Can you help me with my work life balance and where can I compost organics on campus?



I’ve never really built work-life balance schedules before but now that I’m starting a PhD program I feel a pressing need to do so, in order to be as productive as possible without destroying my mental and physical health. I’ve never been really good at creating reasonable balanced schedules that I can keep and I’ve always been great at overdoing, overworking and feeling anxious and overwhelmed so I was wondering if there is anywhere I can ask for help to for this, mentoring on building an appropriate schedule or so.

Also, is there anywhere on campus to compost organics? As far as we know, Hasbrouck community does not have compost bins so we do not know what to do with our organic trash.

Thank you for the help!


New PhD Student in Hasbrouck


Dear New PhD Student in Hasbrouck,

Thank you for your Ask a Dean questions!  Assistant Dean Janna Lamey will respond to your first question about work-life balance, an important topic for being a successful PhD student, so it's great that you are attending to those needs.

Regarding your question about composting organics, especially in proximity to the Hasbrouck community, I contacted Kimberly Anderson (  who is Cornell's Sustainability Engagement Manager.  She replied that the Hasbrouck community piloted an on-site composting system a few years ago, but for various reasons it didn’t work out so they decided to discontinue the program.

However, this semester Kim's office is starting a North Campus composting program for undergraduate residence halls, and she is interested in exploring whether that initiative could be extended to include Hasbrouck if one or more students at Hasbrouck are interested in assisting with the program as peer-educators. If you are interested in helping with this, please email Kim directly.  She would like to hear your ideas and set up a meeting with interested students and Cornell's campus composting partners (R5 – Respect Rethink Reduce Reuse Recycle) to discuss options and work to launch another composting pilot in Hasbrouck.  Based on prior experiences, she believes student engagement is needed to help plan and implement the composting program to foster success.

Kim also indicated that the national RecycleMania competition runs from 2/4-3/31, and piloting a new compost program in Hasbrouck would be a great addition to Cornell's engagement plans for the competition this year.

I hope this information is helpful, and I encourage you to pursue your composting and sustainability interests.  Regarding your first question about work-life balance, I've done quite a lot of volunteering throughout my adult life, with community, spiritual, professional, and scientific organizations.  I have found those experiences to help provide that balance and sense of giving back to others, which has been personally rewarding for me.

Warm regards,


Barbara A. Knuth
Senior Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School

Dear New PhD Student in Hasbrouck,

I appreciate your comment about the need to be more conscious in developing a schedule to take care of yourself, via creating a work-life balance schedule. That is fantastic!  The pressures that come with being a graduate student are high and it’s easy to become all consumed with your studies.  I often remind students that in addition to becoming an expert in your research, your time as a graduate student is also an opportunity to become an expert in managing yourself.  Now that you know this, try new things that will help you learn about yourself and what helps you to be most productive and balanced, something that is sustainable in the long-run.  Your graduate program (and life) is a marathon and not a sprint; you need the energy and reserves to sustain you and help you thrive. 

You have taken an important first step and that is realizing the importance of working toward more balance in your life.  As techniques tend to be very individualized, I would encourage you to talk with your peers and faculty to learn what they do to find balance. (Thanks Dean Knuth for sharing what you do!)  Try some suggestions to see if that works for you.  You can also do some reading on this topic, as there is a lot out there about work-life balance.  I selected these as they are a wide-view of work-life balance in an attempt to see if something sparks your interest:

You are correct in that research shows that when people feel stress (and that can be when there is no/limited balance) that it can absolutely impact mental and physical health.  And, when stress levels get too high, students often first notice this in their academic work (motivation and focus lessens, while perfectionism and procrastination can increase).  Students often report that they may feel more anxious or depressed about the situation.  This is documented:  

Most graduate students that I know are always working on this and use a variety of resources to help them. Some resources include, 1) Faculty mentors (or DGSs), 2) Peer mentors (other students), 3) our CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services), especially if students experience increased levels of anxiety, but could be used as a safe place to go, 4) Student Disability Services, 5) community counselors (including personal coaches), or 6) me.  Of course, some resources may feel more comfortable to you than others.  Also, check out the Perspectives Series, where we talk about topics that impact health and wellness of graduate and professional students:

I am more than happy to meet with you to discuss this further.  One of my functions at the Graduate School is to meet with students and help them be successful.  Please, let’s get together.  Let me know when you are available and we can go from there.

All the best,


Janna Lamey
Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Life