourage them to establish a relationship with professors, advisors, counselors, and people in career services,” he says. “Students should engage as much as possible with the targeted services from their respective school.”

Finally, in their opinion, the most important role of Eagle parents is to encourage their students to take advantage of AU’s academic offerings and its location in Washington, DC. Robb and Gail are proud that Alex has chosen to attend AU and find that the university enriches their lives as much as it does hers. From their family’s experience, it’s clear that it takes everyone in the AU community—including parents and families—to keep AU on its upward trajectory and to educate the leaders of tomorrow.