Two UConn Engineering faculty members recently received a new award for promoting a healthy work/life balance for their graduate students.
Ranjan Srivastava, professor and department head of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Christine Kirchoff, assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, received the Family Support Award. As its name suggests, the award from the UConn Graduate School seeks to recognize faculty members who are supportive and understanding of graduate students balancing family obligations and research needs.
“I think this award is critical recognition,” said Srivastava. He pointed out that the time requirements placed on graduate students can be daunting, and anyone who studies engineering as a graduate student must love their research.
“As a mentor the least I can do is recognize that and when challenges come up, if I can facilitate anything in that realm I’m happy to do so,” he said.
Kirchoff echoed Srivastava’s comments. She said that it’s impressive for two Engineering faculty to receive this award, given the general difficulty of the program.
“Given how demanding the program is for students and faculty, the fact that we’re able to still meet the high demands of the program while supporting the work life balance of our students says something important about what we do here,” she said.
Kirchoff was nominated for her award by Berdakh Utemuratov, one of her graduate students who studies groundwater governance. Srivastava was nominated for the award by Christine Endicott ’08 (Chemical Engineering), one of his graduate students. She said she became aware of the award after she contacted Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate School Kent Holsinger and Assistant Dean, Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs Victoria Blodgett of the Graduate School.
“I contacted Victoria Blodgett and Kent Holsinger at the Graduate School, because I wanted to share my thoughts about what it’s like to be a grad student and parent. In that conversation they let me know about the award,” Endicott said.
Endicott said that Srivastava has been a mentor since she arrived at UConn in 2004, and when she returned to UConn for her doctorate it was a natural choice to work with him. She said that she nominated Srivastava because he’s been so supportive of her family life.
“When I found out that my husband and I were expecting, there probably wasn’t anyone who was more excited than Dr. Srivastava. He was happy for me and my family and willing to make any accommodations that I needed with lab and research time, which made the whole process very easy,” Endicott said.