How should I use my sabbatical?

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Frequently Asked Questions about Professional Development Leaves

BYU Perspective: BYU doesn’t offer sabbaticals, however a number of faculty members have taken approved professional development leaves.

Q: How does one go about getting an approved professional leave?

A: The faculty member typically identifies an opportunity with another university, regulator (e.g., FASB, SEC, ASB), or business entity and negotiates an arrangement with all parties involved. It is expected that the professional development leave is a paid leave (i.e., the other university, regulator, or entity pays the faculty salary and perhaps benefits). BYU or the Marriott School may provide compensation or benefits as needed to make the faculty member whole. Typical items negotiated:

  • Length of leave (can be 1 semester to 2 years)
  • Moving and living allowances
  • Salary
  • Benefits
  • Travel expenses
  • Ability to attend academic conferences
  • Support for continued research
  • Current and future teaching assignments
  • How the absence affects timing for promotion and tenure decisions
  • Use of university resources (laptop, phones, research assistance)

Q: Why do faculty seek professional leave opportunities?

A: There are a number of reasons, but some of them include:

  • A chance to put a great job on hold, while you develop professionally in various areas of scholarship
  • Improve abilities as a researcher and teacher
  • Collaborate with other scholars and students
  • Desire to obtain some or more professional and/or technical experience
  • Opportunities to practice what you teach
  • Obtain recent, hands-on applied experience
  • Increase “street credibility” with students
  • An adventure for faculty and family (often well deserved after working “heads-down” from Ph.D. school through tenure)
  • Enhance the reputation of department, college, and university
  • Provide children an opportunity to live somewhere else
  • Change, challenge and stretching promote growth and development
  • Expand network and professional opportunities

Q: Why would the department, college, and university support leaves?

A: There are a number of reasons, but some of them include:

  • Enhance the reputation of department, college, and university
  • Faculty are expected to be constantly involved in professional development and improvement and a full-time leave can be an excellent way to obtain significant new insights, skills, abilities, knowledge
  • Change, challenge, and stretching promote growth and development
  • After a faculty member puts a job on hold, and then decides anew to return to the university, they typically do so with an increase appreciation for the life of a professor and the mission of the school
  • More mature and confident faculty
  • Increase “street credibility” with board of advisors, recruiters, and other stakeholders

Q: Does a professional development leave require that the family move to a new location?

A: Faculty frequently do pack up the family and move to a new location for 1 to 2 years. However, that is not required for a successful professional development leave. Here are some examples of local, part time, and “traveling” leaves:

  • Take a full-time professional development leave and serve in management of a local business entity.
  • Serve as a regulator (e.g., member of the ASB) and take a partial leave with a reduced teaching load and travel to meetings/events when necessary.
  • The family stays, but the faculty member travels to the professional development leave location (e.g., Washington DC) and works for a week or two at time before returning home for a weekend or longer.

Q: What happens to benefits such as pension matching by the university, years of service toward retirement, and healthcare.

A: At BYU matching basically goes away if the salary is paid directly to the faculty member or it stays in place if the professional-development employer reimburses BYU for the faculty member’s salary. Regardless of the salary situation, years of service continue to accrue during an approved leave of absence. Healthcare benefits are also an item of negotiation, but typically the university healthcare is retained and either the professional-development employer reimburses, and/or the college/department agrees to pay a token salary sufficient to cover healthcare premiums.

Q: When is the best time to take a professional development leave?

A: A leave can be effective at various career stages, but typically not before earning tenure. Other items to consider:

  • Is the timing good for the department (i.e., ability to cover courses)
  • Is the timing right for the family (the older the kiddies get, the harder a full-time leave usually becomes)
  • Does the department chair and dean support the leave
  • Does the leave opportunity provide benefits to the department, college and university as well as the faculty member

Q: How is research pipeline affected by a professional development leave?

A: Preferably, the faculty member is able to push forward with current projects to move them to publication and the professional development leave provides access to new ideas, data, co-authors so as to maintain or increases the pipeline after the leave. Whether this occurs or not is largely up the individual faculty member and how the leave is structured.

Q: How is teaching improved by a professional development leave?

A: The answer to this question is fairly obvious for most professional development leaves (more current, more expertise, street smarts, etc.). In general, the students tend to settle down and have more faith in the instruction of a faculty member who is current, relevant and has what they consider “real world” experience.

Q: What impact does a professional development leave have on the tenure and promotion clock?

A: It should have no impact on the tenure clock as the faculty member typically will be tenured before pursuing a professional development leave. In terms of promotion from Associate to Full, that clock typically has a minimum (e.g., 5 years), but no maximums. For some faculty, the professional development leave has no impact on the promotion clock, for others it may extend it. Professional development leaves do not typically shorten a promotion clock.

Q: What has been the experience in moving family for a professional development leave.

A: For many faculty and family it is a great experience in every way. Of course, this doesn’t mean there are not difficulties and adventures along the way, but that’s part of what makes a leave such a rewarding and growing experience. There are new schools for the kids to attend, new friends to make, and the chance to see how the Church operates worldwide. The family learns to hang together and rely on each other more, especially as the adventure begins.

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