On February 3, 2022, the Wellesley Centers for Women hosted “Sharing Our Stories: A Discussion With Authors Who Started Their Journeys as Student Parents,” a virtual social change dialogue. The panel discussion featured three student parents who graduated from colleges across the country, became scholars, experts, and advocates, and went on to author books about their experiences to help today's parenting students, as well as tomorrow's.
Panelists included Dianna Blake, M.A., an English instructor and author of College Success for Moms: How to Finish with Confidence and a Bright Future While Raising Your Family; Autumn Green, Ph.D., a WCW research scientist and author of the forthcoming book Surviving, Striving, and Thriving: Low Income Mothers in Higher Education; and Nicole Lynn Lewis, Ed.D., founder and CEO of Generation Hope and author of Pregnant Girl: A Story of Teen Motherhood, College, and Creating a Better Future for Young Families. The discussion was moderated by WCW Executive Director Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., who was a student parent herself.
During the program, the panelists discussed their personal experiences as parenting students and shared insights from their books.
“When I went to the local bookstore, there was no book for moms in college,” said Blake. “I said, I have to write this. I can't be the only mom that needs to know they're not alone and needs some help.”
More than one in five undergraduates in the United States today are parents, and more than half of them are single mothers. Yet, parenting students can feel largely invisible on college campuses. They often have to fight to access the resources and support they need, and parenting students of different backgrounds (race, gender, immigration status, class, etc.) may experience further obstacles to obtaining their degree.
“If you want to do student parent work, you have to name race—in this issue and in this work, it cannot be separate,” said Lewis. “In order for us to really get to the root causes of why less than 2% of teen moms are graduating from college and why student parents are 10 times less likely to get a bachelor's degree within five years, we have to talk about race as being a huge part of that equation.”
The panelists also talked about the need for more research on parenting students, including on student fathers, in order to better support their success.
“I am hopeful that we're starting to see more growth in research across the field looking at student parent experiences,” said Green, whose book is based on her interviews with 31 student mothers. “And I really encourage that research and try to support that research in any way that I can.”
February 3, 2022