Loyola Magazine

The gift of time

Anonymous gift supports research leave for tenure-track faculty

Jennifer Scaturo Watkinson, Ph.D., assistant professor of school counseling, wanted to better understand the complexities associated with school counselor practice.

But because her topic involved engaged scholarship and working closely with school counselors to examine issues associated with transforming practice, Watkinson needed to take a research leave.

Loyola was encouraging tenure-track faculty to apply for a research leave, so Watkinson applied and was awarded a semester-long sabbatical.

She spent the fall semester of 2012 gathering data and partnering with school counselors to better understand the issues that impede their ability to implement a comprehensive school counseling program.

“To be able to jump in with both feet was invaluable. It gave me an opportunity to focus on my research study. I could be in the schools and work alongside school counselors to explore the complexities around transforming school counselor practice, so that counselors could have the support they need to better align their practice with nationally held expectations,” said Watkinson.

“Offering this leave is the best thing the University does to support the research interests of tenure-track faculty members.”

Strengthening Loyola’s prestige

In recent years Loyola has been making research leave for tenure-track faculty a priority. This fall an anonymous donor made a $700,000 gift to support these opportunities for faculty.

“I want to support the faculty and help strengthen Loyola’s prestige in university education,” said the donor, who is a Loyola graduate. He was particularly touched to hear Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J., Loyola president, recount his own experience of being published on his road to receiving tenure at the College of the Holy Cross.

Thanks to a new University program, all faculty applying through the program are eligible for the leave. Through gifts such as this one, the Tenure-Track Research Leave Program is able to guarantee all tenure-track faculty members one semester without teaching and service obligations once they have submitted an approved research proposal to an external funding agency or organization.

This program helps with faculty recruitment, while also bringing in additional grant funding for Loyola.

Deeper research, enriched teaching

During his spring semester of his third year at Loyola, Andrew Samuel, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics, took a junior sabbatical to work on corruption in governance issues with a research group at the University of Bath in England.

“Since graduate school that has been the most intellectually enriching experience that I’ve had,” said Samuel, who has gone back to Bath almost every year since then and continues to write papers with members of the department there.

Samuel, who has now been awarded tenure, sees the difference his sabbatical has made in his teaching. “I was able to bring in a lot of new applications, especially from an international perspective,” he said.

A wonderful privilege

Michele Gawerc, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology, was beginning a new research project to consider how collective identity is constructed across the conflict lines in the Israeli-Palestine conflict when she applied for the leave through Loyola.

Earlier this year she traveled to Israel-Palestine to interview activists there.

“The data is strong. The data is rich,” she said. “The context is dire, but the groups are rather remarkable.”

Now Gawerc is using her sabbatical leave to transcribe and code the data and write her first journal article.

“It’s been a wonderful privilege,” said Gawerc, who comes up for tenure in 2017. “There are quite a number of tenure-track faculty at other universities who don’t have this opportunity.”

An Investment in Faculty

Now in her sixth year at Loyola, Watkinson also finds she is able to integrate her research into her teaching.

“The engaged scholarship that I’m doing is turning into engaged teaching. I’m able to better integrate practice and theory in my class, which I think is very rich for the students. My scholarship has made me a better teacher and servant to the profession,” Watkinson said.