What has Janet been doing?

In this post, I briefly discuss my doings of the last six weeks under two headings (“Yay, I’m on sabbatical!” and “Hey, I’m on sabbatical!”) and four sub-headings (“Scholarship”, “Personal”, “Service”, and “Things left undone”).

Yay, I’m on sabbatical!

Here I write about the enjoyable things faculty are supposed to do while they are on sabbatical.


At the end of October, I had three deadlines within five days of each other – and one involved a week-long trip. This meant that once I returned to work from my previous trip, I was on deadline for the rest of the month of the month of October.

Taking the deadlines in the order I committed to them:

  1. I gave an invited talk on value sensitive design (VSD) during Ibo van den Poel’s workshop on values across disciplines at the Technical University of Delft. The talk was on November 1, the second day of the workshop. While I have been known in the past to prepare conference talks on the plane, or in my hotel room the day before, I didn’t want to do that for this workshop. First, I had a novel challenge: to give a talk not directly based on a research paper, for an audience including both grad students applying VSD in their dissertation work and senior faculty in other fields who had never heard of VSD or even my broader field of human-computer interaction (HCI). I needed to construct the whole narrative, not just decide what parts to leave out. Second, it was a solid 24 hours of travel to Delft, starting in the evening, and I knew I’d be wrecked.I did end up filling in some final details on the plane and in my hotel room, but it was a huge relief to have the story worked out the Friday before I left.
  2. I submitted a full-length paper on a new project to PERSUASIVE 2020. I might have given PERSUASIVE a pass as it falls just before CHI 2020 in Honolulu, but it has become my home conference, and this year it’s hosted by my friend Sandra Burri Gram-Hansen in Aalborg, Denmark. It turned out, though, that the work was more than ready to report on: I wrote 16 pages in my first draft, and cut it back to 12 mostly by removing the last two sections I had drafted. We’ll see if it’s considered on-topic enough to be accepted.This deadline was November 3, after the invited talk. But since I knew I would be traveling that whole week,  I submitted the paper before I started work on the talk.
  3. While corresponding with my graduate advisor about a short visit (see below), she reminded me that the deadline for Ethicomp 2020 was October 30. Ethicomp had been on my radar for the last five years, since my sabbatical and my previous visit to the Netherlands, but somehow I hadn’t had the time to engage. This fall, time was right. I had been struggling to think of the right publication venue for my work with Buyaki Nyatichi ’20, and it struck me that Ethicomp would be a good fit both thematically and tactically. I talked it over with my husband Brooks, and we agreed that a June vacation in Spain would be a fitting substitute for a May vacation in Hawaii. So with Buyaki’s consent, I revised and submitted an abstract I had written for another workshop, working from a cafe in Delft’s market square on the day of the deadline.

I had forgotten how scholarly presentations (written and oral) give me a sense of accomplishment. After meeting these three deadlines, I felt I was making good use of my sabbatical.

When I returned from my trip to Delft, I spent about 36 hours at home with my husband and daughter, then turned around and left again on an overnight trip to Seattle. The reason: I was again invited by Dan Grossman of UW CSE to serve on a panel about “Non-R1 Academic Careers.” There are no liberal arts colleges in Seattle (if you’re thinking of one, it’s probably a small religiously-affiliated university) and this representation is important to me, so I decided to interrupt my sabbatical and go. The panel was fun, as these things always are.

I also visited the VSD lab in the iSchool to see my graduate advisors Alan Borning and Batya Friedman (Dave Hendry, too), and meet their current students. I’ve been terrible about making plans to meet with people on past Seattle trips. Despite the deadlines and other travel, this trip didn’t sneak up on me as badly as past trips while I was teaching. And I’m sure I was a more interesting conversationalist (in that context) because I had my head full of research instead of the usual teaching.

Finally, an essay I drafted way back in June at the encouragement of Gillian Frew, our Media Strategist, finally found a home at the Chronicle of Higher Education! Look for it to appear next week.


Beyond scholarship, sabbaticals are supposed to be for rest and restoration.

I didn’t take much extra time to travel on the work trips noted above, since I knew I would miss my daughter. (In fact, I told my husband I’d miss our daughter more than him, and he was okay with that.) But I did have one extra day in Delft, a “safety day” in case of travel mishaps, severe jet lag, or not having a talk written yet. Since none of those things happened, I got to spend the afternoon taking a walking tour of Delft. And I enjoyed my extra morning in Seattle. I took advantage of the opportunity for a long lunch conversation with a Grinnell colleague who moved to Seattle after I moved. It had been a while since I’d spent any time on the Ave, and it was fun to note how much had changed while basically staying the same.

