During Pandemic, KSU Parents Wear Many Hats
There are so many people stepping up in incredible ways during the COVID pandemic. Since last March, I have watched one particular group with amazement and gratitude – those working and/or going to school while raising their children. My three children are all grown. Raising them was the biggest joy in my life. However, it was often challenging. And I never had to contend with a 2-year-old who was tired of staying in the house, teaching a middle schooler the fundamentals of algebra, or entertaining a high schooler who craved the company of someone born in this century.
Below I am highlighting a few members of the Owl family who are doing the pivotal work of raising their children while they study or work at KSU. Please join me in making sure they know how much we appreciate their efforts. Their children will be tomorrow’s teachers, nurses, engineers and entrepreneurs. If we’re lucky, many will end up attending KSU as well.
- Balancing full-time classes at KSU and the responsibilities of parenting has been challenging for business management major Jessica Howard, who has a daughter in first grade. This spring was especially challenging as she juggled her own schoolwork while helping her 6-year-old learn how to read and write. “I scheduled my classes to coincide with her classes. Then we work together at night on her reading assignments and once she’s in bed I start my own schoolwork.” Jessica says that she often stays up late to finish her class assignments and turns them in before the midnight deadline each night.
- Meghan Cooper, a Masters of Arts in Professional Writing graduate student, and her husband, Mark, a mechatronics major, are raising two daughters while earning their degrees. She earned her undergraduate from KSU in 2019, and is now a graduate research assistant. With third- and seventh-graders who are continuing with virtual learning, the Coopers have learned to find a happy balance in being both KSU students and parents. Mark attends KSU in the mornings then heads to work, while Meghan manages the girls at home and takes her graduate-level courses at night.
- As head coach of the KSU men’s basketball team, Amir Abdur-Rahim says that the word "adjust" isn’t an unfamiliar term and having great leadership and reliable supportive staff has helped him balance family and work. Since COVID, Coach Abdur-Rahim has added two new titles to his resume, chef and virtual pre-K teacher’s assistant. He and his wife have two small children and he says that his day now begins with his 4-year-old telling him to “cook yummy” for breakfast. It’s then time for pre-K teaching duties until noon. He then clocks in for his coaching job and usually ends work at around 8 p.m.
- When she is not taking charge as office manager for the Department of Events and Venue Management, Kamaria Jones is a single parent with a first-grade daughter learning from home this fall. Kamaria and her daughter, Brooklyn, share their dining room table as their workspace. When Kamaria needs to handle phone calls or emails, she either goes into another room or waits until Brooklyn takes a break or is done for the day. Kamaria says that she appreciates the flexibility KSU has provided her in putting in a full day's work whether at home or in the office, which allows her to ensure that Brooklyn thrives academically and maintains her health.
- Christina Scherrer, professor of industrial engineering and interim chair of the department, has three children, ages 9, 12 and 15, who are all learning remotely this year. Christina is teaching three classes at KSU, two for first-year students and one graduate course. She and her husband, who also works full time, share the responsibility at home. In addition to schoolwork, however, Christina says that she is also helping her children cope during these challenging times. “The issues they face vary with their ages. The younger ones need, and often demand, more attention, while the older ones might need more emotional support to help overcome their fears and feelings of loss."
- Erik Westlund, associate professor of mathematics, and his wife, Rene, office manager for the history department, have a 5-year-old son who started kindergarten this year. While their son started the school year remotely, he now attends school face-to-face Monday-Friday. Erik and Rene now tag-team the week – Tuesdays and Thursdays, Rene works remotely, and Monday, Wednesday and Friday, it’s Erik’s turn. “When he was home, it was a real challenge because you can’t just place a 5-year-old in front of a computer and walk away to do your own work,” said Erik. While they are making it work, Erik says they both end up working well into the late evening but know that there are others in their same position. “It has not been enjoyable by any means, but our departments have been understanding and we are thankful for that.”
These stories are just a few that highlight how resilient and determined the KSU community is when it comes to achieving excellence both at work and at home. I am so very proud of each and every one of you who are doing, what seems to be, the impossible. Please know that we know that you are doing your best, and we support you 100 percent.