Faculty share their plans for upcoming sabbatical leaves

Posted by Centre News in Academics, Anthro/Soc, Chemistry, Creative Writing, Economics, English, French, International Studies, Math, News, Psychology, Religion, Research 18 Nov 2014

Crounse Late Fall PSProfessors at Centre College are passionate about the subjects they teach and instill in their students their own love of learning. Faculty members remain engaged in their academic interests, supported by the College through periodic sabbaticals.

Every six years of full-time teaching, tenured faculty are eligible for sabbatical leaves. Sabbaticals typically allow for a half-year release of three courses, though some faculty elect to take a full-year release. They use this time to focus intensely on their own research, writing or other academic endeavor.

According to Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Stephanie Fabritius, sabbaticals work to strengthen the teacher-scholar model Centre prizes.

“It’s important for faculty to have the time to engage in the work of ‘doing their discipline,'” Fabritius explains. “Sometimes this means finishing a project that has been on hold, and other times, it means moving forward in a new direction.”

The Dean also notes that faculty appreciate the opportunity to accomplish certain professional goals in a way that does not detract from their teaching.

“Faculty members find these sabbatical experiences both invigorating and restful,” she continues. “They are restful because they have the opportunity to focus on one or two big projects rather than juggle a number of activities. Sabbaticals, while very much being a refreshing experience, are far from lacking a flurry of activity.”

Centre’s board of trustees voted at its fall meeting to approve sabbatical leaves for the following 10 faculty members.

FALL 2015


During her sabbatical, Abrams will complete her academic novel, The Conjure Woman, which features a 21st century African American anthropologist and famed anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, and examines race and gender politics through the spiritual and magical tradition of Hoodoo. The book will expose students of anthropology, Women Studies and African American Studies to the neglected arenas of African American culture and history through an engaging, creative and academically rich format.


Patrice Mothion, Associate Professor of French

Mothion will continue his research on the Marquis de la Rouerie, a Breton aristocrat known for being one of the first leaders of the Choan counter-revolution movement in Western France and a significant figure in the American Revolution. Mothion plans to share his work through summer lectures at the Chateua de la Rouerie; a museum exhibit at the Musée de la Chouannerie; two publications; and potentially a summer seminar for the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Marie Petkus, Associate Professor of Economics

Petkus plans to conduct a comprehensive analysis of Division I athletic departments’ generation of revenues and subsequent use of those funds. She will estimate the value of star players, the ability of coaches to capture this value for their own salaries and the subsidization of non-revenue-generating sports.

Lesley Wiglesworth, Associate Professor of Mathematics

Wiglesworth will spend her sabbatical researching the minimum number of vertices required to touch a vertex to guarantee that a Hamiltonian graph has a two-factor consisting of exactly two cycles. She also plans to finish a project that measures whether a supplemental algebra course improves students’ performance in entry-level calculus.

Lisa Williams, Paul L. Cantrell Associate Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing Program

Williams will devote her sabbatical leave to work on three projects: writing poems for a fourth volume of poetry; writing several prose pieces, including a creative non-fiction essay, “Towards a More Generous Art”; and continuing work on the audio-documentary, “Varieties of Women Poets.”


Jennifer Muzyka Headshot PS
Jennifer Muzyka, Professor of Chemistry

Muzyka will use her sabbatical to developing new features for the Reaction Zoo, a web-based tool she designed and programmed in order to help her students learn organic chemistry. The new features will provide practice problems to help students as they develop their skills with multistep synthesis. She will present the new and improved web applications at the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education.

Jan Wertz, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Chair of the Psychology Program

Wertz will write a parenting manual that seeks to improve parenting skills through the implementation of basic psychology concepts such as reinforcement, punishment, consequences, consistency and expectations, and that also aims to reduce parental stress. Wertz’s goal is for the manual to be used in parenting classes around the Danville community.


Mark Lucas, Alfred P. and Katherine B. Jobson Professor of English

Lucas intends to spend time contemplating what Thoreau’s famous cabin from Walden does and does not reveal about the writer. He will expand his thoughts into a long essay on the role of the cabin in Walden, intermingled with his personal reflections on the successes and failures of his own 21st century cabin replica.


Lori Hartmann-Mahmud, Frank B. and Virginia B. Hower Associate Professor of International Studies and Chair of International Studies Program

Hartmann-Mahmud has applied for a teaching and research Fulbright award and, if obtained, will spend the 2015-2016 academic year teaching courses on development, gender and African politics at Wollo University in Ethiopia. She will also conduct research on how a sense of nationalism is expressed in Ethiopian literature.

McCollough PS
Tom McCollough, Nelson D. and Mary McDowell Rodes Professor of Religion and Chair of the Religion Program

McCollough will focus on the analysis and publication of the findings from his excavations at Khirbet Qana, Israel, also known as Cana of Galilee. He will also continue his research on Mandaean amulets and prepare for publication a paper he presented on these amulets at a recent professional meeting.

by Caitlan Cole