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Work, School & Motherhood

By Lucy Worley, Marketing & PR Coordinator

Kirsten Morris is a perfect example it's never too late to change course.

After accepting a position with Texas Tech Worldwide eLearning as the coordinator for the Online Accessibility Lab earlier this year, Kirsten took advantage of the free course per semester that is offered to full-time employees.

The road to starting her master's degree, however, was one of many unexpected turns.

After graduating from Brigham Young University (BYU) in 2008 with a B.S. in teaching, Kirsten taught middle school and high school social studies for the following seven years—all the way from Utah to Kazakhstan.

"Four years into my teaching career my husband Scott and I got married. We both had always dreamed of living abroad, so we applied to different jobs around the world," Kirsten said.

"A school in Kazakhstan offered me a job that had great pay and they even offered to pay for our airfare and housing, so we took it."

Kirsten and Scott lived in Kazakhstan for one year. During Kirsten's time there, she helped develop a program that better prepared native Kazakh students for a western university learning environment.

"Our time in Kazakhstan came to an end when my husband decided to begin his Ph.D. program here at Texas Tech. That was four years ago, and we have been in Lubbock since," Kirsten said.

Kirsten taught for a while when she first came to Lubbock, but after having her son Calvin, she realized that being a full-time teaching and being a new mom was not as balance as she would like.

"The emotional and mental exhaustion from teaching was leaving nothing left over my family and they are my first priority," Kirsten said.

It was during this time that Kirsten tried out being a full-time mom.

"While I loved being there for Calvin, at the same time, I was struggling with postpartum depression. Being home all day was not a good fit for me."

With this new self-awareness, Kirsten set out to look for a job that would be less time-consuming but would still offer professional development opportunities.

"I started working with Worldwide eLearning earlier this year and it has been a good fit for me. If I need to take time off for my family, I can do that. But one of the most exciting parts was being eligible for a free course per semester. Ever since graduating from BYU, I have wanted to pursue a master's degree, but before working at Texas Tech, the timing and finances have just never worked out," said Kirsten.

There was still hesitance when considering becoming a student though.

"Time with my family is important and I had just struck a good balance with my new job, so adding classwork to the mix was worrisome at first," said Kirsten.

"However, when I realized that the master's program I was interested in was offered fully online, I felt confident that I could do it."

Now pursuing her M.A. in Technical Communication, Kirsten is taking her first class this semester.

"I take Introduction to Rhetorical Theory online every Monday night from home," Kirsten said.

"It is such a great fit for our family because my husband teaches a fitness class those nights and takes Calvin with him to the gym. My class runs from 6:00pm - 9:00pm but we take a break at 7:30pm which happens to be when the boys get home so I get to see Calvin, sing him songs and put him to bed during that time."

There are other reasons that attending class via Skype is a great fit for Kirsten.

"Scott and I are expecting our second child soon and being pregnant, it is much more comfortable for me to attend class from home."

Technical Communication is a bit of a departure from Kirsten's background in teaching, but she had her reasons for the shift.

"I chose this degree for a few reasons. Teaching really took away time with my family, but technical communication offers so many opportunities for part-time work and working from home. With another child on the way, this will open up opportunities to continue to do what I love while spending time with my kids."

However, there was another element that came into play when making her decision.

"As a woman, I had never really asked myself what my highest earning potential was, or how I could best provide for my family – questions that men would ask themselves. If I have the skills and qualifications that would bring me a job with better pay than teaching, why would I not do that?"

Teaching may have been her primary passion in years past, but that has been surpassed by Kirsten's growing family. Now it's all about how to maximize family time while being able to contribute to their financial security.

Through all of this, Kirsten has managed to strike a healthy professional and personal life-balance, but she'll be the first to tell you that it comes by trial and error.

"What has worked well for me as a mom may not work well for others, and that is okay. I love being a student and being a mom. It is important to Scott and I that our kids see us working hard for our goals. I think sometimes parents can feel enslaved to their child's schedule, but it's okay to work toward personal goals. It's healthy when kids see a parent pursuing something they're passionate about."

Kirsten, Calvin and Scott Morris

Kirsten, Calvin and Scott Morris