My sabbatical during 2019-2020 was truly phenomenal. I was newly appointed the FH Sellers Chair in Painting with a research stipend, when an opportunity came up to travel to Umbria and study the frescoes of Piero della Francesca while living at the legendary Civitella Ranieri Foundation Castle for a week in November. I returned to Chicago to prepare for my first solo exhibition at the Monique Meloche Gallery, opening that February with a new body of double sided paintings, referred to as “Air Paintings” that rested within aluminum frames, liberated from the wall. In March, I traveled with the gallery to the Independent Fair, NYC to install new paintings inspired by my trip to Umbria. “The Vision Paintings” was a series of 20 paintings, 20 x 20 inches square, made during the year 2020. It was a successful event, but unfortunately, we returned back to Chicago on the heels of the Covid-19 epidemic. Because of the sabbatical, I escaped that Fall semester, filled with so many unknowns. To stay safe, I temporarily moved out of my beautiful Pilsen studio to work from my home studio, borrowing a French easel to work on smaller paintings, and creating drawings on my kitchen table. The work kept me going, as everything around me was falling apart. I missed my friends, family, and colleagues. After 6 months, thanks to the generosity of friends, I drove to Michigan and was in residence for a month. That magical experience ultimately led to a spontaneous studio/home relocation. With new keys in hand on Thanksgiving Day, 2020, any lingering bits of buyers’ remorse was quickly pushed aside in December, with the news that I was anonymously awarded the unrestricted 2021 Helen Frankenthaler Award for Painting from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. I returned to virtual teaching in Spring of 2021, zooming from my new home in Michigan.
I am grateful for the William Bronson Mitchell and Grace Slovet Mitchell Enhancement Fund Award for the 2021-2022 academic year which allowed me to finish a new body of 10 paintings entitled Palimpsest, which were exhibited September to November of 2021 in LA at Gavlak Gallery with a catalog essay by Sue Spaid to be released shortly. Currently, I am in preparation for my second solo exhibition at Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago to open Fall of 2023. I will be graduate advising in the spring of 2023.
-Candida Alvarez, F.H. Sellers Professor, Painting and Drawing
How I wish there was an in-depth recorded biographical history of all the outstanding non-tenured faculty who have taught and continue to teach at SAIC.
This is my story: with heavy doses of superlatives in lieu of emojis, too many exclamation points (I truly love those heart shaped exclamation points), inspired by Mark Jeffery’s heartfelt and generous social media posts that speak directly to so many of us. I have taught in the Department of Photography since the fall of 1997 when Barbara De Genevieve phoned with a last-minute invitation to teach a photo class that would begin in two weeks. I said yes without hesitating and then figured out a way to make it work and write my very syllabus. Who knew the magnetic draw to the collaborative and creative laboratory of the classroom would be irresistible? I continued to pick up as many classes as I could over the next nine years that would work around my full-time job as a studio manager for a productive advertising photographer with tight deadlines and wild requests: such as securing a live crocodile and taxidermy back-up within a 24 hour period to walk along State Street, that Great Street, for a Commonwealth Edison Y2K ad campaign in the midst of fear that our internet super highway would fail in the last minute of the last century.
That job experience in the high paced commercial photo industry strengthened my problem-solving skills on a daily basis that I continue to apply to present conditions in academia. After my third-year teaching at SAIC, I applied for Assistant Adjunct followed by Associate Adjunct at the five-year mark which finally came with health insurance. Then Barbara asked me to be the first Grad Coordinator for Photo. Who could say no to Barbara? Not me. With the added administrative duties along with 5 classes during the academic year plus summer classes, I decided to give up the better paying full-time job to focus my creative energies on my courses. If not for the encouragement of the full-time faculty in my department, I never would have applied for a full-time tenure track position. Thankfully the timing was right (thus the supportive suggestions to apply) because Photo was approved for a cluster hire, the best and only chance I would have to be converted from part-time to full-time when a whopping four people were hired from one search. There are a handful of us conversion hires from a short-lived initiative but there should be many more! It often has felt like this secret conversion club of colleagues are the only ones that fundamentally understand how difficult it is to make it through.
For anyone reading this, there are no words to adequately express my gratitude and appreciation for everyone who works tirelessly to make SAIC thrive: students, alumni, staff, faculty, contract hires. Yes, I drank the kool aid years ago. Our combined talents are awe-inspiring. After running a marathon through the longest tenure track process because I had the most to prove, I desperately needed a sabbatical to catch up on 7 years of no sleep. After teaching at SAIC without pause for 24 years (the first 9 with an outside full-time job, 17 years non-tenured, 8 years as graduate coordinator) I valued the almost uninterrupted opportunity to work in my studio full-time, something I could not afford to do since my time as a graduate student at SAIC 1991-1993. Sure, it was a complete bummer to earn tenure during the pandemic, to not be able to celebrate in person with friends, colleagues, loved ones; to have residencies and exhibitions postponed. Thankfully those opportunities were rescheduled and, in their place, robust supplementary programming sprung up in Zoomland until we could all be together again. The only downside of the postponements was how the revised schedules ruined my perfect attendance streak that had lasted 24 years until being interrupted by coming down with Covid from a work-related dinner and an important out of town installation. Thankfully those directly affected were very kind and understanding!
My very first (and hopefully not last) sabbatical provided valuable time and space to reflect on my relationship to SAIC. I enthusiastically renewed my commitment to this outstanding community along with its complicated networked system (no doubt riddled with unintended flaws, nobody is always happy and it is certainly an impossible task to satisfy everyone all of the time but I believe in good intentions and resist the all too easy ‘us against them’ posture in favor of appreciating the magnificent people I am fortunate to work with). Thank you for the support, generative collaboration and constantly flowing waterfall of inspiration. We are spread too thin and race from one urgent deadline to another. While we dream of and strive for a sustainable work/life balance we must continue to create more opportunities to celebrate one another! With love and respect.
-Aimée Beaubien, Associate Professor, Photography
-Nic Collins, Professor, Sound
I am still processing the complexity of being on sabbatical during the first year of the pandemic (2020-2021), and the challenging alchemy of emotions it stirred, but I know I feel enriched.
My original plan included two trajectories. First, I would travel extensively internationally to expand my knowledge of musicians and presenters in support of my work as an artistic director/curator. Second, I would develop skills and relationships with social justice practitioners to enhance the curriculum I had been developing in cross-sectoral collaboration. Of course, COVID had other plans, so, like so many, I spent much of the year adapting.
Because my professional practice includes serving as Artistic and Executive Director of the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, which occurs in late September, the first months of my sabbatical were spent in emergency mode. This included shoring up the organization financially to keep staff employed, sustain the platform, and reimagine programming to allow for as much performance as possible and get money into the hands of artists while attending to the safety of all. We developed mobile stages and pop-up performance spaces, for example, as well as synchronized remote performances.
