While some of us might have taken time to catch up on sleep, others decided to take photography tours around Latin America. From researching women in television, to studying barnacles in the sea, these professors have quite the stories to tell from their time off of school, and they’re putting all of us to shame.
Biology professor Walter Cho went on a three-week research cruise aboard the R/V Falkor in November to study volcanoes around the kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific Ocean. Cho, the only biologist on the cruise, centered his studies on what kinds of animals live in those areas and their relation to volcanic eruptions and the specific chemical environment. Cho and the other researchers on the vessel collected thousands of individual samples of shrimp, crabs, snails, barnacles and other small sea creatures that thrive in the deep sea environment.
“The barnacles almost looked like fields of flowers,” said Cho. “It was just astounding. We can see, in these unique communities, the complexities of life and the amount of detail that God has put into the creation of the world.”
Cho’s favorite part of the cruise was getting to work with a passionate, specialized team of chemists and geologists to research this highly unique cluster of volcanoes.
“This is cutting edge stuff,” said Cho. “It lets us know more about the world in these areas that have not been explored before and that you can’t see.”
Cho’s research cruise was not a sabbatical, so he continued to work with his students while he was away, and continues to include students in his ongoing research of these and other environments he studies.
“It’s a world of such depth and uniqueness of beauty,” said Cho. “If I have a personal connection to it, it makes it easier for students to connect. I think research is really important because it informs our teaching. As teachers, it gives us greater depth of understanding so that we can better communicate and try to help our students as well.”
Political science professor Linda Beail worked on two research projects about women and girls in media during her sabbatical last semester. One project focused on the rise of political women in television—on all kinds of shows, including crime, drama, comedy, superhero and fantasy—where women are overtly in politics.
Beail dedicated a lot of her sabbatical to working on a book with a colleague on the topic
“Thinking about women in power, there’s no easy way to think about that,” said Beail. “I actually really like that because I think its like real life. We need fully 3D women who are loving and warm and nurturing and generous but also can be angry. We need all of that the same way we need it in male protagonists. We need to see them as fully human.”
Beail’s other research project focuses on the portrayal of girlhood on Disney Channel.
“It’s not something I’ve studied directly before,” said Beail. “But it has exploded in the last 15 to 20 years. You can’t just study women, you have to study girls and the construction of girlhood. I’m really excited about that.”
Beail also traveled to London and Paris. While in London, she spent a great deal of time visiting the Museum of London’s women’s suffrage exhibit.
“It’s really nice of the University to give profs that time to breathe and really dig into reading and research,” said Beail. “I am very grateful and had an amazing time.”
Spanish professor Scott Bennett titled his sabbatical project Documenting Latin America: Essential Themes Through Photography and Reflection. He spent the spring of 2017 in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Brazil and Mexico taking photographs focusing on urbanization, immigration, festivals, celebrations, coffee culture and soccer. Bennett immersed himself in these cultures through writing, reading and interviewing people.
“The best part was actually meeting people and learning more about their specific realities and struggles,” said Bennett via email. “This definitely helped with photography, especially portraits and being in neighborhoods that were potentially dangerous. What makes Latin America so beautiful and rich, in spite of some difficulties, are its people.”
Bennett shares his photographs and experiences with his Spanish classes to encourage travel and “break down stereotypes.”
“So many people form opinions about people groups and places without ever visiting,” said Bennett. “The best way to learn about other cultures is to travel and I would love to keep that dialogue going.”
One of Bennett’s photographs from his time in Brazil was featured in a gallery in New York City. The photograph was sold for $500, and the proceeds went to organizations 100cameras and CoFondation.
Bennett’s Instagram page (@scottmbennett) and special hashtag #documentinglatinamerica2017 feature pictures he took while traveling Latin America.