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4 New Resources for UMD’s Working and Studying Parents

Child Care Center, Lactation Rooms, Family Study Space and Restrooms Boost Work-Life Balance

By Karen Shih ’09

Family study room

The Family Study Room in McKeldin Library is one of many new resources for UMD students, faculty and staff members seeking to balance work or class responsibilities with childcare.

Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle

According to the last UMD handbook for female students back in 1966-67, first-year women could look forward to the annual Big-Little Sister Coke and dinner party, commuters could stop by their “Den” in the Stamp to play bridge, and Terps who’d gotten engaged could shop for their trousseaus at the Bridal Fair.

What wasn’t included was information or resources for students juggling their studies with parenthood.

Today, the university has a far different approach to acknowledging and supporting students and employees—women or men—who are raising children, from offering a new child care center to upgraded lactation rooms that promote balancing work and family life.

The pandemic helped magnify the need for greater workplace flexibility, said Brooke Supple, assistant vice president and chief of staff in the Division of Student Affairs, who has led its Work-Life Initiative since 2009.

“Having more flexibility in the ways, the places, the manner and the time people get their work done is beneficial to everyone—especially women,” she said. “A lot of research shows that women carry the majority of second-shift or third-shift work at home, including management of the household, the kids, the pets, the meal, the laundry and all of that. This flexibility allows people to manage that in much smoother and easier ways.”

Over the last three decades, Supple has seen a marked increase in women in leadership positions, which brought increased visibility and support for these issues. Today, she’s happy that there are telework options for parents struggling with day care closures or virtual learning for school-age kids and a robust listserv where parents can swap kids’ gear and tips on summer camps, as well as the following resources:

New child care center
The Bright Horizons center off Calvert Road opened in 2021 during the pandemic and offers full-time care (7 a.m. to 6 p.m.) for infants to preschoolers, ages 6 weeks through 5 years.

While the university has long hosted a preschool on campus, the Center for Young Children, it wasn’t able to fully meet the needs of parents who needed full-year care, longer hours or options for babies and toddlers, Supple said.

In addition, UMD also contracts with Care.com to offer subsidized emergency and temporary care for both children and elders.

Upgraded lactation spaces
Fifteen years ago, Erin McClure was a staff member in the Department of Family Sciences when some graduate students came to her with a problem: They were new moms, and they needed a private place to pump or nurse, so they could keep up with their work and studies as they nourished their babies.

As a new member of the President’s Commission on Women’s Issues in 2013, she combined its lactation/feeding room efforts with those in the School of Public Health (SPH). In 2018, she spearheaded a needs assessment and charge, along with Stephanie Cork Ph.D. ’19 and Fiona Jardine Ph.D. ’20, to better identify the most impacted populations (students, professional-track faculty and staff without individual dedicated office spaces) and locations for upgraded and new rooms.

A grant from the Student Facilities Fund improved rooms in SPH and the UMD Health Center, which kicked off a spate of upgrades across campus. Lactation spaces now include a sink or refrigerator in the room or close by, soft lighting, comfortable seating, wireless access, calming artwork and sound machines; some include changing tables. Today, there are at least 20 rooms on campus that are private and reservable (Facilities Management maintains an interactive map with the locations; click “layers,” then “building amenities,” and select “lactation/feeding rooms”).

“Ultimately our goal was for lactation rooms to be included in every new building as they’re built,” said McClure, now SPH’s director of operations and chief of staff, who hopes the issue will extend beyond the commission to live with a more permanent university entity. “So many women have advocated over the years for these resources. We see this as part of being a more inclusive campus where women and families with all their intersecting identities feel they can fully belong.”

Family study space and restrooms
For parents who need to bring their kids to campus, the Family Study Room in McKeldin Library, which opened in 2020, offers a bright and welcoming space where both they and their kids can get work done, without worrying about disturbing others. Stocked with computers, coloring books and toys, the space can be reserved and used by two families at once.

The room is a particular boon to graduate students, who typically live off campus and don’t have access to their own office. About 15% of graduate students and 24% of undergraduate veteran students have kids.

The room is adjacent to the lactation room in McKeldin, and changing tables have been added to the men’s and women’s restrooms on the same floor. Across campus, the university has been adding more family restrooms to make caring for young children more convenient, 10 of which are also listed on the same FM map.

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Strategic Communications for the University of Maryland community weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.