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Summer in the city

Samantha Brennan (Dean, College of Arts)

We in the College of Arts are hoping you are having a joyful summer. We are too. Joyful but busy. You might be wondering if everyone on campus disappears for the summer. It’s a common misconception that academic types get the summers off, but in fact, that is one of our  pet peeves–the assumption that we don’t work in the summer. Instead, it seems that people imagine that we get days at the beach, weeks at the cottage, time to garden, daydream, and visit relatives across the country or the world. University staff hear this too. “How nice it must be to get the summers off with your kids.”

Um, no. We get the same number of weeks of vacation as most people who are not on campus.

It’s true that there are fewer students here. So those who think our work is mostly tied to undergraduate students might well wonder what we do when they’re not here.

For professors, summers give us time for intensive research and writing. We often travel to conferences where we present our research or to other places to work with research collaborators. We focus on the supervision of graduate students. We plan and get ready for next year’s teaching. 

When I was a professor with young children, my mother took care of my kids over the summer and it was she who heard the most about having free time now that her daughter was “off for the summer.” While I just smiled when people said this my mother defended me, as only mothers can, with the full litany of everything that I was up too. 

What’s true for regular faculty is that the pace can be a bit different over the summer.  When I was a tenured faculty member, once my kids were older, my summer schedule allowed me to write into the night if I felt like it and take the next morning off to go run on the trails with dogs, or ride my bike with friends. I scheduled meetings with my doctoral students off campus in nearby coffee shops. I traveled to conferences in Canada and Europe, using some of my vacation time to visit with friends and family. It was still work, and there was lots of it, but during the summer it was more or less on my terms.

But now I’m in the Dean’s office, as Dean, and while I love the quiet of campus during the summer months, it’s not any less busy. What is true is that during the summer we get some space and time to work on larger projects. We get a bit of a chance to breathe, take stock, and plan for the year ahead. 

For us here in the College of Arts, that means upping our social media game (see Where are they Wednesdays? and our new podcast); working on our strategic plan (launching 2019/20); planning new courses in programs in the ethics of artificial intelligence, digital humanities, arts and business, and gender and sexuality: helping new faculty with their moves to Guelph, planning out our 50th anniversary research celebration; nominating faculty for research awards and drafting grant applications; and of course, continuing work on the MacKinnon renovation project. It’s busy, but in a manner that feels good to me. We’re active and engaged and getting lots done. It helps that the sun is shining.

Here’s hoping you’re also having a productive summer with both time to relax and time to reflect.

Next week: What I did on my summer vacation. (Hint: There will be icebergs.)

Orange flowers
Photo by Lee 琴 on Unsplash