Recharging Academic Batteries
In her 2004 sabbatical, Dr. Dixee Bartholomew-Feis lived in North Carolina and conducted a series of interviews with World War II veterans.

In the academic community, the sabbatical is a time for enlightenment and revitalization. On sabbatical, faculty write books, do fieldwork for research projects and make scientific breakthroughs. The research also can lead to substantial research grants as well as prestige and greater notoriety for the university. Professors say the expertise later rubs off on students.

 “One of the biggest advantages of the sabbatical is the ability for faculty members to take time to refuel and reconnect with their discipline,” says Dr. Mary Gill, professor of speech communication and associate dean of faculty. “Whether working on their own research or brushing up on new areas of study, it’s a time to renew and strengthen their background and abilities and bring that back to students.”

What BVU professors bring back to the classroom is as unique and meaningful as each individual sabbatical.

In her 2004 sabbatical, Dr. Dixee Bartholomew-Feis lived in North Carolina and conducted a series of interviews with World War II veterans, which she included in her book Unexpected Allies: the OSS and Ho Chi Minh. In her book, Bartholomew-Feis examines a period when Americans worked with Ho Chi Minh, our nemesis for much of the Vietnam War, as war-time allies. According to Bartholomew-Feis, the experience was invaluable.

“It has been fantastic to incorporate the insights I gained into the classroom,” she says. “The sabbatical also gave me time to reflect upon the craft of teaching. There is nothing quite like coming back and teaching after you’ve been away. I returned excited to be here and fully recharged, which is yet another benefit to students.”

In the fall of 2009, Dr. Annamaria Formichella Elsden traveled and engaged in research related to a family memoir project. Her grandfather served as an Italian diplomat during WWII and spent almost two years in the northern lake town of Salò at the time Mussolini established his government there. She visited Salo and took a transatlantic cruise from Venice to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., a route her grandfather traveled often.

While on sabbatical, she also drafted a novel, sent out stories and poems for publication and sent out a previous novel draft to an agent who expressed interest in seeing her manuscript.

“I think I improved as a teacher in many ways following a sabbatical experience,” she says. “As a writing instructor, I think it’s crucial that I spend some time actually trying to write. This allows me to relate to my students’ efforts more easily.”

Dr. Stan Bochtler has had the opportunity to conduct two one-semester sabbaticals, each connected with his interest in learning a second language. These two sabbatical experiences have led to direct connections to his teaching load at BVU.

“Twice I’ve taught the Methods of Teaching Secondary Foreign Languages class,” he says. Learning another language is also closely related to my background in literacy education. I think it’s beneficial for teachers to try to learn at least one other language, so that they gain additional insight into how challenging learning English can be.”

In 2008, Tim McDaniel was invited to use his sabbatical as a visiting researcher and professor at Uppsala University in Sweden, the oldest and most prestigious university in Northern Europe. According to McDaniel, the different perspectives he experienced afforded him the opportunity to witness and try new and different educational techniques.

“I am constantly asking my students to get out of their ‘comfort zone’ and to take risks, broaden their horizons, and try new things — and my sabbatical gave me the chance to lead by example and to share my experiences doing just that,” he says. “My sabbatical also reinforced my belief that the single most important thing we can do for our students is to challenge them to learn, within a strong academic curricular environment that gives them no place to hide. Our students deserve nothing less.”