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Comings and Goings: Professors on their Sabbatical Experiences

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Bethany Geiger ‘10

As a student, one of the things I’ve always liked about Bard College at Simon’s Rock is that the professors don’t simply teach in the classroom. Once they sign on as professors, they don’t just forget about their craft or area of study. They continue to work and learn, just as their students do. Which is one of the reasons why the sabbatical program is excellent.

Professors usually become eligible about once every thirteen semesters of teaching. The past year was a busy one for professors on sabbatical, and the current year is going to be just as busy.

Where professors travel is just as varied as their areas of study. Some professors stay nearby in the Berkshires. Some travel the globe. This summer, anthropology professor Katie Boswell went to Burkina Faso, western Africa, for field study.

Others, like French professor Maryann Tebben, remain closely tied to Simon’s Rock. “I will keep a connection to campus as the Faculty Fellow and I'll still be working on international programming and study abroad this semester,” Maryann tells me. She’ll be on sabbatical during the fall semester. What will she be doing while she’s away? “Most of my time will be spent writing a book in the area of food studies... Secondarily, I’ll be completing an article or two for publication and doing background reading for classes I'll be teaching later.”

Math professor Brian Wynne will spend the whole upcoming academic year as a visiting researcher at Wesleyan University. “I think doing research has a positive impact on my teaching because it involves copious amounts of reading, writing, thinking, organization, frustration, confusion, despair, and (less often) elation.” He smiles, “And so reminds me of what it's like to be a student.”

I asked Eric Kramer, faculty in Physics, what he thought he would accomplish as a Simon’s Rock professor during his time away. He will spend his sabbatical at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, using a confocal microscope to study living plant roots. “In class, students immediately pay attention when I start talking about my own research experience. It's a way to show them that science is a vital and exciting enterprise, rather than a bunch of results absorbed from a textbook,” he offers. “They also like to hear about the various little frustrations that characterize scientific work. That's not in the textbooks, either.”

I talked to Peter Filkins, Lit professor (and my very first Seminar teacher), about the sabbatical experiences he had last year - which were impressive, to say the least. They include a translation of H.G. Adler’s The Wall, a translation of Bernd

Stiegler's Traveling in Place, and an original collection of poems on which he put the finished touches. The book, The View We're Granted, has recently been published. He also spent time at Williams College teaching a poetry workshop, and some time at the James Merrill House in Stonington, Connecticut as an artist-in-residence. Such a sabbatical “sharpens the mind and recharges one's intellectual batteries, all of which I would hope would carry over into my excitement and engagement as a teacher.” I asked him what he missed most about our school. “The thriving intellectual and creative community that it is,” he says. “And of course the llamas.”