Tips on How to Create a Successful Sabbatical Application

Tips on How to Create a
Successful Sabbatical
Compiled by Faculty Panelists
October 1, 2012
Betty Phillips – Language, Literature &
Decide what you want to do given the time available.
Be reasonable about what you can actually accomplish in the one semester/one year.
Start planning early. It is not unusual to start planning several years ahead.
Prepare early and carefully. Get started on your projects so that you can show that you are not starting
from scratch. For example, give conference papers that you want to develop further during your
sabbatical, obtain a book contract or expression of interest, or obtain approvals necessary for doing your
Focus your writing on Clarity and Audience. You need to remember the reader and their needs. They're
not specialists in your field and they don't know the terminology or what's cutting edge. You have to tell
them. And you have to tell them in words they will understand.
Use numbers or bullets for separating out the parts of your proposal. White space is a good thing; it helps
the reader notice and follow your key points.
Tie what you want to do with what you've done in the past, so that you can show a record of success.
Don't hesitate to boast about what you have accomplished. For example, if you've written a book, include
a favorable review. If you have a book chapter, provide the URL of the book or include a book review that
mentions your contribution favorably.
Anne Foster - History
We may or may not feel we *need* a sabbatical after 12 semesters, and we may or may not believe we
are *owed* a sabbatical, but the reality is that we are not guaranteed one. Take the application process
seriously. Prepare carefully. Think about what it will mean to your program, department, college, and ISU
as a whole for you to be gone a semester or a year. Proactively solve as many of the problems your
absence will cause as you can. This is especially important for people in leadership positions such as
committee chairs, advisors to students, and program or department chairs.
Submit only when you are really ready to make use of the time you are granted to produce something
that the university values. It may be tempting to apply as soon as you are eligible, and people may even
advise you to do that so that you don’t *lose* semesters or years. Since your new 12 semester clock
begins from when you take your sabbatical (unless asked by the administration to delay a granted
sabbatical), it is tempting to apply as soon as you are eligible. But, if you are not ready to use the time
productively, and are granted a sabbatical, you probably will not succeed in accomplishing all you should
(or all you promise) which means two negative things. First, if an associate professor, you will still have to
accomplish whatever you promised in order to get promoted (likely). Second, your subsequent sabbatical
applications will meet with more skepticism. You also will likely find it frustrating to have time off from
teaching and service which you can’t wisely use.
Anne Foster - continued
Sabbatical applications are like grant applications: You are most likely to succeed in getting the
grant/sabbatical when you have already finished at least a third of your project. Having a substantial
part of the project finished suggests to funders (and the administration is funding your sabbatical at some
level) that you are likely to complete the project successfully. They then can be confident that the
institution’s resources are being used wisely. Having already completed part also shows you are
personally invested in this project, and will carry it through.
Sabbatical applications are like grant applications, only more so: Your primary audience is ignorant of
your topic and almost assuredly your entire field of study. You have to imagine an intelligent but
uninformed audience. Explain everything, especially what makes your project an important contribution
to the field. Have a friend who is in a different discipline read it.
Explain how what you produce will benefit ISU. ISU will be paying you to not teach or do service. Why is
it worth it to the university to do that? This part of your application is critical, and should be plainly
stated, easily found, and tied to things the university, college, and/or department value.
Joyce Young – Marketing & Operations
Standards Vary by College – talk to your Dean
Standards Vary by Department – talk to your Chair, former review committee members,
colleagues, seek copies of successful proposals
Other Suggestions:
If related to curriculum development, obtain prior letter of support from dept. chair and program
faculty to attach to application, show that your colleagues see the value/need in your proposed
work and that it will be welcomed into the program when completed.
If dependent on third party participation, obtain prior commitments prior to turning in
application. Documentation of such commitments shows that the project most likely will be
Goals & Outcomes are doable. Past performance is a future indicator of success. It is difficult to
obtain a second sabbatical if you fail to produce on your first sabbatical.
Follow the instructions given on the application form.
Bassou El Mansour – HRD & Performance
Keep in mind the university's goals
Include one project that you may realize for your department/students
Show that the sabbatical leave will be an opportunity for your to devote more time to
activities that you have been pursuing during your professional career
Discuss your application with other colleagues
Make sure your courses and other university obligations are covered without extra
budget allocation. (A good discussion with the chair will help)
Remember that you have the opportunity to clarify and make changes to your
application based on your committee's review, the chair, and the dean before the final
Susan Latta - English
Project: Textbook Consisting of Application and Content Chapters
Timing of application
Didn’t immediately apply after tenure
Was developing handouts from class into application book chapters that I field tested
Did not apply until nearly all the application chapters done and tested (one half of the book)
Demonstrated that I was serious about the project
Demonstrated that I had a good chance to actually complete it
Relation of Project to Scholarship
Had to change my pedagogy to fit student needs here
Led to a change in the curriculum of classes
Read extensively in the literature to determine best practices supported by research
Research led to pre-tenure publications
Benefit of Project to Others
Not just my needs and interests—how will it benefit students? How will it enhance not only my reputation but also that of the
department and university? Will it have a wider national or global audience? How will it benefit the field?
Audience from a Business Perspective
Envision readers as investors in a business—if they invest in you, how are you going to make good on that investment? How will they
profit? What kind of return will they get?
Build credibility appeal—are you going to follow through on what you propose?
Demonstrate your work ethic
Demonstrate you’ve thought this project through
Demonstrate that you’re passionate and committed to this project