Dear Bobcat parent and family members,

In my first message of the semester, I referred to the traditional student's college years as a journey to adulthood. A mentor of mine, Jeffrey Arnett, a research scholar who has devoted his career to studying this transitional time of life, has coined the term "emerging adulthood" to describe the age period from the late teens to the early twenties.

Arnett writes that emerging adults "take satisfaction in their progress toward self-sufficiency and benefit from growing social cognitive maturity, which enables them to understand themselves and others better than they did as adolescents."

As Dean of Students, I am here to help students navigate this time in their lives while earning a college degree. The research of behavioral psychologists like Arnett has informed my work with students and shifted my thinking on how the university supports student development.

Throughout much of American higher education history, colleges did not offer students the same legal rights as other adults, not even those rights protected by the U.S. Constitution. During the era of In Loco Parentis -- the original legal term for the relationship between a college and their students -- students were treated like children who were in the custody and care of their college or university. This legal relationship between students and their college or university has evolved significantly during the last 60 years.

Today, college students are afforded much stronger adult rights on campuses, such as due process and the freedoms of speech, press, and assembly, to just name a few. To read more about the changes in the legal relationship between college students and their institution, I recommend this summary of the history of In Loco Parentis published by the Chronicle of Higher Education. I shared Vimal Patel's article with parents last year, and I think it's worth revisiting this fall.

Patel's reporting does an excellent job explaining how colleges and universities facilitate our students' understanding of campus and community standards and how, at the end of the day, our job is to support students while challenging them to improve their skills in communication and conflict resolution.

Another critical skill that comes with cognitive maturity is recognizing when you need help and reaching out for support. And, as educators, we know that without sound mental and physical well-being, learning is impeded.

Our Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) is MSU's number one resource for students struggling with anxiety, depression, or any other type of mental health concern. Many students seek support and counseling at CPS, and last year they served over 1,500 students. CPS provides virtual and in-person services to students, including confidential individual, group, and relationship counseling.

For example, the "Let's Talk" service provides students with the opportunity for a quick consultation with a CPS counselor for professional insight and referrals to CPS or other campus resources. Students can drop in at any of the "Let's Talk" locations to chat. No appointments are necessary, and consultations are on a first-come, first-served basis.

In recognition of Suicide Prevention Month, President Cruzado sent a message to the MSU community at the beginning of September highlighting the culture of support at Montana State University. She reinforced that, "We're all in this together, and always remember that you matter to someone." To raise awareness, MSU is hosting many events and training opportunities on campus this month.

Please make sure that your student knows about the mental health support services offered by CPS. If you are ever concerned about your student or anyone else at MSU, do not hesitate to submit a CARE Referral through the Dean of Students' office. We also like everyone to be aware of 24-hour crisis services including, the Bozeman Help Center (406-586-3333) and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255).

Finally, we've provided a lot of information about the availability of the COVID vaccine on campus, but it's also important for students to get an annual flu shot. MSU has scheduled on-campus influenza immunization clinics as follows:

  • Sept. 28 at tents outside the Swingle Health Center
  • Oct. 12 in the SUB Ballrooms
  • Oct. 21 at tents outside the Swingle Health Center
  • Nov. 10 in the SUB Ballrooms

Please make sure your student is aware of these clinics. Most insurance policies (including the MSU BCBS plan) will cover the $30 cost of influenza immunization.

MSU's proactive work to support your student's well-being is a vital part of our approach to the shifting nature of In Loco Parentis, i.e. taking on some functions in the place of a parent. I could talk for hours about how the university's legal relationship with students has changed during the modern era of American higher education.

For now, though, I want you to know that MSU's approach reaches beyond academics to the development of students as future citizens and life-long learners.

Warm regards,

Matthew R. Caires
Dean of Students

P.S. Parent and Family Weekend is rapidly approaching. Scheduled for Oct. 1-2, the weekend includes a full itinerary of activities and programs. Don't forget to register by Sept. 20!

Bobcat Parent and Family Program, Montana State University
174 Strand Union Building | P.O. Box 174220 | Bozeman, MT 59717 | [email protected] | 406-994-7359 
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