This week, in the lead-up to the AUT Postgraduate Research Symposium on Friday, we are putting the spotlight on some of the talented and hard-working researchers who will present their work at the Symposium. Keep an eye out for more stories about our AUT research students throughout the week!
Tondy Mangenje has every reason to relate to her research participants.
Her Honours research into the experiences of mature higher education students with dependent children was inspired by her own experiences studying with two daughters at home, “juggling the dual role of student and parent.”
Tondy interviewed six participants, all performing the same juggling act, to discover their reasons for studying as parents and their tactics for dealing with societal reactions to their choices. She contextualises herself and her participants as part of an ‘opening up’ of higher education. A few generations ago, universities were populated largely by students who were wealthy, young, male, and European. This group did not typically have to juggle parenting and study. As more women, minority groups, and students of diverse ages take part in higher education, the experience of parenting-while-studying becomes more common – and more crucial to understand.
The research focuses on internal and external criticism and praise of studying parents: the interior voice that might celebrate victories or introduce doubts, and the external voices that might encourage or shame parent-student choices. These dual voices can have a huge impact on how students succeed in, or shrink from, their studies.
Tondy’s research has shown that student parents prize their educations highly, and often see their mature age as an asset in their studies. But connections and communities are crucial: “a strong suggestion that came out from the findings was the need for mature student-parent social connections groups or activities on campus. I have found through my experience that this type of support although simple, may help reduce the effects of stress when studying. It can also be a strong motivation for student-parents to keep studying.”
Tondy’s research is part of her Honours in psychology, and she is working her way toward becoming a Counselling Psychologist. That instinct for empathy is evident in her motivations for the research: “I hoped to create a sense of empowerment for the women that shared their experiences with me by acknowledging their thoughts and ideas about being a parent undertaking higher education… In a way that is what the research is about, bringing people together because we are better together.”
You can hear more about Tondy’s research at the AUT Postgraduate Research Symposium this Friday. Her talk will take place at 11:45am as part of the ‘Relationships, families, and human connections’ session. Register here.