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The Inclusive Excellence Podcast: Single parenthood, divorce and advocating for inclusion

In this episode of the Inclusive Excellence Podcast, Erin Sember-Chase and Toral Patel celebrate Women’s History Month by exploring this year’s theme, “Appreciating women who advocate for equity, diversity, and inclusion,” with Lauren Frederick, colleague and administrative coordinator in Cornell’s Department of Inclusion and Belonging. 

Frederick shares her personal and professional journey to Cornell and the challenges she has overcome. From going through a divorce to raising two children as a single mother to navigating her career as a first-generation college student, Frederick explores how her upbringing and various identities have shaped her experiences. Raised working class, she was often taught to “work harder” when faced with challenges and found herself having to learn to advocate for herself professionally.

“I didn’t necessarily grow up with having a loud voice,” Frederick said. “That's a really uncomfortable space for me. And I think the last few years between the pandemic and going through a divorce has really helped me find my voice in a very difficult and exhausting situation. It gave me the opportunity to dig deep and realize that a lot of the motivation and advocacy comes from within myself and learning those skills because I didn’t have another choice – I had to.”

Frederick reveals the challenges of being a single parent while pursuing a full-time career. During the pandemic, she would often clock in to work at 4:00 a.m. Monday through Friday while her children were still sleeping. She credits the support of her family, friends, colleagues and Cornell’s employee benefits for helping her get through this challenging time.

“I've learned not to let what's happening now be how I define myself forever,” Frederick said. “But I couldn’t have done it alone. I’ve been lucky to have people around me who have been so supportive through trying to balance the work and care for my kids and myself. And the Cornell Childcare Grant is amazing. As a single mom, I was blown away. It was a saving grace after going from two incomes to one. My grandmother always said, "This, too, shall pass." And that's really what got me through and continues to get me through some of these challenging days and difficult times.”

Though juggling work and life responsibilities is overwhelming at times, Frederick’s role at Cornell comes from a deep passion that she recalls appearing at a young age. After studying communication and culture in college and minoring in women’s studies, Frederick became fascinated by the media’s influence on lived experiences and began advocating for equity and justice for sustainability and environmental rights.

I remember as a child, I’ve always been drawn to people and their stories,” Frederick said. “My grandfather was a World War II veteran and often shared his experiences. A lot of how I learned about the world was through stories and history. Then, in college, I started to see my mind expand and begin to think about things in a different way. Like peeling back the layers of an onion, you start to realize that perhaps the world isn’t set up right. You begin to question why some people have access to certain things, but others do not.”

To hear more about how Frederick’s life experiences have shaped and fueled her commitment to creating an equitable and inclusive world for all, tune in to Episode 81: All While Working 9 to 5: On Single Parenthood, Divorce and Advocating for Inclusion. Visit to access the episode and transcript.

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