Flexibility at Work
Stephen Marshall

Combining a tenure-track pace, a teaching schedule and a newborn is an “enormously difficult” balancing act, says Shirley Thompson, now an associate professor (with tenure) in UT’s Departments of American Studies and African and African Diaspora Studies and associate director of the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies.

Shirley and her husband Stephen Marshall, an assistant professor in American Studies and the Warfield Center, achieved this elusive balance through UT’s work-life policies as they welcomed their son, Solomon, in 2005.

Shirley opted to take Modified Instructional Duties (MID) in the fall of 2005, scaling her teaching schedule back to one three-hour graduate course while she cared for Solomon. She applied for an extension of her tenure-track probationary period at the same time. Stephen then used MID in the spring of 2006 to continue caring for their son, using the flexible time to develop a brand new course (which he now teaches). He was also granted an extension of the tenure-track probationary period for this time period.

Solomon enrolled in UT’s Child Development Center (CDC) in the summer of 2007.

Shirley Thompson

He loves it there, and we are thrilled that he’s not only getting structured learning, but also the warm care of a very attentive faculty and staff,” says Shirley. “We are also pleased with the wide racial and cultural diversity of the staff, which was important to us.

“It’s just been a great experience,” agrees Stephen. “The fact that it’s so close by has been wonderfully reassuring.” Stephen also notes that one of the best things about being a parent and professional at UT has been the supportive, child-friendly environment provided by his departments and his colleagues.

UT’s family-friendly options have made a key impact on their family, says Shirley. “We are thousands of miles away from our families and the support system they provide,” she says. “These policies and resources provided an important security net as we became parents and attempted at the same time to maintain our place in our professions.”