The Shapiro Undergraduate Library opened the Student Parent and Caregiver Study Room on March 11 to provide a space for members of the Michigan Caregivers and Student Parents (MCaSP) group to study in comfort with their children.
The study room contains child-friendly amenities such as a workstation attached to a semi-enclosed area for younger children and child-sized furniture. Denise Leyton, strategic projects coordinator of the Library Environments department, said the room is a unique space intended for student parents and their children.
“The room is a space dedicated for student parents and caregivers and the people and kids that they care for,” Leyton said. “It’s a somewhat different space than the other spaces we have in the library because it’s dedicated to (MCaSP). (MCaSP) is really kind of controlling the access of the room, and the library is supporting the facilities and the space.”
MCaSP and the Center for the Education of Women (CEW+) worked in collaboration with the Undergraduate Library to carry out the construction plan. Leyton said the Undergraduate Library was eager to facilitate the project.
“The library has a history of collaborating with both student organizations and campus partners on different initiatives,” Leyton said. “After learning about the unique study space needs of the student population and how these needs weren’t always being met on campus, we wanted to be part of the solution in partnership with MCaSP and CEW+.”
LSA senior Jessica Pelton, student-parent program assistant at CEW+ and president of both MCaSP and the Student Parent Advisory Board, said she pitched the idea for the study space to the library in April 2021. It was approved later in the fall that year. Since October, Pelton has been working with the University library on setting up logistics, picking furniture and establishing expectations until the official opening on Friday.
Pelton said she felt isolated as a student parent during her first two years at the University and struggled to find spaces on campus where she felt comfortable studying with her daughter. About halfway through her education at Michigan, Pelton got involved with CEW+.
“I started working for (CEW+) and started creating these resources and creating change,” Pelton said. “My education did a (180). It was an entirely different education experience. I was proud to be here.”
Pelton said she felt the University needed a safe and private space where student parents and caregivers, like herself, could go to study. The new Shapiro Library room is now a space Pelton said she and other members of MCaSP can utilize without drawing unwanted attention or disrupting others.
“I would say the benefit is just allowing people to be comfortable and allowing student parents to be who they are and not feel they have to hide,” Pelton said. “The benefit is bringing your kid and not being a disruption to yourself or others.”
Another benefit of the opening of the study room is enhanced awareness for student parents on campus. Tashia Munson, outreach and engagement librarian, said that the study space is for the visibility of an often overlooked group of students.
“It’s a dedicated space for a population that’s really small, really marginalized and often ignored on campuses, but is a growing population,” Munson said. “This is both for visibility of that group and of their specific needs. We have to do a better job of seeing our students for who they actually are and helping them in a more holistic way. Because you’re not just a student when you’re here. You can be a student, you can be a caregiver, you can be a parent … and we should be an organization that helps you no matter what.”
Through the opening of this study room, CEW+ and MCaSP hope to raise awareness about student parents and allow more students to join the group and access the resources they deserve. Munson also wishes this initiative will inspire others to reassess their resources for overlooked student groups like MCaSP.
“We really hope that this does create an environment in which other departments, other colleges look at their spaces, really take a look at the students that are a part of their populations and ask how (they) can do a better job of helping (them),” Munson said.
Daily News Contributor Natalie Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.