Tracking Professors: Sabbaticals give professors time for research

As the class of 2012 prepares for their freshman year at GW, some GW professors are getting ready to take a year away from Foggy Bottom.

Professors periodically earn sabbaticals, where they can take a paid year off from teaching to pursue projects they wouldn’t be able to undertake at GW.

As a cultural envoy for the State Department, Dana Tai Soon Burgess, a professor of dance, will travel to Colima, Mexico to create a new ballet. He will also work on ballets in Memphis, Tenn. and in Lima, Peru, as well as premiering new dance works at Lisner Auditorium in October.

“Sabbatical is a way that professors expand their knowledge outside of the GW community,” Burgess said. “So ultimately sabbaticals bring new exciting information to the GW student body.”

Over the past year, Burgess has also been a cultural envoy for the State Department to Egypt, Israel, the West Bank and India, to gain valuable experience working on dance in foreign locations.

“I like to relate new ballets to the communities for which they will be performed,” Burgess said, who described the process of creating a dance as “very similar to writing a short story.”

Burgess usually teaches a dean’s seminar called Great Performances in Dance as well as classes on choreography, kinesiology, dance appreciation and modern dance technique.

“I taught all over the world, and honestly the GW student is the most inquisitive and talented student,” he said.

Professor of Media and Public Affairs Robert Entman said he will also miss his GW students and colleagues while on sabbatical, but looks forward to the time he will have to work on three separate books while teaching as visiting professor of public policy at Duke University.

Entman will work on a book about media bias – a topic he said is poorly understood.

“There is an enormous need both within the scholarly community and the larger political world to develop better understanding of how it actually works, and does not work,” Entman said of media bias.

Entman acknowledged the difficulty in working on three books at the same time.

“It’s difficult and there’s no guarantee I will indeed finish all three, but I like to set high goals for myself,” he said.

The Duke graduate was invited by his alma mater to study on their campus in Durham, N.C. He will leave behind his daughter, a sophomore at GW, and his son, who just started a job at a D.C. think tank.

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