By Anna Brewster, Assistant Faith Editor
One office in Montgomery Hall was almost always empty last semester. Dr. Alan Bandy, Rowena R. Strickland Associate Professor of New Testament, went on his first academic sabbatical in the fall of 2016.
Most days during his sabbatical, Bandy spent up to 10 hours at home working on three books he is writing. He needed some time away from campus to work on them and meet his publishers’ deadlines.
(A sabbatical is a leave of absence taken by a professor to reinvigorate his or her teaching and to allow time for research and travel.)
OBU requires a professor to be of senior faculty status and of at least associate professor rank before being able to request a sabbatical. Bandy fulfilled those requirements and is now in his eighth year at OBU.
“I’m very appreciative that the university allowed me to do it,” he said. “Not every school does this. The administration made it a priority and made it available.”
Sometimes, professors move elsewhere during their sabbatical to better focus on projects and to have access to resources other than the ones at their resident university.
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary offered Bandy a place to stay as a “visitor’s sabbatical,” but he decided to remain in Shawnee with his wife and five kids.
Many professors taking an academic sabbatical will focus all of their efforts on one specific project.
Bandy, however, is working on three different books. One is a Greek reader of the writings of the Apostolic fathers.
“Most of my time was spent on a book that I’ll use for my second-year Greek class,” he said.
The Greek reader includes rare words occurring 30 times or less throughout the Greek New Testament.
It is assigned to help develop Greek reading skills without having to read three or four different texts.
“It wasn’t hard work, in that I didn’t have to do a lot of research, but it was tedious,” Bandy said.
Another book is on the ministry and life of the apostle Paul. The third is a theology and history of interpretation of Revelation, a work in progress for the last seven years.
Two of the classes Bandy has taught – Life and Literature of Paul and Apocalyptic Literature – are directly related to the books he is writing.
Senior Biblical studies major Kaleb Miears has taken both classes and can attest to Bandy’s expertise and love of teaching.
“What he teaches is clearly communicated, and you become intrigued because he is so passionate about the work he is doing,” Miears said. “To see a professor teach, do research and continually write is very motivational for the students.”
Even now as he is back on campus, Bandy continues to work on these books in addition to teaching and spending time with students.
“I try to have my office hours so I can meet with students, but I always like to try to carve a few hours out a day to try to get some writing done,” he said. “It’s just a challenge in the heat of the semester…so it’s been slow going.”
While the sabbatical was a lot of work, it also allowed Bandy a new luxury – replacing time usually spent grading papers with reading new books unrelated to his research.
“It was really nice to have that time to refresh my spirit,” he said. “It was an oasis. I didn’t feel the pressure and the stress. For once, I didn’t feel rushed or overwhelmed. It was really nice, and it charged me up for teaching again.”
Some might wonder – what kind of books does a professor of religion read for pleasure.
“[I read] some historical fiction books about Cicero by Robert Harris that were well-written and historically accurate,” Bandy said.
“I saw a lot of parallels between the corruption in politics and the mess that we see.”
Occasionally, a professor will take a second sabbatical several years after their first. Bandy would consider it, but he would do it differently, he said.
“I would do…a full year sabbatical,” Bandy said. “I would only teach two classes a semester. That way I would still teach and have time [to work on projects].”
The semester-long break from classes allowed Bandy a chance to realize what was so important to him about teaching.
After more than 15 years of either taking or teaching classes, this sabbatical gave him some unexpected withdrawal, he said.
“It reminded me that I feel made to do academic life,” Bandy said. “Not teaching, I felt a void. It was affirming. I wouldn’t want any other life than the life that I have. I wouldn’t want to teach anywhere else than OBU.”