Center for Work, Family & Personal Life

Reflecting its broadened mission as a resource to the MIT community on quality-of-life issues, the Center for Work, Family & Personal Life expanded the scope of its services and engaged in a number of initiatives to highlight and strengthen the Institute's contributions to improving the integration of work and personal life for students, staff, and faculty.

In response to a growing expansion of interest in and development of campus childcare, the center took on responsibility for oversight of campus childcare programs.

Key aspects of this new child care initiative, coordinated for the center by Kathy Simons, included continued oversight of the design of the new child care center to open in the Ray and Maria Stata Center; the transition of the centers at Eastgate and Westgate to a new management system; refurbishing of the existing childcare centers; creation of a scholarship program; and creation of a Child Care Advisory Committee.

With the continued construction of the highly innovative, 76-slot childcare center in the Ray and Maria Stata building, work continued on the selection of interior furnishing, and a contract was negotiated with a vendor for design of the playground; given new information regarding the phasing of moves into Stata, it was decided to postpone opening of the Stata childcare center until June 2004.

In August, the center implemented the transition of MIT's existing childcare programs, Technology Children's Center Inc., to management by Bright Horizons, carrying out a plan to integrate all of MIT's programs within a new management structure, coordinated by the center, in partnership with an outside vendor. As the year drew to a close, discussions were underway regarding adding the Lincoln Laboratory Children's Center in Lexington under the same umbrella, so that all of MIT's centers would be in one management system.

Existing facilities at Eastgate and Westgate underwent a major refurbishing, as well as, at Eastgate, the design of a new system of egress and plan for evacuation. A new logo, materials, and web site have been developed, and the web site will be launched in fall 2003.

A critical part of the childcare expansion was also the creation of a scholarship program for faculty, staff, graduate students, and postdocs with financial need, subsidizing tuition at MIT childcare enters. The center worked with other key offices at MIT to develop and implement the program, and the first applications will be processed and awards given in August 2003.

To provide guidance and feedback on such issues as priorities for enrollment at the new centers and goals of the scholarship program, a new Child Care Advisory Committee was established, chaired by Professor Seth Lloyd, with membership broadly representative of constituencies at the Institute.

In a second major initiative, the center provided oversight for the preparation, publication, announcement, and dissemination of reports issued by the Council on Family and Work, which is staffed by Erika Simmons, administrative assistant of the center, and cochaired by Rae Simpson together with Professor Roy Welsch. The reports summarized the results of Quality of Life surveys administered to faculty and staff in 2001 and made recommendations leading to the creation of two follow-up committees—a Staff Quality of Life Committee, which was appointed by the vice president for human resources and the chair of the Faculty, and a Faculty Quality of Life Committee, which is to be appointed by the provost. These committees will conduct further analysis, gather supplementary data, and make additional recommendations.

Presentations based on the reports were given by Roy and Rae, with the assistance of Francine Crystal from Organization and Employee Development and Ellen Williams from the Provost's Office, to a broad range of groups, including Faculty Meeting, Faculty Diversity Council, department chairs, the executive vice president's Leadership Group, Administrative Council, and others.

Also growing out of the work of the council, a Job Flexibility Team was created under center leadership to implement the recommendations of a council task force on job flexibility. Job flexibility guidelines that had been drafted by the task force were significantly revised by the team, with the assistance of Marsha Orent from the Provost's Office. The guidelines will be announced and disseminated in the coming year, together with a new web site, in order to provide both employees and supervisors with additional resources for negotiating and managing job flexibility at MIT.

In response to its new name (changed the previous year from Family Resource Center) and wide dissemination of new materials, the center experienced a significant broadening of its client base, providing seminars and resource-and-referral consultations on work/life issues for those with a variety of life styles and family configurations. In part as a reflection of these broader interests, the center collaborated with several other MIT departments, particularly within Human Resources, to plan jointly and cosponsor seminars and events. Also, speakers with national reputations, including noted parenting author Elizabeth Crary, donated their time to give seminars within the center.

As part of its ongoing efforts to engage in benchmarking with comparable institutions regarding work/life services and initiatives, the center participated in several surveys, including Working Mother Magazine's "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers" application, a Boston Business Journal's "Best Places to Work" survey, interviews for the Chronicle of Higher Education and other national media, focus groups with business leaders organized by Sloan's Workplace Center, and others.

Emerging from this benchmarking, MIT was recognized in the Boston Business Journal's special supplement "Best Places to Work", appearing 21st on a list of "50 Best Places to Work." The center was also selected to give a Showcase Presentation at the New England Work Family Association conference. MIT was cited by the Chronicle of Higher Education for its innovative programs in support of faculty with families in an article published on June 13, 2003, and similar publicity is forthcoming in other media. The center also serves as a frequent resource for journalists on issues of work/life, and has participated in discussions hosted by the Sloan Workplace Center regarding the creation of a regional work-life council.

At the international level, Rae gave a presentation at the World Health Organization in Geneva regarding the role of parents in influencing adolescent health risks. Her report, "Raising Teens: A Synthesis of Research and a Foundation for Action", originally published in 2001, was reprinted, and demand continued to be strong both in the US and abroad.

A fourth position of child care services administrator was added to the office, and Susan MacDonald was hired at 75 percent time in August to fill the position. To accommodate the addition of the new position in the center, the office was reconfigured, adding a fourth desk and redesigning the reception area to be more effective in serving clients. Kathy Simons and Rae Simpson continued to comanage the office, with Erika Simmons serving as administrative assistant. Rae Simpson took a three-month medical leave in late July, returning in mid-October.

Rae Simpson, Program Director, Parenting Education and Research
Kathy Simons, Manager, Work/Life and Childcare Iniatives

More information about the Center for Work, Family & Personal Life can be found on the web at


return to top
Table of Contents