When I had my interview at the Family Care Office back in September, I was confused. What the heck was a Family Care Office and why had I never heard of it before? Coming from the University of Guelph, where I had the privilege of working in a number of different roles in the office of Student Life and the Centre for New Students, I thought I had a pretty good understanding of the types of student supports that universities can offer to, well you know, support students!
Little did I know that the University of Toronto had an incredibly unique and exceptionally valuable little office in the Koffler building dedicated to supporting students (and faculty and staff) with family responsibilities. My experience at the Family Care Office has been both extremely enjoyable and tremendously educational. As a Master’s student studying public policy, with, what I would consider, very limited family responsibilities; having the opportunity to meet, learn from, and engage with student parents, and other students with family responsibilities has provided me with a unique perspective that I likely would not have previously considered.
At the University of Guelph, I focused on developing my knowledge and understanding of students from various different backgrounds and experiences, for example first generation students (those who were the first in their family to attend university), commuters, or even those from small, rural communities. Never, however, had I considered the uniquely challenging, and often rewarding experience of student parents. To give myself some credit, UofG is a very different university than UofT, as I was not aware of a significant student parent population. Nonetheless, I had forgotten to consider this specific student population.
As the workshop coordinator here at the FCO, I have had the great pleasure of attending a number of sessions, specifically designed for students/staff and faculty with family responsibilities. This has helped give me with a much deeper and meaningful understanding of the challenges faced by this population and some of the supports available to help.
As a student of public policy, I work to identify ways that policies (be they governmental or organizational) can work to improve quality of life, ensure that needed services are available and allow access to equal opportunities. I believe that the Family Care Office is an excellent example of a program that is using policy, programming and support, to improve the university experience for students with family responsibilities thereby promoting equity and equality.
Finally, working at the FCO has allowed me to gain a wonderful group of new colleagues and friends here at the University. The staff at the FCO are all exceptional and I am very appreciative of the opportunity to work alongside such a wonderful team.
I hope you have enjoyed checking out my social media updates, reading my blogs (that was a whole OTHER amazing experience! Blog writing is a great skill – and great practice for the concise and clear writing necessary for students in public policy degrees), and hopefully, attending a few of the workshops I helped to organize.
Thank you to the Family Care Office for providing such a critical service to students at the University of Toronto, and for providing me, such a rewarding and fulfilling work study placement this year.