How one university is supporting new parents among its staff

One university is taking steps to be more parent-friendly, Colleen Flaherty writes for Inside Higher Ed.

Shenandoah University noticed that parents were having a tough time with the transition back to work after maternity or paternity leave, says Bob Keasler, VP for finance and administration at Shenandoah.

Officials decided to set up a formal transition period for parents. Now, the university allows employees to bring their infants, up to three months of age, to work with them regularly. Older children can also be brought to work on an infrequent basis if, for example, the babysitter cancels at the last minute.

More than a quarter of undergrads are also parents

Tracy Fitzsimmons, president of Shenandoah, says she regularly brought her twin children to campus when she first became president. Now she wants others to be able to do the same. "At Shenandoah, we talk about being a university family, and families help each other out when other child care options fall through."

Megan Bureau, director of clinical education and assistant professor physical therapy at Shenandoah, says she is excited about the new policy because she is expecting her second child soon. She says the policy has been unofficial practice previously, she's thankful that it's now in writing.

Having a policy that allows infants to come to work with parents is actually good for productivity, according to Hilary Rau, a staff attorney at the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law. Instead of taking a full day off work, parents can bring their children to the office instead (Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, 8/29).

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