Overcoming single-parenting and financial insecurity for education

Photo credit: Karoline Steavenson, staff reporter

Graduate student Kim Kramer didn’t plan to complete her master of science degree in geology as a single parent living in student housing while raising her 5-year-old son.

When she realized her marriage was over, the 46-year-old mother of a kindergartner and two adult sons, decided to attend class full-time and live on campus.

Kramer earned her bachelor’s degree in geology from CSUN in 2003 and currently teaches geology labs while conducting research for her thesis paper. She said she hopes to teach full-time or work at a museum after completing her degree in 2011.

“I think especially with today’s economy. It’s important to get an education, especially if you’re going to be single,” Kramer said. “It’s so competitive out there. It’s almost as if the bachelor’s degree is like the high school diploma now. Everybody’s got one.”

As her bespectacled son Tim ran from room to room pausing long enough to demonstrate his Spiderman umbrella, Kramer joked that in her rare free time she enjoys sleeping.

“I was already halfway into my graduate program so it doesn’t make sense for me to just quit, but it’s a struggle,” Kramer said. “I need to work and I have responsibilities, but I’m almost done and I’m just holding on to those goals because I know with a master’s degree a lot more opportunities will open up for me.”

She budgets time for relaxation and fun in her schedule when she can, she said.

“I do a lot of yoga. I like hiking and collecting rocks and we just got back from the geology department’s annual Field Frolic,” Kramer said.

The Field Frolic is a yearly outing for geology professors, students and alumni. They go camping and exploring in the wilderness for a few days.

“This year it was (in) the Sierra. We went to Kennedy Meadows and Lake Isabella and you learn about the geology of the area,” she said. “They went rafting and I opted out of that because of Tim.”

Her son is adjusting well to life at CSUN, she said. He attended preschool at the Children’s Center on campus and recently started kindergarten at a nearby school, she added.

Kramer pays $885 a month for her apartment, she said. She and her son share the bedroom, where they have a toddler bed by the window and a mattress on the floor a for her.

Like all the family dormitory units, there is surrounded by lawns and trees. There is a playground nearby and Tim, who also got to attend Field Frolic, has some friends to play with whose parents are also CSUN students, she said.

Kramer said Tim loved going camping.

“This was the first time he’d been camping. He couldn’t believe it. We set up the tent and he said, ‘This is our house – where’s my bed?’ I think he was sort of the highlight of the trip actually,” Kramer said.

Kramer’s thesis investigates the source material for ancient pottery found in Papua New Guinea, she said. CSUN professor Dr. Kathleen Marsaglia suggested the project after an archaeologist working for Monash University in Australia offered it to the department, Kramer said.

As a single parent Kramer has had to cope with some limitations on her research that childless students might not to face, she said.

“I had an opportunity to go to Papua to collect some samples and do some field work but with a young child it just (wasn’t possible). I really wished I could go but it wasn’t something I could do,” Kramer said.

Kramer said she doesn’t regret her decision to sacrifice now for her future goals. Tim has also started focusing on goals. He showed off his blue piggy bank and said that was where he saved all his money when he was 4 years old.