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PASSION PURSUIT The sabbatical, with rigors all its own, maintains a special place in our hyperconnected, always-on world. By Chuck Carlson Sometimes, even college professors need a little “me time.” Maybe more than a little. Enter the sabbatical. A timehonored opportunity for professionals in many fields, it is perhaps most notable in academia—a chance to pause and regroup, to think, to study, to write, to explore new fields or concentrate on a familiar one, and, perhaps, find out what else the world has to offer. More succinctly, it’s a six- or 12-month stretch when a little bit of that “me time” can go a long way toward the advancement of knowledge. And for many on the Albion faculty who have the tenure and experience, it is not to be missed. “It’s the College granting you time to do something you wouldn’t normally accomplish,” says David Reimann, professor of mathematics and computer science, who completed his third sabbatical this spring. “It’s a chance for some in-depth study.” Albion professors with tenure and seven years of experience are eligible to take either a semester or a year off from the rigors of teaching—pending review of their plan from the College’s four-person Faculty Development Committee. After the sabbatical ends, results in the form of studies and presentations are expected.
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Heather Betz, associate professor of kinesiology, will take her first sabbatical this fall. Her interest lies in the cardiovascular system, and she plans to study the incoming class of first-year students. With help from student volunteers, she will chart their daily habits—how and what they eat, their exercise, stress levels, and sleeping patterns—and see how they change over four years at Albion. “When we think of cardiovascular health we think of the elderly,” Betz says. “But heart disease starts developing when we’re little and signs don’t show up until we’re older. It’s eye-opening to students that what they’re doing now can have a huge impact in what their health looks like 40 years from now.”
Math professor Mark Bollman took his second sabbatical in fall 2017 and used his time to research and write a book, Mathematics of Keno and Lotteries, due out later this year. Part of his work took him to the University of NevadaLas Vegas and its Center for Gaming Research. “It was three very full weeks,” he says. “I blew out my eyes reading everything I could. I got the time to devote to scholarship. In fact, I got enough information that I started research for another book.” The toughest part of the sabbatical, Bollman adds, isn’t returning to the routine but learning a new one. “There are new students, new colleagues,” he says. “I was gone in the fall, so when I came back you have a bigger sense that something’s been going on without you.” Reimann concentrated on his passion—mathematical art. “The goal of my work is to provide a visual connection to abstract images,” he says. “Good art tells a story. It provokes a response in the viewer. And there’s a mystical side to math that some people adhere to.”
Planetary scientist and professor of physics Nicolle Zellner is taking her second sabbatical a step further. She will take a full year, starting this summer, with plans to visit the mountains of Chile to do research at one of the world’s largest telescopes. Later, she will attend a conference in Hawaii, travel to another in Germany, and then make her third trip to Australia to conduct research on her specialty, lunar impact glass. “This will be my third once-in-alifetime trip to Australia,” Zellner says with a laugh. She will also research and write, in cooperation with College archivist Justin Seidler, about four long-ago Albion graduates who went on to teach and make significant contributions to astronomy: Wesley Underwood, Class of 1886; Forest Ray Moulton, Class of 1894; Wilbur Cogshall, Class of 1895; and Charles Huffer, Class of 1916. “I think it’s a story some people need to know because history matters,” Zellner says. “Their story needs to be told. These are people who grew up in Albion and they are attached to Albion. These are just cool stories.”
Io Triumphe! The magazine for alumni, parents, and friends of Albion College