Parenting in the Academy: Advice, Support, and Agenda-Setting

Michelle Caswell, Rebecka Sheffield, and Tonia Sutherland


As many academics have noted, parents of young children face particular challenges and setbacks in the academy, including unrealistic work expectations, lack of affordable childcare, inadequate parental leave policies, assumptions of geographic mobility, and—for many mothers—overt discrimination. This session proposes to acknowledge and address these challenges within archival studies and hopes to collaboratively create a parent-friendly agenda in the field moving forward. The session will begin with three assistant professors sharing their different experiences as parents in the academy. Michelle Caswell will discuss her experiences having a baby as a new assistant professor in a city far away from her family and the ways her experience as a mother have both challenged and enriched her work. Rebecka Sheffield will talk about her experiences becoming a new parent during her doctoral studies and then making the difficult choice accept a faculty position that takes her away from family for weeks at a time. Tonia Sutherland will discuss her experiences as a parent on the job market, the “trauma of not being seen,” and how motherhood—sometimes construed as a “bad choice” for women in the academy—has deepened her scholarly inquiries and enriched her collegial relationships. After discussing their own experiences, the facilitators will then lead participants in a brainstorming session to develop a concrete plan of action around the following question: what can we do moving forward to support fellow parents in the field? The session welcomes parents and would-be parents of all ranks.

Structure: 90 minutes: 30 minutes for presentations, 60 minutes for collaborative agenda setting.

Prerequisites: None

Maximum: None

Anticipated Outcomes:

  • Formation of a community of parents in archival studies
  • An agenda for supporting parents in archival studies moving forward