Sabbatical Leave Proposals



The opportunity to take a sabbatical leave to pursue a program of scholarly study or research can be an important part of the academic workplace. Yet resources may not always be sufficient to allow all those faculty members who might wish to take a sabbatical leave to do so. At Roanoke College the Faculty Development Committee is responsible for determining acceptable proposals and for ranking proposals for sabbatical leaves in merit order. That ranked list is used by the Dean and the President of the College, along with considerations such as budgetary constraints, in determining how many leaves are awarded. These guidelines are intended to provide a clear picture of the current expectations in these areas, but not to replace the essential information for sabbatical leave proposals found in section of the Faculty Handbook.

Definition of an "acceptable program of formal study or research"

A variety of activities may be pursued as part of a sabbatical leave. Disciplinary research, teaching related scholarship, or professional retraining activities may each fit into the definition of an acceptable program of formal study or research. A brief description of each of these areas is included here. The more difficult question of the format for planning such programs in sufficient depth is left for the next section of these guidelines.

  • Disciplinary Research - Research investigations or creative works within the academic discipline of the faculty member. Note that the exact type of professional project envisioned will vary significantly with discipline. Major creative efforts are viewed as being completely valid types of disciplinary research, along with critical analytical research projects, scientific laboratory research, etc.
  • Teaching-Related Research - Sabbatical projects designed to produce and implement innovative instructional methodologies, or to pursue in-depth study of course-related areas of knowledge.
  • Professional Retraining - Over the 35-year career of an academic faculty member, it is not uncommon for a need for significant retraining to arise. Many disciplines have actual core content which changes completely during this period of time, or even in a period as short as fifteen years. While reeducation of faculty is a continuing, yearly effort, a sabbatical leave period devoted to such substantial retraining can occasionally become truly necessary. The need to prevent out-of-date instruction and to enable faculty members to develop their scholarly capabilities in order to pursue a research program is real, and Roanoke College views sabbatical leaves as one mechanism for resolution of such situations. It is important to realize, however, that definition of a fully planned and justified program of retraining will be required for this category of sabbatical leave, as much as for more traditional research leaves.

Incorporation of travel into the sabbatical leave period

Fresh perspectives and insights on one's academic discipline are often a major benefit of the sabbatical leave period. Frequently, travel to other institutions or countries is a part of the process that provides those insights and perspectives. Such travel may be of short term duration, or may involve extended time. The benefits of travel will be evaluated along with all other factors during the review of each application. Faculty who intend to travel should clearly discuss the benefits expected from such travel.

Proposal Outline

All sabbatical leave proposals should:

  • define the problem, topic, or retraining area
  • describe the approaches to be used
  • justify the initial positions, arguments, or topics to be explored, or describe how proposed efforts will achieve the desired goals
  • comment on the importance and implications of the expected conclusions or achievements
  • include appropriate bibliography
  • lay out a timetable for completion of the project, through the "outcomes" stage which may include publications, presentations and exhibitions.

Expected development stage of the proposed project

Cursory proposals will not be adequate. In order to write a proposal at the expected level of development, the faculty member will need to do a significant amount of planning and thinking. The text portion of recent sabbatical proposals have ranged in length up to ten single-spaced pages.

Most sabbatical leaves envision enhancements provided by successful external grant proposals. The application deadlines for such programs closely follow the internal college deadlines for applying for sabbatical leaves. The short time available for proposal development for external submission following internal authorization is one reason for requiring development of internal proposals to the level where external requests will be competitive. Faculty members submitting sabbatical leave requests should ask themselves if the proposal, with minor additional work, is in a form and development stage that could be competitive externally.

The category of sabbatical leave called professional retraining above deserves a special comment in these guidelines. Clearly, such requests do not involve preparation of a research project per se, yet advance planning, in relatively specific detail, is required for a successful retraining effort. If faculty members desire to become more current in their fields by attending specific graduate courses at universities, or specific major professional meetings, definite plans for these activities should be prepared as part of the sabbatical leave proposal. For example, while a single university site may not yet have been chosen, perhaps a group of three will have been identified. For those three, course catalogs can be obtained and listings of courses to be taken can be developed. If work with colleagues at other institutions is contemplated, definite agreement to the collaboration by those colleagues should be obtained at the time of submitting the Roanoke College request.

Example proposals

The FDC Chair will have available examples of successful sabbatical leave proposals which the authors have agreed to allow others to inspect. Faculty considering applying for a sabbatical leave are urged to look at these examples at an early date, in order to plan the development of their own proposal. As much as is possible, examples of all categories of proposal (disciplinary research, teaching related research, and professional retraining) will be made available.

Deadline for Applications: Sabbatical leave applications are due February 15.

Evaluation of sabbatical leave proposals

The following criteria are the Faculty Development Committee's basis for evaluating all sabbatical proposals. It is the committee's task to rank proposals and provide the Dean of the College with that ranking, but all final sabbatical decisions are subject to the Dean's recommendation and the approval by the President and the Board of Trustees (see above).

1. Overall quality of intellectual merit of proposal;

2. Feasibility;

3. The match between the proposed project and the unique opportunities provided by a sabbatical;

4. Record of accomplishments, if applicable;

5. Balanced distribution of support among humanities, sciences and social sciences, all other criteria being equal.

Final Report Notice

Faculty who have been granted a sabbatical should submit a written report and assessment of the period to the chair of the Faculty Development Committee and the department chair. This report should be submitted within the first six weeks of the regular semester following the completion of the sabbatical. It is also expected that returning faculty will share the results of their research/writing with faculty colleagues.

Mechanism for the review and reauthorization of changes in previously approved projects

While it is unavoidable that some changes will occur in proposed sabbatical leaves between the time of the original request and the actual start of the leave period (17 months later), it is necessary to have some control over the changes which can be made, and to have a mechanism in place for the approval of such changes.

  • Changes in the proposed project which occur after the initial approval step by the college must be reapproved. Such changes should be submitted in writing, with a complete justification, to the Dean of the College. The Dean may approve such changes immediately, or may refer those changes to the Faculty Development Committee for review. Such review may result in a recommendation for approval of the change or a recommendation that the revised leave proposal not be approved in the revised form.
  • Changes which enhance the sabbatical leave project are encouraged. Changes such as moves to a larger research library location, moving from a small university location to a larger location with better resources, or addition of travel to foreign countries not originally included in the project, are all examples of such beneficial changes.
  • Changes which reduce the scope or benefits of the sabbatical leave are discouraged. Such changes from the initially approved project are not fair to other applicants whose sabbatical leaves were not approved. It is expected that the primary reason for changes in approved projects will be financial in nature. External grant funds for necessary travel are difficult to obtain, and funding timetables are such that approval of external grants will not be assured at the time of the initial college approval of the project. Nevertheless, a project may need to be delayed as necessary funds are sought. The Faculty Development Committee recognizes that changes in plan might be unavoidable and will apply that knowledge to the review of changes in proposed projects.