Faculty professional development leave awards allow the University of Tennessee to strategically invest in its faculty members. Two recent examples from CCI, JEM Professor Ed Caudill and ADPR Professor Sally McMillan, illustrate the very positive outcomes that stem from providing faculty members with a semester away from teaching to focus on research and/or making the transition back to the faculty from being an administrator.
Ed Caudill had decades of research and a running start on his book, “Intelligently designed: How creationists built the campaign against evolution.” He also had a contract for publication and a looming deadline for completion. Being granted a semester-long Professional Development Leave enabled him to extensively polish the chapters he had already written. It also allowed him to do the additional research required to add a new chapter, and he was able to devote the focused time he needed to write the concluding chapter of the book. As a result of the extra writing and research time he was able to devote to the project, Caudill produced a highly acclaimed book, which won a “Choice” award and was named one of the Outstanding Academic Books for 2014. Caudill said, “Whether or not I succeeded with my leave time would be fairly simple to measure: Was the research thorough and the writing sound?”
A very different set of circumstances led Sally McMillan to request a leave. McMillan spent a decade serving the university in full-time administrative leadership roles. She spent five years as CCI associate dean for academic programs followed by five years as UTK’s vice provost for academic affairs. To make an effective return to the faculty and the classroom, McMillan needed professional development leave to read, review, and get caught up with all of the academic research that was done in her area over the last decade. She also needed time to prepare for the classes she would be teaching in January 2016 after ten years away from the classroom. Fortunately Hodges Library offers classes in using digital research tools. Having the leave time enabled McMillan to participate in a week long course at the library, which enabled her to collect the data needed to move forward on a number of research projects. It also helped her complete a time consuming grant proposal that had a very short deadline. “Having the flexibility and autonomy to largely control how my time is spent represents a substantial change from my environment during the past decade,” said McMillan. “It is one of the best aspects of being a faculty member. In addition I derive great joy from interacting with students.” McMillan also used her leave time to become a collaborator with Associate Professor Courtney Childers on UT Social Media Week 2016, and she began a blog (http://prof-thinker.blogspot.com/).