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Spotlight on Walden // Jun 29, 2012

Insights: How to Balance Your Family, Career, and Coursework

Just a year into her degree program, Darlene Williams, a PhD in Public Policy and Administration student, was promoted within the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene from deputy director of the Brooklyn District Public Health Office to executive director of administration and community engagement for the Primary Care Information Project. As executive director, she leads a staff of 135 and is responsible for a $200 million budget as well as the transition to electronic health records by 2015.

Between her busy professional life and a family that includes her husband and three children, she has a lot on her plate. How does she find time to balance it all? Read her advice:

Protect your time. If you don’t allocate your time properly, it is easy to get off-track. “I carve out time for my family and my coursework,” she explains. “My time is in the morning. I also pick a few days to stay late at the office.”

Designate a space to do your coursework. “One of my professors mentioned she had a place at home to complete her work,” Darlene says. “I immediately did the same thing.” A dedicated space not only serves as a visual reminder, it may also make it easier to dive back into your work.

Organize your workspace. “I put my literature into binders ordered by topic,” she explains. Keeping your materials organized and handy will also reduce the time you spend searching for a specific piece of research.

Write your dissertation or doctoral study in sections. “One of my dissertation committee members gave me great advice: Instead of looking at it as one piece, treat it as different sections,” Darlene says. You may complete your coursework more quickly if you break it into smaller, more attainable goals.

Even after she completes her degree, Darlene will still drive her career with long-term objectives. “I would like to become deputy commissioner. It’s attainable,” she says. “I’m getting a lot of experience and Walden is absolutely a part of that. I’ll be here for the long haul.”