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Blog Equitable Conferencing: Caregivers Perspectives and Prospects

Navigating Caregiver Challenges at Conferences: My Experience

empty name tag on black background
by Gina Scutelnicu, PhD:

Gina Scutelnicu is an Associate Professor and Chair in the Department of Public Administration at Pace University and a proud academic parent of two young children.

Attending and presenting at conferences is extremely important, especially for graduate students and junior faculty, as these venues are ripe opportunities for networking, getting constructive feedback and establishing an academic reputation. My conference presentations and participations helped me develop a healthy professional network, develop and sustain an active research agenda, stay up-to-date with current research in my area, turn my papers into refereed articles, become a peer-reviewer, serve on the board of several professional associations, and serve on the editorial board of one journal. 

Attending and presenting at conferences is extremely important, especially for graduate students and junior faculty, as these venues are ripe opportunities for networking, getting constructive feedback and establishing an academic reputation. My conference presentations and participations helped me develop a healthy professional network, develop and sustain an active research agenda, stay up-to-date with current research in my area, turn my papers into refereed articles, become a peer-reviewer, serve on the board of several professional associations, and serve on the editorial board of one journal. 

I had children during the most busiest and challenging times in the life of an academic: I had my son during my dissertation writing years and my daughter during my tenure-track years. Having children occurred during the same time when I needed to start and develop my academic career. Attending and presenting at academic conferences was one way of getting known so, I made sure I presented my research at least twice a year. My spouse offered the support that I needed during these difficult times. He would travel with me and my son, and later, my daughter to conferences held across the country in places such as Kentucky, California, North Carolina, Maryland, Vermont, Louisiana, Florida, Colorado etc. For half of the conferences I attended during this time in my life I was only able to present my research papers. I was not able to network beyond fulfilling my conference roles as a presenter, or panel moderator/discussant. I had to miss out on some of the conference experiences: I did not attend other panels, luncheons or professional development opportunities. But this semi-exposure to the academic network helped me a lot in my career and I am very grateful that I had this opportunity.

Being a woman and an immigrant from a non-Western culture in the U.S. made it more difficult to have access to resources for conferences, most likely, because I was not familiar with the U.S. higher education system and national culture. I did not know that I could ask for more travel money or viewed asking for more resources as inappropriate. When I was a Ph.D. candidate, my university would only cover $300 towards conference travel per year for graduate students. Towards the end of my doctoral studies, I witnessed how women peers who were born and raised in the U.S. were successful in asking and securing significant funds for conference travel both domestically and internationally. This experience served as a lesson for my next career stage. After becoming an Assistant Professor, the amount of my travel funds increased significantly but I still had to supplement and invest in my professional development. Reflecting back on my own experience I would definitely advise women of various backgrounds to, at least, ask for more funding for conference travel.

Typically, conference funding required that I presented a paper and covered registration fees, transportation, accommodation and some food costs but it would not cover caregiver costs. I remember of a specific conference (Midwest Political Science Association) that would offer childcare scholarships at the conference hotel for caregivers who were presenters. Given my personal and subjective experience, caregivers and especially women face several barriers to conference participation. These are: 

  • Lack of any institutional funding that can be used towards child or elderly care when attending conferences.
  • Lack of or limited family support to help with child care.
  • Lack of or limited access to everything conferences have to offer – which may end up in limited visibility among the academic community and longer time to establish an academic reputation.



Some of the recommendations to overcome such barriers consist of the following:

  • Institutions should offer their employees child-care assistance programs in the form of subsidies and access to child-care centers. (Gordon & Rauhaus, 2019) such as vouchers, reimbursements, tuition scholarships, and offering discounts through child-care network programs. 
  • Institutions could create dependent care travel funds or repurpose travel funds to include child or elder care expenses for their faculty and staff. Such funds could cover the additional hours of care at home when employers travel, costs for childcare at/or transportation to a conference site (see Brown University’s initiative).
  • Professional associations and conference organizers could provide child and dependent care as a service for a fee or as a scholarship, and
  • Conferences could organize family-friendly professional development activities and events at conference sites.

