Accommodations for Graduate Students Who Are Starting Families
The Cockrell School is aware that some graduate students start families while enrolled in our graduate programs. To aid these graduate students in balancing their scholarly and parenting responsibilities, the Cockrell School provides accommodation for childbirth, new-born care, and adoption to qualifying graduate students. We offer five types of accommodations for graduate students with growing families. These accommodations are available to full-time, enrolled Cockrell School graduate students (enrolled for at least nine credit hours each long semester and three hours in summer) who are in good academic standing. The accommodations are available to students who experience a childbirth (either who give birth or whose spouse or partner gives birth) or who adopt a child. It is the responsibility of a graduate student anticipating a birth or adoption to inform his or her graduate adviser and research supervisor of any anticipated accommodation needs as early as possible.
1. Academic Accommodation
Eligible students are allowed a one-semester extension of the academic milestones required to fulfil the requirements of their degree. The extension includes coursework, qualifying exams, committee meetings, presentations, and any other required academic responsibilities. The extension may be taken either during or immediately following the semester in which the student’s child is born or adopted. After an accommodation period, students are expected to resume progress toward degree completion, and faculty are encouraged to remain flexible in their expectations so that students can meet the demands of graduate study while adjusting to new demands in their parental roles.
2. Teaching Assistant (TA) Accommodations
The Cockrell School strongly encourages departments to provide non-TA/AI support for graduate students during the semester in which a child is born or adopted. If this cannot be done, new parents may request to be appointed to TA positions whose duties can be done in flexible environments and on flexible schedules. Flexibility regarding the distribution of specific TA duties within a semester is strongly encouraged for supervisors of students anticipating the birth or adoption of a child. The student and graduate adviser (or other supervisor) should agree to review these TA duties on a periodic schedule to ensure that work is being completed in a timely and satisfactorily manner. A TA whose accommodations include performing at least some duties away from campus should review University guidelines regarding telecommuting and may be asked to sign a Telecommuting Agreement.
3. Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) Accommodations
Some graduate students may be able to carry out modified research duties following the birth or adoption of a child – thereby continuing progress towards the goals of their research, meeting the requirements of the external funding agency, and remaining in compliance for reporting effort on federal grants, if appropriate. (Modified duties may include: scholarly research and literature compilations, data processing and analysis, scientific writing, or preparation of other scientific communication materials). Students should check with their program’s graduate adviser and graduate coordinator for information and discuss the feasibility of an accommodation with their supervising professor.
4. Cockrell School of Engineering Alternative Duty Accommodations
If graduate students appointed as TAs or GRAs cannot be accommodated by departments or research projects as outlined in Provisions 2 and 3 above, they may apply to the Cockrell School's Academic Affairs Office for a funded six-week alternative duties accommodation during the semester in which a child is born or adopted. The nature of the alternative duties will be determined in collaboration with the student’s supervising professor.
5. Parental Leave
In some cases, a complete break from all employment responsibilities may be most appropriate for new graduate student parents (Authorization for Leave of Absence). Benefits-eligible graduate student employees who continue to meet eligibility requirements for employment are entitled to Parental Leave of up to twelve weeks following the birth of a child or an adoption or foster-care placement of a child under age three. This leave is unpaid, and – unless the student qualifies for leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – employee health insurance premium sharing is unavailable for any full month of leave (see the Human Resources Parental Leave webpage. Please see your department’s graduate adviser or graduate coordinator, for assistance.
After consulting with their supervising professor, students must apply in writing to their graduate adviser for a parental accommodation. If the graduate adviser determines that a Cockrell School of Engineering Alternative Duty Accommodation (Provision 4) is needed, a written request must route through the department chair to the associate dean of academic affairs.
As with all academic employee appointments, future financial support is contingent upon satisfactory academic progress as defined by the student's GSC, and satisfactory job performance as defined by the employing unit.
International students may have to satisfy additional obligations in provisions 2–5 above, and are strongly encouraged to consult in advance with the International Office about possible visa implications.
In the event that a student’s request for accommodation is denied, the student may appeal to the dean of engineering, who will consider the appeal in coordination with the Cockrell School's Human Resources staff.
If medical conditions indicate that additional accommodations may be necessary, students should contact Services for Students with Disabilities and the Office for Inclusion and Equity to determine what additional accommodations are reasonable.
Additional Resources for Graduate Students
For questions on health insurance, child care options or other benefits, call UT Austin Human Resources at 512-471-4772.