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2009 News Releases

Paper by Longwood business professor receives national honor

November 17, 2009

Dr. Cheryl Adkins Dr. Cheryl Adkins

A research paper by Dr. Cheryl Adkins, professor of management at Longwood University, was recently selected among the best five papers in a national competition for research in its field.

The paper, "Balancing work and family: A field study of multi-dimensional, multi-role work-family conduct," was among the five finalists for the annual Rosabeth Moss Kanter Award for Excellence in Work-Family Research. In the competition, a committee of more than 35 leading scholars from 12 countries examined over 2,000 articles in 74 English-language journals from around the world. The committee narrowed the field to 59 articles, then to 20 articles, and finally, in a third round of reviews, to the five finalists.

The competition, a joint project of Purdue University's Center for Families and the Boston College Center for Work and Family, seeks to raise awareness of excellent work-family research among scholars, consultants and practitioners, to foster debate about what the standards of quality for this research should be, and to identify the "best of the best" on which to base education and future research.

The article, which appeared in the Journal of Organizational Behavior in August 2007 (Volume 28, Issue 6, pp. 705-727), was co-written with Sonya Premeaux and Kevin Mossholder. Premeaux was a Ph.D. student of Adkins when the latter taught at Louisiana State University, and she now teaches at Nicholls State University. Mossholder, now on the faculty at Auburn University, is a former LSU colleague.

"It's just an incredible honor, and it was unexpected," said Adkins, a Longwood graduate who chairs the Department of Management, Marketing, Retailing, CIMS and Business Education. "It makes you feel good, especially since Sonya and I are at smaller schools and were competing against faculty members from larger schools."

The paper "examined the influence of family-friendly policies (FFPs), work-family culture, and family characteristics" on reducing conflicts involving work and family, according to its summary. The results "indicate that FFPs exert minimal effects...and that a positive work-family culture and family support may be more instrumental in helping employees balance work and home roles." Another feature of the study is that it examined a wide variety of work-life issues including single-parent households and whether workers had elder-care responsibility.

"Much of the research in this field looks solely at two-parent families and marriage and childcare issues only; we wanted to look at a variety of family structures and a variety of situations which might result in work-life conflict," Adkins said. "For example, do employees need time off when a repair person is coming to their house, and if so, does the employer accommodate this either formally or informally? So, this may fit better under the heading of 'work-life conflict.'"

The research for the paper, which surveyed 564 workers in the summer of 2002, was funded by a Summer Faculty Research Grant from Longwood. The workers represented a variety of employees including a hospital, a manufacturing facility, service organizations, and a non-profit organization. An earlier version of the paper was presented in 2003 at the annual conference of the Academy of Management, an international professional organization, in Seattle.

"Sonya and I, who share an interest in the field of work-family conflict, continue to collaborate," said Adkins. "We have a chapter coming out in a book by Tracy Tuten Ryan (formerly of Longwood's faculty and now at East Carolina University), to be published in June 2010, which is from a different project but in the same stream of research on work-family conflict. Our chapter is titled "Internet 2.0: A dual-edged sword for work-family balance," and the book's title is Enterprise 2.0, How Technology, E-Commerce, and Web 2.0 Are Transforming Business Virtually, Volume 2: Managing Enterprise.

"We have a manuscript under review for the Southwest Academy of Management 2010 meeting. It is part of our ongoing research on work-life balance and is a theoretical model based on material in the book chapter that looks at how people use technology to work outside the workplace; how it balances or interferes with their work and life. The title of that paper is 'Double-Edged Sword: The Use of Communication Technology to Manage the Boundaries between Work and Home.' We will soon be surveying the faculty and staff at both Longwood and Nicholls State to empirically test aspects of the model presented in that paper. The results of that survey will be the basis of a paper to be submitted to a professional conference and ultimately to a scholarly journal."

Adkins, a 1981 Longwood graduate, has taught at her alma mater since 2000, after teaching at LSU for 11 years. Her concentration in graduate school (M.B.A. from Salisbury State University and Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina) was organizational behavior and human resource management. "My initial area of research was organizational socialization, how newcomers react to organizations, and another area of research emphasis is work values and person-organizational fit. My current research focus is work-life balance."

A native of the Eastern Shore of Maryland (her hometown is Pittsville, about 12 miles east of Salisbury), she majored in home economics and minored in business at Longwood. Interestingly, the building in which she teaches, Hiner Hall, is next door to Coyner Hall, where she "practically lived" as a student. Coyner housed the Home Economics department, and beginning in her sophomore year, she worked as a student assistant in the Longwood Nursery School, then in the Coyner basement.

"When I was a Longwood student, I knew I wanted to teach on the college level but didn't know I wanted to teach business," she said. "I didn't know that until I started working on my M.B.A. After graduating from Longwood, I worked for two and a half years as a dietary supervisor at a small nursing home in Snow Hill, Maryland. When I started grad school, I was working full-time and was a part-time student. During my time in the M.B.A. program I realized that business was the career path for me, and after completing my M.B.A., I went directly into the Ph.D. program. I definitely had a non-traditional career path."