PhDing While Parenting


An increasing number of students worldwide attend graduate school while simultaneously navigating a variety of competing responsibilities in their personal lives. For many students, this includes both parenting and working full-time, while maintaining a rigorous graduate course-load. Because academia overwhelmingly defaults to assuming all graduate students’ needs are similar to those of middle-class single white males, PhDing while parenting remains under-explored in the literature, and hidden in plain sight on campus. Graduate students are often reluctant to talk to their supervisors about the strains of juggling a demanding private life while attending school…until they hit a personal crisis or they burn out. But what if supervisors were trained to mentor holistically? What if they tailored support, checking in with students not just about their academic progress, but about their off-campus priorities and problems as well?

In today’s episode, we explore why graduate supervisors need to be trained to connect their students to a variety of necessary resources, to help their student-parents get to PhDone. We explore the new case-study documenting experiences of doctoral students in South Africa juggling both parental and professional roles. And we dive into the findings of the new article “Balanced-Integration: A Dimension of Supervision to Support Students Navigating Parenthood in Pursuit of a PHD,” by Dr. S. Nkoala, which was published in South African Journal of Higher Education Volume 38, Number 1, in March 2024.

Our guest is: Dr. Sisanda Nkoala who is an Associate Professor in the Linguistics Department at the University of the Western Cape. She has won numerous awards, and serves as vice-chair of the IAMCR’s media education research section, the African Journalism Educators Network secretary-general, as an associate editor for the Journal of Communication Technology, a public representative on the South African Press Council, a member of the Film & Publication Board’s Appeals Tribunal, and as the vice-president of the South African Communication Association. She is published in many journals, and is the editor of 100 Years of Radio in South Africa, Volume 1: South African Radio Stations and Broadcasters Then & Now, and Community Radio, Digital Radio and the Future of Radio in South Africa.

Our host is: Dr. Christina Gessler, the producer of the Academic Life podcast. She holds a PhD in history, which she uses to explore what stories we tell and what happens to those we never tell.

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Christina Gessler

Dr. Christina Gessler is the creator, show host, and producer of the Academic Life podcast. She holds a PhD in U.S. history.
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