Students might notice a familiar face missing from the halls of Mossman this semester. Stephen Woodburn, associate professor of history, is on a sabbatical for the spring 2010 term. At Southwestern, faculty members are eligible for a sabbatical leave for one semester, with full pay, after six continuous years of service. According to policy, the purpose of a sabbatical is to encourage study and research to increase the effectiveness of a faculty member. According to Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Andy Sheppard, “It’s most important for students to realize that all of the papers and tests students are required to take, professors do for fun.”
Normally a professor goes to another institution for research during a sabbatical. However, most of Woodburn’s work will be done from his home in Winfield. “I’ve got three girls in school and my wife’s a teacher, so I’m needed at home this term” said Woodburn.
In spite of staying home, Woodburn has several projects on the table for his time away from the college. “This month I’m finishing up a journal article on the Russian monument sculptor Tsereteli whose work is all over Moscow,” said Woodburn. “He’s donated four monuments to the U.S. since the 1970s, and I’m focusing on those.”
After his article is completed, Woodburn will return to his main project: translating a 560 page book by Danilevsky, a Russian nationalist, into English. The book was originally published in 1869 but went unnoticed until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Woodburn said, “Suddenly Russians wanted to know what it means to be Russian if they’re not communist, not the Soviet Union anymore. They went looking for a usable national past and found my guy, Danilevsky. They keep coming out with new editions, so I know they’re still reading him.”
Most of the translating for the book is complete. Woodburn is working on revisions for the translation and then will look for an academic press to publish his work.
Woodburn won’t be spending all of his time in Winfield. He was recently awarded a travel grant from the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C. “These grants are competitive,” said Woodburn. “Two-thirds of applicants get turned down each cycle. There are four cycles per year.”
He will spend 10 days in Washington D.C. this April with other scholars and will be able to access some rare books on Russian history from the Library of Congress.
There is plenty coming up to keep Woodburn busy, though some students would prefer to see him in the classroom.
Rachel Muth, history junior, finds a little inconvenience in Woodburn’s absence this semester. “There are only so many history classes offered a semester and that number is decreased when one of the professors is gone. I dealt with the same issue last year when Phil Schmidt took a sabbatical.”
Woodburn jokes about the situation. “I doubt students will miss my classes much,” he said. “How they’ll be affected is they’ll have a lot less reading. I was slated to teach only electives this spring.”
Sheppard has a positive outlook for Woodburn’s return in the fall. “The more he learns and researches the more he brings back to the college. He’ll come back and be a more effective teacher,” said Sheppard.