Work-life balance is different for men and women as women are, still, expected to contribute more at home when working and having young children (Scutelnicu, Knepper & Tekula, 2018, p. 33). Offering attractive work-life benefits such as child-care support for conference participation would lead to high retention rates among employees (Gordon & Rauhaus, 2019), would narrow the inequity gender gap in the workplace as women tend to be the majority of caregivers (Gerson, 2017) , would increase women’s advancement opportunities in academia by helping them to break the glass ceiling (Scutelnicu & Knepper, 2019), and would create more inclusive work environments (Knepper, Scutelnicu & Tekula, forthcoming). As we are witnessing a declining trend in college enrollment (Fain, 2019) it is important for institutions of higher learning to pay attention and support the needs of current caregivers to make sure they sustain a steady future generation of students. 

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About the author:

Gina Scutelnicu, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair of the Public Administration Department
at Pace University
E-mail:gscutelnicu@pace.edu

Gina Scutelnicu is an associate professor and chair in the Department of Public Administration at Pace University, New York. She has a Ph.D. degree in Public Affairs from Florida International University, a MA in Public Service Management and a BA in Public Administration from Babes-Bolyai University, Romania. One line of her current research examines gender equity in academia. Her work has been published in several peer-reviewed journals among which are Journal of Public Affairs Education, Public Integrity, Journal of Public Management and Social Policy and Public Administration Quarterly.

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Blog Equitable Conferencing: Caregivers Perspectives and Prospects

Conferencing as a Parent

by Tony J Carrizales:

I have been attending academic conferences for nearly twenty years, half of those years as a parent. In preparing for my next conference, I pause here to share some thoughts and reflections on my conferencing as a parent evolution.

Soon after graduating and beginning my academic career I attended roughly two to three conferences a year. I made an effort to attend conferences throughout the country and on occasion, internationally. Over time, I lost some interest in conferences’ locations as places I had previously attended resurfaced. The interaction with colleagues and discussion about on-going and possible research began to create the greatest value in conference attendance. Ultimately, I went from attending a few conferences a year to one, maybe two within an academic year.  

Mid-way through my academic career, baby number one came along, followed by baby number two and baby number three.  My attendance at conferences slowed even more for me in the early years of my children — limited to maybe once a year. That one conference was heavily dependent on location and proximity to where I lived.

As my children have gotten older — my approach to conferencing as a parent has evolved. Two key factors impacted this evolution. The first is that I stopped viewing conferences as places and time spent away from my family and began viewing them as an opportunity to explore new places as a family. Even cities I had been to previously were now being viewed with a new perspective. It also helped that the children were getting older and traveling with them was much easier than when they were babies. 

The second key factor in the conferencing as a parent evolution is the approach that conference organizer have shown toward attendees. There has been an increase in conference promotions that encourage and welcome spouses to partake in events. There have also been recent conferences that have extended such resources and opportunities of engagement for children. 

Once again, I am excited about looking at the various conference schedules and locations. The panels and interactions with colleagues still provide the important academic value for attending a conference, but I am also excited to be able to bring my children to a new city they have never explored – a new zoo, museum, or park.

My class schedule, children’s’ school days, and my wife’s work schedule do not always allow for attending the three conference a year – I once did, but the stars do align every on occasion. As I prepare for my next conference panel – I am fortunate that my family will be able to join me in Anaheim, CA (not too far from Disneyland, I am told). Most notably, I believe I will be the most nervous I have ever been for a presentation with some of the toughest critics in the audience – my children.

I began this post noting how I have evolved in “conferencing as a parent” but in reflecting upon the topic – It may be equally attributable to the evolution of conference organizers. For example, here is note from the American Society for Public Administration conference organizers on their upcoming conference:  “Your children are welcome to attend any part of this year’s conference for free. Whether it’s a plenary, panel, networking reception, evening event or other conference session, you are welcome to bring your child.” Going forward and further – conference organizers can continue to encourage family engagement in conferences. Listing local attractions and museums for children or family activities can add to the overall experience of a conference for one participant who might have otherwise not attended at all. 

