Making space for caregivers

February 22, 2022

As a parent, psychology major Jessica Pelton (class of 2022) has responsibilities that most of her fellow students don’t share. And the demands of parenting don't give way to the demands of coursework; she has to do both, often simultaneously. 

One of the obstacles Pelton has faced when her duties overlap is finding a place to study that tolerates, or preferably welcomes, her 8-year-old daughter Ayreanna.

“When she came to campus with me, I would try to find secluded areas so I didn’t feel like a disruption to people. People would stare at us, and it made it really uncomfortable to study, even when she was completely quiet and doing her own thing,” Pelton said.

Pelton, who's president of the Student Parent Advisory Board, decided to find a solution for herself and other students in her position. Working with her colleagues at CEW+, where she is a student parent program assistant, and the U-M Library, she helped create a dedicated study space in the Shapiro Library for student parents and caregivers. It's a space where Pelton and others can go without worrying that they'll draw unwanted attention or disrupt the work of others.

“This space is the only reason I feel comfortable studying on campus. It gives me a sense of belonging that I never previously felt here at U of M," Pelton said.  She's been able to meet other student parents, share stories, and create a little community. "I feel like not only do I matter, but my family does, too. I may be the student but they are on this journey with me; we are a package deal.” 

Pelton sees the dedicated library space as a huge success, but also as just one step in a longer path to obtaining resources and dedicated support for student parents and other non-traditional students.

Stephen Griffes, library operations manager, and other library operations staff members worked with Pelton to create the space. He says that accommodating student caregivers helps further the library's goal of providing study space to meet a wide range of needs. 

Access to the space is managed by the Michigan Caregivers and Student Parents group (MCaSP). For more information or to join the group, email studentparents@umich.edu.

If you're considering signing up to use the space, you can visit during an open house on March 11 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 

by Alan Piñon

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