After that initial time of intensity, with my travel and conference plans canceled, I pivoted to return to research for a project which had been previously stymied by scheduling challenges but had become newly possible due the pandemic pause. The project, Hypocrisy of Justice: Sights and Sounds for the Black Metropolis, became the focus of my sabbatical research.
It includes the commission and production of a collaborative composition by jazz musician Dana Hall; writer/actor/director Cheryl Lynn Bruce; and artist Kerry James Marshall in response to the Richard Wright novel, Native Son. The performances are surrounded by a one-day symposium featuring scholars in historical and contemporary context. The development, curatorial work, and production of the symposium is the primary immediate outcome of my research. This too, was impacted by the pandemic. Originally scheduled for January 15, 2022, at the Logan Center for the Arts, the symposium had to be moved due to the Omicron surge. It is now scheduled for October 7-8, 2022. I am thrilled that an SAIC student team from Management Studio created a remarkable sound installation as an element of the project. More information can be found here: https://www.hydeparkjazzfestival.org/hoj
In March 2021, I was able to travel with my dog to New Orleans for a month. And while it was sad not to be able to go to hear music in clubs and eat in restaurants, it gave me the opportunity to explore the many parks and bayous, see exhibitions, meet with artists, pursue reading/research, and feel warm air and sun.
I have always believed that sabbaticals offer critical time for professional and personal reflection, and space to rest, restore, and find creative time and flow. In other words, to support wellbeing. It is also a time when one can ask hard questions of themselves and find or shift focus. That was probably even more true during 2020-21. While there was little about my sabbatical that I had anticipated, it was a singularly important time for me. I am still figuring out much about the experience of stepping away, some of it uncomfortable, that I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity.
-Kate Dumbleton, Associate Professor, Arts Administration and Policy
Much like the tenure process, periodic sabbaticals are a great moment to take stock of one’s practice. 2021 was my third sabbatical at SAIC, and each one has captured a radically different phase of my life and career. Sabbaticals represent the ultimate freedom of a tenured faculty member to move a practice around at will. Graphic designers tend to have a myopic or categorical view of their profession, its subsets and its boundaries—one is in it or one is not in it—and I think this contributes to designers feeling stuck or resigned to a path. Practitioners and educators are expected to teach and practice from a position of deep and somewhat siloed expertise, a deep path—which seems reasonable. However, to make the creative act strange again—but to do so in a strategic and informed way—this is another facet of our expertise, our creativity, our connoisseurship, and it can be incredibly helpful and honest—and sometimes absolutely necessary— to unapologetically reinvent our methods to rediscover ourselves. Sabbaticals are the perfect space for this.
-Stephen Farrell, Associate Professor, Visual Communication Design
Sabbaticals can provide a mental interruption from one’s usual work and life, a break from what has become habitual. This disruption creates space for new ideas to take hold and grow. For me, this was certainly the intent and outcome of my sabbatical plans. From January through July of 2022, I spent most of my time in France and then in Germany, studying languages and observing people’s lives and response to the pandemic, climate crisis, and then war.
I needed and wanted to rethink where I was going with my life and work in the face of the climate crisis. My job is to teach young adults. My aim is to give them information, skills, and confidence for creating their futures. Today, it is impossible to ignore the effect that our climate crisis is going to have on that future. I am also at a point where my own children are young adults and there is space to rework how I spend my time both with them and with others.
My sabbatical motto was, “Think differently.” It was a reminder to me to let go of how I might typically do something and instead take hold of a new opportunity that was presented. Often these were small, limited acts, like eating hard boiled goose eggs or not fretting about getting lost and instead noticing what interesting things happened because I got lost. But, I knew that relaxing into these seemingly small changes would allow me loosen up to larger or more continuous change.
Living in other countries during my sabbatical gave me a great opportunity to step outside of my normal routine. It allowed me to observe “the narrative” in other cultures and to experiment with changing my own “narrative of what is possible”. Studying French and German was also part of this. At more advanced levels of language use, one has to let go of the thought processes and structures of one’s primary or mother tongue. The perspective, logic, and organization of the language becomes part of how you think. In addition, classes were filled with discussions of culture and debates of current topics with people from countries around the world.
Much of what I spent time on during my sabbatical was not “productive” in that no money was exchanged and nothing physical was produced. But my existence and interactions were useful. I met, talked with, and shared meals with people from newly formed countries, from countries with old wars and scars, families who had fled violence a decade ago and were still waiting for papers, and young people who had recently fled war and were trying to adjust to new homes and languages, people who look up to the U.S. who aided them in the past but can’t grasp our embrace of violence (guns) and lack of rights (abortion). These interactions expanded my understanding and empathy. They also gave me new narratives to work from.
From my side, I did my best to explain the history of racism in the U.S., our attachment to guns, the changing landscape of abortion rights, the legal details of Roe v.~Wade and the Second Amendment, the role of trans women and drag queens in the creation of Pride parades, and that cornbread in buttermilk is a nice breakfast.
Did it work? Yes. I have new insights about how to teach my classes and what I want to teach. Larger scale, I have new ideas and projects I want to discuss with colleagues at SAIC and also people in my local community. I wish everyone could have the opportunity to step away from their routine, to step back and gain new perspectives. Personally and professionally, I am immensely grateful for having had this period in my life.
In closing, I want to thank my department and science colleagues for supporting this sabbatical, my family — John, Elly, Betty and Ray — for supporting the long trip away from them, all the people I met who gave me new narratives to think about, the language teachers who encouraged us to learn about their country’s culture and share our own, and finally to Sam, Cacie, and Liam for helping me clarify my thoughts and giving me inspiration for my poster in the faculty exhibition.
-Elizabeth Freeland, Full Professor, Adj., Liberal Arts
A new dependence on remote experiences and screen-based connections prompted me to think about the nature of images. What is an image? What is an image when the world instantaneously becomes reliant on screens? In 2019-20, while on sabbatical in Australia, grand plans to complete a Fulbright Award changed overnight. Instead of researching global arts entrepreneurship, I looked at the basic drawing tools I carried with me and went to work on small drawings and watercolors. I made images of the world around me both before and after pandemic isolation began. The bodies of work included here are made with combinations of pencil, ink, water, and pixels. Some are of my family in our isolation. Some are from pre-COVID visits to locales around the world. All explore ways physical images can be made in a digital world during a period of distancing.
-Pablo Garcia, Associate Professor, Contemporary Practices
I’ve been thinking a lot about the politics of art and who gets to make it, teach it, and consume it. The sabbatical structure is a unique privilege unprecedented in this capital economy, one feels the pull to make something radical out of the experience. As it was, like any other year, my radical behavior happened at a slow pace, in the studio, with a daily practice. I spent my year making watercolors, collages, and large works of art and showing occasionally. This happened alongside tending to my families’ daily domestic needs, reading, visiting Cape Cod, and the Smithsonian Museums in DC. Most importantly, I took many long walks with my dog and bicycle rides with my kid. I went to several artist’s residencies to find much needed solitude and nature to work and teach at Haystack Mountain School of Craft in coastal Maine, MacDowell in rural New Hampshire, and Penland School of Craft in the mountains of North Carolina. Additionally, I visited Graduate Painting & Textile programs to lecture about my art and work with students at University of Wisconsin Madison, Tufts University, and University of Wyoming. I have a solo project curated by Carla Acevedo Yates of the MCA Chicago, opening at the Armory in New York City, in early September. If you happen to be in NYC go check it out.
