From diaper bags to doctorate: New faculty member basks in goal achieved

December 12, 2012 | Features, UToday, Alumni, Business and Innovation
By Kim Goodin

Catching up with Dr. Kristy Taylor can be daunting.

Dr. Kristy Taylor, shown here with her four sons, from top left, Reeves and Davis, and bottom from left, Brock and Pearson, and joked that her biography will be titled “From Diaper Bag, to Backpack, to Briefcase.”
— Photo courtesy of Tom Hawley of The Monroe Evening News

On a particular afternoon, the 35-year-old, newly minted UT visiting instructor has trudged through a hectic morning of preparing breakfast for four sons ranging from 2 to 7 years of age, dropped them off at school, made a quick trip to UT to speak with a consultant regarding her dissertation, and attended afternoon parent-teacher conferences back home in Ida, Mich., located about 20 miles north of Toledo.

Later, she’ll retrieve her oldest sons from school, attend a preschool open house for her third boy, squeeze in dinner, and head back to UT to teach a class, working diligently well after the sun sets.

All in a day’s work, she shrugs with a smile. After four years of juggling family and the arduous process of earning her doctorate, she’s reached the light at the end of the tunnel — and it appears bright.

A crowd of family members will be on hand, fittingly, as she accepts her doctorate during the commencement ceremony Saturday, Dec. 15.

When Taylor began her first semester as a full-time faculty member in the College of Business and Innovation in August, she taught her undergraduate students more than the basics of human resources and conflict negotiation.

“When I introduce myself to my students, I tell them about my education,” she said. “Then I say I’m married and I have four boys. So many young, female students come to me afterward and tell me they’re trying to figure out what to do next, whether they should pursue higher education or a family. It’s encouraging for them to see someone my age, with a young family, who has achieved this goal.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in communications from Grand Valley State University and a master of business administration degree from Cornerstone University, both in Michigan, Taylor married, started a family, and began teaching as an adjunct faculty member at Monroe County Community College when UT’s doctoral program caught her eye.

Dr. Kristy Taylor taught Conflict Resolution and Negotiations fall semester.

“I knew I wanted to teach full time, so I was just waiting for the right program,” she said.

Already a mother of two, Taylor and her husband, Matt, had two more boys during the four years she pursued her doctoral degree.

“People thought I was crazy for going to school while the boys are young. It was chaotic, but I knew I loved teaching, and I needed a higher education to be a professor.”

Taylor called earning her doctorate a full-time job. She studied about 15 hours each week, with local librarians clearing office space just for her. Sidetracked with a broken leg when she was nearly nine months pregnant with her third son, she depended on her sisters and members of a local church to transport her to class and physicians’ appointments, as well as to care for her home, while her husband tended to their children.

“In the beginning, I had no idea how much work it would entail,” Taylor admitted. “The course work was really treacherous. I got to a point when I really thought I couldn’t do it anymore, but by then, people who had been helping me were so encouraging that I knew I had to keep going. Into the first and second year, I had so many people who basically treated it like a race, constantly telling me, ‘Just keep going!’”

Her hiring at UT seems like an early reward after she defended her dissertation in September. Taylor grinned widely when mentioning her desire to mentor young women pondering familial and educational goals.

“When they find out I have four boys under age 7, the women in my class are incredulous. ‘What? You have four children?’ They struggle with how to balance everything they want to do with the realities of getting it done. I think it’s a shot in the arm to actually see that it can be done.”

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