I returned from Delft late Saturday night, and took most of Monday off to spend more time with my daughter before leaving again for Seattle on Monday evening. The panel was on Tuesday and I returned home that night. I powered through Wednesday and my regularly scheduled afternoon with my daughter. On Thursday morning, I had scheduled the previous month’s worth of deferred meetings (see “Service”, below).

On Thursday afternoon I was hit with a wave of exhaustion. I was still jet lagged, and all those meetings wiped this introvert out. My husband persuaded me to take Friday off, since my sister and her partner were visiting over the weekend. I spent the day in bed reading and napping. It was nice to have the luxury to do so without making more work for myself. But I had done it once before, about a month earlier. If it becomes a pattern, I’ll need to take advantage of my sabbatical to take myself to the doctor and find out if my postpartum body chemistry is out of whack.

It was a pleasure to take the whole weekend off to focus on my family while my sister and my partner visited. Like taking sick days, it can be hard to take whole weekends off while teaching, though I’ve been getting better at it.

And then I took Monday off to hang out with my daughter because her day care was closed for Veteran’s Day! That was enjoyable, but it’s going to take a lot of planning for once I return to teaching.

Hey, I’m on sabbatical!

For better or for worse, I’ve volunteered to do some things that faculty on sabbatical are not normally required to do. The trip to Seattle is one example; more on institutional service below.

There are also things it seems I should have had plenty of time to do, since I’m on sabbatical, but they didn’t get done.


I agreed to chair our search to replace Andy Exley. (If there’s any chance you’re on the market, please see our ad!) It was either me, Albert, or John, so I decided to take one for the team. Plus, I really do care a lot about the outcome of our search, and I’m not indisposed as I was during my maternity leave.

Deadlines here were somewhat self-imposed: I wanted to get our ad out by November 1 for a December 1 deadline (already later than most of the field), so the committee could read and discuss applications before the winter holidays. But meeting that deadline didn’t involve too much work, since John had helped me to do much of the writing and thinking over the summer. Thanks also to the search committee for their quick responses once I finally was able to get in touch with them.

During and just before my trip to Seattle, I sent on the order of 50 emails with our position ad to interest lists, department chairs, graduate program directors, and individuals. I’ve gotten responses to some of those emails already, and some applications as well.

In the immortal words of Douglas Adams, “I never could get the hang of Thursdays.” Yesterday was a Thursday, and I would have liked to go home sick with our first cold from day care (see “Personal”, above), but I was obliged to go to the office for an 8 a.m. search committee meeting because it was the only time before the application deadline that the entire search committee could meet. I ended up hanging around my office for most of the day (though I did go home a bit early, and I feel much better after going to bed early and taking the morning off).

I couldn’t have controlled that unfortunate coincidence (though I probably should have gone home straight after the meeting). But I definitely piled up too many deferred meetings on the previous, jet-lagged Thursday, when I went home exhausted, put my daughter to bed, and collapsed into bed myself.

  • Two brief meetings were with research students – that’s appropriate to sabbatical.
  • Two brief meetings were with students who wanted my advice. That’s kind of borderline, but it’s what I was thinking of when I decided to make Thursdays my on-campus day.
  • I had lunch with John and Andy. That was enjoyable, whether it was sabbatical-appropriate or not. I had missed them.
  • Two longer meetings were related to possible capstone projects for next year. Not so appropriate to sabbatical, but I’m the `only one who can teach capstone next year.
  • One longer meeting was related to the department’s proposal for a fourth tenure line. I agreed to take the lead on drafting that proposal because I’m the department’s senior member and I’ll be the one to chair the search next year if it’s approved, even though I’m on sabbatical now. That was the major task for this week, and it’s due Monday.
  • The last straw was the Faculty Technology Showcase. That I probably should have said no to.

Things left undone

When I look back at what I’ve gotten done, it’s harder to feel bad about the sabbatical-appropriate things I didn’t do.

  • I’ve let one of my research students get way ahead of me in coding and I need to catch up with them.
  • I need to step back and think through priorities and next steps for both of my projects.
  • I owe our grants officer a meeting.
  • I owe an editor a review of a textbook proposal. I also haven’t received some other invitations to review that I expected – I should make sure they aren’t in my spam folder!

Hmm, this is not as many things as I thought, though a couple of them are pretty big. I suppose any of them  would have been hard to do while writing, traveling, jet-lagged, child-caring, or sick. Well, my calendar is clear for Monday.

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