When Lara Anderson gave birth in the fall of 2017, associate professor of physics and affiliate professor of mathematics at the College of Science promised that parenting would not derail the dozens-more trips she makes each year for conferences and collaborations. in research.
“I feel professionally that’s a huge failure in terms of the research I can do, the connections and collaborations I can make, and also the impact on my own work,” he said. “My farm won’t wait for me.”
But the thought of caring for a child for her child while she travels has proven to be a logistical and financial dream. Because she was allergic to baby formula, she couldn’t leave him at home. Anderson would have to arrange to take care of the child in the city he was visiting or bring a babysitter with him – both expensive offers. As the first tenured faculty member in his department to give birth, “I feel like it’s a territory I’ve never faced before,” Anderson said.
The introduction of a new Dependent Care Travel Grant aims to identify and alleviate the financial burden for faculty members. This spring, the College of Science, the College of Natural Resources and Environment, and the College of Liberal Arts and Humanities launched pilot programs to offer grants of up to $ 1,000 to cover the cost of care while members the faculty will travel for research or conferences.
The grants, supported by private funding sources, are intended to offer additional help to faculty members who need to balance sometimes expensive and exhausting care needs with caring for an ambitious person. races. “It’s about removing barriers,” said Rachel Gabriele, assistant provost for faculty initiatives and policy. “We try to pay attention to how different teachers find success and be proactive in how we support their progress.”
Gabriele and the Office of Faculty Affairs began working on the Dependent Care Travel Grant program after Anderson proposed it to the diversity committee of the College of Science in 2019. Anderson saw how universal the problem was when he invited women to scientist to attend a conference he held. planning. “A large number of them canceled because of the logistics of child care,” he recalls.
When the pandemic hit, most work travel stopped – but the difficulties of working while providing care became even more frightening. A survey in the fall of 2020 found that faculty members spend almost twice as much time on hands-on care than they did before the pandemic. At an office hours session held by the Office of Faculty Affairs, emotional stories of care-related stress came out.
Meanwhile, the results of the 2020 Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education faculty job satisfaction survey show that Virginia Tech faculty members want more family and life -friendly university policies. Gabriele and the Office of Faculty Affairs research similar programs at other institutions; reviewed current research and data on caregiver concerns; consulted Kim Thomason, program manager for early childhood education initiatives in the Office of the President; and regularly meets with interested colleges to prepare the Dependent Care Travel Grant for launch.