Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Awards Boost University Career Flexibility

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Awards Boost University Career Flexibility

Article excerpt

Five universities are being recognized Monday for infusing more flexibility into the academic career path. Duke University, Lehigh University, the University of California (Berkeley and Davis campuses), the University of Florida, and the University of Washington have each won a $250,000 "accelerator grant" to build on their policies regarding everything from child care and part-time work to phased retirement.

The awards aim to promote the idea that universities, like businesses, need to revise an outdated model of work that assumed scholars would have a spouse to take care of the home front. While such issues are particularly critical for women's careers, flexibility advocates say, both men and women are increasingly wanting a better work-life balance.

"To achieve the kind of excellence that our universities are seeking on a global stage, they clearly need to attract and retain the best and brightest faculty they can.... I'm delighted to announce that there's a clear national trend within higher education for career flexibility," says Kathleen Christensen, a program director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in New York, the award sponsor.

Several of the winning universities plan to add policies to offer job-transition assistance to the spouses of new faculty members, in recognition of the high proportion of dual-career couples. Others will boost the number of subsidized child-care slots for faculty and strengthen parental leave policies. Adding advisers who can counsel faculty about transitions at various life stages is another priority.

The winners and many of the other applicants also share the goal of communicating better throughout their campuses how flexibility policies benefit the whole institution.

"You can have lots of wonderful policies, but somehow people don't take advantage of them," says Ana Mari Cauce, executive vice provost at the University of Washington. …

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