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So You're Going On Sabbatical? Be Sure To Take An Open Mind

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.881.1 - 6.881.5

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Paper Authors

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Robert Montgomery

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session Number 3575

So You’re Going on Sabbatical? Be Sure to Take an Open Mind Robert E. Montgomery Department of Freshman Engineering, Purdue University


This paper is about the process of making the transition from attempting to control everything about the sabbatical leave experience to learning to simply benefit from it, wherever, within reason, it took me. Numerous "substitutions" took place in my plans for self-renewal, with some of my original objectives becoming completely out of reach. As a result of the unplanned nature of many of my sabbatical activities, I learned a lot about things that never entered my mind when writing my sabbatical proposal. I had to coordinate my planned research project with a new faculty member at Purdue who took over the area I left behind. My planned book writing enjoyed only a small amount of painstakingly slow progress. I did not learn anything at all by auditing courses, as the ones I would like to have audited simply didn’t exist. Finally, I taught things I never in my wildest imagination would have expected to teach, on sabbatical or at any other time!

Was my sabbatical leave a failure? Far from it! Fortunately, I took my open mind with me, and I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to make a contribution by taking advantage of those openings that came my way. These included teaching an Introduction to Engineering course, a planned activity, and a Technical Communication course, an unplanned activity. Outside of teaching, my contributions to my Departmental hosts included performing a number of small studies I was asked, and able, to lend my talents to. I even did a small amount of informal career counseling for students who saw my open, approachable style as a comfortable alternative to some of the more formalized advising taking place within the system. At the end of it all, I was welcomed home with open arms by my Department Head and my Dean.

Introduction – Everything’s Planned, Right?

In a 1999 paper on sabbatical leaves in higher education1, it was noted that such programs in U.S. higher education began at Harvard University in 1880 and spread to 178 institutions by the early 1930s. This same paper made note of "...the creative, rewarding nature of the experience; ... and its rejuvenating effects." It seemed to me when I took my sabbatical leave that most of what I had heard from colleagues and at seminars and workshops fit the same mold: sabbaticals were in widespread favor for many good reasons from the perspective of both the faculty member and the institution. Further, sabbatical leaves were taken for many reasons. Though most were taken for research or writing2, a small percentage were taken for the improvement of teaching. Purdue’s policies on sabbatical leaves allowed for a sabbatical leave after seven or more years of service, with a great deal of flexibility possible with regard to the duration and timing of the leave. In my case, I qualified for a year at half salary, and that fit my plans perfectly.

“Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education”

Montgomery, R. (2001, June), So You're Going On Sabbatical? Be Sure To Take An Open Mind Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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