Traditionally when students leave home for college they get their first taste of freedom. Most see it as a time to escape from the life of mom and dad telling you what to eat or when to do your homework. But what if your dad went to college with you? Would it be an escape at all?
Juliette Dallas-Feeney and her father, Christopher, are both students at GW. Juliette is a freshman looking to double major in journalism and sociology. Christopher is at GW working towards his doctorate, with a major emphasis in international relations and a minor emphasis in comparative politics.
Juliette, who is also a Hatchet reporter, made it clear that she knew she was going to be attending GW well before her father decided to enroll.
“Perhaps my presence influenced his decision,” she said.
Christopher earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State in 1977 and became a certified public accountant. He got a Master’s in security studies at Georgetown University in 2006. When he decided to switch career paths and work toward his doctorate, Christopher confessed that being near his daughter had a definite impact on his decision to return to the District.
“Her excitement about GW surely made an impact on my choice,” Christopher said, adding that he really wanted to be in D.C. for the nature of what he was studying.
While some students would cringe at the fact of seeing their parents on campus, especially those who went away to school specifically to get away, Juliette and her father see their co-matriculation as a tremendously positive experience.
Their situation isn’t without its funny moments either.
On the first day of class this semester, Juliette’s political science professor asked everyone to write an “interesting fact” about themselves. For the assignment, Juliette said that both she and her father Christopher go to school at GW. At the next class, the professor read aloud some of the student responses, including Juliette’s.
Juliette then felt a tap on her shoulder from one of the class’s teaching assistants. The TA thought it would be funny to inform Juliette that she’s also taking class with Juliette’s father.
Despite what most may believe, Juliette said her social life is not hindered in any way by her father’s presence at GW. Christopher said he recognizes that it must be difficult for Juliette because many of her peers think their situation is strange.
“Wow you must be unhappy having your dad around,” Christopher said, imagining what Juliette’s undergrad friends must think of the situation.
But Juliette explained that having her father around actually works as an academic motivation. “He is a good study buddy – he focuses on his work which makes you focus on yours.”
Christopher said he tries to help Juliette with her schoolwork because he knows it must be added pressure having your father at school looking over your shoulder.
Christopher said he loves being with his daughter to witness her journey to self-discovery.
“It’s such a big deal when your firstborn goes to school, and this has dulled the blow of having her go off to college,” he said.
Despite his enrollment at GW, Christopher still resides in West Chester, Penn. with Juliette’s mother and brother. With Juliette living on campus, in Thurston Hall, and Christopher commuting to the District each week, their time together is not too excessive.
“I stay overnight one or two nights a week. My wife’s brother lives in Great Falls (Va.) and lets me stay over when I am in town.” Christopher said, adding that he keeps to Gelman Library and his classrooms when he’s on GW’s campus.
“I love that I get to see him so much,” said Juliette, especially because when she was younger her father would often be away from home on business.
Juliette explained that while some students are appalled at the idea of going to school with a parent, others find it interesting that she is sharing her college years with her father.
“My friends love my dad,” Juliette said. Her roommate is always excited to see the elder Feeney, probably motivated by the biweekly dinners the three enjoy.
Overall, Juliette said she believes having her father at GW to be an “ideal situation.”
“I get a nice meal, usually from Kinkead’s, at least once a week, he brings me down anything I forget at home, and he brings cases of water.”
Christopher said that acting as a “ferry service” every week for his daughter is the only possible downside to their whole situation. He could not be happier with the situation and knows his daughter enjoys it as well.
“She definitely has a position opinion about our situation. I can tell when I look in her eyes that she is excited and that she’s happy to see me. We’ve always enjoyed a wonderful relationship and this was just the cherry on top,” he added.
The parent-child student dynamic at GW is a rare one. Executive Dean for Undergraduate Admissions Kathryn Napper said a situation like this doesn’t happen often at GW.
There are 120 to 140 freshmen who fall into one of two family-related categories: they have an alumnus for a parent or a sibling who currently attends the university.
GW offers a promotion called the Family Grant that gives a tuition break to family members attending the university simultaneously. Christopher, realizing the rarity of his situation, went to the Office of Student Financial Assistance to see if there was any tuition break for people in his situation. But to Christopher’s dismay, the tuition break program doesn’t apply to the duo.
“Basically, the program is set up to recognize families who have more than one child/dependent enrolled fulltime at the same time in an undergraduate degree program at GW,” said Director of Student Financial Services Daniel Smalls.
Christopher added, “They laughed and looked at me like, ‘No, we don’t do that.'”