Updated: Sep 17, 2021
I'm on it
It’s Friday, September 10. I’m a college professor and the last three weeks have been a blur. In addition to dealing with the strange world of Covid, I’m meeting with students, advising on classes, attending events, presenting, recruiting, and even creating promotional material for my student organization. It’s a blast and I love it, but one thing I’m not doing is teaching. I’m on sabbatical. If you’re not familiar with the term, a sabbatical is a wonderful perk of being a professor. It’s paid leave from normal duties; in this case, teaching. Last spring, I was granted a full academic year sabbatical (with reduced pay) to research and write a book on reputation management. In addition to the book, the material will be incorporated into classes and shared in a public presentation. This blog is also part of what I’ll be doing (about once every two weeks). Sounds amazing, right? Yes. It truly is and let me go on record saying, I’m exceptionally grateful to Ferris State University, the College of Business, and my department head for this opportunity and support. To quote Thoreau, I plan to live deeply and suck the freakin’ marrow out of the wicked bones of this thang. His exact words. (Maybe not.)
But wait, didn’t I just say the last three weeks have been a blur? Yes. Let me clarify. About six years ago, enrollment in the Ferris PR program began to slide. And then, this thing called Covid thumped us as we were beginning to rebuild. But, like Thomas Wayne (Batman’s dad) said, when we fall, we get back up. For us to be the thriving, robust program we once were (pg 6), I need to be engaged. So, in mid-August, I rounded up a slate of amazing students and we’re making things happen.
Ever heard of a solo blindfolded cornhole tournament? Neither did we until we invented it. How about naked walking tacos? No? We conceived that too. In three short weeks, we’ve planned the fall semester, created promo material, held new member meetings, presented to classes, hosted a few events, and listened to some sweet, sweet 70s music (I’m training them right!). It’s been one wild ride and a I’m super proud of my peeps. They are the reason I’m here. Fellow profs, don’t ever forget; the love of the job is in the engagement with students. (A-ha!)
There’s a Monster?!
So, you ask, how’s it feel to be on sabbatical? As a kid, I remember reading a Sesame Street book called, The Monster at the End of This Book. In it, Grover walks little kiddies through an increasingly anxiety-riddled series of pages that warn about a monster at the end of the book (just like the title suggests). He begs and pleads with children not to turn the page. He ties knots and builds platforms to keep them from reaching the end. He cries, shouts, and creates all kinds of nervous worry about the monster. (Sounds perfectly suited for kids, right?) Of course, it all turns out fine (spoiler alert!); Grover IS the monster at the end of the book. A sweet and fluffy monster. How nice. Good for him. Thanks for the anxiety disorder, Grover. I guess it wouldn’t be the same having a bunny or butterfly at the end of the book. Anyway, Grover’s monster story is kind of how my sabbatical feels right now. Not that I’m complaining, but… there’s a monster book due at the end of my sabbatical! See how terrifying that is? Now just keep repeating that in your head and you’ll get a taste of where I’m at these days. Scary, right?! Okay… I know, I know. Let’s keep it real. This is totally a #firstworldproblem.
It’s All Good
In all seriousness, I’m stoked. Yes, I’m also a bit nervous, but mostly excited. I get to further explore questions and concepts I’ve loved for years. What is reputation? How is it measured? What about intrinsic values? How can one be the conscience of the company? How does the ego and its compulsions come into play? What does that even mean? How can it be applied to life and industry? Is it possible to tap into ineffable Great Love in business?
It’s unclear where it will go from here. My notebooks and mind are filled with schemes, theories, concepts, and conceptual frameworks learned over thirty years. I guess now that the naked walking tacos and solo blindfold cornhole are done, I can look forward to starting the next first chapter on being the conscience of the company.
Questions or comments about this or any of my other work? Feel free to post a message or reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.