Provost’s Sabbatical Series

Provost’s Sabbatical Series

The Provost’s Sabbatical Series recognizes the wide range of fascinating and impressive sabbatical projects in which our faculty are engaged.  Each semester, Provost and Dean of the College Marci Sortor invites two faculty members to give short presentations about their scholarly/professional work in a manner accessible to a general audience. Presenters are also asked to explain what they did to plan and prepare for their leaves, and how they have managed the transition back to the classroom (including ways in which they have integrated their sabbatical work with their teaching).  Presenters are selected to highlight the diversity of sabbatical projects from recent faculty leaves.

The Center for Innovation in the Liberal Arts is responsible for managing the Provost’s Sabbatical Series. The Faculty Life Committee co-sponsors the series.

Sabbatical Series Presentations

Fall 2016 – Spring 2017

Jill Dietz, Professor of Mathematics

For many years, Jill Dietz’s quest has been to understand properties of algebraic structures that can be detected in their substructures. A standard question in science (and other disciplines) is How does an object break down into smaller parts? And vice versa, What are the building blocks of objects we care about? Whether we study cells, molecules, or algebraic structures, the quest is similar. Jill will introduce the abstract notion of a group (an example of an algebraic structure) with some hands-on examples, describe the kinds of questions she asks about them, and briefly report on her sabbatical projects.

DeAne Lagerquist, Professor of Religion

DeAne Lagerquist had a year of “Sabbatical Travels: through time, space, and cultures.” Although the sabbatical was not precisely what she had planned, it was full and rewarding. Hours spent in archives reading the papers of St. Olaf grad and faculty member Gertrude Sovik yielded a paper that she presented at the University of Madras; it also provided material for further work. Unexpected invitations prompted further research and reflection on immigration, religion, American culture, and globalization particularly as manifested among Lutherans past and present. Actual travels – both in the USA and abroad – were personally enriching and informed her current teaching.

Mary Cisar, Professor of Romance Languages - French

Mary Cisar designed her sabbatical leave to prepare to return to teaching and scholarship in French after thirteen years as Registrar. Her year alternated between extended stays in France and research and writing in Northfield.

Rick Goedde, Associate Professor of Economics - Management Studies
Rick Goedde discussed his research on helping people to manage their retirement money as a personal endowment. He also discussed the benefits of publishing on an investment-related website to get immediate, useful feedback.


Fall 2015 – Spring 2016

Mara Benjamin, Associate Professor of Religion

Mara Benjamin spent her sabbatical writing a book, The Obligated Self: Maternal Subjectivity and Jewish Thought, supported in part by an NEH Fellowship. Her project investigates the religious dimensions of maternal experience in the context of Jewish thought and tradition, while also rereading key categories in Jewish theology in light of the quotidian, material work of childrearing. Mara was a Visiting Scholar at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York City. As part of her scholarly research, she brushed up on her Talmud skills, working through texts regarding children, parents, and classical rabbinic understandings of parental obligation.

Sharon Lane-Getaz, Assistant Professor in Education and Math, Computer Science, and Statistics

Sharon Lane-Getaz will bring “Tales from my Sabbatical: A Few Short Stories.” After spending months planning a project that was not funded by the NSF, what does one do? Sharon’s revised sabbatical plan included disseminating results from a couple of papers that were already underway, starting a lengthy paper on students’ inferential reasoning, and getting married a couple of times…

Tim Mahr, Professor of Music and Conductor, St. Olaf Band

Timothy Mahr’s sabbatical work centered on a number of composition projects. He will present an overview of them all, and then focus on his newSuite for Band.  Streaming a performance of the work by the St. Olaf Band from the recent Homecoming Concert will allow attendees to experience the work.

Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, Associate Professor of English

During her sabbatical, Jennifer Kwon Dobbs received grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and Intermedia Arts to develop a second book provisionally titled Three-Legged Bird. As part of this work, she published a mixed-media, mixed-genre chapbook Notes from a Missing Person(Essay Press) drawing from her research on Korean unwed mothers’ narratives. In addition to placing individual poems in journals and giving invited readings at universities, Jennifer also translated portions of South Korean poet Kim Ki-Taek’s fifth collection Crack, Crack and presented her translations at a session of Associated Writing Programs 2015 in Minneapolis. Missing teaching, she collaborated with AK Connection to design and led a community workshop for emerging voices that focused on imagining alternative histories, and culminated with participants’ reading at Fox Egg Gallery in Minneapolis. Jennifer will read a selection of her translations of Kim Ki-Taek’s poetry and some poems from her second book manuscript.


Fall 2014 – Spring 2015

Anne Groton, Professor of Classics

Anne Groton spent her sabbatical awash in the ancient Greek alphabet:  she completed the 4th edition of her Beginning Greek textbook and a book (co-authored with Jim May) of 46 readings to accompany it. Occasionally she returned to the 21st century to learn about ways in which digital technology might enhance her work with Greek and Roman comedy.

Robert Hanson, Larson Anderson Professor of Chemistry

When Bob Hanson started his third sabbatical, in 2006, he had no idea what he was getting into. Nine years later, his professional activities are focused on that work, and collaborations developed over the intervening years led to opportunities during his fourth sabbatical to travel to 20 destinations in seven countries and to give 25 presentations. It was a whirlwind that took him far out of his comfort zone, but to many new friends and even more opportunities. He will give some insight into how this all arose and how he was able work out a sabbatical plan that was both challenging and survivable.

Edmund Santurri, Professor of Religion and Philosophy

Edmund Santurri spent his September-January sabbatical mainly writing three essays solicited for three scholarly volumes: “Agape as Self-Sacrifice: The Internalist View” for the volume Love and Christian Ethics: Engagements with Tradition, Theory and Society; “Human Corruption and the Possibility of Love: Dostoevskian Ruminations on Forgiveness” for the volume Virtue and the Moral Life; and “Augustinian Realism and the Morality of War: An Exchange” (co-authored) for the volume Augustine and Social Justice. He also spent some time preparing two new courses for 2014-15: “Narnia and Beyond: The Theology of C. S. Lewis” and “Roman Catholic Theology.”

Nancy Thompson, Associate Professor of Art History

During her sabbatical, Nancy Thompson worked on a medieval art textbook and wrote essays exploring various aspects of the production and reception of stained glass in Italy in the 13-15th centuries.


Fall 2013 – Spring 2014

Kathryn Ananda-Owens, Associate Professor of Music

Kathryn Ananda-Owens spent her sabbatical with Wolfgang Amadé Mozart, working on a book project, More Than Mozart: The Art and Craft of the Mozartean Cadenza, which aims to teach classical pianists and other instrumental musicians the fine art of Mozart forgery.  Her Provost’sSabbatical Series presentation will introduce the performer’s dilemma that inspired her research, the methods by which she delved into the mind of a centuries-old musical genius, her pedagogical approach to Mozart forgery, and her strategies for sustaining authorial focus in a basement office on sunny days.  Ananda-Owens will also take up lessons learned about the proper pacing of asabbatical, from the ideal time to take a vacation to the shocking ability of book proposal drafts to induce writer’s block.

Anna Kuxhausen, Associate Professor of History

Anna Kuxhausen spent the first six months of her sabbatical acting as midwife to her book manuscript.  After a protracted labor, her book, From the Womb to the Body Politic:  Raising the Nation in Enlightenment Russia, was born in March of 2013.  Anna will speak about her experience of the editorial process, in which she had to let go of her “baby” in order to see her book to completion.   Anna will also share some of the practical strategies she learned regarding manuscript preparation, including how to manage the copy-editing process, securing publication rights from museums and archives, and working with printing press deadlines.

Anantanand Rambachan, Professor of Religion

Anant Rambachan completed a book-manuscript project, A Hindu Theology of LiberationNot-Two is Not One. He has two aims for the book. The first is to offer a systematic reconstruction of the Hindu non-dual (advaita) tradition. The second is to employ the insights of the the non-dual tradition to address selected issues of significance, including patriarchy, homophobia, and caste. For each issue, he offers a critique and suggests grounds for their overcoming.

