Angela Kent’s daughter Lily knows Richards Hall as well as her own daycare.
Kent started to pursue an art degree in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Hixson-LIed College of Fine and Performing Arts while she pregnant with Lily. After giving birth, she would occasionally return to campus with her daughter on her hip or carried alongside in a car seat.
Today, 3-year-old Lily knows the hallways like the back of her hand.
“She loves making laps,” Kent said as Lily scampered between classrooms. “She’s pretty good about being mindful of what she’s around. She likes to come out here and she loves that the hallway is a big loop.”
Angela and Lily are one of an estimated 400 parent-child pairs on the university’s campuses. For these students, the pressures of parenthood and academia interact daily. Coming home from classes signals the end of one job and the beginning of another, and daycare pickups, dinner, bath time and bedtime stories replace the time that many other Huskers would spend studying or taking a break from tests and presentations.
“It’s two full time jobs that I have right now,” Kent said.
Kent leans on her partner for support. Together, the two balance her school schedule alongside Lily’s needs. While it isn’t always easy caring for a toddler while taking a full course load of classes, Kent knows it will all be worth it when she receives her degree in May 2022. She hopes by being both a mother and a student, she can show the two life paths don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
“I don’t want her to grow up and down the road be like, ‘Oh, I gave up school for you’ or something. Because for so long there’s been the stigma, especially towards women, when you’re a mother — that’s your job. You know, you’re not allowed to have any thoughts, ideas, needs or anything. So, this can help show her that yeah, I had you and I was still able to pursue my dream and work towards my degree and make things happen for myself,” Kent said. “I was still able to have my own identity.”
Kent also receives support from her Husker community. Her classmates and professors have been responsive to her role as a parent — from creating a lactation space in an empty administration office, to making pictures for Lily to paint on the days she comes to college. Though Kent doesn’t typically bring Lily to classes, she’ll allow her to tag along on days where the building isn’t busy and she’s working on projects in the studio. And when she can’t come to class because daycare is closed or Lily is sick, instructors understand.
“People are understanding, but also it’s kind of a thing where people are also like, ‘I have no idea what you’re going through, so just do whatever you need,’” Kent said.
Additionally, Kent finds financial support through university programs like the Nebraska Promise. While before Kent would have to take semesters off to work full-time or add in a part-time job while doing school, now she is able to focus on what matters most — being a mom and finishing her degree.
“The Nebraska Promise and getting my tuition paid for is probably the number one reason why I’ve been able to continue coming back and finish,” Kent said.
It’s allowed her to not worry so much about finances, and to focus on her art instead. Kent is an avid pottery maker and dreams of one day being able to open her own studio and sell her ceramics. For now, she’s getting a taste of that life by participating in the UNL Clay Club and their biannual sale.
At the early December Clay Club sale, Kent arrived with Lily to volunteer for a shift. They looked at the pottery made by the fellow artists before walking over to Kent’s own table where her earrings, ornaments and trays were displayed. Next to her art is a placard with a blurb about the artists and a photo — a picture of Angela and Lily, dressed in matching blue outfits and beaming at the camera together.