Sabbatical! Go!

As the semester starts to spin up, I keep finding myself having oddly bifurcated thoughts: on the one hand, I’m on sabbatical this fall, so when I see emails and other missives about the semester gearing up, first I have a bit of an internal groan, but then quickly remember “not me…” and feel the shoulder muscles relax a bit.

That said, my intentions for work this semester are themselves bifurcated: I want to be working on some kind of publishable work (more on that in an upcoming post), but I’ve also committed to several pieces of service work that will keep me on campus and fairly engaged with the campus community.  Fundamentally, there are four:

First, I’m continuing my role as chair of the Communication, Media, and Theatre department.  Not a large amount of work hours, but things tend to crop up, and when they do, they’re often at the level of “mini-crisis”: they need to be addressed fairly immediately, and may require more than one interaction/meeting to resolve.

Second, I’m also continuing my role as faculty Moderator. While technically I’m sure it would have been easy to find someone to substitute this semester, I wanted to keep the momentum going because a) last year was my first year and it’s only a three-year post, b) as the first to serve in this role, I’d like to have a greater hand in shaping expectations for the future, and c) I enjoy doing it. This time commitment is typically a few hours in the days immediately prior to our monthly meetings plus the meetings themselves. Again, not significant, but something to keep me on campus with at least some regularity.

Third, post-Mellon grant, the discussion about digital pedagogy and learning continues on our campus, and still needs someone to shepherd it toward something more sustainable. This is the one of the four that is most contingent on my own willpower: there is likely no one on campus right now who would push me to keep going if I just let it fade away. But to me, that is the strongest reason for finding ways to sustain it: digital learning is important, but also easy to let go in the face of so many other things happening in higher ed. Our community needs someone to keep working to move it forward from the back burners. (One positive note on this: our president gave an opening address earlier this week, and mentioned that he is making an administrative change – moving our head of IT onto our Senior Leadership Team – because “technology sits at the crossroads of everything we do in today’s world.” Hopefully this is a good sign that the new administration is aware of the importance of these issues too.) Time commitment for this is a bit amorphous, but again, is unlikely to become something that completely takes over my days: there just isn’t enough groundswell happening right now. Perhaps in the future….

Finally, I’ve agreed to direct our fledgling esports program, at least in the short term. This one is the one I’m most concerned about.  I’m excited to see the college taking an interest in digital games beyond the couple of courses we occasionally offer (two of them mine) that cover the topic. It is also clearly the case that esports have arrived in a serious way: professional and amateur tournaments are cropping up all over (and much of the talk about this kind of thing is that the U.S. is “behind” other countries), media outlets are trying things like dedicated television channels and other companies are seeking startup ventures that are also game-related, viability for platforms like Twitch is arguably inextricably linked to the success of professional gamers streaming daily, and most directly relevant to me, there are already dozens of schools in higher ed with esports programs as we begin the 2018-19 school year.  Plus, such programs are perceived among administrators as admissions producers.

All of that said, we’ve spun it up so quickly (in a matter of months, mostly over the summer), that we really have no idea how the program will actually function. (For more of my thoughts on that topic specifically, see this post.) So I’m really not sure what kind of time commitment this will require for me, but I can’t imagine how it won’t at least require regular weekly practices and matches, as well as regular logistics, promotion, and recruiting duties of some sort.

When I write all out like this, it certainly raises some serious questions for me about how much else I’ll be able to get done this semester….Sheesh.

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