After 16 years as a tenure-track and tenured faculty member, I am just a few days away from beginning my first ever sabbatical this fall. This is longer than typical, but at The University of Texas there was no sabbatical system, and the timing has not allowed a sabbatical here at Rutgers until now. As most of you know, academic sabbatical leave is a wonderful benefit of working at many top universities—providing faculty members with an opportunity to undertake a major project and to renew oneself for more energized academic work to follow. The idea actually stems from biblical times—and I recently heard that unpaid sabbaticals are a growing trend within private sector companies in places like the United Kingdom where individuals may take these as career breaks.
My sabbatical will be a bit unique because I will continue to be Ph.D. program director—a decision I was allowed to make in consultation with several others (frankly, I can’t imagine focusing solely on my research for that long anyway, so the directorship will provide some familiar balance). What this means for the program is that I will continue to handle the necessary administrative work of the director (e.g., signing paperwork, awarding travel grants) and be present for major events (e.g., orientation of new students, fall program meeting). However, I will not do the graduate instruction typically handled by the director. So, I will not teach our introductory theory course (601) and I will coordinate it so that others take care of introductions and formalities at our regular colloquia. I took the sabbatical in the fall in part because it is a less busy time for the program—at least compared to the spring when we are actively engaged in admissions and recruitment events as well as annual review and honors day activities. I am not going anywhere for extended time and will still be on campus once a week to take care of program issues as needed. Although I will limit any new programs/activities initiated from the program office, I want to assure students and faculty that the program office will continue to take care of everything we need to manage (though those “same day requests” from students for signatures, which I’ve been able to do in the past, will be much trickier in the fall!).
For my sabbatical, I’m not really doing anything related to the Ph.D. directorship—though blogging will be part of my activities in a couple ways. I will be finishing up some research projects related to anonymous blog posts and comments and I will be working to establish some online resources related to anonymous communication—including some regular blog posts about the topic. All of this relates to a larger book-type project I hope to pull together that links my interests in anonymous communication, new media, and organizations. I will be finishing a major Communication Yearbook chapter on anonymous communication and starting a meta-analysis of some research findings in this area—and doing so is already helping me recognize opportunities for a more substantial scholarly contribution to a topic that I think is of substantial contemporary importance: the dangers and necessity of anonymous communication in a networked society.
To be faithful to my sabbatical plans, “From the Director’s Deck” will take a hiatus for the next several months. I will resume in January when I return from this semester of leave. Let me use this moment to thank those of you who read the blog and to encourage you to look for it again at that time. In the meantime, let me remind students and faculty here in SC&I that they are always welcome to blog on our school website about program events, concerns, successes, and other topics of interest. I would very much enjoy reading such posts (when taking a break from my sabbatical!).
The Director has left the Deck (until January, 2011).