Social Networking Helps the Parents of the Internet Generation

UCF Faculty Parents Network – forum on Facebook for UCF staff and faculty

Social networks are utilized for a number of reasons. Sometimes useful, sometimes not.

Many people use the Internet for personal social media purposes and these sites can prove to be valuable practical resources for busy UCF professors and other faculty members.

Beatriz Reyes-Foster, assistant professor of anthropology at UCF, founded a particularly useful group on Facebook.

“Our group is called the UCF Faculty Parents Network,” Reyes-Foster said. “It is affiliated with the Center for Success of Women Faculty, but I run the group and am the only administrator on it right now.”

Reyes-Foster was a faculty fellow when she came up with the group, though she runs the group independent of the school.

“I do this on my own time,” Reyes-Foster said. “I’m not paid for it; it’s not part of my job.”

The group focuses on connecting UCF faculty, staff and professors who have children. It is closed to all others.

“The group is a closed group because a lot of us really care about our privacy,” Reyes-Foster said. “We make sure the group is limited to only faculty and staff parents. I vet them and look for UCF affiliation of some kind. If I find it, I will usually accept them.”

With the student-to-professor ratio high, the fourth highest ratio in the nation according to the Orlando Sentinel, it is straining faculty to teach more students, take on more responsibilities and, on top of that, raise a family.

Simply, everyone needs a little help sometimes.

“I think that most of us are overwhelmed to some degree or another,” Reyes-Foster said.

The uniqueness of an academic life can be both a curse and a blessing.

“It is a really different experience being a faculty member and being a parent,” said Christine Hanlon, an instructor at the Nicholson School of Communication. “We have different types of challenges, different deadlines; we don’t work 8 [a.m.] to 5 [p.m.] Monday through Friday.”

Through the group, faculty can find a variety of services, referrals or just converse.

“It really is just a space for faculty members to share resources and advice and ideas,” Reyes-Foster said. “We talk about everything from philosophical discussions about balancing work and life and an academic job, to pediatrician recommendations, babysitter recommendations, things like that.”

“When I joined, I didn’t expect it to evolve into providing as many things as it provides,” Hanlon said.

The group has grown from its inception in 2011.

It now includes more than 100 members, all of whom are affiliated with UCF in some way.

Kenneth Oms, a senior majoring in English, said he likes the way the faculty has used social networking.

“It is very important for faculty to kind of communicate about the problems unique to their situation,” Oms said. “A village is full of different people, different knowledge, different experiences. Having all of those working together makes for a better, healthier, happier child.”

Reyes-Foster found inspiration in a network that existed at UC Berkeley where she earned her doctorate.

“Berkeley has this thing called the Berkeley Parents Network, which is an email list,” Reyes-Foster said. “It’s huge, tens of thousands of people on it. I, myself, found child care arrangements through it.”

Having used a similar resource in the past, Reyes-Foster said she decided where there is absence, there is also demand.

“Knowing the power of social networking, it seemed like a logical step,” Reyes-Foster said. “If there wasn’t a group here, just create it.”

Oms said he believes social media networks are a step forward not just for the faculty but potentially anyone who uses them.

“It’s a great way to stay in touch and get good advice from people you trust,” Oms said. “Think, 20 years ago you had a kid, you could be lost for a while and not know who to talk to. Now people with experience or people sharing in their inexperience can talk and help each other.”

While certain circles have always been there for support, something so pointed and organized had been absent at UCF.

“We’d had informal networks for faculty before, but it was all face to face in the hallways type things,” Hanlon said. “We didn’t have this community. This has really created a community that is interdisciplinary.”

Reyes-Foster said she believes community is central to the group’s purpose and its success.

“Building community is extremely important,” Reyes-Foster said. “That is why I do this. I think that having a good solid network of people I can reach out to in a time of need is extremely important.”

Original publication can be found here.


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