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Advice for Faculty Preparing for Sabbatical Leaves

Prepared by the Faculty Development Committee and the Dean for Research and Scholarship, Calvin College, Spring 2012.

Update from the Faculty Development Committee:

The sabbatical review process has become increasingly competitive over the past few years. In the past two years, the success rate of applications has dropped below 75%. Applicants are advised to develop proposals for projects that meet the requirements stated in Faculty Handbook section 5.3 (esp. 5.3.2), and to consider all of the relevant guidelines, suggestions, and questions listed below."

1.  Familiarize yourself with sabbatical policies and procedures in the
     Faculty Handbook:
(Section 5.3 of the Faculty Handbook).

2. Update all reports on special funding that you have received from Calvin
    in the past.
(http://www.calvin.edu/admin/provost/far/menu)
      •    An incomplete record of reporting could lead reviewers to doubt your reliability.

3.  Prepare early for the work you wish to propose.
      (Note that thorough preparation may take more than a full year.)

  • Establish expertise in your proposed research area.
  • Become part of the “professional conversation” in this area by meeting, consulting, and sharing ideas with other researchers in the field.
  • Identify a strategic project or opportunity.
  • Explore possible external support (and submit any grant requests well in advance of the proposed leave).
  • If you expect to be away for sabbatical, be sure to investigate logistics related to housing, travel, health insurance, banking, tax laws, support through the institution that will be your host, and schools for any children who will accompany you.
  • Discuss the project and timing with your department chair (a requirement stated in Faculty Handbook, section 5.3), and possibly with the dean for research and scholarship and/or your academic dean. Once you have submitted your application, your chair (or academic dean) will receive an automatic email with a link to view your application, your funding history, and a link to the Chairs Endorsement Form. Chairs Endorsement Forms are due by September 27, 2013.

4.  As you prepare your proposal, try to address the following questions.

Why this project?

  • Does the project focus on important issues/questions/opportunities in your particular field?
  • Will your project make a lasting contribution to the college? Your proposal should provide independent evidence that the project has strong disciplinary or Calvin-specific value and/or urgency. (For instance, existing internal or external support might be described; or feedback from previous rounds of peer review might be provided.)   
  • Why does this project call for a sabbatical leave? (Does it require activities that you cannot accomplish while maintaining your usual responsibilities at the college?)
  • Will your project address FEN related issues? If so, how?
  • Will your project involve student participation? If so, how?

Why now?

  • How is the project of current relevance in your field?
  • Is now a good time for you to relocate for several months?
  • Have you made arrangements for collaborative work? For travel and housing?
  • Will your project have some timely payoff for your department and the college?

Why you?

  • What unique professional expertise will you bring to the project? 
  • Can someone outside of Calvin vouch for you and write an objective letter of reference?
  • Will the work enhance your teaching? If so, how?
  • What is your scholarly trajectory or track record? (A sabbatical should build upon a record of previous work that can be recognized as leading up to and preparing the way for the proposed project.)
  • Have you submitted all reports (and updates) on the internal funding you have had in the past? (The review committees refer to these reports as they assess the potential benefits of funding your work.)

Who are your audiences?

  • Who are the target audiences of your project? (Answer: your peers or some other interested group.)
  • Who is the target audience of your sabbatical proposal?  (Answer: Faculty Development Committee—a diverse group of colleagues from various disciplines who tend to be unimpressed by technical jargon.) Your proposal should be written for an educated lay audience, not for your disciplinary peers. Use non-technical language to describe why the proposed work would be important to your field and to Calvin, how you would get the work done, and why you should be the one to do this work at this time. On the other hand, it is possible that a member of FDC will have expertise related to your project, so make sure you don’t make technical mistakes or leave out details that are necessary for demonstrating that you know what you are talking about.

What do you want to do, and are you prepared to do it?

  • What is the primary question or opportunity that you wish to address?
  • How will you address this issue?
  • What is the specific methodology to be used? Are there surveys, interview protocols, or other instruments to be used? Do you need to arrange access to certain archives or materials? Do you have access to all necessary laboratory equipment?
  • Will you need IRB approval or copyright clearances? Have you pursued these?
  • Have you made the case that your methods are the best way of approaching your problem/issue?
  • Are the procedures feasible considering the time and resources available?
  • How will you asses your accomplishments?

What is your timeline for the proposed project?

