Family Weekend Draws Record Number of Visitors to Campus

In addition to a catered dinner, live music and a spectacular sunset view, families were invited to explore the exhibits at the Birch Aquarium during the signature event Night at the Aquarium. Photos by Erika Johnson/University Communications

They visited the Birch Aquarium tide pools under the stars, learned about cutting edge undergraduate research and even participated in a “Thriller” style flash mob. More than 2,200 students, parents, family members and friends participated in some 20 events as part of UC San Diego’s sixth annual Family Weekend.

The weekend of events, held Oct. 18 through 20, had a record number of participants and included a family festival, tree planting project, gourmet Peruvian-themed dinner, a performance from the Sydney Dance Company and more.

Families began checking in for the weekend Friday afternoon for a chance to participate in rock climbing and an undergraduate research fair. That evening, they were given special access to Birch Aquarium where there was a welcome reception featuring food and live music.  At the event, Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Alan Houston thanked the families for their participation.

“I am really delighted to have you here,” Houston said. “I have two children, one in college and one just starting graduate school. I know how important it is to stay connected and how magical Family Weekend can be. Families can see what life is like for their students, and students can introduce their families to their classes and professors, their residence and dining halls and their friends.”

Families from 31 states and five countries gathered for the weekend, including Franz McLaren, who visited his youngest son, Travis, a junior at UC San Diego, with his wife and two elder children. “The weekend was an unqualified success,” Franz said. Among the favorite events of the McLaren family were the aquarium visit, a workshop on how to study abroad and a special campus tour of UC San Diego’s myths and legends.

According to Laci Weeden, director of UC San Diego’s Parent and Family Programs, Family Weekend is often the first time families have reunited since the beginning of the school year because it takes place about one month after fall quarter begins.

This was the case for the McLaren family. “This weekend not only gave us time together,” Franz said.  “It also allowed us to share the feeling as a family that we were involved in learning and sharing the experience of UC San Diego.”

Over the weekend, each of UC San Diego's six colleges welcomed families by hosting guest speakers, student performances, lunches and more. On Saturday morning, at Sixth College, families got a glimpse of its unique programing with a Spirit of the Masters art showcase and chocolate fountain—giving families a taste of the college’s annual Chocolate Festival that takes place each spring.

From noon to 4 p.m., guests enjoyed the Family Fest, which featured food, face painting, balloon making, an inflatable obstacle course and a flash mob modeled after the “Thriller” dance.

Following the fest, some got to experience a trip to the High Andes through a gourmet Peruvian dinner followed by an illustrated description of the high Andean parts of Peru, Bolivia and Chile by UC San Diego biology professor Christopher Wills, author of “The Darwinian Tourist” and “Green Equilibrium,” and Henri Migala, director of the International House.

Jenga matches were held with oversized blocks throughout the day—reaching higher and higher, the towers tilted with each player’s move.

Also on Saturday night, families such as UC San Diego senior Needhee Solanki and her siblings took an excursion to the San Diego Zoo where there was a special dinner planned for Family Weekend participants.

“The dinner was especially wonderful because it took place at the zoo after-hours and we were able to experience a few close-up animal encounters,” Solanki said.

For Solanki, this year’s Family Weekend was especially memorable. She was winner of the 2013 “Family of the Year" contest for an essay she dedicated to her father, who passed after her freshman year, and who was a strong supporter of her education at UC San Diego.

“As a fourth year, I can definitely say this Family Weekend has been the highlight of my time here at UC San Diego,” Solanki said. “I had a phenomenal time this weekend with my family.”

On Sunday, families got to contribute to UC San Diego’s sustainable campus through a tree planting and they participated in special tours featuring Geisel Library and the Stuart Collection.

This was the second Family Weekend sophomore Serena Taki participated in and it was her favorite one to date.

“I believe that it’s very important for families to be involved in their student’s college experience,” Taki said. “Students are proud to show UC San Diego to their families and the families are excited to be a part of it. Even in these past two years, I’ve seen Family Weekend improve and expand, and my family and I can’t wait till the next one!”

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