About the Office of Work/Life


Collaborations and Committees  

Workshops and Events 

Staff Bios


The Office of Work/Life

In 2006 the Vice Provost for Diversity Initiatives Working Group issued the report:  “Enhancing Columbia’s Child Care Programs: An Action Plan” which concluded that without certain vital career supports in place the University could not effectively recruit or retain a diverse group of faculty. In order to address these issues, the Office of Work/Life was established in 2007 under the leadership of Carol Hoffman, Associate Provost and Director of Work/Life.   

The office has three primary goals:

  • Promote awareness and utilization of Columbia University's existing work/life initiatives
  • Improve work/life policies, benefits, services, programs, practices, and culture throughout the University
  • Enhance the experience of Columbia University as a family-supportive institution

Mission: The Office of Work/Life promotes the University's commitment to a working and learning environment supportive of its faculty, researchers, administrators, staff and students in their pursuit of productive and fulfilling professional and personal lives.

In support of this mission, the Office of Work/Life has launched many programs and services that lay the foundation for a university culture supportive of both work and life.  The Office of Work/Life assists members of the Columbia community when they are facing typical life events and transitions, from birth to death. The Office of Work/Life also works to address the needs of all types of family structures, careers, and issues unique to the University community. This is accomplished through policy work, work/life programs and services, workshops, and the gathering and posting of informational resources.

Click here to read what the Columbia community is saying about our programs and services.

Back To Top  


2007 – 2008

  • Office of Work/Life was established based on the 2006 recommendations of the Vice Provost for Diversity Initiatives’ Working Group report:  “Enhancing Columbia’s Child Care Programs: An Action Plan.”

  • Associate Provost and Director of Work/Life< Carol Hoffman, arrived at Columbia in late February 2007 from UC Berkeley to start a Work/Life program for Columbia University.

  • Implemented the Backup Care program, another recommendation of the previously mentioned Working Group.

  • Established the Faculty Spouse/Partner Dual Career Service.The School Search Service formally became an Office of Work/Life service and was expanded to be the School and Child Care Search Service.

  • Associate Provost Hoffman assumed co-chair role with Provost Brinkley of the Faculty Quality of Life Committee.

  • Added three new affiliated child care centers that accept infants/toddlers and established regular meetings with the directors of all of Columbia’s Affiliated Child Care Centers.

2008 – 2009

  • Developed the Breastfeeding Support Program, establishing six lactation rooms on the Morningside campus and one lactation room each at Lamont Doherty, Manhattanville, and the Medical Center campuses.
  • Established the Housing Information and Referral Service to support the Provost’s new Faculty Housing Assistance Program.
  • Assumed ongoing co-sponsorship and development of the Annual Child Care Fair.
  • Initiated the successful expansion of the Flexible Work Arrangements policy for administrators to include flex time and 9- and 10- month programs.
  • Launched a comprehensive electronic bulletin board.
  • Began offering a range of Work/Life educational workshops each semester.
  • Successfully suggested the elimination of the 2-year restriction on faculty use of Parental Workload Relief.


  • Implemented a data collection system.
  • Launched Wellness initiatives with the Walk to Wellness pilot program and the Wellness e-newsletter.

2010 – 2011

  • Developed the first annual New (Tenure Track and Tenured) Faculty Reception, co-sponsored by the Provost.
  • Added two lactation rooms located in The School at Columbia and on Morningside campus.
  • Initiated and held first New York City metropolitan area Infant/Toddler center directors meeting.
  • Developed a new Ivy+ group and first East Coast Academic Workforce Housing Conference meeting.
2011– 2012
  • Added an additional lactation room at the Medical Center.
  • Held first (to become annual) K-8 Schools of Value Fair.

  • Launched Healthy Lifestyle Challenge Wellness pilot program.


  • Hired Director of Wellness 
  • Added a lactation room at 2852 Broadway

  • Hosted East Coast Academic Workforce Housing Conference

  • Formed the Computer Workstation Ergonomics Working Group 


  • Started a Biciclying Working Group
  • Offerred the first Baby Shower for New Expectant Parents

  • Offered new schooling workshop on Testing and Test Prep

Back to Top

Collaborations and Committees


Faculty Quality of Life Committee

Comprising representatives from all of the Schools on the Morningside campus, the Faculty Quality of Life Committee meets 2-4 times per year to address work/life issues and needs specific to  Columbia faculty on the Morningside campus.  

The Committee’s mission was defined in 2009 to further the improvement of the quality of life of faculty by:

  • Identifying quality of life issues.
  • Recommending policies, programs, services and benefits to address quality of life issues.
  • Providing input on current initiatives to ensure faculty needs are met.
  • Evaluating current and future quality of life programs and initiatives.

