URI presents seminar on work-life issues

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Next program set for March 27

KINGSTON, R.I. – March 10, 2008 – A professor must be at work to meet a pressing deadline for a grant application. Her husband is set to fly to the west coast for an important presentation. The couple’s youngest child wakes up with a high fever. Who stays home?

An admission administrator has been plowing through a batch of applications. She could leave them for tomorrow so she can get to the gym. If she does, the stack will only grow. What does she do?

The University of Rhode Island Work-Life Committee will address these and many other issues in its 2008 Series of Work-Life Events.

The URI Work-Life Committee is an outgrowth of several initiatives sparked by a $3.5 million federal ADVANCE grant awarded to the University in 2003 to help recruit and retain women faculty in the science, technology, engineering and mathematical fields. A central goal of the grant is to provide support services for balancing work and life issues, including assistance with family, health and other quality of life issues.

“We have about a dozen members and they include students, faculty and staff,” said Helen Mederer, committee chair and professor of sociology. “When we started, we were looking at these issues as they relate to recruiting and retaining women faculty in the sciences, but we also knew that we had to get the message to men so that they should be involved in work-life decisions. We know that a family friendly environment aid us in retaining dedicated faculty and staff no matter the gender.”

Mederer said the group has worked with the URI President’s Commission on the Status of Women, which developed an institutional policy for work-life issues at URI, which led to language in the faculty union’s contract for a six-week paid leave for new parents in its 2004-2007 contract. “That has served as a template for other URI unions,” Mederer said.

The group is also in the final stages of developing a policy relating to dual career couples at URI. Mederer said it is a set of guidelines that can be used by University administrators when hiring a professor whose spouse may also be seeking employment.

Committee member Matthew Bodah, associate professor and research coordinator of URI’s Schmidt Labor Research Center, said the Work-Life Committee has made the University more conscious of the need for work-life balance.

“But we are also looking to become an external resource on work-life issues,” Bodah said. “The plan is to conduct research that will benefit policy makers, labor organizations, employers and the general public.”

“Employers may philosophically agree that a balance between work and personal life benefits his or her workers, but they wonder how to accomplish the balance with so many workplace demands,” Bodah said.

The schedule for the free, public Work-Life Events on the Kingston Campus is:

• Thursday, March 27, 4 to 6 p.m., “Managing Your Life Without Stressing Out: Balancing Work, Life, and Family,” presented by Alma Hughes, vice president and career development consultant for Lee Hecht Harrison, a talent solutions company, University Club, 95 Upper College Road. Refreshments provided. Event sponsored by the Alumni Association, Career Services and the College of Business Administration.

• Wednesday, April 2, 7 to 9 p.m., Movie and discussion, documentary, Century of Women: Work and Family, narrated by Jane Fonda, with performances and testimony by Meryl Streep, Gloria Steinem, Twyla Tharp and others, Room 277, Chafee Social Science Center, 10 Chafee Road. Refreshments provided. Sponsored by the American Association of University Professors.

• Friday, April 4, 1:30 to 3 p.m., Work-Life Policy Panel: “Building a Balance: Campus & Corporate Work-Life Issues and Challenges,” with panelists Ann Higginbotham, professor and chair of the Department of History at Eastern Connecticut State University and William B. Sherwood, vice president of Work-Life Services, Corporate Counseling Associates, University Library, Galanti Lounge, 15 Lippitt Road. Refreshments provided. Event sponsored by the American Association of University Professors, Graduate Student Association and the Greater Rhode Island Labor Employment Association.

In addition to the work-life events, the committee is also developing a series of brown bag luncheons about work-life issues.