ASU parents get their own classes with ‘Thriving in your Empty Nest’ program


A mother and father gaze at each other on a college campus.

As part of the "Thriving in Your Empty Nest" program, Sun Devil parents can attend live, virtual workshops with participants across the globe, including small cohort discussions that aim to foster a sense of community among participants and provide invaluable support during this shared life experience. ASU photo

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From academic advising to counseling to tutoring centers, Arizona State University offers a vast array of support to help new college students settle into campus life. But what about parents? How can a university support their journey as well?

Navigating the myriad changes and transitions in the second half of life offers its own challenges and opportunities for learning, building connections and needing support.

That’s why ASU has partnered with the Modern Elder Academy (MEA), the world’s first midlife wisdom school, to create the ASU Next Chapter aimed at meeting the diverse educational needs of individuals in the second half of life.

Learning to thrive when kids leave the nest

The first series of courses Thriving in Your Empty Nest Chapterseeks to support the vast Sun Devil alumni community who are now parents themselves, as well as those who are new Sun Devil parents, to manage this pivotal transition. As parents celebrate their children's achievements, they may find themselves grappling with uncertainties about the next chapter in their own lives: an important chapter that lasts longer than we think, and is often misunderstood or overlooked.

According to the most recent census, 22.5 million empty nesters live in the U.S. And, while only 25% of parents experience the grief of what is known as “empty-nest syndrome,” according to Mindful Health Solutions, most parents still experience some level of shifts in their identity or role, schedule, social groups and meaning-making activities.

"The transition to an empty nest can be both exhilarating and daunting for parents," says Maria Anguiano, executive vice president of ASU’s Learning Enterprise, which advances universal access to learning at all stages of life, with 500,00 learners enrolled across thousands of courses and programs.

"ASU is committed to being an inclusive, all-age-friendly university. That means providing extraordinary support at the most critical junctures where one can feel lost and in need of community," Anguiano said. "We’re pleased to collaborate with MEA, given their track record of empowering learners in this stage of life.”

About the ‘empty nest’ series

“Thriving in Your Empty Nest Chapter” is an interactive and engaging program that reflects both partners’ inherent mission to deliver the learning and resources needed to navigate this pivotal stage — that can last up to 10 years — with confidence.

Sun Devil parents will attend live, virtual workshops with participants across the globe, including small cohort discussions that aim to foster a sense of community among participants and provide invaluable support during this shared life experience. Learners can access videos and other learning content that "drop" in four modules like new episodes of a favorite show.

This blend of live and flexible learning is designed to make it as easy as possible for parents to participate. Once a parent is signed up, they enjoy continued access to both the content and community.

"The empty-nest phase presents a unique opportunity for personal growth and reinvention," says Chip Conley, CEO of MEA. "Our partnership with ASU underscores our shared vision of empowering individuals to embrace this new chapter of life with purpose. And this is just the beginning."

Scratching the surface of lifelong learning

The empty nest course is just the tip of the iceberg for the new partnership, which ultimately aims to collaboratively create learning experiences that address topics such as reframing retirement and cultivating purpose. 

There is a pressing need for lifelong learning, particularly among older adults. Pew Research Center reports that 54% of adults aged 50 to 64 believe they need more education and training to get ahead in their careers. However, most continued education programs focus on upskilling or professional reskilling, rather than the holistic personal development needed. That’s where ASU and MEA come in.

While new programs and courses are in the works through the ASU–MEA partnership, parents of current and soon-to-be Sun Devils, as well as ASU alumni, can sign up now for “Thriving in Your Empty Nest Chapter.”

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