May: Meet Robynn Pease

Robynn M. Pease, Ph.D. has over 20 years of related experience in the field of work-life.  She currently serves as the director of the Academic Affairs Office of Work-Life at Oregon State University (OSU) and the   Greater Oregon Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (GO HERC).  One of her main activities at OSU focuses on dual career assistance and dependent care.  Prior to her employment at OSU, Robynn served as the Director of Work-Life at the University of  Kentucky (UK).  In addition to her role at OSU, Robynn currently serves on the executive committee of the College-University Work-Life-Family Association (CUWFA); is a member of the Higher Education Recruitment Consortium Advisory Board; a member of the Mid-Willamette SHRM board of directors and a volunteer for the Oregon Long-term Care Ombudsman Program.  She holds a doctorate in Sociology with an emphasis in Gerontology from the University of Kentucky. 

Hello. My name is Robynn Pease and I currently serve as the director of the Academic Affairs Office of Work-Life and Greater Oregon Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (GO HERC).  My professional journey has entailed various jobs in the service industry, academia, non-profits and government. As the main income of my family, I have had to select jobs that provide sufficient income to meet my family needs and enough flexibility to accommodate my caregiving responsibilities while meeting my own professional interests. I find work-life balance an ongoing process; at age 55, I’m still searching for the perfect fit!

Self-Confidence:  I have lacked a great deal of self-confidence in my abilities most of my adult life, which has profoundly shaped the kinds of jobs I have had.  When I learned that I had completed my BA with honors, I called the college registrar’s office to see if a mistake had been made! I just couldn’t believe that I had done so well academically.  In between my BA and Ph.D., I had many different kinds of jobs: fast-food worker, housecleaner, ESL teacher, summer camp counselor, children’s program director, nursing home ombudsman, college instructor and aging services program administrator. It wasn’t until I worked with a professional career counselor on crafting a killer functional resume that I was able to communicate with confidence my unique blend of talent, skill and passion. 

Professional Integrity: One of my most meaningful  jobs was overseeing aging services for city government.  In this role, I counseled citizens on addressing their caregiving needs, partnered with community groups to develop aging services programs and interacted with elected officials to address concerns. I took pride in advocating for more funding for aging services, including a new senior citizens center, and developed  a reputation as someone who could make a difference. However, when a more fiscally conservative mayor was elected to office,  I realized that I was not going to be able to the same kind of professional.  Rather than silencing my advocacy, I chose to leave, accepting a new position at the university as work-life director. Leaving city government allowed me to the opportunity to continue my efforts to promote the need for more aging services but in a different venue.  Just this past year and under a new mayor, construction on a new senior center began and I received an invitation to the ground breaking ceremony. 

Work-Life Balance: The feminist movement corresponded with my budding teen age years, resulting in my mother’s reassessment of her and my role in family life. Secretly I had always wanted to be a stay at home mom with several children, but this was not going to be my reality.  Not believing I could have it all, I put these feelings “on hold” and completed most of my academic education before marrying at 28. At 39 I had my one child and realized that I would always be the main breadwinner of the family.  Economic security for my family has given me courage to negotiate competitive salaries but it has also driven me to take on jobs that are demanding in their professional obligations and challenges. Consequently, finding the time to care for my family while meeting professional obligations has been a source of deep anxiety for me that leaves little attention to self-care.  I have a saying posted on my office computer monitor that asks, “What matters most in my life and what am I going to do today about it?” Doing even the smallest thing on behalf of family, career and self helps me stay focused on my priorities, but I will say that self-care typically remains last on the list. 

Career Across the Life Span: I love to listen to people’s stories about retirement. Having worked in aging services, I have seen many women and men experience their exit from paid employment as one of the happiest times of their lives. Retirement has allowed them to take control of how they  spend their time. It can be a very creative and fulfilling time for many.  At mid-career, I fantasize about my retirement as a way to assess my career in its totality. I think about how I might want to spend my finite time and energy in service to others and then consider to what extent my current job aligns with this vision.  When there ceases to be alignment, I know it’s time to make some changes, whether personal or professional.  I consider myself fortunate that my advanced education and varied work experience has given me options – options that I don’t take for granted as long as I view career as a journey and my resume is reflects the vital, talented and hard-working professional that I have become.

Functional Resume:  Develop a stellar functional resume and never understand its influence. For example, when I recently applied for a volunteer position and submitted my resume as requested, I received a follow up call from the volunteer coordinator who asked me apply for the position of agency executive director!

Setting Boundaries:  Many professional positions are broad in scope, particularly in areas of program development.  While the broad scope allows for tremendous creativity, the breath of demands can easily be overwhelming. Narrow the focus into doable goals with measurable outcomes so that you have better control over expectations and accountability. 

Work-Life Balance: Finding balance to accommodate all of your responsibilities is a dynamic process. Whenever there is a change in your personal or professional life, change your strategies for achieving balance.  Experiment!  And remember that a little attention to an aspect of your life is better than none at all. 

Robynn Pease can be contacted at

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