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About the author:

Tony Carrizales is an associate professor of public administration at Marist College and former editor-in-chief of Journal of Public Management and Social Policy. His research interests include diversity in the public sector and cultural competence. He received his Ph.D. from the School of Public Affairs and Administration, Rutgers University-Newark. He squad consists of Oliver, Claudia, and Warren, and his wife, Michelle.

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Blog Equitable Conferencing: Caregivers Perspectives and Prospects

Childcare in Time and Space: My Own Experience

mother hugging with ethnic kid on couch
by Sombo Muzata-Chunda:

Introduction

My children are in middle, and elementary schools, and I do not need to bring them to the academic conference with me. As a mother and one who has experienced a different reality around caregiving, I am sharing my lived experience because I believe this will enrich the present conversation. I am also sharing because I care.

My childcare experiences outside the academe

Motherhood is a great joy. Yet it brings with it many challenges, some that one never imagined existed. The challenging experiences can be mitigated by deliberate individual actions and institutional policies. The level of income and type of society are all factors in what kind of motherhood experience one gets to have. I gave birth to my daughters when I lived and worked at home in Zambia, sub-Saharan Africa. I worked for two different institutions, both in the nonprofit sector.

When my older daughter was born, I worked at a national nonprofit and took four months of paid maternity leave. Upon returning to work and serving for some months, I needed to attend an advocacy skills training workshop in Mozambique. That was going to be my first international trip, and the first time I would leave my one year + daughter at home for more than a working day’s hours. Fortunately for me, I had support from my mother who traveled 135 miles to the city where I lived to help look after my daughter while I traveled to the training workshop. I was still breastfeeding and needed to manage not only the guilt that comes with leaving a child at home but also the flow of breast milk. I had mentioned to the lead training facilitator that I needed more time after lunch to express the milk because I wanted to continue breastfeeding when I returned home in a week’s time. Also, that I would step out if my breasts were too full and I needed to express to reduce the pressure. I got accommodations for this.

I had my second daughter when I worked at an international nonprofit; a Swedish development organization. I am mentioning the country of origin of the organization because place and type of society is important like I indicated earlier. Sweden has some of the best policies on childcare in the world. With this organization, I had 6 months of paid maternity leave. I was able to take care of my daughter, and like the older one, exclusively breastfed her. I had a break to express breastmilk if I needed to.

What is similar in both experiences is that the institutions I worked for paid for parental leave for four and six months respectively. If I had chosen to travel with my daughters, I would have got the support that was stipulated in the policies on childcare. Both institutions were deliberate about promoting and respecting women and the right to childbearing. Policies were developed with women in full participation.

My observation of childcare in academic conferences, and conclusion

Living in the USA, as I attend my graduate studies, and participating in several academic conferences has exposed me to a different reality. This reality has had me wonder why I have not seen in the conference programs any information about where nursing mothers can take their children or who they can contact to arrange for caregiving. I have wondered if it is the types of conferences I attend? Or is it that women in public policy and public administration are not bothered by this?

To present a business case, I can imagine academic conference organizers thinking that expecting them to make such arrangements would be costly and asking for too much. I would imagine though that the individual cost to make childcare arrangements and complexity is a potential deterrent to women who would need this kind of support. I can imagine as a graduate student with limited resources, one would have to opt out of academic conferences to take care of their children at home and not have to go through additional stress. Many questions arise here including (i) does the academe expect childbearing women to choose between their children and attending conferences? (ii) what kind of support should academic conference organizers have or give to childcaring women? and (iii) beyond the academic conference sponsoring organizations, what policies do institutions of higher education have around childcare during official travel for their graduate students, professors, and faculty?

I hope that institutions in the academe will rethink their policies to ensure no woman has to make the tough choice to stay away from an academic conference which could have been the opportunity to link them to a network or information they needed to succeed. In my childbearing time and space, I had the opportunity to benefit from the policies institutions that I worked for had in place. I attended the advocacy training and been able to speak up on many issues that affect women, children, and marginalized people. I am not sure I would have been writing this post if the institutions I worked for didn’t give me the right kind of support to take care of my children and at the same time do my work.