-Diana Guerrero-Maciá, Professor, Fiber and Material Studies, Painting and Drawing
Fall 2020 was my first sabbatical, and was for one semester. Unfortunately the timing wasn’t great. This wasn’t just pandemic related, but also due to the social-political crises unfolding. I painted every day, but not in ten-hour binges, as I’d planned. Instead, I did more volunteering and marching than I’d ever imagined. I was afraid the world would fall off a cliff if I quit paying attention so…. I paid attention. Painting, for me, is introverted and contemplative. Sometimes life (the world) gets in the way.
That said, I worked on a group of paintings, including those you see here. I also worked on writing, cataloging and archiving for an ongoing drawing project I do with other artists called The Mind’s I. Scheduled Mind’s I events and exhibitions were postponed because of the pandemic, but have now resumed, most recently at the Herron School of Art this past April.
I desperately needed a break from teaching. I am incredibly grateful.
-Anne Harris, Associate Professor, Painting and Drawing
I spent most of my sabbatical at the OCI Museum artist residency (R1211) in Korea. During dangerous and, at times, chaotic situations due to the pandemic, it was still a valuable opportunity to visit my native country for an extended period of time. It was a profound experience for me to reflect on my connections to my mother country, and gave me new insights in my work.
-Myungah Hyon, Associate Professor, Adj., Printmedia
On the ground of the performances I make I seek stillness, I witness and slow and stabilize the urgency in the unstable. This is why the farmer’s son dances.
‘ How do you inhabit your training? How do you unrest and unsettle your practice?’
In this moment of sabbatical reflection I was thinking a lot about fellowfeeling; 16th Century speech for kindness and compassion. Fellowfeeling, a word I truly try to embody as a human being, an artist and teacher. In these 29 months of the global pandemic, I have seen my anxiety and mental health be on fire, yet I have tried, and also failed to keep focused on the creative, on my teaching and my empathy towards care, kindness, positive engagement and to make sure the people I encounter are seen. Seen in hope. Seen to give space and connect with each other.
I was fortunate enough to be on my first sabbatical pre-pandemic. Please see Facebook posts I wrote from Saturday September 30th, 2017 5.23pm – Wednesday January 22nd, 2020, 9.45pm that reflect my journey. Art and life for me are not separate and as an artist and person I always say there is nothing that you don’t know about me. Sabbatical was a true turning point for me. A journey of self and others. A Journey to learn to be alone and to attempt to trust myself and my voice. To connect. To create. To be alone.
Saturday September 30th, 2017 5.23pm
Sabbatical letter completed (thxs to extension) Fingers crossed for my first ever sabbatical for entire calendar year of 2019! After 19 years, 39 consecutive semesters, 20 summer schools, 1,618 students One of my proposed points of departure…’What are a series of flickering dances that pay homage to the dead? To look at the imprints of hoof, cow tongue licked and the nudge of a cow that tried to help get my father up onto his feet when he fell on the concrete.’ ‘What is a dance of a non human helping a human? What is a dance of a cow, saying goodbye to the herdsman that had milked and looked after her for years?’ ‘I am currently not sure if this will be a solo performance project, a film, a piece of writing, a series of photos or feed into the current development of Atom-r work.
Friday October 27th, 2017, 4.30pm
Sabbatical granted for ENTIRE YEAR, 365 days of 2019!! maybe my hair will start growing back. from my letter:
‘I am not afraid of work and when you are the son of a working class herdsman, you take nothing for granted, work is all you have and work provides a way to be connected and creative in the community I am incredibly fortunate and lucky to be part…I cannot imagine being away from the institution that I have grown up with since 1999, a 26 year old, to today 44.’ (and will be 46 in 2019 lol.)
Monday December 17th, 2018, 6.09pm
I’ve been teaching since I was 22 and a half. I’m now 45 and a half. I’ve been at SAIC now for 19 and a half years, 39 semesters, 1750 students, 20 summer schools, career advisor and academic advisor and admissions reviewer and graduate coordinator in performance I’m on SABBATICAL as of 9 minutes ago!!!!!!!! Just finished!!!! Thank you current and former students. I will return spring semester 2020 xoxo
a full year away!
Tuesday February 28th, 2019, 2.38pm
Tomorrow (28th) will be the anniversary of dad’s fall from the milking parlour roof in 2002. Last night at the artist talk we learnt from an audience member that due to fences in disrepair and climate change erosion of coastal cliffs cows often fall off the cliffs and onto the beaches below. Falling onto their backs, their legs upright. The cows unknowingly fall from a great height. The cows falling, the cow and farmer an accident as they fall, slipping, tipping, an edge, caught in sand, cliff face. When dad came out of his coma he told us how he thought the cows were nudging him with their wet noses to help to get him up off the concrete parlour floor. Before bed last night I thought of him on those New Zealand beaches, he and I like cows, in Rhinestone, moving our heads, our bodies around the cows who have fallen on the beaches, nuzzling to try and get them up. Pushing our bodies along the backs of the cows to lift them back up onto their hooves, their feet. To help them on their way. Brushing of human and animal. To carry the weight of the fall onto our backs. Sam told us last night that the high tide is significant as it brings materials to the coast line each day. As the anniversary approaches so does the tide of animal, cow and farmer. Xo
Wednesday May 29th, 2019, 10.32pm
I have to admit I’ve been struggling. Not feeling great and been feeling lonely and Britney loneliness. Have been asleep most days on the sofa in the morning/ afternoon before the gym. I need to get back on the saddle. Why am I saying this? Working through mental shit tap. Kick up the backside to get back to work and to the creative, to work, to being vulnerable and not wasting precious time and getting myself out the house. It’s time. As I look back, anxiety and work and adrenaline have pushed me through. Time to stop watching msnbc. Xo time for cows, and focusing once more. It’s time to stop being lazy (sorry for honest post.)
