How is your sabbatical going?

Recently, I have a number of conversations start with someone asking me, “How is your sabbatical going?” The conversation typically happens where a lengthy response is not appropriate – while walking my dog, crossing campus, or standing in line on campus to pick up coffee or lunch. My response depends on my relationship with the person and how familiar I think they are with sabbaticals…

My neighbor (who has never worked in an academic environment, who I usually only talk to while walking the dog, and who asks the question in a tone that makes the question equivalent to, “So, how is your extended vacation going?”):

Answer: “It is great to have the opportunity to take a sabbatical, thanks for asking. I’m in my office nearly every day and I have a number of projects I’m working on. I’m developing a new course, preparing to teach two courses I have never taught before, working on an extended review project for the National Science Foundation, putting together a history of engineering at Lafayette, attending a number of conferences and workshops, and working with an engineering consulting firm to reacquaint myself with the type of work many of our students will be doing after they graduate.”

An administrative colleague (who asks the question in a tone that is sympathetic—I did just spend seven years in various administrative roles):

Answer: “I’m enjoying re-familiarizing my self with engineering and particularly with my particular area of study, geotechnical engineering. My goals are to be ready to head back to the classroom in the fall, to re-engage with my disciplinary communities both on and off campus, and to create the foundations for the teaching and research I’d like to do in the next three to five years.”

A faculty colleague (who often precedes the question with, “I didn’t expect to see you on campus…”):

Answer: “Actually, I’m in my office nearly every day. Since I’ve been in the administration for the last few years, I’m using my sabbatical to re-engage with colleagues on and off campus. In addition to initiating a couple of new projects, I’m developing a new first year seminar and getting ready to teach two existing courses in my department that I have never taught before. I have been doing some traveling, but that’s mostly for some review work I am doing as well as for a couple of professional conferences to re-connect with colleagues.”

A good friend:

Answer:  “I’m feeling like I can finally step back and review where I’ve been and where I want to go now. I’m remembering how much I enjoy learning and sharing what I’ve learned. I am trying to use my time both to re-energize myself and to position myself to do my best to support learning in my own life, in my classes, in my department, at the college, and in my profession.”


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