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Giving graduate students with children a hand

A new initiative jointly helps graduate students with children balance the demands of academic work and parenting.

[Queen's University Education Library Duncan McArthur Hall]
The Education Library in Duncan McArthur Hall. (Queen's University)

An upcoming writing day offered in the Expanding Horizons program by the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) will feature childcare for the first time, as part of a pilot initiative designed to support graduate students and post-doctoral fellows who are parents.

On Friday, Oct. 26, the SGS will host a writing retreat designed to provide uninterrupted writing time to graduate students and postdoctoral fellows while also providing age-appropriate activities for children ages five to 12. The session runs from 9 am to 4 pm at West Campus.

Not coincidentally, this day is also a professional activity day at the Limestone District School Board. PA days can pose an additional challenge to students with children, as their usual care arrangements may not be available yet their own academic responsibilities continue unabated.

So, the SGS and the Office of the Vice-Provost (Academic) have partnered with the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) to provide both a day of sustained writing and a day of childcare. Students will work on their theses or other pieces of writing in the Education Library while their children will be cared for in an adjoining room in Duncan McArthur Hall. There is space for up to 50 students to take advantage of this opportunity.

Last year, a graduate student approached the SGS about providing new supports that specifically address the challenges of balancing academic and family responsibilities. In May, a workshop was held to explore what supports are required and how they might be implemented. The very real problem of time constraint emerged as a key issue.

“While there is a great deal of work still to be done, particularly in recognizing the unique contributions that students with children make to the academic culture at Queen’s, we decided to put in place this pilot initiative as a support to students who face extraordinary demands on their time,” says Marta Straznicky, Associate Dean (SGS), who is coordinating the childcare program.

“Balancing the responsibilities of parenthood and studies can be a challenge, and our hope is this pilot initiative allows our graduate students and post-doctoral fellows to participate more fully in their studies,” says Teri Shearer, Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion). “We also hope this program will help them and their children build community during their studies at Queen’s.”

The program will be offered on four successive PA days: Oct. 26, Nov. 30, Feb. 1, 2019, and April 5, 2019.

To learn more about the Graduate Student Parent Writing Circle, visit the School of Graduate Studies website.

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