A First-Person Perspective
By Corinne Preston
By Corinne Preston
It’s springtime in Bloomington, and growth is everywhere I look. Daffodils are sprouting. Eager students are learning. And expansion, marked by massive construction sites, can be seen in any direction. As I stand under the red clock in the IU Arboretum, it seems like a convenient time to pause and reflect on some of the recent growth I’ve seen at SPEA.
Our undergraduate population is at a new high. We’ve recently hired several new faculty members, and we’re breaking ground on a new graduate center. All of this is very exciting news—but that’s not the type of growth I am thinking about.
In past year, at least ten of SPEA’s faculty members have welcomed new babies into their families. Some of them became parents for the first time, though some veteran parents now have as many as six children in their households. These parents include Matthew Baggetta, Jennifer Brass, Sanya Carley, Brian DeLong, Denvil Duncan, Justin Ross, Kosali Simon and Daniel Simon, Joanna Woronkowicz, and my husband, Dan Preston.
Let’s take a step back for just a moment. It was a little over a year ago when Dan and I drove through the blooming landscape in southern Indiana to attend a baby shower brunch in honor of Denvil Duncan and his wife Samantha. They were expecting their first child in April.
Upon entering the door of this unique, stylish home full of windows and light, there was plenty to look at, but my eyes were drawn to the spread on the countertop. The range of food and mostly non-alcoholic beverages took me by surprise. Keep in mind that I was also five months pregnant, so hunger and thirst were fresh on my mind. There were so many yummy items that I did not know where to begin and soon filled my plate to capacity. With my hunger sated so that I was no longer distracted by my own belly, I began to mingle and suddenly found it hard to keep from noticing other beautiful baby bellies everywhere. Huh, I thought to myself. I know all five of them. These five lovely ladies were not just strangers one might see walking the trendy B-Line Trail for exercise – they were faculty members and faculty spouses at SPEA.
It was that weekend that jump-started fond memories and the beginning of what I now refer to as SPEA’s Baby Boom. Throughout that spring and summer, then fall into winter, and even more in the new year, babies were being introduced to the SPEA community left and right.
I, myself, am a mother of two and a proud contributor to the SPEA Boom with one child at five years old and the other nine months. As a part-time instructor and freelance graphic designer married to Dan Preston, our family knows first-hand some of the challenges that come with parenting while professor-ing.
“I feel like my biggest challenge is that I have no time to spend thinking most days,” Dan said. “The hard part and trick to being a good professor is you need to have time to be idle. All of your good ideas come when you are not overly busy. When you are always working to just get the next thing done, it’s more challenging to have new and innovative ideas. I have to grade this, write that report, and meet with this student, yet I need to leave in 45 minutes for school pickup, dinner, bath, and story time.”
Other SPEA professors juggling parenting with the academic lifestyle mentioned that it is no longer possible to work their usual 10-14 hours per day. They really appreciate the supportive senior faculty and administrators at SPEA, yet find it challenging to spend enough time doing research. They now have to balance their work life with the time they spend at home enjoying their families.
Of course, there are always the exceptions. Two faculty members that took me by great surprise were Daniel and Kosali Simon. Their family then consisted of four beautiful children ranging in age from four to 12. All boys. In February, they had another baby, making this boy number five. Wow, now that’s exciting!Then, after going through a long adoption process, they welcomed their first baby girl on March 26th.
In an email sent from the hospital where she was anticipating the arrival of their daughter, Kosali wrote that “being faculty members at SPEA makes coordinating work and family easier than almost any other type of job we can imagine. Aside from class, in-person office hours, and committee meetings, most work we do as faculty members can be done anywhere and anytime.” Kosali is a strong supporter of the flexibility and resources available through SPEA. “I especially value the great IT tools available through SPEA such as conference video call software and remote access servers, to name a few. That type of flexibility is extremely valuable when juggling kids,” she says. Especially six, is what was spinning through my mind at the time. She also goes on to say what all parents would have to agree with, “babies force you to prioritize your to-do list and be efficient.”
I now hear a single chime from the Arboretum’s towering red clock, snapping me back to the present reality. It’s one o’clock. Time to make my way towards Tenth Street.
I arrive at SPEA and in short order notice students conversing and professors shaking hands. I feel a smile on my face as I spot one of SPEA’s new parents, and one thing becomes quite clear to me as we say hello. SPEA’s faculty members are, without a doubt, experts in their fields of research. Yet as parents, they are – like me – continually learning. As they teach this generation of students and begin to raise the next generation, I realize that at some point we were all just beginners. As parents, perhaps even as a School, there is always room to grow.