Professors share sabbatical experiences

As break ends for students and the Lafayette community returns to campus, some professors are ending their own breaks from the college—though theirs lasted for longer than six weeks. For some professors, the start of the spring semester marks their return from sabbatical.

Lafayette encourages its professors to take sabbatical leaves to promote personal development and professional growth, according to the faculty handbook.

The policy states that after teaching twelve complete academic semesters, professors are allowed to apply for sabbatical for a half-year at full pay or full year at half pay.

Although a semester of paid leave may sound tempting, professors who want to apply for sabbatical need create a solid plan to ensure that his or her sabbatical will encourage the growth and development the policy mandates.

“[Sabbatical] gives you a chance to do a couple of things,”Head of the Mathematics Department Gary Gordon said. “One is that you have time to catch up the works that are piling up and one is to work on the research or to work on the book that you have been working on. This gives you time to write and it gives you space to think and breathe.”

Gordon and his wife, math professor Liz McMahon, took a full year sabbatical. During the first half of the leave they spent time in Portland, Oregon to relieve piled-up stress and to work with another professor that is teaching there.

“The first half of the year you are still trying to disengage and just trying to calm down,”Gordon said. “The second half of the year, you can become more productive and get more things done.”

For the productive second part of the leave, Gordon started a big family project. Gordon, McMahon andtheir two daughters wrote book on the card game “Set.”

Being on sabbatical allows professors to do something that they would not normally do while teaching.

“I got something written, got a chance to travel, tried this acting thing, which I wouldn’t have a chance to do otherwise and I am grateful to the college for the sabbatical,” Government and Law Professor Joshua Miller said.

During his semester-long sabbatical, Miller acted in the play “Song of Extinction,” traveled to Barcelona and had a chance to work on his book“The Politics of Factions.”

The extended break from teaching benefits not only the professor but Lafayette as well.

“At some level, you are being paid to not work so who wouldn’t like that but it is a good use of college money and resources,”Gordonsaid.“If you come back and you publish a paper or you wrote a book which says Lafayette College on the cover. Then, they are really proud of you. That is what they want their faculty to do. When you come back…you are excited to be teaching [and] excited to share what you learned while you were away.”

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