Experiments in Voice and Visibility: Creating Space for Graduate Student (Single) Mothers in the Mother-Free Space of the Academy

Summer R. Cunningham


In my doctoral department, the invisibility of my situation as a single mother andthe way it was so often at odds with academic culture left me feeling alienated frommy peers and my community. In an effort to balance school and single motherhood,to make visible the reality of my situation, and to connect more deeply with my ac-ademic community, I begin a series of research experiments in voice and visibility.These projects often involved my son, as he was an inextricable part of my situationas a mother. Moreover, his life and our relationship were undoubtedly impacted by“my situation” as a graduate student. In this essay, I discuss a few experiments invoice and visibility that were instrumental to getting through my doctoral program.These projects involved risk, creative strategies, and lots and lots of support fromother members of my community. I hope sharing these stories might inspire othergraduate student mothers to push through even when it feels impossible. Likewise, Ihope faculty members and graduate students will be inspired to support and empowerthe mothers in their respective departments.

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We are grateful to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) for its ongoing support of the Journal of the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement.