SAS Dean’s Blog

What I Did for My Summer Vacation

Rebecca Bushnell

Rebecca Bushnell

Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and Thomas S. Gates, Jr. Professor of English

There is a clichéd perception out there that professors work only nine months of the year, and that when classes end they spend the remaining three months relaxing on summer vacation. The truth is that in the School of Arts and Sciences, teaching and research go on 12 months a year.

When my old job was to be exclusively an English professor, I loved to go home after handing in final grades. I would just sit at my desk and work. For me, the great pleasure of summer lay in the intense work of research and writing. Every summer was a kind of sabbatical. It meant that I had time to do “book thinking,” sustained reflection, following the thread of the scholarly story I was trying to tell.

Summer is when faculty do the kind of work that is not possible during the academic year when they are teaching classes, advising students and serving on administrative committees. If you took a survey of Arts and Sciences faculty, you would find them spending the summer in studies at home, in campus libraries and laboratories, and on every continent around the globe. What are they doing? In addition to teaching, they’re attending conferences. They’re presenting papers. They’re meeting colleagues. They’re working at excavation sites or studying wildlife or working in archives and galleries and museums.

As faculty, our jobs are not defined by punching a clock. It’s a tremendous privilege and responsibility to have the ambitious leisure of uninterrupted research and reflection. The freedom of summer “vacation” permits us to follow our passion for learning, often in unexpected places. We return to the classroom, laboratory and library in the fall brimming with discoveries and ready for the challenges of a new year.