Doug Casson, Associate Professor of Political Science

Doug Casson used his sabbatical to focus on early modern debates concerning civility and religious insult. As a Visiting Fellow at Harris Manchester College in Oxford and a Fulbright Fellow in Erlangen, Germany, he spent a lot of time in archives, seeking to uncover the ways in which religious toleration emerged, not as the result of a separation of religious arguments from the political sphere, but rather as a contested norm within theological and scriptural debate.


Fall 2012 – Spring 2013

Mike Fitzgerald, Professor of History

Mike Fitzgerald’s main project was the draft of a book, “Emancipation and Reconstruction in Alabama.” To supplement his other research, he worked with teams of St. Olaf students and professors (through the Center for Interdisciplinary Research-CIR) to provide statistical and mapping support for the project, using historical census data newly made available at the University of Minnesota. Mike will talk about the ins and outs of using statistics students to help pursue one’s hunches about the evidence.

Tina Garrett, Associate Professor of Mathematics

Tina Garrett used her sabbatical to focus on two projects in combinatorics, as well as on her transition into the position of North American Director of the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics (BSM). The first project investigated a new class of number called the Legendre-Stirling numbers and the second project focused on a problem in dynamical systems. In joint work with Prof. Kendra Killpatrick at Pepperdine University, she found a new class of numbers called Generalized Legendre-Stirling numbers and proved many theorems related to that discovery. These new numbers possess deep mathematical beauty but Tina also has some fun visual interpretations to show. And for the less mathematically inclined, the process of transitioning to North American Director of BSM comes with photos and stories of living in Hungary with only a limited command of the Hungarian language.

Jolene Barjasteh, Associate Professor of French

Part of Jolene Barjasteh’s sabbatical in Fall 2011 was devoted to collaboration with her colleague in History, Dolores Peters, on an article about French FLAC, “Not an Extravagance: Reflections on Using French Texts to Teach French History,” that has been accepted for publication by The French Review in fall 2013. Under the umbrella of Foreign Languages Across the Curriculum (FLAC), a long-standing interdisciplinary program at St. Olaf, she and Dolores have collaborated in the development and teaching of a French language component for a survey course in modern French History. The article outlines the institutional and departmental contexts for the creation of French FLAC in History, offers advice on the selection of appropriate original-language texts, shares samples of learning aids, and offers reflection on the long-term contributions of FLAC to student learning and the vitality of St. Olaf’s French and History programs. In her presentation, Jolene will focus primarily on French materials she has developed for the language component and how teaching in the program has had an impact on both her teaching in other courses and her research agenda.

John Schade, Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies

John Schade’s sabbatical concentrated on three major activities, including development of international collaborations, forging ahead with a new research direction, and progressing towards a better understanding of the potential impacts of climate change on ecosystems on campus. He worked on a proposal with Kathy Tegtmeyer-Pak to develop collaborations between Asian Studies and Environmental studies (funded in May), that included a trip to Japan and China to begin to link curriculum and research directions with their faculty and students. He traveled to Cranfield University in the UK to learn laboratory techniques and develop curricular ideas that will culminate in a course proposal this fall to bring students there to study science and society. He also began collaborating with Jean Porterfield to develop projects using molecular approaches to study biogeochemistry that have informed our understanding of microbial communities in wetland soils. Last, John worked with students on three manuscripts based on research studying the effects of snow depth and changing precipitation patterns on microbial activity that have some bearing on our understanding of the potential impacts of climate change on our natural lands.


Fall 2011 – Spring 2012

Irve Dell, Associate Professor of Art and Art History

Irve Dell will discuss planning, re-planning, actualizing and digesting his last sabbatical. Wishbones, microphones and puppets – means to the same ends.

Elizabeth Leer, Associate Professor of Education

Elizabeth Leer had three major sabbatical goals: completing graduate coursework (and passing the new licensing exam!) for the MN K-12 Teaching of Reading license, becoming familiar with recent developments in young adult literature, and, perhaps most importantly, refreshing her secondary school classroom teaching experience. Her own experience as a secondary school English teacher was 13 years old — and consequently her teaching stories and examples were at least thirteen years old, as well! To enhance her effectiveness as a teacher educator, Elizabeth spent sustained time teaching both 7th graders and 10th graders, reacquainting herself with the joys and challenges of secondary school teaching.

Jeanine Grenberg, Professor of Philosophy

Jeanine Grenberg’s primary sabbatical activity was writing a book manuscript about Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy. She argues that Kant’s philosophy — often thought to be very tech-y, expert, and difficult to understand — is in fact a successful effort to articulate philosophically what each of us can find in our own moral experiences, and especially in our experience of conscience. She will also talk about how she planned for her sabbatical, her experience of applying for (and not getting…) external funding, and how she envisions that her writing will affect her teaching in the future.

Greg Muth, Associate Professor of Chemistry

Greg Muth will give a brief view into three of the projects he worked on during his sabbatical year: “Green and Growing” summarizes his exploration, with EPA-Gro fellow Ben Auch (’12), into the growth and analysis of green algae for the purpose of alternative sources of oil to be used in liquid transportation fuels. “Inventions and Outreach” – Alternative energy turned out to be an excellent avenue to get elementary school students excited about science. The sabbatical provided time and two grants to invent hands-on modules to demonstrate solar, wind and bicycle power for a new generation of scientists. “The Global Perspective” – During the second six months of the leave, Greg and his family lived in a small city in central Costa Rica, where they studied, made friends and embraced the cultural similarities and differences between the fast-paced US lifestyle and the “pura vida” lifestyle of Central America. Greg will share some of the projects and perspective from this adventure.


Fall 2010 – Spring 2011

Mary Trull, Associate Professor of English

Mary Trull spent most of her research time analyzing how the Scientific Revolution impacted women’s poetry in seventeenth-century England.  She focused on Lucy Hutchinson, a fiercely partisan Puritan and Republican and the first known English translator of the whole of Lucretius’s De rerum natura, which conveyed an atomistic worldview to early modern Europeans. Literary critics have assumed that the fervently religious Hutchinson, who calls Lucretius an “Atheist Dog,” thoroughly repudiated atomism. However, Mary argues that Hutchinson’s epic poem on the Book of Genesis, Order and Disorder, melds atomism with a Calvinist view of nature, providing an example of the remarkable flexibility with which the new natural philosophy was integrated into apparently non-scientific — or even anti-scientific — works of the period.

Tom Williamson, Associate Professor of Anthropology

Tom Williamson’s sabbatical project continues his research on colonialism, violence, and mental health in Malaysia.  Part of the sabbatical included archival work on the colonial history of medicine in several different institutions in London, including the British Library, the Wellcome Institute, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. For this luncheon, Tom will summarize the parameters of his project, explain how the new research fits into it, and provide a few observations on the sabbatical experience itself.

Tim Howe, Associate Professor of History

Tim Howe’s sabbatical was largely devoted to a new book project about the historiography of Alexander the Great.  The traditions about Alexander have puzzled historians and biographers since Alexander’s lifetime but so far most scholarly attention has focused on analyzing and synthesizing the existing Roman-era sources.  Tim’s project looks backwards, beyond the five Roman-era authors — all of whom were writing more than 300 years after Alexander’s death — to focus on the fragmentary sources (some of which have only recently emerged from the sands of Egypt) that originated either during or just after Alexander’s lifetime.  Two related questions drive the research: to what extent is Alexander’s story as we now have it a product of the distortions and agendas of both Alexander and his Successors?  To what extent did both Alexander and those charismatic individuals eager to justify their claims on his territory “invent” the Alexander mythos?  

