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What I did on my summer vacation

I started as Dean of the College of Arts at Guelph in January 2018. As many of you know I moved here from another university down the road. I was a professor there for 24 and a half years.

It’s hard not to make comparisons when when you’ve spent that much time at one place and move to another, but one thing that has impressed me about the University of Guelph is that it is wonderful about expecting and encouraging the people who work here to take vacations.

It’s part of the ethos of the place. Yes, it helps that our President, Franco Vaccarino, champions sustainability and wellness. But in my experience at Guelph, an experience that spans union, professional, executive, and faculty employees, I’ve never been asked as often what my vacation plans are or how long I’ll be away. Members of the senior administration team share holiday photos and talk about how good it was to get away and relax. Everyone puts email vacation messages on when they’re on vacation and no one expects a reply if you’re the one away. It’s refreshing.

When I first started working as a professor I had a colleague who used to joke that vacations scared her. She was so attached to her research and writing that she didn’t ever want to be away from it. The very idea of not writing for a single day made her anxious. All of her holidays gave her laptop center stage. I vowed never to be that person. I love my job but I also love time off to do fun, adventurous things.

I’ve written before about academic jobs and overwork, describing professorial roles as entrepreneurial in certain respects. Large parts of our role are self-determined and we can choose the shape they take. I’ve chosen to leave room for family and friends, my dog Cheddar, books, movies, theatre, holidays, and riding my bike.

So what did I do for my summer vacation?

rode my bike up the northwest coast of Newfoundland, from Deer Lake, to L’Anse aux Meadows and St. Anthony. I saw icebergs. I slept in a tent. I rode 80-100 km a day, sometimes in cold and fog and rain. I know it’s not everyone’s idea of a great time but the landscape was beautiful and the people were very friendly and helpful. I was away for 10 days, often without a cellular or internet connection. It wasn’t all riding, either. We did some hiking, visited historical landmarks and museums, and cooked seafood chowder with fresh fish from the dock. I even read a book, Karen Russell’s Orange World and Other Stories, Penguin, 2018. You can listen to Orange World here.

I’m back now, happy and refreshed, and ready to get back to our College of Arts summer plans and projects.

What do you have planned for your summer vacation?

Dean Samantha Brennan, a selfie in front of a sign advertising moose burgers and seafood chowder.
The arches, a natural rock archway created by tidal action.
A sunny morning at the ferry terminal in Norris Point, Newfoundland.
Dean Samantha Brennan at L’Anse aux Meadows, next to a sculpture of a Viking ship.