Perplexed stares from students in the University Library were a common sight for Karla Rodriguez whenever she brought her 5-year-old son, Maximus, with her to study.
The Division of Student Affairs aims to offer more support for parenting students like Rodriguez with a newly upgraded family friendly study area room located on the second floor of the library. With new additions to the room such as toys and puzzles, the study area is designed to create a space for parenting students to comfortably study with their children.
The study area’s grand opening Monday was hosted by the Division of Student Affairs, and had a turnout of over 50 people, including President Jane Close Conoley who related her experience as a student-parent while attending graduate school.
“[My husband] Collie and I were also challenged to have a place to bring our children as we studied [in graduate school],” Conoley said. “I’m so glad that, now, we are really reflecting who our students are.”
The study area has been designated as a family friendly study area by Dean of Library Services Roman Kochan since February 2017; however, the Division of Student Affairs took on the task of furnishing the room with elements catering to the needs of parenting students and their children.
“It’s one thing to designate a space, but it’s another thing to make it feel welcoming,” said Jeff Klaus, associate vice president of Student Life and Development.
Brightly colored children’s books line the walls of the revamped study room, which now features puzzles, two children’s tables, colorful rugs, a six-sided play cube and two computers packed with children’s educational software. In addition, a plaque reading “Family Friendly Study Room” is now posted by the door.
“As soon as you walk in, we want to send a message that you and your kids are welcome,” Klaus said. “We also want to send the message to other students who might want to study here that if there are kids in here, that’s OK.”
According to Klaus, the study room’s upgrades cost roughly $5,000, which were pulled from the Student Excellence Fee.
Kochan said the library is looking into other ways to assist parenting students, including a lactation room that will be located in the lower level of the library, as well as the addition of changing stations in the second floor bathrooms.
The library isn’t the only place on campus taking measures to increase support for pregnant and parenting students.
Associated Students Inc. created a new position, the Commissioner of Pregnant and Parenting Students, over the summer to voice the needs and concerns of student-parents. Rodriguez represents pregnant and parenting students on the ASI Presidential Cabinet. When Rodriguez initially transferred to Long Beach State, she recognized the lack of resources for parenting students.
“I thought, ‘There’s got to be more students who feel like I do,’” Rodriguez said. “I thought that if I could talk about my experience, I could offer visibility for parent-students like me.”