  • Have you worked out a schedule and itinerary for the duration of the leave?
  • Explain, in detail, what you will do. It is not sufficient to say “I will write a book” or “I will research the topic in depth.” Give a work plan. Show the steps and how they interrelate. Good plans have multiple steps and take more than one paragraph to describe.
  • The timeline should be reasonable and detailed enough to convince the committee that you have a viable plan to complete your project successfully.

What are your proposed outcomes?

  • What are your plans for publications, contributions to conferences, artistic performances, and/or other exhibitions?
  • Do you have contractual or professional agreements with publishers, agencies, or other entities with which you will be cooperating?
  • Do you have plans to continue related activities beyond the sabbatical period?
  • Have you discussed a post-sabbatical departmental presentation with your chair? 

5.  Prepare an online application.

Applications can be found online at http://www.calvin.edu/admin/provost/scholars/research/sabbaticals/sab_apps.html.

What you will need for this application:

  • Your current and complete Curriculum Vitae.
  • External reference letters are most useful to reviewers if they address not only your professional expertise but also the specific project that you are proposing. These letters must be submitted as email attachments as indicated in the CRF application form. External letters of reference may be used for up to three years, as long as they are closely related to the proposed project. Please contact the Office of the Dean for Research and Scholarship if you would like to attach any letters that are already on file.
  • Additional letters of reference are optional.
  • *Brief title for your proposed project.
  • *Brief abstract of your proposal.
  • Project description (.pdf, 4 single-spaced pages maximum). Describe the project goals, the disciplinary context, the open questions, your major theses, your proposed methodology, your professional preparation for the work, and any logistical plans you have made (e.g. for studying off campus, collaborative work, supplemental funding, book contracts, etc.). Also explain why you believe the college should invest in your particular project at this particular time.
  • Bibliography. It is expected that most proposals will involve substantial discussion of issues raised by others in the field and will require extensive references to bibliographic sources. Please submit your bibliography as a separate .pdf document (2 pages maximum). The bibliography may be annotated, but it should NOT be considered a body of footnotes to the Project Description.
  • *Expected project outcomes and the benefits to the applicant, the profession, and the college.
  • *Pedagogical impact statement. Describe any contributions that the project will make toward course/curriculum development and implementation (including any FEN- or sustainability-related elements).
  • *A work schedule/itinerary for the duration of the leave.
  • *A budget and budget explanation, along with a description of any other sources of funding.
  • *An explanation of any efforts to obtain outside funding, if such is available in your field.

Faculty planning research with human subjects

Faculty involved in the planning of research that involves human subjects in any way, from interviews or questionnaires to medical procedures with living persons or bodily substances, must submit a research proposal to the current chair of the Institutional Review Board (IRB).  The board is mandated by governmental agencies to review and approve research with human subjects using one of the following processes:

  • Provide an exemption
  • Conduct an expedited review approval or
  • Approve the project after full review

As a small board which meets regularly, the IRB is committed to facilitate the advancement of faculty research programs as quickly and easily as possible. Applicants must have applied for IRB approval by October 1 and must certify IRB approval before receiving a sabbatical. Please consult the IRB page for further instructions if your research involves human subjects.

*The online application provides a textbox for each item marked with an asterisk. Information relating to all the other items must be provided in separate electronic documents, which are to be uploaded or emailed as indicated in the application form.

What to expect in the award process
The Faculty Development Committee (FDC) will review all applications. That committee’s recommendations will be sent to the Professional Status Committee (PSC) for further review. The PSC will make a final recommendation to the president. The applicant will be informed of the status of the application after the review process is complete.

6.  Fulfill your obligations after completion of the leave.

  • It is required that each grantee continue his or her position at the college for the full academic year following that in which the sabbatical leave occurs. Grantees who do not return to fulfill this obligation are required to reimburse the college in full for the salary and benefits received during the leave.
  • All publications that result from work done on sabbatical leave should acknowledge the support of Calvin College for the project.
  • The grantee must submit an online report by August 15 after the end of the leave, detailing the results or progress of the project and any related professional gains. This report should be submitted to the dean for research and scholarship who will forward it to the department chair and the academic dean.
  • The grantee shall be responsible for sharing the results of the sabbatical project with Calvin colleagues through a formal presentation (e.g., lecture, concert, exhibit).
  • Common courtesy should require some form of acknowledgment to the Board of Trustees. Notes of thanks may be sent via the Office of the President.

Secondary

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