Monday August 26th, 2019 11.15pm
Get ready for emotional post. Sabbatical. There’s no book to tell you how to do this. Year 21 at SAIC begins. After this Wisconsin trip, with no internet I just spent the last 6 hours responding to emails to get caught up and still not caught up as I’m realising I’m working on 16 invites and opportunities this coming fall and winter. In the car coming home today with Kelly Kaczynski and her beautiful daughter Fin I was telling her about the FALLOW field in farming where you let a field rest, to allow the field in the next Cycle to be fallow, baron, to allow new seeds and energy to come. After intime, goat show, Asia, Australia and New Zealand I thought I had nothing to show and was being lazy and sad and not doing what I needed to do being on sabbatical and that this is a very privileged time and experience. I’m crying tonight as I think like us all think I’m an imposter, i don’t deserve this and also can’t believe that I’m able to have all of these wonderful opportunities to come and time and space and fallowness and also to return here at 46 to perhaps the most vulnerable space I have been in since I was three years old, to return to the rhinestone cowboy, to seek images of risk for me I wouldn’t do, and to share with you all in loneliness and to be both overwhelmed and excited to these projects and exhibitions to come and seeking always new communities and spaces to make the work through the unknown. The fallow seeks new energy. The fallow seeks new opportunities and risks I have yet to discover. Loneliness allows for the fallow to move in ways of tears, of tinsel, darkness, sadness and joy. Marking and gestures of anxiety and forever grateful. Offers coming over the phone, today Dallas and to be in a show with Zackary Drucker and SUNGJAE Lee and finally I hope to see the real south fork and sue Ellen. I apologise for my emotional journals on here. But I’m so grateful for this life and to know you all and in crying to be okay. And to keep hustling. This is a remarkable life and a fallow year of opportunities xo
Wednesday September 4th, 2019, 10.27pm
I deleted this and realise I shouldn’t have. Love you all. Pushing vulnerability. ‘Crying. What is this life. 23 years on. So grateful. Emotional fool xo’
Wednesday December 18th, 2019, 2.22pm
Today marks a year since I started my sabbatical. Tonight is my last night in the UK for a while. Sabbatical has been a privilege, one that I don’t take for granted and after 23 years of teaching I finally figured out I could do things for myself (a hard, hard untangling.) I’m a caretaker. It’s been hard and still hard to try and listen to my own needs and self care. I’m an emotional fool but have learnt so much this year and also stumbled, fell in vulnerability, deep sadness and somehow walked through the fire to try and be a better listener, maker and to keep making. I’m grateful that everyday I have a Hixsonism in my head telling me to make your work. Without art I wouldn’t be here and without being an emotional fool I wouldn’t be able to make the images I make. There is one more residency to come in January, before I return to dear and thank god I teach in an ART SCHOOL. SAIC xxxx
Wednesday January 22nd, 2020, 9.45pm
Time to go back. A year’s sabbatical is coming to a close. Year 21 at my dear art school home can begin. This has been a privilege and one I hope you will all have seen I have not taken lightly. My mentor Lin Hixson always tells me to do your work and in this year I have learnt so much. To make the work and to be real and vulnerable and to be present. It’s been hard but in all the travels from New Zealand, Australia, China, Taiwan, Korea, poor farm, Bates college, oxbow, New York, New Orleans, Dartington, Hanging Hill Farm, Derby, Nottingham, Lincoln, York, Doveridge, Brighton, London, Chicago, Iowa street and @ohklahomo the most important thing is to be yourself and make the work that needs to be made and to learn that it’s okay to try, to be with cows, to make work in new and old communities, to host dinners with artists, to hold spaces for others to belong, to give space to others to make their work, to host people in my home when I’m not here, to give back and to think of students and to thank them in the work that I made during this time of being away. To past students thank you. It’s time to go home, to the art farm that I’m forever grateful for and for the new students and alumni they will become to give to them. Thank you for this time and thank you for following me on This journey I never anticipated ever having in my life this year. Forever grateful to you all for so many opportunities I have been given and hope to have and continue to give back as I go home this spring semester. Thank you SAIC and always be feral, always make your work and Always be strange and weird and queer and in the words of @dollyparton I will always love you. It’s time. See y’all soon and let the magic begin once more. Just hope I remember how to teach and give back xoxo
2022 is my 28th year of performance making. In the last 28 years I have learned that invitation, interruption and opportunity keep me creatively evolving. 28 years of performing, collaborating, rehearsing, touring, exhibiting, curating, organizing and always questioning what it means for my body and the bodies I work with to formally capture and craft highly disciplined, focused and visually striking images that are still, slow, deliberate and always in active motion. I am a farmer’s, a herdsman son. Becoming older, I have learnt how embodied and connected I am to the farm, to the fields I was raised on. A farm started by monks over a 1000 years ago. I have rotated multiple fertile fields of creative work that include performances, exhibitions, film screenings, teaching, curatorial projects, published books and articles in journals.
I am a son of a herdsman, who was born in the house that was attached to my dad’s job. The house was ‘tied’ to the job, as long as he milked the 100 plus cows twice a day, 7 days a week, waking up at 5am and coming home at 7pm, we would have a house called home. At the age of 3, in 1976 my birth mother left the family, she was having an affair with another farmer who lived a mile away from the house. Alone, dad cared for my three sisters and I. When he was at work, we were looked after by dad’s sister, my gran and our next door neighbour. Dad gained full custody of us all in court and remarried my step mother when I was 6, in 1979. I still to this day can’t imagine how he did this, cared and looked after us all. Herdsman, father, mother, and carer. On February 28th 2002, Dad fell from the roof of the dairy parlour onto the concrete floor. It was remarkable that he survived such an horrific accident and was in a coma for many months and hospitalised for a year until he came home, cared for 24 hours a day. Lucid, unable to walk, having to be hand fed, wearing nappies/diapers. This man, this gentle force is with me everyday and I truly believe why I am the person that I attempt to be. In the face of trauma he always gave a laugh and a smile, from his children being abandoned to his accident. Steady, stoic and a working class hard worker who gave so much to his family and community. I am forever grateful for his presence.
In forwarding, my teaching is always to give space, opportunity and care. To listen, watch, respond, look carefully and look again. I am truly grateful for all the opportunities I have been given at SAIC, from the age of 26, to now almost 49. I am proud to teach in the only Performance Department in an Art school in the United States. What a privilege to teach and be in an Art School and create community and learn new ways and new approaches from the students we work with.
Finally, I kept thinking about a 14th century word, ‘Respair’, an almost abandoned word that means fresh hope in recovery from despair, anguish and hopelessness.
START: Monday December 17th, 2018 6pm
New York City
Hanging Hill Farm
STOP: Wednesday January 22nd, 2020, 9.45pm
-Mark Jeffery, Full Professor, Performance
My plans for this sabbatical (Spring 2022) were deeply impacted by the Omicron variant and the consequent cancelation and/or postponement of programs. This said, my sabbatical managed to include participation in two significant international gatherings: Intérieurs sensibles de Chantal Akerman: films et installations – passages esthétiques (January 26–28, Paris) and Marcel Broodthaers & Cinema: ‘Poèmes cinématographiques’, Moving Scripts (June 17–18, Brussels). Both involved Belgian-born artists with the first focusing on filmmaker Chantal Akerman’s film and installation work and the second on artist Marcel Broodthaers’s extensive, but rarely screened films. I delivered a keynote presentation at each of these symposiums and actively participated in discussion sessions.
