Balancing school, family a challenge for grad students

Christina Stavale

For a number of Kent State graduate students, day-to-day challenges go beyond studying and writing papers.

Many, such as Leke Ntemgwa, a first year masters student in business administration, must care and provide for children of their own.

Ntemgwa became a parent in January and said graduate studies have become more difficult since then.

“It was very difficult to keep up because the baby came at the beginning of the semester,” she said.

After giving birth, Ntemgwa said the university allowed her to take a few weeks of un-paid leave, but because she is a graduate assistant, she could not take the entire semester off. And as an international student, she said she is required to take nine credit hours every semester.

“If that rule was not there,” she said, “I would only take one course this semester.”

Jessica Leveto, second year graduate student in sociology and a parent, said she has also faced challenges. One of her biggest difficulties has been fighting for health care benefits for her son.

She said through her assistantship, she has been able to receive subsidized health care for herself, but said it would cost a great deal more to cover her son with the plan.

Laurel Hurst, a mother, wife and second year ethno musicology graduate student, said she, too, has received benefits for herself through her assistantship but still had to go through a competitive process to get the job. She said she received no special treatment or favoritism because of her situation.

“It’s been very, very difficult,” she said.

Another challenge for graduate students with families of their own is completing their programs in the required amount of time.

Jim Rayburn, sixth year library and information sciences major, who is also a father and husband, said he was deterred from completing the final requirements for his program in time because of additional responsibilities as a father, in addition to health problems.

He said after submitting a proposal explaining his situation, the university informed him he would be allowed extra time to complete his final requirement.

Still, he said his experience as both a graduate student and a parent has been exhausting.

“(My wife) would be coming in from work, and I would be running out the door to class,” he said about his day-to-day life.

Levito said balancing time has been the most important thing in managing her situation.

Michelle Abraham, fifth year psychology doctoral student with three children, said she has also faced challenges, adding there are positive points as well.

“My family gives me a break from the grad school pressures,” she said. “It’s not impossible — it’s just not as easy.”

Contact academics reporter Christina Stavale at [email protected].