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Tips on Preparing for a Sabbatical


1.  Familiarize yourself with the sabbatical policies and procedures laid out in the Faculty Handbook.

2.  Prepare early for the work you wish to propose (preferably a year or more before you apply).

  • 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.
  • 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 project and timing with your department chair (as required in Faculty Handbook 5.3.3),  and possibly with the dean for research and scholarship and academic dean.

3.  As you prepare your proposal, try to answer the following questions:

Why this project?

  • Is the project an important issue/question in your particular field?
  • What are the significant issues/questions you will address in your specific project?
  • 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 is this project impractical to pursue without a sabbatical?
  • 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 travel and housing?
  • Will your project have some timely payoff for your department and the college?

Why you?

  • Will the sabbatical work bring your professional expertise to bear on important issues within or beyond the your discipline?
  • Will the work enhance your teaching? If so, how?
  • What is your track record with projects from previous funding? (Sabbaticals 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?

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 methodology will you be using?

  • 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?

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?  

4.  Prepare an online application

What you will need for this application:

  • Your current and complete Curriculum Vitae.
  • A reference from your department chair (they will need to submit an online form).
  • A non-Calvin colleague letter of reference stating how this is a realistic project for you and how you and others will benefit from completion of the project. These letters should be addressed to Dr. Matthew Walhout, dean for research and scholarship, and emailed to the Office for Research and Scholarship before the application due date.
  • 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.

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

5.  Fulfill your obligations after completion of the leave.

  • It is expected that grantees who receive a sabbatical will continue their positions at the College for a full year after the academic year in which the sabbatical is taken.
  • All publications that result from work done should acknowledge the support of Calvin College for the project.
  • The grantee must present a written report on the results or progress of the investigation, publication, or professional gains which were made.  This report is should be submitted through the Faculty Activity Reporting pages by September 1.
  • Common courtesy suggests that one express appreciation to the Calvin College Board of Trustees. Notes of thanks may be sent via the Office of the President.


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