Publication plans for these presentations are underway with the proceedings from Intérieurs sensibles de Chantal Akerman already set to be published in 2023 by les Presses Universitaires du Septentrion.
-Bruce Jenkins, Professor, Film, Video, New Media, and Animation
Being granted a sabbatical is a gift. It is time for personal interests, intentions, research, and to commit to making a difference. Being given this time during the COVID epidemic was a blessing and a challenge. Like everyone, I wondered what COVID was, how it spread, and how it affected people worldwide. I worried about my family in different stages of life in other cities. The devastating news of people dying was heartbreaking, and the stories of care workers inspiring. Yet, it was all one could do to study the COVID maps of contagion and to read the stories of people and families devastated by the virus. It was heartbreaking. Ensuing isolation from friends and family and the grief of the reality of a global epidemic made focus untenable. The change in living anchored to one place sequestered most of us to the confines of our home and immediate neighborhood. We were grateful to have a roof over our head and access to food.
It also opened deeper understandings of what prior generations endured during world wars and mass migrations, devastating populations of people born with the potential to contribute. After weeks of watching, grieving, and helping, it became clear that while all generations were subject to COVID, the toll was the most significant among the youth, now homeschooled, masked at school, or isolated during their expansion years. With workshops canceled, the opportunity to introduce fun and engaging activities teamed NEXT.cc’s E-learning resources on phones, tablets, and computers, at school and home, with the School Zone Institute to create Creativity Connections to introduce fun and engaging activities children and parents and children and teachers could do together. (https://www.next.cc/page/creativity-connections).
During COVID the NEXT.cc site usage expanded. I became incredibly grateful for the multi-cultural, multi-continental, and multi-generational team of over 500 students, professionals, and educators (over 15 years) for reaching out and sharing
opportunities. I am ever thankful for the continued work of interns during COVID; Keyi Zheng, Sam Luo, Xinlei Chen, Dylan Groshek, the late Danielle Christian Tyler, Isabelle Rizo, Amy Ernst, Kelsey Robinson, and Ashley Sohn, invested time and effort to expand NEXT.cc’s offerings. With their efforts, we are pleased to announce publication of NEW WATER, ENERGY, FOOD Journals to engage students in the nexus of climate change and are working on publishing other creative journey Journals.
In the meantime, with in-person workshops canceled, NEXT.cc participated in virtual career days with Chicago Public Schools and Schools around the country. Conference presentations, planned with The United States Department of Education, EU Consultants in Germany, a Design Literacy Conference inChina, Eco Sensing Panels in Australia, also became virtual. The power of digital connectivity helped the NEXT.cc Team share ideas and strategies with struggling K12 youth and teachers around the world. In the Spring of 2022NEXT.cc participated in the I CORE NSF Great Lakes Region Grant through the University of WI-Milwaukee to support its work with underserved youth-elementary, middle, and high school. We called and interviewed fifty architecture and construction firms about their policies andprogress on DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, ESG (Environmental Sustainability Governance), and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). These conversations revealed the need to cultivate opportunities for diverse school populations of children in K12 around the world to connect with the places in which they live and learn, and to cultivate place-based projects to improve situations. We are in a massive time of change with climate, culture, and connectivity on the move. Now more than ever, the world needs human imagination and creativity. Our work continues.
-Linda Nelson Keane, FAIA, Professor Emerita of Architecture and Environmental Design
Each of my sabbaticals (2013-14 and 2021) provided me with the opportunity to venture outside of my comfort zone and engage in collaborations that contribute to the development of my practice as a designer, artist and maker. During both sabbaticals I participated in residencies that provided space for reflection and research. Working at the intersection of design and technology, these sabbaticals allowed me to focus on the development of embroideries that respond to external stimuli. In 2013-14 I participated in a collaborative research project with a number of institutions and research centers to investigate the potential of stretchable circuitry and embroidered electrodes. I partnered with Berlin’s Fraunhofer Institute, the RWTH Aachen University (Institute for Textiltechnik) and the Department of Epileptology at the University Hospital of Bonn, Germany.
The initial research lead to the launch in 2021 of a collaborative project, titled Re-FREAM | Embroidered Touch | Life Space, to explore the future of fashion and technology. I partnered with Berlin’s Fraunhofer IZM Institute, the Profactor Research Center in Vienna and the EMPA Institute for Materials Science and Technology in Switzerland to advance the development of touch-sensitive embroidered textiles. The result were prototypes for interlacing conductive yarns into textiles, which act as sensory tracks capable of responding to changes in touch, temperature and other stimuli.
The long-term objective of my research is to explore how technology can impact, as well as alleviate, feelings of isolation within communities. This approach was informed by the current pandemic, as well as social unrest in Europe and the US. It is also a response to a need for change in the fashion industry to foster more sustainable practices for creating, producing and consuming garments. In addition to serving a functional purpose, clothing acts as a second skin, conveying who we are to the world. Creating responsibly made textiles that communicate with diverse environments informs my current practice.
In early 2022, I spent five weeks at Berlin’s Fraunhofer IZM Institute in addition to Stoll, a company producing high-tech knitting machines in Reutlingen, Germany. Due to the pandemic, my trip was cut short and I continued my research remotely, collaborating with their laboratories from my Chicago studio. It was an enriching experience to work alongside a team of like-minded scientists, fashion designers, engineers and textile designers. Together we engaged in creative problem-solving, brainstorming, and experimenting to develop embroideries and knitting machines capable of advancing this technology.
Spending a portion of my sabbatical in Berlin also allowed me to absorb different perspectives in art, technology and design through sound and art exhibitions such as Hella Jongerius: Woven Cosmos at the Gropius Bau and Suzan Philpz’s sound work. I also captured field recordings throughout the city on my daily walks, which found their way into soundscapes featured in the Re-FREAM project.
-Anke Loh, Associate Professor, Fashion Design
What began as a sense of relief and release, and even some anxiety about “free time” and how to proceed with my practice, yielded first to slow mornings with espresso, and as it turned out no shortage of projects, new directions, open doors, ongoing and new collaborations, and movement – with much generosity from many. A month in the French winter, much of it in the isolated Normandy countryside making drawings and frottages. A “let’s see what happens” home recording session in Paris with Simon Henocq yielding a soon-to-be-completed CD. Launching a multi-media collaboration with Sandra Binion based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1844 short story Rappaccini’s Daughter. A trip to Dallas to experience first-hand Atsuko Tanaka’s rarely heard 1955 Work: Bell, a centerpiece of my research into Japanese artists’ use of sound in the 1950s-1970s. Improvisations in Chicago with Damon Locks, Lia Kohl, Josh Berman, and Ben Lamar Gay. The period concluded with five weeks in Paris, Sweden, Venice and Padua to make art, explore roots, look at art old and new, and walk, walk, cook, walk, and cook some more. Many new friends, new opportunities, new unknowns.
