school and family is all in a day's work
Lynne Mitchell are her husband, Jun; sons, Benjarong and Samaht;
and daughter, Jarin.
It seems that Superwoman - she who ran the company
while earning multiple degrees at night, entertaining lavishly
on weekends, sewing her own slipcovers and being a perfect
wife and mother - faded into oblivion about three years ago.
She has since been replaced with a much more sensible role
model - a woman who doesn't frantically try to do it all herself
but seeks help and strives for a healthy balance, both at
work and at home.
a U of G staff member, graduate student, wife and mother to
three young children, would certainly fall into the second
category. Although she holds down a full-time job, is earning
a PhD part time and is still nursing year-old twin boys, she
doesn't pretend it's easy. She's also not afraid to admit
it can be exhausting.
"Many nights, I've been up at midnight, then at two,
four and five in the morning with the twins," she says.
"I'm usually up at 5:30 and at work by seven, so on those
days, I do get very tired."
Fortunately, she adds, she has a supportive husband and a
flexible, interesting job that she loves, which makes the
load much easier to carry. Mitchell is the study-abroad and
exchange manager at the Centre for International Programs
(CIP), a position she acquired through a rather circuitous
Originally from Hamilton, she came to U of G in 1982 to earn
a degree in agriculture. During her studies, she ended up
in Jamaica on a field trip led by rural extension studies
professor Jim Shute.
"That was my very first trip abroad, and I thought it
was great," she says. "When I came back, I was sold
on the whole idea of international travel."
With her undergraduate degree in hand, Mitchell volunteered
with CUSO, the Canadian overseas development agency, and went
to Thailand to work for the Thai government promoting plant
protection with natural pesticides. Two years later, in 1990,
she returned to Guelph to do a master's degree in rural extension
studies under Shute's supervision. Her master's research took
her back to Thailand, where, this time, she married one of
her co-workers in the plant protection office, Junlapong Pintana.
"I joke that I married Jun because I like Thai food
so much and he was an excellent cook - and still is."
Back in Canada with her new husband, Mitchell completed her
master's degree in 1992. During her studies, she had worked
part time on campus organizing conferences and workshops on
international development. As the University began to develop
international exchange programs, she was asked to oversee
this work, and this is what she does now . . . under the supervision
of Shute, now the director of CIP.
Mitchell's job is to assist U of G students who decide to
go overseas as part of their studies. The University sends
about 100 students a year on overseas exchanges and hosts
a similar number. That number, however, doesn't include the
other 300 or so students who take part in the University's
semester-abroad programs, field trips and independent research
in other countries.
She says her involvement with students begins from the moment
they become interested in an overseas trip. Her office contacts
the exchange institutions, nominates the students to go, gets
them accepted and then prepares them for their big adventure.
"One of our main tasks is to ensure that students departing
on those trips are prepared and know what they need to know
to be safe, happy and have the best experience they can abroad."
As part of this process, her office prepared the first-ever
workbook for university students travelling abroad. It's a
step-by-step guide that provides pre-travel checklists, tips
and other important travel information. Since the book's development
a few years ago, other Ontario universities have produced
their own workbooks based on the U of G model, says Mitchell.
A generic version of the book - titled Ready, Set, Go
- has also been printed and has sold almost 2,000 copies across
For students who can't find all the answers they need in
the book, there's Mitchell, who carries a cell phone at all
times in case someone overseas needs her help. Students also
contact her via e-mail, and she says it's not unusual for
her to receive 20 or 30 e-mail messages overnight from all
over the world.
This theme of internationalism is repeated at home, where
Pintana looks after their three children - a daughter, Jarin,
4, and the twins, Benjarong and Samaht - during the day and
runs his own Thai cuisine catering business at night.
"Someone will have a dinner party for 15, and Jun will
bring all the food and cook it there, where people can watch
and ask questions," Mitchell explains. "He has educated
a lot of people in Guelph about lemon grass and lime leaves.
It's also been a great way for him to meet people."
Running this small but thriving business means her husband
doesn't get much "down time," but neither does Mitchell,
who three years ago decided to pursue her dream of earning
a PhD in rural agriculture at U of G.
"This is what I do for me - it's my time," she
says. "It has been stressful at times as it's meant having
papers due and all that, but I really enjoy it because I get
to use my brain in a different way. I like being in classes
and critically looking at ideas and discussing them with other
students and professors." Her ultimate goal, she adds,
is to teach.
But that's still a bit off in the future and will depend
on where life's paths take Mitchell and her husband. In the
meantime, she'll continue juggling her work, home life and
academics - on about six hours' sleep a night.
"I could be at work until 10 p.m. every night, but right
now, I can't do that. At the same time, I haven't been able
to help my husband at home at times because I've had a paper
due. So, it's always a fine balancing act. Of course, I'm
not unusual in trying to balance things. Single parents, students
- there are lots of us out there going to work, studying and
looking after family. Like them, I'm just doing the best I