The Committee has addressed faculty retirement, child care grants, safety on campus, challenges faced by faculty members with disabilities, K – 12 tuition benefits, and more. 

Highlights of the Committee’s work include:

Work Family in the Twenty-first Century

In Fall 2010 The Office of Work/Life invited academics at Columbia, Barnard and Teachers College involved in research and teaching related to work/family/life to attend meetings for the purpose of identifying potential collaborations with each other and with the Office of Work/Life. After the first year of meetings, the agenda of the meetings were planned with the participation of two members of the group, Jane Waldfogel, Compton Foundation Centennial Professor for the Prevention of Children's Youth Problems, School of Social Work, and Wendy Chavkin, Special Lecturer in Population and Family Health, School of Public Health. Beginning in 2012-2013, the group evolved into a University Seminar which examins current demographic trends and their implications for working families in order to identify knowledge gaps and opportunities for research collaborations at Columbia.

Past speakers have included:

  • Ruth Milkman, Professor of Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center
  • Netsy Firestein, founding director of the Labor Project for Working Families
  • Ellen Bravo, director of Family Values at Work Consortium, Gale A. Brewer, NYC Council Member, Sharon Lerner, journalist, Rebecca Symes, representative of U.S. Senator K. Gillebrand.

Early Education and Child Care

Affiliated Child Care Center Directors Meetings

The Office of Work/Life coordinates two meetings per semester with the Affiliated Child Care Center Directors.  These meetings have enabled the facilitation of the finalization legal agreements between Columbia University and the Centers, the procurement of group insurance, and the clarification of the Centers’ admissions process and financial aid distribution. These meetings also provide opportunities for collegial interaction and idea sharing. Affiliated Child Care Centers in include: Children’s Learning Center, Columbia Greenhouse, the Family Annex, Lamont-Doherty Child Development Center, Medical Center Nursery, Park West Montessori School, Red Balloon Day Care Center, Riverside Montessori School, and Tompkins Hall Nursery and Child Care Center. Other centers, such as the Barnard Toddler Center, Teacher College’s Rita Gold and Hollingsworth centers, and School of Public Health Head Start, are also invited to participate in the directors meetings.


Bicycling Working Group

Columbia University’s Wellness Advisory Committee formed the Bicycling Working Group in the Fall of 2013. Representatives from various University departments, including Public Safety; Environmental Stewardship; Facilities Morningside; Facilities CUMC; Facilities Manhattanville; Government and Community Affairs; and the Office of Work/Life actively participate.

Computer Workstation Ergonomics Working Group

Formed in Spring 2013, this Columbia University interdisciplinary, multi-departmental computer workstation ergonomics working group addresses the prevention and treatment of injury/illness associated with (fixed) computer workstation ergonomics.

Transportation Committee

In conjunction with Environmental Stewardship, the Transportation Committee was formed in 2010-11 in order to discuss ways in which the University can improve the environment and support wellness/health and family care giving needs through transportation and commuting alternatives.

Wellness Advisory Committee

Formed in Spring 2010 the Wellness Advisory Committee is comprised of senior level administrators and academics with areas of expertise and/or responsibilities in health and wellness at the university. The purpose of the Committee is to create a forum for dialogue among all wellness stakeholders, receive feedback and suggestions for current initiatives, and to develop a wellness vision and roadmap for the University. The Committee has addressed various wellness initiatives that increase health outcomes, morale, and productivity within the Columbia community. Key areas include: disease management, health risk assessments, and computer workstation ergonomics

Participation on Additional University Committees

In addition to the committees established and hosted by The Office of Work/Life, Work/Life professionals have participated or currently participate in the following University committees and meetings:

  • Campus Life Committee (SVP, CUMC)
  • Commission on the Status of Women (ex-officio) (University Senate)
  • Disability Access and Accommodations Committee (Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action)
  • Government and Community Affairs Community Meeting (Office of Government and Community Affairs)
  • Housing Priorities Committee (Office of the Provost) 
  • Morningside Human Resources Senior Manager bi-weekly meetings
  • Morningside Senior Administrators quarterly meetings

External Collaborations

The Office of Work/Life also collaborates with organizations that can help support the needs of the Columbia community.

American Council on Education (ACE) 

The Office of Work/Life facilitated Columbia University’s participation in a nine-school pilot study to explore faculty experiences with retirement.  In Spring 2011, ACE conducted focus groups in order to discover best practices and develop recommendations for working collaboratively with faculty in their pre- and post retirement stages.

