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Work life balance, Student life balance, Childcare


The growing number of undergraduate and graduate students who are simultaneously raising children while attending school requires the attention of institutions that want to support their students through the completion of their intended program. Compared to traditional students, these students have greater time and financial restraints, lower graduation rates, and require accommodation, support, and resources to help them maintain their academic standing. This issue is not isolated to just students however. Staff and faculty at academic institutions are also balancing their family and work responsibilities. With an increase in the number of households where one or two adults work full time, more institutional employees are having to negotiate issues of childcare, parental leave, and the ways in which their family responsibilities are perceived by colleagues and employers.

In 2017, it was found that many DU community members were struggling with issues of childcare, a child friendly environment at work, and institutional policies related to childcare at the University. These findings led to a study, conducted by the Applied Anthropology class of 2018, aimed at identifying solutions and recommendations for the aforementioned challenges. The study was exploratory and utilized mixed qualitative data collection and analysis methods. The class conducted interviews, surveys, and archival research and used thematic analysis techniques to identify overarching themes that informed the findings and suggestions of this project. Through this research three major needs were identified: clear communication of policies, accommodations for students, and on-site day care.

Respondents from this and previous studies at DU identified that classroom policies, policies regarding parental leave, available childcare, and Fisher were being communicated either ineffectively or inaccurately. This has led to confusion, frustration, feelings of job insecurity, and unmet expectations regarding what resources and support DU actually offers parents. There is also a lack of policies in place for student parents, which makes creating schedules and fulfilling academic requirements more challenging for these nontraditional students. The most significant issue identified however was the lack of childcare at DU and the desire for an on-site daycare center. Respondents explained that Denver has a limited number of available, convenient, and affordable daycare options, that Fisher is not meeting their needs, and that they would like to see a facility designed specifically for DU students, staff, and faculty.

In response to these challenges, this study suggests the assemblage and dissemination of accurate and clearly communicated childcare related policies, the creation of policies for student parents, and an on-site daycare facility for the DU community. Research and efforts to understand and alleviate these challenges have occurred at DU since the 1970s, and many of the identified needs and desired solutions have not changed over the past fifty years. However, because previous efforts have been powered by those in need of services, the momentum behind each effort has inevitably dissolved. A way to accomplish and sustain these suggestions and actively work towards making DU a more child and family friendly campus is by creating a permanent employee position at DU to handle these issues. This would help centralize information and policies, assist with their clear communication, and focus consistent and sustainable efforts towards helping DU students, staff, and faculty balance their work and family life.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.