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About the author:

Sombo Muzata-Chunda
Contact:chundasm@mymail.vcu.edu
Website: https://meritpages.com/Sombo1

Sombo M. Chunda is a Ph.D. candidate in the. L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. Prior to pursuing her graduate studies, Sombo worked as country representative in Zambia for the Swedish international nonprofit, Diakonia. At Diakonia, Sombo was responsible for leading the organization through a phase of uncertainty and raised funding to resume operations. Sombo is a trained accountant, a fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). She holds an MBA from Edinburgh Business School, Heriot Watt University. Her research interests include international development, anti-corruption, and women entrepreneurship. Sombo is a 2020 Section for Women in Public Administration Suffragette scholarship winner.

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Blog Equitable Conferencing: Caregivers Perspectives and Prospects

Give Families Time to Plan

family of four walking at the street
by Heath Brown, Associate Professor, John Jay College:

I sobbed on my way to my first conference after my son was born in 2017. The Lyft driver was confused and worried. I knew it wasn’t just being away, it was being away from him and my wife for the first time.

I pulled myself together in time to get through security on my way to Chicago for a convening of the Scholars Strategy Network. Gratefully, SSN meeting planners figured out how to squeeze five days of work into 12 hours of non-stop action and I was soon on my way back home by the next evening. They’d also been incredibly well organized and I knew long before the event exactly for how long I’d be gone. Early notice is a very family-friendly conference practice.

Not every conference is so well-organized, and this is especially burdensome on parents. If you don’t know when your panel is scheduled until a month before the confeneve, the juggling of support and coordination of schedules is unnecessarily hard, an enormous burden on all attendees, particularly those with young children.

The first thing every academic conference planner should prioritize is letting speakers and presenters know incredibly quickly the date and time of when they are on the agenda. Only when parents have sufficient time can they make the complex arrangements to balance parenting and conferencing.

Also critical is how responsive conference planners are to requests from presenters for the best time to fit into the conference schedule. Weekdays are hardest for my family, for other families weekends are worse. Giving presenters the chance to pick when they present is a huge help to families and a hugely appreciated aspect of a conference, even if every request cannot be granted.

As important as logistics are simply feeling welcome and having the chance to share the experience with family. At least one reception or meal open to family members sends a powerful message that families are a part of an academic life, not something to be ignored or placed at the margin. Findings ways to incorporate family is a family-friendly way to organize a conference.

Our son is now nearly three. Taking him to a conference is something I look forward to. Better planning and a big welcome will make that a great experience for us.

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About the author:

Heath Brown is an associate professor of public policy at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, and the CUNY Graduate Center. He has worked at the US Congressional Budget Office as a Research Fellow, at the American Bus Association as a Policy Assistant, and at the Council of Graduate Schools as Research and Policy Director.

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Blog Equitable Conferencing: Caregivers Perspectives and Prospects

Conferences and Nursing Mothers

loving woman with baby and dog
by Elizabeth Berkowitz, MA, PhD:

In February 2017, when my second daughter was three weeks old, I pulled myself out of bed, downed several cups of coffee, showered, stuffed my postpartum body into something approximating professional attire, and went to present at my field’s big professional conference (College Art Association (CAA)). Thankfully, I had my mother at home, and, equally thankfully, my daughter had (mostly) taken to bottle-feeding the day prior, so I could rest assured that, at the very least, she would be cared for and fed for the 8 hours I would be away. However, I was nursing a newborn every two-three hours, and needed to pump to keep up my supply up. That year, CAA offered a fantastic service to nursing mothers—a lactation room.

The conference was held in a hotel, and nursing mothers were granted special key access to a large room on the lower level. The room contained two comfy chairs divided by a curtained partition, as well as a mini-fridge to store milk, ice water, and cups. Without having to huddle awkwardly in a bathroom stall while noisily pumping (which I did for other professional events during her first year) or having to sit in public with a nursing cover while I pumped (another fun experience), CAA’s available and well-thought-out lactation room ensured that I was comfortable, that my daughter could be fed, and that I was still able to advance my career and give the presentation.

