University breaks ground on new childcare center set to open in 2013

The June 5 groundbreaking ceremony for a new child care center on campus marked an important step in supporting families within the University community.

The new facility is scheduled to open in the spring of 2013, and will serve 124 children between 6 weeks and 5 years old. It will be located near the corner of 56th Street and Drexel and will be open to families from across the University. The University and the Medical Center are jointly funding the project.

“Child care on campus will genuinely contribute to the work that we produce at the University of Chicago,” Provost Thomas F. Rosenbaum said. “Our commitment to the parents who work and study here will improve the entire community.”

Many of the faculty members who helped bring the facility to campus attended the groundbreaking event. Suzanne Conzen, professor in medicine, said that competent child care is critical for all parents, a need that she had felt acutely as a research physician.

“The benefits to the University of Chicago’s academic mission of addressing women’s work-life issues will be seen far outside this campus,” Conzen said. Based on extensive surveys and focus groups on the interests of women on the faculty, Conzen predicted that on-campus child care would help the University recruit and retain talented faculty members.

Conzen happily picked up a shovel during the groundbreaking, along with Thomas Rosenbaum; Kenneth S. Polonsky, dean of the Biological Sciences Division and executive vice president for medical affairs; Everett Vokes, chair of medicine, who, as Interim Dean of the BSD and interim CEO of the University of Chicago Medical Center, moved jointly with the Provost to approve the child care center; and David Thomas, representing the child care provider Bright Horizons.

After the adults stepped aside, five children of faculty and staff members grabbed plastic shovels and had their own groundbreaking.

Emily Osborn, assistant professor of history, expressed her gratitude that the University is creating more options for families. “Accessible, high-quality child care helps us do our jobs better,” she said. “It completes the picture of the University of Chicago and Hyde Park as an amenable place to live and work.”

The Women in Medicine group has long advocated for onsite child care to support faculty members with families. In 2008, a formal alliance with other women across campus was created through the establishment of the Women’s Leadership Council.

The provider Bright Horizons will operate the new center when it opens. It is one of two new centers planned for the University and Medical Center community. The second is scheduled to open in Autumn 2013, on University-owned land immediately south of the Laboratory Schools’ Earl Shapiro Hall on the Early Childhood Campus. Both centers will charge market rates and allocate slots on a first-come, first-served basis.

In addition to the two new centers, faculty and staff members, other academic appointees, postdoctoral researchers and students seeking child care will continue to benefit from the University's partnerships with two local child care providers — the Baby Ph.D. Childcare Network and the Chicago Child Care Society. In 2005, the University and Medical Center funded grant proposals creating more than 70 new infant and toddler slots in the neighborhood for children of employee and student parents.