Teacher’s College 

The Office of Work/Life's School and Child Care Search Service (SCCSS) has developed a reciprocal relationship with Teacher's College, a Columbia University afilliated institution.  The SCCSS offers workshops to The Rita Gold Early Childhood Center, Teachers College for its faculty and students and, in exchange, Teacher's College students work with the SCCCSS on research projects and program development.

Workshops and Events

The Office of Work/Life organizes and implements a variety of workshops to provide an efficient method for delivering information on a variety ofwork and life topics. The goal of the workshops is to deliver this information while also providing a venue for community building and social support among Columbia members.  The following are examples of past Work/Life workshops, events, and programs. Note that workshops and events are subject to change from year to year. Please visit this webpage for information about current workshops and programs.

Child Care


  • Child Care Choices/Day Care and Nursery Schools
  • Child Care Choices/Nanny Necessities


Annual Child Care Fair

Co-hosted by Columbia’s School and Child Care Search Service and the Office of Government and Community Affairs, the Annual Child Care Fair provides an opportunity for Columbia and neighborhood parents to gather information and talk to representatives from Upper West Side and upper Manhattan child care centers, family day care homes, and nursery schools, including those affiliated with Columbia.

The fair brings together about 65 neighborhood programs (from West 96th Street to the northern tip of Manhattan) that serve young children. This fair has been expanded tremendously since the Office of Work/Life was founded.

The Child Care Fair now includes many bilingual and international programs, to address families’ desire that their children learn to speak parents’ native tongue. In addition, au pair and nanny agencies are also now represented at the fair. In Fall 2011 a total of 1,050 people attended the Child Care Fair. Data was not collected prior to 2010.

Elder/Adult Care and Aging


  • Alzheimer's/Demention
  • Challenges and Joys of Adult/Elder Caregiving
  • Introduction to Medicare
  • Retaining Legal Control over Important Life Decisions

Flexible Work Arrangements


  • Flexible Work Arrangements Training

Housing and Relocation


  • Cut the Clutter and Get Organized
  • How to Obtain a Mortgage... And Can I Afford It?
  • Moving? Where to Live in NYC
  • The Process of Purchasing a Property


Annual Reception for New Faculty and Their Spouses/Partners

The New Faculty Reception, established by the Office of Work/Life in Fall 2010 and co-sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Planning and the Provost, is an example of a collaborative effort to address the diversity of the faculty. The reception aims to build community by welcoming new tenure track and tenured faculty members and their spouses/partners to the University and providing them with the opportunity to interact with new recruits from all departments, schools, and campuses and meet the Provost and Vice Provosts, and become familiar with the Office of Work/Life offerings.



  • Breastfeeding Matters
  • Spotting Emotional Warning Signs in Adolescents and Teens
  • Steps to a Successful Adoption


  • A Baby Shower for New and Expectant Parents



  • Affording an Independent School Education: Tuition and Financial Aid
  • College Planning Information Session
  • Getting a Head Start on the Independent School Kindergarten Admissions Process


Annual K-8 Schools of Value Fair

The idea for the Annual Schools of Value Fair developed out of the long-time success of the Child Care Fair. The fair allows parents to talk to educators from a range of private schools serving Kindergarten through 8th Grade in order to provide resources and address the financial and educational needs of Columbia families. The schools invited to participate are schools whose tuition is not above $22,000 and who often have sliding scale going lower than that as well. As K -8 independent school tuition tends to be approximately $40,000, learning about these more affordable but quality schools is a wonderful opportunity for many Columbia families who do not have access to quality public schools.

The School and Child Care Search Service specialists had developed a system for capturing feedback from attendees of the Child Care Fair and implemented this system at the Affordable Schools Fair as well. Feedback from attendees stated they were pleased to expand their list of school options.



  • Bicycle Commuting 101
  • Relax: A Workshop on Tension Reduction Techniques
  • Tips for a Good Night's Sleep
  • Mindfulness Training for Stress Reduction (MTSR)
  • Healthy Lifestyle Challenge
  • Walk to Wellness

Back To Top

Staff Bios - Alphabetical by last name

Rebecca Balkin - Administrative Manager, Office of Work/Life

Rebecca began working in the Office of Work/Life in 2009.  As the administrative manager for the Office, Rebecca performs a variety of duties and is responsible for financial management and event and program support. She also manages the Breastfeeding Support Program and Backup Care Program. Before coming to Columbia, Rebecca spent three years working as an administrative assistant in the Department of Economics at Harvard University. Rebecca is an active member of the College and University Work Family Association (CUWFA), having served on several committees.

