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Building an inclusive campus—Enhanced resources for graduate students with children

Modified: September 21, 2016

Dear Graduate Students,
The note below from Provost Dan Linzer and Executive Vice President Nim Chinniah, highlighting the efforts underway to address the final recommendations of the Graduate Students with Children Taskforce, demonstrates the incredible progress we are making in ensuring that our graduate students receive the support necessary to find a healthy integration between scholarly endeavors and family responsibilities. Each of you is an integral member of our University community, and we are committed to building an inclusive campus culture that enables you and your fellow students across the University to thrive.

I would like to provide a few additional details on the enhancements that our graduate students can expect in the near-term, so that you can learn more and begin planning for the academic year. Below is a list of key changes and related information:

Key Change More Information
Access to paid, inclusive academic leave for childbirth or adoption for PhD students, regardless of gender identity or expression
  • Our new policy, which became effective September 1, 2016, replaces the previous Childbirth Accommodation Policy, and offers a one-year extension of milestones for students who opt to take this leave
  • This policy does not cover medical absences related to pregnancy or childbirth
Single point of contact to advise graduate students
  • The Office of Work/Life & Family Resources will be hiring an individual to serve as a single point of contact for graduate students, providing individualized guidance
  • In the interim, please continue to call the Office of Work/Life Resources at 847-467-1460
Improved lactation spaces across campus
  • Work is underway to install WildCARD readers to all campus lactation rooms and to centralize the registration process for users
New TGS childcare grants will be available for eligible graduate student parents
  • A portable childcare grant program will provide eligible TGS graduate students with $2500 annual stipend to be used for childcare of their choosing. Information about the application process is available through the Office of Work/Life & Family Resources at 847-467-3631

Be sure to visit The Graduate School’s website for more information on theresources available to our students who are parents, and stay tuned for more updates as additional resources are introduced over the next several months.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly.
Dwight A. McBride, PhD
Dean of The Graduate School & Associate Provost for Graduate Education

Dear Members of the Graduate Community,

Graduate students are important and valued members of the University community, contributing to Northwestern’s success through their many academic pursuits and accomplishments. These students are often balancing several competing priorities, including family obligations. Over the past 18 months, we have been working to identify and initiate several enhancements to help our graduate students find a healthy integration between scholarly endeavors and family priorities. To effectively support our students, we must listen, consider, and respond thoughtfully to their unique challenges. We would like to thank the members of the Northwestern University Student Parent Alliance for their ongoing efforts in identifying and helping to advance these important issues.

Last year, we invited a diverse group of graduate students, faculty, and staff, many of them parents, to be part of a task force to explore the unique issues faced by graduate students with children. The Graduate Students with Children Task Force, led by Associate Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Sarah McGill, and Director of Work/Life & Family Resources Lori Anne Henderson, was charged with providing recommendations on how Northwestern could more effectively and strategically provide these students with the resources and support required to better balance their academic, research, and family priorities.

After months of work, the Task Force submitted its final report in May 2016, identifying key recommendations that foster an inclusive, family-friendly campus culture not only for graduate students, but the broader Northwestern community. We are pleased to announce that several targeted activities have already taken place directly addressing some of these recommendations, with more to follow in the upcoming year. The table below provides a summary of activities thus far:

Task Force Recommendation

Progress to date

Future activities

Access to paid, inclusive academic leave for childbirth and adoption

Establish a single point of contact to ensure better access to family resource services. Clearly communicate resources so that graduate students understand what family support services and programs are available to them

  • The Graduate School’s (TGS) website now features key resources available for students who are parents.
  • A new work/life & family resources brochure specifically highlighting services for student parents in TGS is now available.
  • Those wanting to learn more can contact the Office of Work/Life & Family Resources to speak with a staff member who can assist them at 847-467-1460.
  • The Office of Work/Life & Family Resources will hire a dedicated staff member to guide graduate students to the resources they need; it is anticipated that this individual will start in this fall quarter.

Offer access to flexible, affordable childcare

  • Effective October 1, 2016 Northwestern will offer portable childcare grants for eligible graduate students affiliated with TGS. The childcare grant can be used for any licensed day care or in-home care provider. These grants will provide graduate student parents financial support for childcare expenses.
  • Northwestern leadership is reviewing the Task Force’s recommendation to create a drop-in space on campus where students can engage in free play with their children.

Enhance spaces across Evanston and Chicago campuses to better accommodate graduate students with children, beginning with improved access to lactation spaces

  • Existing lactation rooms have been made more accessible.
  • View this interactive map of available lactation spaces.
  • WildCARD readers are being installed in all lactation rooms. A central system for accessing the rooms is being put in place.
  • All new construction and/or major building renovation will prioritize inclusion of lactation spaces.

Assess supplemental funding and dependent health insurance offerings

  • The amount of the dependent care professional development grant award available to TGS graduate students has increased from $500 to $750 effective September 2016.
  • Recognizing that graduate students have less flexibility in managing up-front costs, the University is reviewing the 60-day repayment period for emergency loans.
  • Efforts are underway to offer a payment plan for the dependent health care plan.

We are committed to enhancing the experience for our graduate students who are parents, as well as supporting an inclusive, family-friendly campus culture more broadly. Our efforts to address the important recommendations identified in the report are ongoing, and we will continue to keep you informed of additional enhancements. Please also be sure to visit The Graduate School’s website for updates.

Thank you,

Daniel Linzer

Nim Chinniah
Executive Vice President

From the Dean