The Women’s College gives working mothers flexibility in education

When 34-year-old Rachel Contizano plans her day, she recognizes the importance of balancing her life as a single mother with her life as a full-time student at the University of Denver’s Women’s College.

The Women’s College at the University of Denver provides working mothers with an environment to learn, grow and balance motherhood while getting an education.

“Taking care of a four-year-old and going to school full-time is actually not the easiest thing to do,” said Contizano.

Working mother Rachel Contizano teaches her son Italian words, a method she employs to balance motherhood and education.

According to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, between 2000 and 2010, student enrollment for people ages 25 and older increased 42 percent. The Women’s College integrates non-traditional female students. It is composed of 40 percent women of color, women from various income levels and women with diverse cultural backgrounds.

According to Lynn Gangone, dean of The Women’s College, working women who come back to school are often faced with the challenge of maintaining different identities.

“Sometimes she’s a mom and she has to focus on her kid, and sometimes she’s a student,” said Gangone.

Contizano is a business major, holds an internship at the Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office and is the single-mother of four-year-old Kingston. Contizano said it’s a challenge to parent Kingston on her own while attending school and working.

According to a study by the United States Department of Labor, women make up 47 percent of the total U.S. labor force. Gangone said many of these women also have children.

“It’s very important to offer an educational experience for students who have some needs for flexibility,” said Gangone.

Student Tracy Copeland agreed. She said as a non-traditional student, The Women’s College works well for her because classes are scheduled for evenings and weekends.

“Just the whole comradery of all the women here … there’s always somebody to try and help you,” said Copeland.

Contizano said she likes the fact that many students attend The Women’s College who understand the challenges of going to school while balancing a home life.

“It’s nice to be able to relate to people like that and it’s easy to find support there because they’ve already lived through it,” said Contizano.

Contizano and Copeland both said they sometimes find it difficult to balance work, motherhood and being full-time students. Sometimes they must adjust schedules and blend parenting with their schoolwork to meet academic deadlines.

“We do [daily] activities and I read [Kingston] my papers,” said Contizano, adding that she also works with her son to learn Italian.

Contizano also described her daily schedule as being hectic. She said she must engage in wise time-management.

“During the day I’ll work on school stuff while Kingston is at school,” said Contizano.

On those days, Contizano then leaves her home at around 3:30 p.m. to pick up her son from school, which is about 20 minutes away. She then takes Kingston to her mom’s house, makes sure he is doing well and then rushes to school, which is another 30 minutes away.

“I try and get to school at least an hour early,” said Contizano, adding that she uses that time to study and prepare for her upcoming class.

Tracy Copeland studies for her upcoming class in the lobby of The Women’s College.

Copeland also said she has to manage her time differently than more traditional students.

“A lot of times I come to the school to study because my house is so chaotic with my 20-year-old son and his friends,” said Copeland.

The Women’s College also provides its students with opportunities to network with women like them at social events.

For example, the Fall Luncheon, which took place early November in Craig Hall, gave students like Copeland and Contizano the opportunity to meet with alumnus. Approximately 150 women, staff, alumnus and community members attended the event.

According to Gangone, women often find these events are helpful in giving them the support they need when they feel like giving up.

“I think that when someone comes to me – when a woman comes to me – and says she wants to quit, I first need to honor that emotion because I’m sure there’s a really good reason why she wants to quit on that particular day,” said Gangone.

Gangone said she tries to make a point of letting women know they are not alone, but also honoring their decision.

Copeland said when she feels like giving up, she reminds herself how hard she’s worked.

“I just want to be an example for women and young girls that we need to get an education to better ourselves,” said Copeland.




One Response to The Women’s College gives working mothers flexibility in education

  • Anna Gauldin
    Anna Gauldin says:

    I love all the changes you guys made since the first time we saw it! The added B-roll really enhances it. You guys also did a great job of placing your interviewees during the interviews; they were facing the open space and it switched sides between them. The quote at the end is also fantastic; it’s really applicable to the video and is a great way to finish it. The interviews with real-life student mothers were extremely effective as well; way to go out and get those. Good work!

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