Sabbatical Snapshots: catching up with professors after sabbatical
Erik Thoennes' sabbatical leave involved writing, speaking, traveling, and adopting 6-year-old Samuel into the family. | Courtesy/ERIK THOENNES
Students who hear a professor is on sabbatical probably know the professor will not be teaching classes that semester; but if professors aren't in the classroom, where are they? What do they do with their semester-long absences?
The Biola Employee Handbook explains that faculty members may apply for a one-semester sabbatical leave after every six years of full-time teaching.
“Sabbatical leaves are granted for the purpose of study, research, writing or other activities that will contribute significantly to the on-going professional growth and competency of the faculty member,” the Handbook states.
Another option is a seventh semester leave, also known as a research leave, when professors take a semester off after six semesters of full-time teaching. Compared to a sabbatical leave, a seventh-semester leave has more concrete requirements in the Handbook.
“Qualification for the grant requires a clear record of prior research and publication, and a substantial plan of research,” it reads.
From resting and fishing to book projects, traveling, an unexpected adoption and even teaching a Biola class online, here is a sampling of highlights from five professors' spring 2012 leaves.
David Talley, biblical studies professor
Whether doing a pastors’ conference in Bogota, Colombia or visiting his father and brother in Alabama, David Talley worked fishing into his sabbatical travels.
“My first goal was fishing and rest,” he said.
While trying to rest, though, Talley ended up staying busy participating in leadership at Grace Evangelical Free Church, coaching junior varsity basketball at his son's high school, and teaching an online Old Testament class. He had hoped that the class would coincide with making progress on his writing project, an Old Testament survey book. In the end, he worked on the book after the class, completing his manuscript just a week before coming back for the fall semester.
“I don't think I would have gotten my writing project done,” he said, “if I would not have first of all rested and distracted myself from my normal routine by pouring myself into some church leadership issues. That's what prepared me then to start clicking on all cylinders and get that thing done.”
Michael Lessard-Clouston, ICS TESOL/applied linguistics professor
While on sabbatical, Michael Lessard-Clouston, who is originally from Canada and was a “missionary professor” in Japan before coming to Biola, anchored himself in his Marshburn Hall office.
“Basically, I came to work every day, at least Monday to Friday, often Saturdays, as I normally do,” he said. His sabbatical wasn't wholly spent behind a desk, though — he traveled to Hong Kong, Philadelphia and Oakland for conferences.
Lessard-Clouston had plenty of projects, like writing, working on courses he teaches and trying to start an “electronic [academic] journal.”
“I worked on a book, and I wrote a book chapter, and an article and a book review,” he said. While his planned book project didn't pan out, he ended up seizing an unexpected opportunity to write a different book on teaching vocabulary for a line of books called the “English Language Teacher Development Series.”
Simple things, like being home for family dinner, were easier for Lessard-Clouston without competing class schedules. He also had time to vacation in Santa Barbara with his parents, who live in Canada, for four days.
“That was just something I could never do during the semester normally,” he said.
Marc Malandra, English professor
For Marc Malandra, adapting his dissertation about poets into a book to be published was a big sabbatical priority.
“I've been wanting to have a book of scholarship published,” he said. “That's the standard pretty much for my profession.”
He was able to finish his book and is awaiting a publisher's decision.
Malandra, a published poet, also did creative writing while on sabbatical, and came on campus occasionally for Biola Year of the Arts events. After moving to a new home in November, he was able to help with settling in, and with the extra time he could have lunch with his wife at home.
“I made sure that there was the benefit of family time and being at home, since I didn't end up traveling anywhere … except to Cal State Fullerton,” he said.
Matthew Williams, biblical studies professor
Matthew Williams accomplished a lot on his seventh-semester leave, like reading “over three thousand pages of scholarship on the Gospel of John.” He also updated Blackboard classes, created a new online class for the Gospel of John, updated his and fellow Talbot professor Kenneth Berding's New Testament survey book, and oversaw a continuing Spanish translation project for theological books.
He traveled to Spain, where he lived for six years with his family as a missionary, to visit those who work on the translation project for the first time in nine years. He also wrote about 200 pages for a new book about “Jesus’ encounters with people in the Gospel of John and today,” he said.
With all that work, he still was able to spend time with family and watch “every Barcelona soccer game,” he said. He also met with certain students whom he mentors and prays with. He put his Greek language skills to practice for personal devotion.
“I read through the Gospel of John in Greek and meditated through it,” he said. “That was intentional. I knew that I needed to do that. Yeah, for me I have to schedule in balance.”
It is difficult to fit in the study required for writing when not on leave, according to Williams.
“I try to really invest my time in the teaching and in students, and usually those two combined exhaust me enough.”
Erik Thoennes, biblical studies professor
Erik Thoennes' sabbatical leave involved writing, speaking and traveling. He worked on co-authoring a book, for which he has a contract with Crossway. He preached at Grace Evangelical Free Church, Hume Lake and Forest Home camps, and at a conference in Connecticut, his home state.
A month after his sabbatical began, Thoennes and his family decided to adopt a 6-year-old boy who had been involved in a failed adoption.
“We adopted Samuel Thoennes in March … I got a son unexpectedly on my sabbatical, which has been a challenge and a joy,” he said. “That presented a whole huge primary ministry I wasn't planning on … that tends to happen a lot — things end up happening you didn't plan, but you're able to do them because God planned your sabbatical.”