Many people take time throughout their career to reenergize and sharpen their skill set. This is true for instructors as well. During what is referred to as a sabbatical leave, many K-State educators take a break from teaching and explore various ways to strengthen themselves in their profession.
“Their work may be in industry for those whose disciplines are directly related to work in the industry; it may be to take some quiet time to write or finish a major scholarly work; to travel and collaborate with colleagues in other parts of the country or internationally; to perform or exhibit their work,” Susana Valdovinos, director of the Office of Academic Personnel, said.
As these leaves may often occur during the school year, some students may be concerned about how their classes will be conducted during a faculty member’s absence. Those concerns are put to rest during the review process of the applications. It is understood that a faculty member’s duties and responsibilities will be covered during their absence.
“There is no negative or detrimental effect,” Valdovinos said. “For example, if the faculty member teaches a course that is necessary for the majors to graduate and the course is only taught in the fall, then the faculty member will request a one-semester sabbatical leave in the spring.”
Karen Myers-Bowman, assistant professor in family studies and human services, said her sabbatical will take place during the 2015-16 school year; she will be conducting research on experiences individuals face in relation to exchange programs.
“As a family scholar, I am disappointed that no research has been conducted regarding the family aspects of exchange programs,” Myers-Bowman said. “Therefore, it is imperative to create a strong body of research about high school international exchange programs that can guide best practices and inform policy and regulatory decisions.”
Marsha Frey, professor in history, said she will be using her sabbatical to complete her book regarding the impact of the French Revolution on an international scale.
“I will need to make a couple of research trips to Europe and then I will be writing and revising,” Frey said. “The sabbatical will be great, because I can concentrate on completing my book. My students always come first, so exam papers and so forth always precedence over my research. I will also have some time to redo some of my classes. Add more videos, add more excitement, perhaps change some readings – all of which takes time.”
While sabbatical leave has advantageous aspects for instructors, it also is beneficial for students and the university as well. When faculty members leave for sabbatical, it provides them with a chance to renew their skills and learn new techniques in order to improve their teaching methods as well as their overall performance as a faculty member.
“Sabbatical leaves that involve research work also help faculty be better teachers by giving them the opportunity to immerse full-time in their area of research interest and collaborating with colleagues from across campus or other institutions nationally and internationally,” Valdovinos said.
Due to the success and benefits of sabbatical leaves, they typically occur on a yearly basis. There are rules in place, however, on how many members are allowed to take a leave of absence.
“The rule of thumb that the policy gives us is that not more than 4 percent of full-time faculty may be on sabbatical any given year,” Valdovinos said. “This year that number would have been 54 faculty members.”
During Valdovinos’ tenure as director of Academic Personnel from 2008 to the present, K-State has never had the maximum number of faculty on leave.
Sabbatical leave provides many beneficial opportunities for faculty to grow personally and professionally. While the leave of absence can be lengthy, the benefits reaped by the faculty could result in a more cultured and dynamic academic environment at K-State.