About the Office of Work/Life

Staff Bios

Collaborations and Committees  


The Office of Work/Life

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.

The office has three primary goals:

Enhance the experience of Columbia University as a family-supportive institution

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

In support of its mission, the Office of Work/Life offers 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 presentations, and the gathering and sharing of informational resources.

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

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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.

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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 addressed 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. 

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.

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