Since then, CAA has added babysitting services (though, due to low enrollment in 2020, they are providing $250 childcare grants instead) to ensure that attending or presenting child caregivers are able to further their professional ambitions without having to worry about childcare demands.

However, this being said, there is always room for improvement. While I remain grateful for access to the lactation room during CAA 2017, the standard time between conference panels was too short to ensure that I could pump without missing a session or arriving to a panel quite late. During the short panel breaks, I would have to run down to the hotel lower level, get out my equipment, pump, store the milk, clean the materials, and then run back upstairs to make the start of an important session. Increasing the time between sessions might necessitate eliminating at least one potential panel from any conference’s (admittedly, overstuffed) roster, but perhaps it would be a small price to pay to further ensure that the need to pump or nurse wouldn’t impede a parent’s chance at professional advancement or networking.

Alternatively, “nursing pods” might be a solution. If every conference floor had at least two nursing pods, and if each conference room or floor was equipped with a mini-fridge for storage, then nursing mothers could quickly pump adjacent to their conference room, and then store their milk and equipment in the next panel’s space.

As a working mother of two children, I feel that this dialogue about improving conference support for caregivers is a wonderful first step and I believe that organizations have made tremendous strides to ensure that caregiving is not a professional penalty. I look forward to seeing how such support and advocacy continues in the future! 

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About the author:

Elizabeth Berkowitz is an art historian specializing in modern art historiography and pre-World War II European avant-garde painting. She received her PhD from the Graduate Center, CUNY; and also holds an MA in Modern Art from Columbia University and a Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies from Tufts University. Currently, she works as the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow and Outreach Program Manager at the Rockefeller Archive Center. In addition to a background as a museum and university educator, Elizabeth’s writings on modern art history and museum display have appeared in both popular and academic publications.

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Blog Equitable Conferencing: Caregivers Perspectives and Prospects

Equitable Conferencing: Caregivers Perspectives and Prospects – An Introduction

close up photo of a mother kissing her sleeping baby
by Shilpa Viswanath, PhD and Jamie Levine Daniel, PhD :

Academic conferences, an essential component of academic life, contribute a whole new element to the parenting and caregiving challenge. Academic conferences are a hotbed for professional networking, career collaborations and for advancing one’s research. Attending conferences are especially indispensable for graduate and doctoral students as well as junior faculty members, given the opportunities to further their academic careers. Yet, conferences are notoriously long-drawn, involve travel and are expensive to attend. For parents and caregivers in academia, the barriers to conferencing are further complicated with sparse or absent childcare support. This blog symposium series on ‘Equitable Conferencing’ conceptualizes conferences as an extension of the workplace, and brings together students parents/caregivers, faculty parents/caregivers and practitioner parents/caregivers in the field of public administration to share personal narratives of struggles and strains involved while attempting to conference and also be a parent or caregiver.

Our symposium contributors, ASPA leadership, doctoral students, and faculty, approach issues of conference logistics, costs, (lack of) facilities and other barriers to conference participation (including childcare and dependent care responsibilities). Contributors also discuss frameworks to achieve an equitable conference environment, and means of financing conference childcare and dependent care support. This symposium also sheds light on new initiatives implemented by certain professional organizations in the field such as Association of Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) and Law & Society Association, both, who offer conference childcare grants (between $250-$500) in the form of monetary compensation to participants with children. These grants help cover extra expenses incurred for caregiving services. Other organizations such as the American Political Science Association (APSA) provide on-site conference childcare support at subsidized rates for children between 6months to 12 years of age.

