Hi everyone and sorry, for I have been a delinquent academic blogger.

I spend too much time farting around on Twitter (not the academic one, the flash-fiction one) and it’s been great fun. It does sink up quite a bit of time, though.

Considering that my love for the job is below lifetime average, it’s kind of funny that I am getting good funding news. I submitted four single-PI grants this academic year; right now, one declined automatically after four months pending on account of review still ongoing when the new broad agency announcement came out; one was funded last week; one is likely to be funded as I got reviews an an opportunity to respond; one is still pending. Not too shabby! I also have one that started last year.

Which means I will likely be nice and well funded if I want to take a sabbatical the academic year after next (2019-20). This will be year eight since my last sabbatical, which I spent caring for a newborn, writing what would become my bread-and-butter renewable grant, and organizing a major conference in the city, so no, no rest or recuperation. This time around, I will at least be able to sleep, and I would like to go to the UK and maybe Germany for a few months. I could have taken sabbatical this coming year, but this coming year is one of big transitions (Eldest starting college, Middle Boy starting middle school; also new students coming in as the old crop graduated) so I decided to wait and I think the decision was a good one.

At my university, every seven years we are entitled to either 1 semester at full pay every or 2 semesters (must be in one academic year) at 65% pay (I think this last percentage might vary a bit by college, but I am not sure).

The question is: do I take a full year at 65% salary or one semester at full salary? 65% salary will be tight but probably manageable if we’re a bit careful and I will have a nearly fully funded summer. The fuckin’ mortgage is, as always, the most gargantuan expense. Apart from that, we have a kid in college. I think we will be OK but 35% is a substantial salary cut for the primary earner in the household. (DH and I left grad school with debt because we had no savings going in (on account of having originated from Godforsakia) and then we had a kid in grad school and very low stipends and Augmentin hadn’t gone generic yet and the kid had recurrent ear infections… Anyway, we’re fine now, but we don’t have giant safety cushions that some people have at our age, in part because we opted for slower paying off of everything and a slower general savings rate in order to buy a house sooner rather than later. We already paid $300k post tax for daycare for three kids (five years of daycare costs ~$100k per kid). And we plan to fund everyone’s college. We also didn’t prioritize saving to the extent that it would eliminate all vacations and fun and various activities for the kids, which is what some frugal people do; our attitude is that kids are only little while they are little. Anyway, this is just to preempt people from scolding us why we aren’t flush and why I can’t just drop over 1/3 of my 9-month salary without thinking about the finances. (If I go to Europe for any length of time, I will apply for fellowships to cover the stay, because my actual salary is needed to hold the fort here.)

Anyway, that’s on my mind. Over the past week I’ve mostly focused on grading, but that fresh hell is finally over. When I teach these large undergrad courses, it completely paralyzes almost everything else.

Except fiction writing! That’s been going well. I had my first bona fide horror piece published and my first science fiction forthcoming, both in genre magazines. Other than that, I have had a fair bit of literary fiction, slipstream, and humor out since I started submitting last summer. I have more science fiction and a personal essay currently under consideration. And some really nice ideas for humor. The Twitter literary community is wonderful and being part of it makes everything so much better.

I am ready for a summer that’s not as crazy as my past summers have been. Plans: catch my breath in terms of research, read a textbook in a different field, get three papers out that have been on the back burner, get my newbie students actually geared up on their projects. Maybe for once I don’t have to obsess about what I will send to NSF in the fall (one current NSF grant, one still pending). Take a weeklong vacay with family, take the Littles to some day trips throughout the state. Likely host brother-in-law in August (DH’s brother).

This is Eldest’s last summer before he goes to college (insert weeping gif here). Middle Boy is starting middle school. Smurf (remember when he was born?) will turn seven (!) and start second grade in the fall. My age will become divisible by both five and three squared.

What have you been up to, academic blogosphere? 

Sabbatical thoughts/ideas? 

Summer thoughts/ideas?

What would you like to chat about as we’re enjoying the absence of committee meetings and middle-of-the-night email requests for homework deadline extensions? 



  1. You/ve been missed! A huge congrats on the grants getting funded. (Bittersweet) congrats on the substantial family/kid milestones. I couldn’t find his destination in archives. I assume he is going to big state school in neighboring state?

    What’s gotten me through the last 1.5-2 years and what I’m hoping will help me with post-tenure burn out is the thought of a full-year sabbatical. I planned to take it no matter what (at 50% pay) but was able to obtain funding (probably, the chaos with the federal budget has put a slight question mark in what should have been 100% lock). But now it’s looking like I might have to delay sabbatical a year due to personnel issues in my dept =(. But that’s not related to your sabbatical.

    While a year sabbatical has been a big carrot for me, I don’t have a great hobby/distraction like your fiction writing. Also, what’s the cost of logistics with family, etc if you spent time in Europe versus research and (potential) rejuvenation of being far away from campus. Whatever the case: sabbatical!!! I hope that even thinking about it might help with your lack of love for your job.

    Any suggestions/advice on what one should be thinking in preparing to apply for full professor within next 2-3 years? I’m not at a research university but research is the primary category evaluated for promotion to full. I was pretty productive pre-tenure but when I had a moment to breath in the last month, I realized that teaching/service crept up on me this year and it’s been too long since I’ve sent a paper out the door (though submitted several proposals including successful funding of sabbatical).

    Glad to hear your summer will be less crazy.

  2. For one horrible moment I read that as $300K PER CHILD. (The total is also pretty appalling tbh.)

    We are planning to spend a 3-month sabbatical summer in Norway/Sweden etc. in a couple years, for the same reasons: children, school, money.

    Hope you can get some good summer relaxing in soon!

  3. “my bread-and-butter renewable grant, ”
    wait, what agencies or foundations do renewable grants in engineering/ physical sciences? More stability would be great!

  4. These are competitive renewals, so by no means are they guaranteed. However, past performance is a bit more strongly correlated with future funding than, say, what you have with the NSF.

  5. Yeah!!! Summer!!!

    Sabbatical in EU sounds wonderful! I will do the same, but will talk with the host department to get a part-time appointment or scholarship of some sort. They do have it and it should not be that difficult to get, although they may require some teaching depending on the department.

    It has been a tough semester. Good, but tough. Submitted 2 proposals to 2 different agencies while teaching > 60 graduate students and advising a bunch of people…and dealing with cheating in my class. This last burned me down to a crisp!

    Summer is going back to EU to work remotely for half the summer, and then I’ll be back for more work and some sailing 🙂 Bonus point of living near a lake! I need to get 2 proposals written, prep course for fall and advance a couple of papers. Ups…I forgot I need to put my tenure package together too 😀

  6. I’ve taken both a full-year sabbatical and a number of one-quarter sabbaticals. The full-year one was good for massively rethinking my approach to being a professor, but the one-quarter ones have been more productive in terms of rejuvenation and creative output.

    We accumulate sabbatical leave credit for every quarter we work (so 3 credits a year) and can cash them in at 9 credits/quarter for full salary or at a lower rate for a fraction of the salary (and the department can use the unspent salary to hire lecturers). So I had to work 9 years to get a full-year sabbatical, but I can take a quarter off almost every 3 years. What I’ve been doing lately is taking 2/3 salary for one quarter every year, burning up my excess sabbatical leave credit.

    By taking fall sabbaticals, I alternate 6 months of teaching and service work (Jan-June) with 6 months of creative work (lately, mainly my textbook).

  7. Congratulations on grant success, well deserved 🙂 Come visit me on your sabbatical!

  8. Nice to see this post! I have also started thinking about my next sabbatical — I’d love to leave town but don’t think I can pull it off, for either 1 or 2 semesters, because of family issues. One of my kids would find it catastrophically disruptive. I’m not sure, though, how to have a successful stay-battical. How do you keep from getting sucked in to the daily bs?

    But here’s my other concern: We have to apply for our sabbaticals. I’ve never worried about being turned down before (although friends have been), but I recently had a huge service job foisted onto me. It will definitely be in the department’s and college’s best interest to keep me around. Would they dare turn me down for that? I wish I had more confidence in my university.

  9. Congrats on all the successes!
    Like gasstationwithoutpumps, if we put in extra years between sabbaticals, we’re eligible for extra pay during sabbatical.
    We actually had really good luck renting our house while away on sabbatical – not sure how the logistics would work with bringing kids etc., but getting away for a long chunk was really worth it for me. I also loved being in a European time zone because I could deal with all the emails in the morning and then be blissfully free of them all day long while Americans were asleep. Much nicer for productivity…

  10. I would love to have some time off every three years. That would be ideal! Here, it’s 7+ or nothing, so I suppose it’s no wonder I crave a longer break.

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