Rebecca received a B.A. in Sociology from Tufts University and is currently working toward a Non-Profit Management Master of Science degree at Columbia's School of Professional Studies.

Kristin Carnahan - Coordinator, Office of Work/Life

Kristin provides administrative and programmatic support to the Office of Work/Life, working primarily with the School and Child Care Search Service and the Housing Information and Referral Service. Prior to joining the Work/Life team Kristin maintained a private acupuncture practice and coordinated communications for the Classical Wellness Center, a holistic wellness center in Manhattan. Previously she served as Associate Director of Public Affairs at the College Board, focusing on the SAT.

Originally from the Midwest, Kristin has called New York City home for nearly 15 years. She lives in upper Manhattan with her husband and daughter.

Kristin earned her B.A. in Philosophy from Oberlin College and her M.S. in Acupuncture from the Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences.

Alice Lesman - Director, Housing Information and Referral

Alice joined the Office of Work/Life in September 2008. Prior to coming to Columbia, Alice managed the relocation department of the New York office in a large financial institution. Her primary focus was on housing in the New York area. She managed property owned by the institution, and was responsible for international and domestic moving, temporary housing, permanent housing, and metropolitan area orientation. Additionally, Alice was an interior architect for many years and worked on a variety of commercial and residential projects.

Also, as a native New Yorker, Alice is well-acquainted with New York City and the greater New York area. She utilizes this knowledge when counseling members of the Columbia community on relocation, housing and real estate concerns. Additionally, she has some personal relocation experience, having relocated internationally with her family when her children were young.

She earned her M.S. in Interior Architecture from Pratt Institute and a B.B.A. in Marketing from Pace University. Alice is currently a Member and Certified Relocation Professional (CRP) of the Employee Relocation Council (ERC).

Deborah Hughes Ndao Director, Wellness

As the Director of Wellness, Deborah develops and executes programs designed to improve the health and wellness for the people who work at Columbia University.

Prior to joining the Office of Work/Life, Deborah was the Program Manager of the Integrative Therapies Program in the Division of Pediatric Oncology, Columbia University Medical Center. In her role, Deborah devoted her work to designing, implementing, and evaluating wellness programs for clinicians, children, adolescents and young adults, and their caregivers, and oversaw program communications, education, outreach, and policy initiatives, both nationally and internationally. Deborah is involved in a number of professional organizations, including the American Public Health Association.

Deborah earned her B.A. in English with a concentration in Pre-Medicine from Barnard College and her M.P.H. in Health Promotion-Sociomedical Sciences from the Mailman School of Public Health.

Marcia Roesch - Director, School and Child Care Search Service

As Director of the School and Child Care Search Service, Marcia assists Columbia families who are searching for schools in New York City, consulting individually with parents and presenting workshops for the Columbia community.

Before joining Columbia University's Office of Work/Life, Marcia spent many years in independent school admissions.  She began her career in admissions at Trevor Day School, eventually becoming Director of Admissions of the Middle and High School.  Most recently, she was the Director of Admissions for Nursery through Grade 8 at Bank Street School for Children.  She has been an active member of the Independent Schools Admissions Association of Greater New York (ISAAGNY), currently serves on the Board of Early Steps, and is an Associate Member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA).

Marcia earned a B.A. in History and Education from Case Western Reserve University and a M.A. in Educational Psychology/Learning Disabilities from Teachers College. She grew up in the suburbs of New York, but has enjoyed city life for the past 38 years where she raised her two children.  


Carolyn Sachs Singer - Associate Director, School and Child Care Search Service

Carolyn provides resources and information to expectant parents as well as families with young children as they make decisions related to parenting and child care choices. Through individual consultation and workshops, Carolyn supports families in finding quality and appropriate early care and education programs.

Prior to her arrival at Columbia, Carolyn served as the Director of Early Childhood Education and Managing Director of Early Childhood and Children's Services at the Riverdale YM-YWHA. During her tenure, she developed a new area of service: recreational and therapeutic programs for children with special needs. Recently, Carolyn also served as Senior Director of Family Life at the JCC in Manhattan.

Carolyn holds a M.S.Ed. in Curriculum and Teaching from Fordham University and a B.A. in Judaic Studies from the University of Cincinnati. She is a native of New York City and lives on the Upper West Side with her husband and children.

Additional Staffing

As necessary, the Office of Work/Life works with senior administrative officers within Columbia University to provide faculty recruitment and relocation services, in particular the Faculty Spouse/Partner Dual Career Service which is staffed by Columbia University career counseling and placement specialists.

Back To Top

Last Updated: