Humanity Plus Flexibility Add Up to Strong Work-Life Balance

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David Stephenson for The Chronicle

Sharon Whitehead (left), now a dean at Somerset Community College, was granted nearly a year of paid sick leave after being diagnosed with cancer—a move endorsed by Somerset’s president, Jo Marshall (right).

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David Stephenson for The Chronicle

Sharon Whitehead (left), now a dean at Somerset Community College, was granted nearly a year of paid sick leave after being diagnosed with cancer—a move endorsed by Somerset’s president, Jo Marshall (right).

After Sharon Whitehead was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2001, she worried about how her employer, Somerset Community College, would respond to her request for leave. Even if she returned, she feared she might not immediately be able to perform her job as director of a regional campus center, which required a 30-minute commute.

"I was afraid that the world would go on without me," says Ms. Whitehead, who had worked for the Kentucky college since 1978. "I wondered