Campus changing for parents


parents and childrenFrom upper left to right: Rebecca Diamond, Kayleigh Siaris, Jessica Cole. From lower left to right: Owen, Olivia, Gavin.

Story by Douglas Esser
Photos by Marc Studer
Each quarter this school year, University of Washington Bothell students with young children can apply for child care assistance from a pool of $35,000 in aid. It’s one of the resources made available by student fees and spurred by The Parent Union. The union is a student club with a mission: making higher education more accessible to parents of young children.

Jessica Cole and Kayleigh SiarisInspired by the club, the University has worked to make students with children welcome. Incoming students can expect to find a campus that is more aware of the challenges parenting students go through, say club founders Ruth Medina and Jessica Cole. Photo: Jessica Cole and Kayleigh Siaris.

Students can apply online for the child care assistance. The Parent Union’s website, blog and Facebook page are sources of additional information about resources. They include a list of lactations rooms and baby changing stations on campus and child care options with discounts and priority placement for UW Bothell students. 

OliviaThe club grew out of a need Medina and Cole shared in 2015 when they felt limited to evening classes because they are moms. An assignment for a Global Protest Movements class taught by David Giles put them into action, researching parents as students, organizing support and advocating for improvements. Photo: Olivia

Their efforts led Medina and Cole to be selected last spring as two of the five UW Bothell students in the first Husky 100, which recognized 100 UW students of outstanding passion, leadership and commitment. Medina and Cole both graduated with degrees in society, ethics and human behavior.

Kayleigh Siaris and OliviaCole continues as a leader of The Parent Union this fall as a graduate student in policy studies. Medina also is still immersed in the club in an advisory role as she prepares to apply for law school.

“I care too much about the project to let go,” says Medina, who also is still involved with The Husky Herald, the student-run newspaper. Photo: Kayleigh Siaris and Olivia

To carry their work forward, the founders are looking to rising leaders, including Kayleigh Siaris, Rebecca Diamond, Adekunle Lawal and faculty member Alice Pedersen, full-time lecturer in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences.

Alice PedersenThey hope the new gender, women and sexuality studies major we will draw more active members to the club, says Medina.

Medina and Cole advise incoming students who are parents to expect more family friendly spaces on campus, a more empathetic faculty and staff and the support of The Parent Union. Photo: Alice Pedersen

“I would tell them that they aren’t alone and that there are other parenting students, staff and faculty who have their back!” says Cole. 

“My advice to parenting students is don’t give up!” says Medina. “Even when you are told that you can’t do it anymore, even when you cry yourselves to sleep in front of your computers because you can only do homework while your babies sleep, don’t give up!”