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Professors make most out of sabbaticals despite pandemic challenges

Row of book shelves illuminated by hanging lights.

Photo by Janko Ferlic/Unsplash

February 25, 2022

Academics on sabbatical often invest their time away from regular assignments in travel, fieldwork or additional research. But recent events brought on by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic have affected many initial sabbatical plans, particularly those involving travel.

However, two faculty members in Arizona State University’s School of Community Resources and Development, who spent the fall 2021 semester on sabbatical, were still able to make the most out of their time away. 

Professor Dallen Timothy planned to travel to Asia and Africa to collect data related to cross-border environmental management in his field of tourism geography. Instead, he turned his attentions to completing two book manuscripts and guest-editing two special issues of academic journals.

Timothy co-edited one book with Professor and Associate Dean Gyan Nyaupane, to be published in July 2022 by Routledge in London. It is titled “Tourism and Development in the Himalaya: Social, Environmental and Economic Forces.”

The second book, co-edited with Alon Gelbman, senior lecturer and head of the tourism and hotel management department at Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee in Israel, is titled “Routledge Handbook on Tourism and Political Borders.” Also published by Routledge in London, it will be released in October 2022.

Timothy said he was glad to have completed the manuscripts and his editing work, but was disappointed that he "didn’t get to Zimbabwe to meet with the village chiefs,” he said.

Tourism is starting to pick up now worldwide, Timothy said, as many destinations continue to reduce restrictions in light of the pandemic easing in several areas.

“A lot of places have opened their borders completely, such as Switzerland,” he said. “We’re also starting to see places like Australia, which was closed for almost two years and left many Australians stranded outside their country, reopen.”

Just before Timothy’s sabbatical began, he won a national award honoring his long and distinguished career.

The American Association of Geographers’ (AAG) Recreation, Tourism and Sport Specialty Group presented Timothy with its 2021 John Rooney Award. According to the AAG, the award recognizes “a lifetime of outstanding contributions to the field and discipline of applied recreation, tourism and sport geography.”

Timothy said the award is meaningful to him because, for one thing, it is only bestowed every several years, and is in the name of John Rooney, a pioneer in the academic study of sport, tourism and recreation.

In 2005, the AAG presented Timothy with another honor, the Roy Wolfe Award, named for another pioneer in the field.

Associate Professor Mark Hager, who teaches nonprofit leadership and management, worked on a federally funded research project on the use of technology in nonprofits’ administration of volunteers during the pandemic.

Hager said he and ASU graduate student research assistant Rachel Nova wrote a December 2021 article about his research into technology and volunteers for Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ) titled “Remote Technology in the Pandemic: Rebalancing Toward Equity and Access.”

Hager said one of the most insightful things he did during his sabbatical was to embed himself and his research assistant in Free Arts, a Phoenix-based nonprofit that helps children who have experienced trauma express themselves artistically toward achieving resiliency. Hager and Nova spent four days a week in one of the nonprofit’s small conference rooms to work on their research and writing.

“The appeal was that since I was writing about volunteer administration, it was immersive to be able to work inside an organization that works extensively with volunteers,” Hager said. “Although the pandemic cut into their volunteers pretty badly, we at least were able to lunch regularly with their staffers who organize their volunteer operations. If you're going to write about how nonprofits work, it's helpful to sit inside one for an extended period of time.”

Hager said he intends to write more on the subject, which involves finding and using a better hybrid model of in-person and online methods of managing volunteers to achieve equity and access.

He also spoke on the same topic during the Jan. 21 episode of the Time and Talent podcast.

Additoinally, Hager was interviewed in November by WalletHub for its piece about its Charity Calculator, asking the question, “Should You Donate Time or Money?” Hager answered that “personal engagement is more important than donating cash.”

“Public policy promotes volunteering because civic engagement fosters healthier communities and a smarter electorate. Civic engagement is fundamentally more important, more valuable and more fun than our jobs,” Hager said. “Sure, people get skills and experiences from volunteering that may well translate into jobs, but that is not why we should do it. If we are volunteering just to get a better job, we are doing it wrong.”

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