Section: archive

Catching up with professors on sabbatical

Catching up with professors on sabbatical

By Jane Simonton

Kim McMullen

Ransom Professor of English

Location: In the rolling hills of southeastern Knox County.

Activities: I’m drafting a novel entitled Poor Judgements.

Best experience so far: I get to sit at my computer every morning and make stuff up. (After a hiatus of 25 years during which I focused on literary scholarship, I’ve returned to fiction writing.) Interviewing nine former social workers and juvenile court workers for the book was also fascinating, as was (oddly enough) learning some of the arcana of family law.

Still left to do: I hope to draft the final three chapters by the end of May and spend the summer revising. Also, our golden retriever puppy hasn’t yet mastered sit/stay, and we’re planting a big vegetable garden as usual.

Prep for fall: Tweaking my syllabi (revising the reading lists and assignments), talking with my advisees (I’ve stayed active as an advisor of about 15 students while on sabbatical), thinking about two new courses I hope to propose.

McMullen’s photo is of her and her family on Hadrian’s Wall in England.

John Hofferberth

Associate Professor of Chemistry

Location: My research involves preparing compounds used by organisms to communicate. To prepare these chemical signals, I need to be in my laboratory where I have all of the starting materials and specialized equipment for synthetic chemistry. You will find me most days at my laboratory bench in Tomsich Hall.

Activities: The majority of my sabbatical I have been in my laboratory preparing compounds, in my office designing ways to prepare them or writing up the results of the work with my laboratory students and other collaborators.

Best experience so far: Some target compounds we need to prepare are very challenging to make. Finding a way to prepare them is both difficult and rewarding. The highlights thus far in my sabbatical were the completion of two such challenging synthetic targets.

Still left to do: I never left Kenyon. However, it is clear to me now that the “to do” list I wrote at the beginning of my sabbatical year was very optimistic. I’ve just begun to tick off items on my list. I hope to have time to wrap up one more major synthetic project and make some headway on writing a grant proposal to fund the next round of projects.

Prep for fall: I have the chance to teach a new biochemistry class in the fall, and I have been spending lots of time reading texts and literature articles to prepare myself. This class is particularly exciting for me because it is the first seminar-style class I have taught in seven years. It will be fun to teach in a smaller setting where student involvement in the class is paramount.

Paul Gebhardt

Associate Professor of German

Location: I have been spending some of the sabbatical leave in Ohio, but I have also taken three major trips. I was in Germany first from the beginning of June to the second week of July: I visited Franconia, the state of Baden-W?rttemberg (where I was born and where my family still lives), the city of Mannheim, and did some film-related research in Berlin. I also attended my 20th high school reunion. My second trip to Germany was more narrowly a research trip, funded by a Kenyon in-house grant. I conducted research in three locations of movies by German director Tom Tykwer. I stayed pretty much the whole month of September 2012 in Germany for this trip. On December 2, 2012, I traveled to Mexico City, Mexico, and I returned March 20, 2013. I had an apartment in Coyoac?n in Mexico City, but I also traveled within the country.

Activities: I’ve been working a lot on research and writing related to my book project on cinematic intertextuality, using German director Tom Tykwer as a case study. But, as you can see, I also spent time traveling and generally re-charging my batteries.

Best experience so far: Finding new friends ラ friends for life! ラ in Mexico, and learning Spanish.

Still left to do: I will attend the retirement reception for my doctoral advisor, give a paper at [a] conference (on my sabbatical research project), and I also would like to visit some good friends in Southern California.

Prep for fall: I am re-reading some books that we will study in my upper-level courses, and I am looking for fun new resources online for my German language courses.

Jianhua Bai 12

[starbox id=”JaneSimonton”]


Comments for this article have closed. If you'd like to send a letter to the editor for publication, please email us at