Cornell recognized for faculty work-life balance

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John Carberry
Frank Towner
Jason Koski/University Photography
Frank Towner explains how the YMCA will benefit from the award given to Cornell for Excellence in Work-Life Balance as, from left, John MacDonald, Mary Opperman, John Siliciano and Allan VanDeMark look on.

John MacDonald, attorney with the national labor and employment law firm Constangy, Brooks & Smith LLP, presented Mary Opperman, Cornell’s vice president for human resources and safety services, and John Siliciano, senior vice provost for academic affairs, with a commemorative crystal trophy Jan. 28 in Day Hall in recognition of the university’s efforts to improve the work-life balance of Cornell faculty.

MacDonald traveled to Ithaca to deliver Cornell the law firm’s eighth annual Excellence in Work-Life Balance Award. “We developed this award to demonstrate our commitment to work-life balance, which is one of our core principles,” MacDonald said. “We strive to cultivate an environment that supports work-life balance, not just for our employees but for others,” he said.

MacDonald highlighted two of Cornell’s programs that his firm found particularly relevant to its own efforts to attract and retain employees: the university’s faculty tenure clock-stop policy for families with new dependents and the financial support faculty can receive to defray the cost for their dependents to accompany them on professional travel or to arrange home care for dependents while the faculty member travels.

Thanking MacDonald for the recognition and the work his firm does to recognize the importance of the work-life balance, Opperman said, “Supporting our valuable faculty and staff works for Cornell as much as it does for them. Giving them a little support when they need it pays back over and over again and helps us retain our top talent.”

Cornell’s child care grants of up to $5,000 per year to defray child care expenses and its Engagement and Integration Program, which helps new faculty hires and their partners assimilate on campus and in the Ithaca community, were other factors that led to Cornell’s receiving this award.

Siliciano noted after the award presentation that data from 2005 and 2010 faculty work-life surveys show the importance of all the university's efforts to support work-life balance, as the percentage of faculty satisfied with their role increased from 77 to 80 percent and the average length of faculty tenure of full professors increased from a little more than 21 to more than 24 years. Also, recent data reflects increased success in recruiting women hired into faculty positions: 35 percent of new faculty recruited in FY ’11 were women, compared to 41 percent this year.

The award also included $1,000, to be given to a nonprofit organization of the university’s choosing. Cornell designated the YMCA of Ithaca and Tompkins County, which is a member organization of the United Way of Tompkins County, as recipient of these funds. MacDonald presented the YMCA’s board of directors and Frank Towner, chief executive officer of the Ithaca YMCA, a $1,000 check, which will be applied to the Ithaca YMCA’s scholarships and membership support program.

“The YMCA is a mission-driven charity organization that last year provided scholarships to about 2,000 people,” Towner said. “We have about 4,300 members, so about half of our members were given support to better themselves through our programming and classes.” Cornell’s gift, he said, will help continue YMCA efforts to strengthen families and build community. 

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Nancy Doolittle