Kathy Tegtmeyer Pak, Associate Professor of Political Science and Asian Studies

Kathy Tegtmeyer Pak used her sabbatical to research civic engagement and higher education in Japan.  She spent 10 months as a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Social Science at the University of Tokyo, courtesy of a Fulbright research scholar award, during which time she interviewed around 70 people at 17 different universities.  With her research, she seeks to contribute to our understanding of democratic citizenship in Japan.  She will present two papers at conferences this month, at the University of Copenhagen and the University of London; two other papers are in the works. I see the project as tying together my teaching and research interests – it grew out of my prior research and teaching on immigration and citizenship, and my involvement in the College’s academic civic engagement program.


Fall 2009 – Spring 2010

Karil Kucera, Associate Professor of Art History and Asian Studies

Karil Kucera‘s sabbatical project, “Marking Time at Baodingshan,” was a reconsideration of the Buddhist site of Baodingshan in the western Chinese province of Sichuan
Time. Universal or unique? Constructed or lived? Timelessness. Does time have a particular shape or look? Are there different kinds of time? Does time mean different things to different people at different times? Through analysis of the carved images and texts at Baodingshan, I looked at time through the lens of place, by the thoughts and actions of the people who passed through it and the things that comprise it.

Chuck Huff, Professor of Psychology

Chuck Huff spent his sabbatical at the Jesuit Hochschule für Philosophie, München, working on the question, How do people construct lives of worth and service?
As an empiricist, I try to approach this question by first identifying some people in the category and then learning from their life stories as they tell them to me in extensive interviews.  As a pragmatist, I have concentrated on the topic “moral exemplars in computing” in part because NSF is interested in helping me answer this question about this particular population.

Rika Ito, Associate Professor of Japanese and Asian Studies

Rika Ito used her sabbatical to complete several small projects.  She wrote and presented an article on the vowel production of bilingual Hmong Americans in the Twin Cities, comparing their phonology to the local white middle-class speech norm; and conducted additional acoustic analysis using the acoustic analysis software PRAAT for alternative analysis.  She also presented papers with students that were the culmination of their Magnus the Good collaborative research projects (2007-08); presented at ACTFL on pedagogy, and prepared ILO for the Japan Studies concentration.

Beckie Judge, Associate Professor of Economics

Rebecca Judge’s sabbatical leave took her back to Argentina where, together with Tony Becker, she continued her on-going research exploring the impact of U.S. farm subsidies on agricultural production in other countries of the Americas.  Because Argentina relies on its agricultural exports to raise revenue for its federal government, Beckie and Tony were able to document how, by lowering the world price of agricultural commodities, U.S. farm subsidies indirectly reduce revenues to both the Argentine farmer and the Argentine government.


Fall 2008 – Spring 2009

Karen Cherewatuk, Professor of English

Paul Zorn, Professor of Mathematics

Mary Griep, Associate Professor of Art and Art History

Steve Reece, Professor of Classics


Fall 2007 – Spring 2008

Cindy Book, Professor of Exercise Science

Bob Hanson, Professor of Chemistry

Chris Chiappari, Associate Professor of Anthropology

Kim Kandl, Associate Professor of Biology


Fall 2006 – Spring 2007

Phyllis Larson, Professor of Japanese and Asian Studies

Bruce Nordstrom-Loeb, Associate Professor of Sociology

Eric Cole, Professor of Biology

Anne Sabo, Associate Professor of Norwegian


Fall 2005 – Spring 2006

Andrea Een, Music

Charles Taliaferro, Philosophy

Jeane DeLaney, Associate Professor of History

Dan Hofrenning, Associate Professor of Political Science


Fall 2004 – Spring 2005

Bob Jacobel, Professor of Physics

Karen Peterson Wilson, Associate Professor of Theatre

Mary Titus, Associate Professor of English

Mark Pernecky, Associate Professor of Economics


Fall 2003 – Spring 2004

Henry Kermott, Professor of Biology

Mary Carlsen, Associate Professor of Social Work

Paul Humke, Professor of Mathematics

Meg Ojala, Associate Professor of Art and Art History


Spring 2003

Dana Gross, Associate Professor of Psychology

Charles Wilson, Professor of Religion


Additional information about planning sabbaticals: