UBC Undergraduate Research

Understanding the experiences of graduate students with children at UBC : A campus planning and policy assessment Gaganis, Adriana; Gelz, Mikayla; Setyabule, Isabella; To, Alvin


This study is commissioned by the Graduate Student Society (GSS) in collaboration with and through the Social Ecological Economic Development Studies (SEEDS) Sustainability program, stemming from the need to explore the experiences of graduate student parents (GSPs) at UBC. Their voices are rendered invisible by insufficient institutional understanding. We began by conceptualizing the GSP experience along two interdependent axes, that of the social realm and that of the physical realm of university space. The physical realm, constituted by the built environment, both in terms of accessibility and family-related provisions. Our findings indicated that GSPs were generally satisfied with the existing infrastructure, yet there is room for improvement. The social realm includes social attitudes and stigma regarding GSPs and their position in the university. Our results show that this warrants more of a concern for them, as it also influences their ability to access accommodations such as extensions that rely on interactions with figures of authority (including supervisors, advisors, councils etc.) that may not be as empathetic to their special circumstances. This can also influence their ability to manage their multiple conflicting roles and negatively impact academic attainment. The visibility of this group presented as a key element for the improvement of university space and tackling the wide variety of issues and could act as a catalyst for positive change. Based on these results, we made a few recommendations to the GSS, including the need for more visible family-friendly spaces in the heart of campus, such as child-friendly studies areas and a greater abundance of breast- and bottle-feeding areas. We also recommend steps for the improvement of the social conduct of faculty and staff, as well as a call for redefinitions within university policy. We aim to provide a foundation for the future direction in research on this topic, that will foster even greater understanding, as well as contribute to the discussion in the reform of social attitudes and physical configurations for improved inclusivity of the graduate student parent. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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