Lauren French balances family life with career

Rebecca Fox

Opinions Editor

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She goes from toys and games to lectures and test tubes. From dropping off her two young children to teaching her twenty-year-old students in a matter of minutes. Professor Lauren French of the Biology department proves that you can make time to follow your dreams and raise a family. Last month, a small group had the chance to visit her house during her family’s early morning routine and I had the opportunity to sit in on her class as well as visit her children at the Meadville’s Children Center in Oddfellows. While French admits that it is a balancing act, wherever she goes, she goes with passion and the understanding that her presence affects both her children and students.

French earned her bachelor’s degree at Oberlin College. She then went on to receive her Ph.D. at Cornell University. She is currently an associate professor and the department chair of the biology department here at Allegheny.

French’s morning starts off just as any other. After getting herself ready, she and her husband wake up their two children and then gather around the breakfast table. Her husband departs shortly after, with French and her children packing up not soon after. Even though their time together is not long, it still positively impacts their daily routine.

“Any time that both of us can be in the same room is special,” said French. “The two of us are a relay team. Maintaining a unified front is a lot of work; it’s a division of labor. Family time is a bonus and I can cherish it. We get just a little bit of time in the morning and they are young enough to enjoy the attention of us.”

With her children’s daycare center located on Allegheny’s campus, it makes French’s morning routine run smoother. She can teach her classes and hold office hours knowing that her children are only a couple hundred feet away in Oddfellows. This especially helped when they were in their younger years and she could stop by during her free time. Now, French finds that with her children getting older, she has time to herself throughout the day between her workload.

“This is the first year I haven’t been going throughout the day. I used to stop in and say hello and that was great,” said French. “Now I’m going to the gym, more time to myself!”

With the transition from children to college students, French finds that there are many overlapping experiences when being part of a setting where you can make an impact on people. The nurturing and positive reinforcement part of mothering also finds its place in the classroom at times.

“You learn, as a professor, it’s not just in the classroom,” French said.

“Everything you do and say can be something the kid or student is picking up.

Sometimes you get your wires crossed, sometimes I joke around, ‘Oh, you get a gold star!”

With sciences courses being known for having demanding curriculum, French’s presence in the classroom creates an open learning environment where students feel comfortable to observe and also raise questions and concerns regarding the material.

Kayleigh O’Rourke, ’15, a student of French enjoys her attitude and energy in the classroom.

“I had Dr. French for Neuroscience 110 and my Freshmen Seminar in biology and she is always so enthusiastic about the material,” said O’Rourke. “She made me excited to learn more and she really pushes students to reach their potential. She’s an amazing professor and it’s very clear that she cares about her students.”

With the help of daycare on campus and making time for family time throughout the day, French admits it’s a balancing act, but she couldn’t imagine her life without one part or the other. She wants to set an example that you don’t have to put your dreams on hold in order to have a family.

“Students would say well I want ‘X’ career, but I want a family, I want to show in the classroom that you can do both. You can have a personal life. It’s a good message to college students. It’s terrifying at first, but you can do it.”

 

RYAN KELLMAN/OHIO UNIVERSITY Lauren French, biology professor, feeds her children before coming to work in the biology department at Allegheny College. French was featured in The Story Next Door.
RYAN KELLMAN/OHIO UNIVERSITY
Lauren French, biology professor, feeds her children before coming to work in the biology department at Allegheny College. French was
featured in The Story Next Door.