To begin this series, Dr. Elizabeth Berkowitz highlights the needs of nursing mothers who attend conferences. In her blog post, she explores the idea of nursing pods at academic conferences which create a secure space for nursing mothers to pump and store milk, while participating in a conference. This is intended to be a productive dialogue, we welcome further online discussion and practical suggestions to address equitable conferencing. To contribute to this symposium, kindly send a 500 word blog post to wps@jjay.cuny.edu. If you have any questions, please contact one of the blog series editors: Shilpa Viswanath, sviswanath@uwlax.edu and Jamie Levine Daniel, jlevined@iupui.edu

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About the authors:

Dr. Shilpa Viswanath is an Assistant Professor of Public Administration at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. And, faculty affiliate at the University of Wisconsin – Madison’s Center for South Asia. Her research and teaching engage in themes of gender and social equity; labor unions and local governments, and, are rooted in her identities of being an immigrant in the United States, a faculty woman of color and a mother. She presently serves on the executive board of American Society for Public Administration’s Section for Women in Public Administration and, on the board of the Section for International and Comparative Administration.

Dr. Jamie Levine Daniel is an assistant professor at the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis. Her research focuses on the relationship between nonprofit resource acquisition and program service delivery, with particular experience interest on the relationship between earned revenue and mission.

Categories
Blog Equitable Conferencing: Caregivers Perspectives and Prospects

Equitable Conferencing: Caregivers Perspectives and Prospects – An Introduction

group of people photo
by Shilpa Viswanath, PhD and Jamie Levine Daniel, PhD:

Academic conferences, an essential component of academic life, contribute a whole new element to the parenting and caregiving challenge. Academic conferences are a hotbed for professional networking, career collaborations and for advancing one’s research. Attending conferences are especially indispensable for graduate and doctoral students as well as junior faculty members, given the opportunities to further their academic careers.

Yet, conferences are notoriously long-drawn, involve travel and are expensive to attend. For parents and caregivers in academia, the barriers to conferencing are further complicated with sparse or absent childcare support. This blog symposium series on ‘Equitable Conferencing’ conceptualizes conferences as an extension of the workplace, and brings together students parents/caregivers, faculty parents/caregivers and practitioner parents/caregivers in the field of public administration to share personal narratives of struggles and strains involved while attempting to conference and also be a parent or caregiver. 

Our symposium contributors, ASPA leadership, doctoral students, and faculty, approach issues of conference logistics, costs, (lack of) facilities and other barriers to conference participation (including childcare and dependent care responsibilities). Contributors also discuss frameworks to achieve an equitable conference environment, and means of financing conference childcare and dependent care support. This symposium also sheds light on new initiatives implemented by certain professional organizations in the field such as Association of Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) and Law & Society Association, both, who offer conference childcare grants (between $250-$500) in the form of monetary compensation to participants with children. These grants help cover extra expenses incurred for caregiving services. Other organizations such as the American Political Science Association (APSA) provide on-site conference childcare support at subsidized rates for children between 6months to 12 years of age. 

To begin this series, Dr. Elizabeth Berkowitz highlights the needs of nursing mothers who attend conferences. In her blog post, she explores the idea of nursing pods at academic conferences which create a secure space for nursing mothers to pump and store milk, while participating in a conference. This is intended to be a productive dialogue, we welcome further online discussion and practical suggestions to address equitable conferencing. To contribute to this symposium, kindly send a 500 word blog post to  wps@jjay.cuny.edu. If you have any questions, please contact one of the blog series editors: Shilpa Viswanath, sviswanath@uwlax.edu and Jamie Levine Daniel, jlevined@iupui.edu

◂Return to blog homepage


About the authors:

Dr. Shilpa Viswanath is an Assistant Professor of Public Administration at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. And, faculty affiliate at the University of Wisconsin – Madison’s Center for South Asia. Her research and teaching engage in themes of gender and social equity; labor unions and local governments, and, are rooted in her identities of being an immigrant in the United States, a faculty woman of color and a mother. She presently serves on the executive board of American Society for Public Administration’s Section for Women in Public Administration and, on the board of the Section for International and Comparative Administration.

Dr. Jamie Levine Daniel is an assistant professor at the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis. Her research focuses on the relationship between nonprofit resource acquisition and program service delivery, with particular experience interest on the relationship between earned revenue and mission.