Inside Rensselaer
New Childbirth, Parental Leave Policy for Grad Students

Rensselaer will offer childbirth, parental, and family leave for graduate students under a new policy designed to help them pursue their academic goals while at the same time accommodating to changing family circumstances.

The policy, which takes effect July 1, is yet another example of Rensselaer’s commitment to students and its willingness to pioneer solutions that meet their needs.

“We are doing this simply because it’s the right thing to do — for these students and for the broader community,” said Lester Gerhardt, vice provost and dean of graduate education, acting. “In a very tangible way, we are investing in the future of the next generation, encouraging our graduate students to pursue their academic careers and the scientific discoveries that will benefit society as a whole.”

The policy reflects an increased understanding of the pressures that graduate students face as they seek to balance their academic goals with family life. As such, the policy may serve as further incentive for students seeking advanced graduate degrees to choose Rensselaer.

The Institute was among the first to acknowledge the importance of addressing graduate students’ family concerns. In fact, the new policy represents the culmination of a yearlong effort by faculty, staff, and graduate students. It was developed by a campuswide committee established by the Office of Graduate Education. There was extensive involvement by graduate students Nicole Lay ’01 BS, ’06 Ph.D., and Sarah Lewis ’07 Ph.D. Input also was sought via campuswide surveys.

The result is a comprehensive policy that covers pregnancy, childbirth and adoption, and acknowledges the needs of mothers and fathers. The policy also addresses potential health issues during pregnancy. It includes a financial component and covers extended leave for the birth or adoption of a child, or the care of a child, spouse, or parent who has a serious health condition. It also provides the flexibility to accommodate a variety of family circumstances.
“The policy provides graduate students with a sense of security — financially and academically,” said Dennis Gornic, associate dean, Office of Graduate Education. “It offers an assurance that they will be able to continue with their plans. That alone can go a long way toward reducing stress.”

More information about the policy is available from the Office of Graduate Education. Contact or 276-6488 or visit

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 2, Number 7, April 18, 2008
©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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