‘It’s our turn to step up.’ Nadolencos contribute to Northeastern’s mission through Parents Leadership Council

john and nicole nadolenco posing outside their family home
John and Nicole Nadolenco, Northeastern parents and active participants in the Parents Leadership Council, pose for a portrait at their home on Dec. 14, 2022, in Calabasas, California. Photo by Ruby Wallau for Northeastern University

When their eldest daughter left California to attend Northeastern University in Boston, Nicole and John Nadolenco found a way to stay connected and participate in her experience.

They joined the Parents Leadership Council, a volunteer group of Northeastern parent ambassadors who engage in community outreach, provide feedback on university activities and communications, and contribute philanthropic support.

“We truly believe that we stand on the shoulders of giants, of the parents who have come before us, who have helped the university along the way and made these kinds of opportunities available to our kids,” says John Nadolenco, lawyer and managing partner at Mayer Brown in Los Angeles. “It’s our turn to step up and do the same not just for our kids now, but also for future generations of Northeastern students and families.

When John talks about Northeastern, he often speaks about the cutting edge, unique vision of education that the university has, its innovative curriculum and programs along with the amazing experiential learning connections that his family has experienced firsthand through their daughter, Jordan. 

“Northeastern to me is just so progressive and changing with what these kids actually want today,” says Nicole, who formerly worked in TV broadcasting at NBC. “If I were to do school over again, I would be going to Northeastern. It has that flexibility and that vision of the future.” 

Jordan finished high school in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. When choosing a college, she wanted to be on a city campus, and have the freedom to easily change her major if she chose to, Nicole says. 

An admissions director from Jordan’s kindergarten, a person the family stayed in touch with and who once worked with the President Joseph E. Aoun at the University of Southern California, recommended Jordan to look at Northeastern.

Jordan liked the idea of studying in Boston. She applied to Northeastern and Boston University, and while she was waiting for replies, the Nadolencos did more research about the school and read Aoun’s book Robot Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.

The Nadolencos embraced the university’s mission and all the innovation happening at Northeastern. They also appreciated the flexibility with interdisciplinary degrees. 

“That stuck out to us and the decision was a no-brainer for Jordan,” John says.

Still, sending their first child to college during the COVID pandemic was overwhelming, Nicole says. 

The family was eager for information from Northeastern while hunkering down in their house. They planned their weeks around the webinars Northeastern was running for the parents of the incoming students and monitored its Facebook page (which is by far the most entertaining, John says).

“We were consumers of any word that Northeastern was putting out from when the pandemic started to when she [Jordan] went on campus,” John says. “Anything we could find out about Northeastern’s strategy to reopen and what it was doing to keep kids safe was top of the list for us.”

And they were always able to get a response to their questions and the information they needed, Nicole says. Despite being a large institution, they felt Northeastern held their hand through the process just as a small school might have done.

The Nadolencos welcomed the university’s decision to reopen for the 2020-2021 school year and were relieved to see the COVID testing center operating flawlessly in real life, when they moved Jordan to the Boston campus in the fall.  

“We had tears in our eyes, watching what this school figured out to do to keep kids safe and to try to give them some semblance of a normal college experience,” John says.

Soon after the school year began, John and Nicole joined the Parents Leadership Council. Its monthly Zoom meetings provided them not only with information and connection to administrators, but with a sense of belonging.

“We’ve always been involved with our kids’ schools,” Nicole says. “It makes us feel more connected to the institution and to kids.”

They knew that several other families from their area had children studying at Northeastern. It gave the Nadolencos an opportunity to reignite acquaintances with old friends and meet new people.

“When we hosted the Southern California get-together, it was incredible to meet so many different parents from around the LA area,” Nicole says about one of the regular regional Northeastern global network events they organized.

They were keen on learning people’s unique (and overwhelmingly positive) experiences with Northeastern, John says. 

Eventually, John became the chair of the Parents Leadership Council.

“I feel like my role is to provide information, but also to make sure that the university’s side is being completely understood,” he says.

One of the goals of the Parents Leadership Council is to focus on the important aspects and hot topics that parents are talking about, discuss them and bring them to the university’s attention. Every time they dug into any one of those issues they had learned about, the school was very responsive and put the students’ interest first, John says. 

“We become passionate about making sure that other people understand what the school is doing, how it’s really bending over backwards to try to improve the student experience,” he says.

He encourages parents to “put on the university’s hat” and think about why the university might be doing particular things in a specific way.

Through the Parents Leadership Council, parents receive annual institutional accomplishment reports, participate in deans’ advisory council initiatives, work with the university’s Employer Engagement team to support the experiential education opportunities available to students in their communities and organizations and attend regional Northeastern global network events.

“We just like to feel like we’re making a difference that directly helps both the institution and also that our kids can benefit from and I think we also like modeling this type of behavior for our kids to show them that it’s important to us as a family to get involved and support the institutions that we believe in,” John says. 

Jordan is set to graduate in 2024. She is majoring in criminal justice and political science and currently is doing her second co-op, working in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York City.

She is really happy at Northeastern, Nicole says, having found her people and her passion. “She has loved every second of it,” Nicole says, adding that Jordan lights up talking about her possible career.

John believes they will stay involved with the university after Jordan graduates, although she is planning on getting her master’s degree at Northeastern as well. 

“Our daughter probably won’t be there at some point but the institution will continue. And we’re big believers and supporters of the school and want to help it,” John says.

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