-Lou Mallozzi, Associate Professor, Sound
Going into my sabbatical I did not know what to expect since I had worked continuously from job to job with no break since I was 14. On one hand I knew that it would represent a much needed chapter to expand within my practice but also allow for growth through experimentation. This did happen within my personal practice which presented itself in the autonomy to experiment and fail within my practice. Additionally without choice it did offer space to reconsider all aspects of my creative and personal life.
I did travel to India to study with my yoga teacher and also spent a residency at U-Cross, Wyoming where I developed life-long connections to fellow artists. The best part of my time was spent in the studio and also with my partner.
What I planned to do was not what happened. And as I have heard others describe their time I realized that for many people it is a rare time to allow deep self exploration. The most humbling part for me was to see how much stress had accumulated into my mind and body over the years and how long it took to decompress from that but also as I returned how quickly it soon returned.
In the end sabbatical is good practice for shedding skins, growth & rebirth.
-Wlliam J. O’Brien, Professor, Ceramics
Since 2012, my individual “studio practice” – writing, video editing, archiving, printmaking, and drawing – has been squeezed in between the demands of teaching and ongoing commitments to community-based and collaborative cultural work, especially with Chicago Torture Justice Memorials.
I’m a long-time activist, archivist, and artist, with life-long commitments to social movements for racial justice, against the carceral state, to fight the AIDS crisis, and for queer and LGBT liberation. I’ve documented many moments in movements of which I was part, such as ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) and Artists’ Call against Intervention in Central America and the Caribbean – through video, photography, and writing. I’ve accumulated years of visual evidence, outtakes, ephemera, and agit-prop, and frequently get requests from curators, writers, students, and researchers to (virtually or physically) visit my archives. Rescuing and shaping these materials to make them accessible for subsequent generations is a necessity. But also, in the process of digging, uncovering, digitizing, and restoring, I’ve been piecing together fragments, re-visiting and re-imagining moments from these episodes of imagined communities and temporary spaces of freedom. I called my 2020 sabbatical project “In and around my archives.”
As we all know, sabbaticals allow relatively uninterrupted time and thought. The ability to drift is as important to creative work as focus, and certainly the mandate to “produce”… to meander, zigzag, to not be ruled by a straight line, or straight time.
–Mary Patten, Full Professor, Film, Video, New Media, and Animation
Frank Piatek requested that instead of a personal reflection on sabbaticals, he would like to share a summary of his practice and the various courses he has created during his time at SAIC
About My Practice:
In the context of this request for Information about what I do, and in the context of my relationship to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I will offer a name : ARTIST TEACHER. Artist Teacher is the norm in the Drawing and Painting Department where I teach, we are practitioners of the subjects we teach. Yet having said that, we or I am not limited in my creative process to what I teach. My imagination is free, my own interest leads me in works that in the studio are my own and secret until it is time to show the work. This is where the Practice of artist and teacher separate. The formula of Artist Teacher can also be reversed. My interests as an Artist can motivate the arena I teach within. For example, out of the several types of classes I teach, two in particular, The Materials and Techniques of Painting, and The Spiritual in Art come to mind. Both classes are of Lecture /Studio formats. Research and Building lectures for these classes rises directly out of my own interest in the subject. This research and work also marks different periods within my own history. A version of this is also apparent within the Materials and Techniques of Painting, studies. PLAY may be the way I describe a mode of experimentation that happens here. Play, serious play allows for my own open ended manipulations of different substances until I find a configuration that holds my interest. One example of this is the nearly unlimited forms of what I call a mud painting (using the example of Dubuffet and Rauschenberg). Other forms of my work in Drawing and Painting and other forms of image manipulation fill out chapters in my collected history.
About my Courses:
In that first class in Graduate school, a kind of crisis set in, under the question “what and how should I teach, what should be taught, what is the subject, what is Drawing?” For a time after that crisis of beginning to teach, I realized that I did not want to teach from my own bias, interest or “way”. I began a lot of research into various ways of drawing, and different ways to teach the language of drawing. Going to Washington University to teach was like going back to school on a new level, I experimented with different possibilities both materially and conceptually. It just so happened that another young Post Graduate (this person was from Yale ) was also brought in to cover for faculty on Sabbatical which was the same reason I was hired. Both of us were very dedicated to what we were doing ourselves (in our own art), as well as teaching. The Wash U. Art Department, I think unexpectedly received a jolt of fresh energy from us, as well as open questioning of the ways that were being taught there. This need to rethink the What and How of teaching, not as so called Art Education but through an immersion into the history and the How and the What, Drawing is within its History. This research questioning was as a practitioner, not a historian. This episode was built on a sense of crisis that existed at the very beginning of my teaching career, and it set the tone for episodes that were to follow.
Beginning with what I have written above, Even though I had many different kinds of Drawing classes during my four years of undergraduate study at SAIC, as well as countless hours of my own personal practice and exploration, I realized that Teaching, a subject, to unknown students who have their own interests required a rethinking of the subject on my part, I realized that all my prior study and work was done for myself, teaching necessitated reaching out beyond my own interests.
The next class that I had to rethink, and which I saw as in crisis on both ends, the subject itself and my own practice, was the Materials and Techniques of Painting. In 1976 and before, even though there was a certain interest in my work, for instance the Museum of the Art Institute had acquired a painting of mine in 1969-70, and I showed in several group exhibitions in the Museum, as well as elsewhere including a gallery that sold my work, never the less I was experiencing a sense of crisis, feeling that I did not understand what I was doing on an internal material level. Some of this had to do with the result of studying Painting during a period of cultural crisis, namely the sentiment in the Art World that Painting was dead.
At that time, maybe mistakenly, I attended a Painting Department meeting, in which some students presented the Department Chair with a petition requesting the reinstatement of a class in the Materials and Techniques of Painting that had been canceled some time before. The Chair asked the assembled faculty if anyone would be interested in teaching this class. No one was interested. At the end of the meeting I went up to the chairman and said that I would be interested in taking on that class. After some time (and further search by the Chairman) I got the job. As I wrote earlier, I was in the midst of a mini crisis having to do with my own painting, not understanding what I was doing on a material level. I suspect my lack of knowledge about the material nature of my own painting was rooted in the similar reason as to why the Materials and Techniques class was canceled. Namely, the idea of the Death of Painting. In the magazines there appeared to be no future for Painting. As with the issues I was having with teaching the Drawing classes earlier, I suspected that I had to do a lot of research to establish a new grounding for the teaching for the Materials and Techniques of Painting. I imagined that I was establishing a Post Death of Painting study of painting. In the Materials class, I used the logic of the idea of Renaissance, rebirth (which assumed a prior death) but also with a certain amount of The Tibetan Book of the Dead mixed in. Currently, I am not alone in teaching the subject, we have perhaps five people teaching the Materials and Techniques and we also have a dedicated Studio/Lab where this class is taught. I am not responsible alone for this growth. As there was more interest in the subject, new teachers were recruited to teach versions of the class. For the students, the urgency of ideas such as The Death of Painting became irrelevant.
