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Sabbaticals Promote Teacher-Scholars

The things professors learn on sabbatical often become classroom topics or lectures.

Dr. Gregory Seigworth, a digital communication and cultural studies professor at Millersville University is in Europe this semester researching and fostering new international networks in the area of “affect” studies. Affect is a theoretical concept that has to do with the body, sensation, emotion and human-nonhuman relations.

Seigworth, who has taught at Millersville for over 25 years, will plan courses, teach, write and speak at conferences while on sabbatical. He has been invited to work with universities in nine countries: Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Iceland, Germany, England and the Netherlands. He says sabbatical experiences offer him opportunities to bring emerging theories into the classes he teaches. “Being an educator is a priority, but sabbaticals can allow for new research to be conducted,” Seigworth says. “Sabbatical leaves are important because, at Millersville University, we are teacher-scholars. Teaching comes first but being able to do research and scholarship is a close second. It is possible to do research during a semester of course – but, with teaching, it is never possible to give truly sustained attention to one’s scholarship.”

Earning a sabbatical leave after applying is never guaranteed. Professors at Millersville are allowed to apply for one semester of sabbatical every seven years. After completion, professors submit a report on the work that they did while away.

Professors who take sabbatical leave are still working hard. Seigworth says that they are like “working vacations.” There is the luxury of having time to process the work and research being done without lecturing or grading exams. This extra time is necessary to tackle big tasks like writing a book or speaking at a conference.

Seigworth explains, “It takes time to do this kind of intellectual labor; to explore, to open up new regions of insights, to write things and edit them, and share with others for feedback. These kinds of things are full-time jobs in and of themselves.”

Seigworth says he has been impressed by the skills that other professors have brought back with them after a sabbatical leave. In his experience, he has seen professors take on working at a TV newsroom to keep their own classes up-to-date on what that job might be like. He has also known professors to take courses or workshops that provide cutting-edge knowledge on a certain topic or skill. Seigworth plans to further his knowledge of technology on his upcoming leave to redesign course objectives for a new concentration in digital communication and cultural studies.

Seigworth says furthering his expertise in his field will reflect back onto the students he teaches. The things that he learns on sabbatical often become classroom topics or lectures. In addition, a leave allows for him to have opportunities to connect with other professors in his department and across the university. He says, “Sabbaticals are a win-win for faculty, students, scholarly communities and our institution.”

 

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