The Spiritual in Art, designed and taught in 1992, and it is still being taught. Since the Fall of 2019 (and 2021, 2022), a related class has been taught. This is a team taught class also in the lecture/studio format: Spiritus Mundi: Art and the Esoteric”. The Team is composed of Peter O Leary from Liberal Arts and myself. Peter presents lectures that introduce the subjects and we work with the students in the studio. One of the points that links Peter and i is the Divinity School of The University of Chicago, where Peter did his Post graduate work. My connection to subjects like World Mythology and World Religions is my informal reading of the works of Mircea Eliade and many other scholars in the field, many connected to the Divinity School at the U of C. The invention and opening of the class “The Spiritual in Art”, happened when I was co-chair of the Painting Department with Richard Loving in the early 1990s. Being Co-Chair of the Department presented the opportunity to put forward an addition to the Curriculum. My choice was to invent a class that would fill an empty place in the school Curriculum. This class would be in the lecture studio format which was successful for the Materials and Techniques of Painting, It would be named The Spiritual in Art , after the title of Kandinski’s 1911 essay. Ever since my Fellowship travels of 1967-8 , I became fascinated in the subjects of World Mythology , World Religion and Depth Psychology. This material had already entered my Art. This subject matter was not unrelated to certain Feminist artists in New York, such as Mary Beth Edelson. Indeed it was after a lecture on her work that she gave, that a number of fellow artists came together to hold monthly meetings discussing the intersection between Contemporary Art and subjects such as ritual, Jewish Mysticism (Kabbalah) Deep Psyche, Dream and Myth. This went on for several years. In 1986-7 , The exhibition, “The Spiritual in Art, Abstract Painting, 1890-1985″ which was developed between people in Chicago and L.A. came to the Chicago MCA. The existence of this exhibition and the fulsome catalog that came with it, paved the way for the development and presentation of a class in the Spiritual in Art. This class was first offered in 1992, and it continues to be taught. Because of the many students that have taken the class, some students from all over the world, the class has continued to evolve.
On display are a pair of objects extracted from two journeys taken during my sabbatical year. These objects were useful to me as tools along the way. They are no longer in service as before, but indicate their subject: two mountain landscapes I have occupied in the past year. The first artifact is a collection of fingers from worn-out leather work gloves I used in rehabilitating a cabin and gardens in the mountains of North Carolina. Strung together, they form a sort of calendar of heavy work. From
gardening to felling trees, from milling lumber from these trees to excavating a pond, the gloves served an important purpose before assuming a second life as a collection. The second artifact is a pair of snowshoes I imagined making while stuck in a blizzard on an abandoned farm site in the Pyrenees during a mountaineering trip in December, 2021. Slowed to a stop while ascending a col in 2 meters of snow, I bivouacked in my tent and assembled an escape vehicle in my imagination with the few
items I had or could find in the snow: a knife, an ice-ax, pallet wood, gardening stakes, pine saplings and wire. For me, the gloves and snowshoes connect to a Buddhist parable from the Alagaddupama Sutta.
Teaching at SAIC for over 20 years finally qualified me for a one-semester paid leave, but then my ambitious international study plans were interrupted by pandemic travel cancellations. Further problems ensued, even making productive studio time impossible. All that being said, a short break from an ever-increasing workload as non-tenure track (NTT) faculty is invaluable recharging time! Perhaps it is even more beneficial for those labeled part-time, who arguably bear a more fatiguing work-to-compensation ratio than our full-time/tenured colleagues.
Primarily what the short break did for me was provide a moment to step back and view the big picture, prompting me to introduce something fresh to my professional life by enrolling in SAIC’s Low-Residency MFA program. In our two-tier system, a full-year sabbatical surely allows an enviable amount of time for personal and professional development, but especially lately when availability is expected of NTT faculty year-round, even a short three-month suspension of duties can rejuvenate, benefitting faculty and subsequently their students.
-Eia Radosavljevic, Associate Professor, Adj., Fashion Design
I am a first generation South Asian Pacific Islander American of Filipinx and Indian descent, a cisgender able-bodied woman, a US born citizen, the daughter of immigrants, a descendant of healers, a working mother to mixed race children, a feminist-activist, caregiver, mental health practitioner, educator, socially engaged artist, and scholar in terms not defined by a white, colonial, patriarchal, academic system, but by womxn storytellers, cultural weavers and social framers.
My work explores the visual, performative and culinary arts as acts of disruption, solidarity and care. I seek to create spaces in my community where art making and creative engagement are forms of critical consciousness and healing justice. Spaces that exist in between and outside of the ‘norm’ and center non-dominant stories that are often silenced or go unheard.
The Story Table embodies the act of passing ancestral wisdom and traditions, healing practices, ritual customs and familial stories from generation to generation in an effort to preserve culture. Embedded in the table are personal artifacts that serve as an archive of my family history and a map of our immigrant journey. The creation of the table (constructed with the assistance of woodworker Ron Cramer) was a ritual in itself – choosing, placing, and encasing each object in a way that both unearths intimate accounts and honors lived experiences. The process of creating the piece involved the physical and psychological pain of grief and loss, a recognition of intergenerational resilience, a reclamation of power, and a catharsis that can only be met with love and hope. The woven pieces, sculptural items, and found objects presented with the Story Table offer touch points in the narrative that was created for this space.
The Story Table, which was introduced in summer 2022 as part of the Kitchen Table Stories exhibition, will travel from this current site to several locations throughout the city serving as a platform for engaging others to share stories that reveal and celebrate the many intersections of identity and human interconnectedness.
-Melissa Raman Molitor, Associate Professor, Adj., Art Therapy and Counseling
David Raskin requested that instead of a personal reflection on sabbaticals, we share the article Pandemic Sabbaticals and Faculty Inequality by W. Carson Byrd, on the necessity of faculty sabbaticals as a tool for uplifting all faculty voices. Byrd is a scholar in residence in the National Center for Institutional Diversity and the department of sociology at the University of Michigan. The article was first published on July 28, 2020, in Inside Higher Ed.
Pandemic Sabbaticals and Faculty Inequality
by W. Carson Byrd
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly shaken higher education. This past spring, in a matter of weeks, colleges and universities made sweeping changes — moving to remote teaching, changing grading policies and even distributing refunds for student fees. Looking ahead, the uncertainty about the pandemic’s ebb and flow in the coming months — and possibly years — creates anxiety and logistical challenges.
The pandemic has also disrupted faculty life and reshaped the pillars of our jobs: teaching, research and service. Academic administrators have reacted by implementing new policies. At last count, more than 130 institutions had added a one-year extension to the tenure clock. Such extensions provide time for faculty members to adjust to the immediate needs while avoiding penalties for how the pandemic might have affected their work. But while extensions are helpful for those who receive that support, another aspect of faculty life still needs further conversation: sabbaticals.
Sabbaticals are invaluable opportunities for faculty members. They allow them to complete projects that can substantially aid in seeking tenure and promotion, for example, by eliminating teaching responsibilities during a specified time to support research and writing. Data on the availability of faculty sabbaticals are hard to come by, but one survey of 450 four-year institutions found 85 percent offered a full-year sabbatical for faculty, with a median leave time of 20 weeks.
Echoing the sentiments of Allen Iverson, you may be thinking: “Sabbaticals. Sabbaticals? You want to talk about sabbaticals, not tenure and review policies or hiring freezes, but sabbaticals?” Why focus on faculty who are privileged enough to have sabbaticals?
Because how institutions treat sabbaticals now and in the future can impact the inequality we see among faculty for generations as well as the tensions between institutions with differing amounts of resources. And especially now, as colleges promise to diversify faculty in the current moment of resurgent racial justice movements, they must also ensure that faculty of color have the same opportunities and resources to support their careers — such as sabbaticals — that their white colleagues have always enjoyed.
What Sabbatical Opportunities Look Like
One layer of existing inequality surrounding sabbaticals concerns who qualifies for them. In most cases, sabbaticals are limited to tenured or tenure-track faculty. Contingent and limited-contract faculty are usually shut out of these professional development opportunities, and faculty of color are slightly overrepresented among these contingent faculty ranks. At many research universities, sabbaticals are offered for both tenure-track faculty and tenured faculty, while other institutions may restrict their sabbaticals to tenured faculty alone, again, limiting opportunities for faculty of color mostly found among junior faculty ranks.
A second layer of inequality is that the length and pay of sabbaticals can vary. In the case of a full-year leave, a faculty member may only be paid half their salary, whereas they may receive their full salary for a semester leave. Yet most faculty, outside of those at the most well-resourced universities, do not have the financial reserves and comfort of only receiving half their salary. External fellowship opportunities can also provide complete or partial funding to support sabbaticals, but only if your course load allows time to apply for them. Faculty are often required to apply for sabbaticals or at least negotiate when they are allotted a sabbatical in their contracts, and they must provide a productivity plan for their leave.
On top of all this, the pandemic changed life drastically for faculty members on sabbaticals. It halted, severely hindered and perhaps in some cases completely ruined sabbatical research projects. Colleagues working to complete manuscripts reconfigured their entire weekdays to look after their children or family members because schools closed and home health services were reduced. If and when they can finish their writing before their sabbatical leave ends is up in the air.
As part of their sabbatical, some faculty members may have also moved to take up residency at another institution to work with colleagues or use highly restricted data sets or equipment. These residential sabbaticals offer many opportunities to learn new skills, complete research and expand collaborations and networks for faculty that can buttress their careers for years to come. But as those campuses closed, some faculty had to pack up their things and move back across the country without completing their goals while in residence. Other scholars, contemplating the risks of moving during a pandemic, were forced to hunker down in their apartments.
Toward Greater Racial Equity
If we are going to better support faculty during and after this pandemic, then being mindful of how to address faculty sabbaticals is needed to accompany tenure and review policy changes. Do extensions for tenure-track faculty adjust for sabbaticals cut short, particularly for faculty members who may have only had the spring semester for their sabbatical?
What happens to people who relied on savings for sabbaticals that only paid a portion of their regular salaries? Not only were their sabbaticals unexpectedly halted, but now they may be facing many pandemic-related expenses. Do they get recouped for such work-related losses?
What of faculty members who were able to secure a sabbatical because they were awarded funding through a competitive fellowship program? Are they able to carry that funding and leave time forward to complete their work?
What if someone was aiming to take their sabbatical next year or the year after? The vast budgetary crises befalling colleges and universities in the midst of the pandemic may result in administrators delaying or rescinding these opportunities until their institutions calm the budgetary waters. A scarier prospect may be that faculty sabbaticals will be all but eliminated for the foreseeable future, particularly at institutions that are dependent on student tuition — including striving institutions without the capital to support once widely encouraged research opportunities. Such changes to the faculty opportunity structure will likely result in a widening divide among colleagues even on the same campuses.
Regardless of whether they were on sabbatical or not, faculty are receiving daily news of furloughs, pay cuts, hiring freezes and layoffs. While it may seem frivolous to discuss a privileged opportunity such as sabbaticals, who will have opportunities as a faculty member in a post-pandemic higher education world? How will this changing opportunity structure in higher education reinforce inequalities among faculty members, amplifying job market anxieties and pushing people to seeing value only in the most high-status, well-resourced institutions that confer such privileges?
Improving faculty opportunities — sabbaticals being but one of many — will signal the extent that colleges and universities are willing to support an integral part of its campus community. But will they instead fall back on simply giving lip service to support for faculty members, especially those of color, while distancing themselves from actually providing it in dire times? Given the stress on college and university budgets at this time, the result could be that a predominately white senior faculty will continue to hold positions of privilege and receive opportunities that newly hired faculty of color will not be privy to in the future.
So, yes, sabbaticals matter, and how colleges award them and who gets to have them do, too. The times clearly call for not simply more racial and ethnic representation among faculty ranks but also more opportunities, resources and policies for faculty members of all races and ethnicities to pursue their careers in the future — not just those faculty privileged enough to have had such opportunities in the past.
-on behalf of David Raskin, Mohn Family Professor, Art History, Theory, and Criticism
A sabbatical is meant to be an occasion for rest and renewal, for a break from teaching and a chance to engage in new projects. It often marks a hard turn in one’s scholarship and interests.
In 2009 I was elected Chair of the Undergraduate Division at SAIC. I spent six years in that position, followed by five years as elected Chair of Faculty, and during that time I skipped a sabbatical. My last semester as Chair of the Faculty was Spring 2020. It was exhausting to deal with the pandemic and to help my faculty pivot to entirely online teaching. There was no summer vacation that year until, at the end of the summer, I completed my term of office and went on my much-delayed sabbatical. It was to be a time of travel … but the pandemic axed that idea. I was planning a project with a core walking practice … but three days into my sabbatical I broke my ankle. At that point I got the message the universe was trying to tell me: “Just rest.” So I rested. I focused on learning how to sleep again, and worked hard on my physical therapy. And eventually I started to walk again. In summer of 2021 I even traveled, just a bit, for family events. But this sabbatical was about desperately needed rest.
My sabbatical project represents my experiences walking on the dirt alleys around my neighborhood, and research into the Evanston History Center archives for maps from the last hundred years. Part of the experience involved crutches. It was a bad year for snow, so I slogged through snow and snowmelt. Plans to travel to country roads in far-off lands were sacrificed to the pandemic, but I found the sounds of the alleys around my house soothing and comforting in a stressful time. It is a very different project from anything I’ve done before, and I am presenting my work in a way entirely new to me. Which means, I suppose, that the sabbatical did what It was supposed to do.
-Beth Wright, Associate Professor, Liberal Arts