Make the most of it

Cal’s Lutheran professors who took sabbaticals during the pandemic may have had to change plans or plans, but they came out more energetic and enlightened.

By Karen Lindell

Art professor Cal Lutheran Michael Pearce’s sabbatical plan was to create a set of paintings to exhibit at the University of North Alabama in the fall of 2020, but it had to change focus when COVID-19 closed galleries Across the country.

The environment and the art of Michael Pearce have significantly diminished in 2020.

Art teacher and oil painter Cal Lutheran was starting his spring 2020 sabbatical when the coronavirus lockdown hit.

He planned to create giant paintings, over 10 feet tall and wide, in a spacious and airy studio in Cal Lutheran. When it all closed, Pearce, forced to work from home in a small room, switched to painting much smaller works, only 18 inches by 20 inches.

Yet despite Pearce’s reduced environment, the pandemic has broadened his creativity and mindset in positive ways.

“My paintings went from apocalyptic and somber to an upbeat place, which surprised me, as we were facing an apocalypse in reality,” Pearce said.

Pearce is one of many Cal Lutheran faculties whose sabbaticals were changed in 2020 due to the coronavirus.

Karissa Oien, director of faculty affairs, said around 12 to 16 faculty members go on sabbatical each year, and six quit in 2020, mostly due to travel restrictions.

For those who took sabbaticals anyway, whether they had to change their travel plans, fit the pandemic into their plan, or give up on an idea altogether, they made the most of the experience, emerging from academics. , more energetic and enlightened teachers and human beings.


Pearce’s original sabbatical plan was to create a set of paintings for display at the University of North Alabama in the fall of 2020.

COVID-19, he said, “threw a giant wrench in the works” when galleries closed everywhere.

He was working on large “neo-pagan” apocalyptic paintings, including one of Burning Man festival characters wearing lights in the dark.

He finished the Burning Man painting – but not before it fell from his easel because it was too big – then moved on to a series of small “transcendent” paintings.

“I got interested in everyday transcendence,” he said. “Ordinary people can have transcendent experiences. The spiritual experience that takes you out of the normal world is available to all of us.

The first work in the series features a man and woman inside an RV, floating near the ceiling, about to kiss, suggesting a “very romantic sense of being happy in a place. “said Pearce.

The obscurity in his previous paintings came from a series of “endings” that occurred around the same time: his parents had died and he had sold a house in England.

“Optimistic painting is much more in my nature; the new work is so much more joyful, accessible and liberated, ”he said. “I’ve always loved science fiction, fantasy, and imaginative paintings, and the sabbatical has pushed me harder in that direction.”

He’s eager to resume teaching in person rather than online – and in a much less cramped studio.


Kirstie Hettinga, Associate Professor of Communication and Educational Advisor for Cal Lutheran Student Newspaper, Echo, ended his spring 2020 sabbatical project with a few days to spare, as it involved teaching in Spain just as the coronavirus was starting to rage in Europe.

Hettinga taught a three-week intensive course on ‘Spanish-language media’ (in English) from February 2020 as part of a study abroad program at the Universidad de Alcalá near Madrid, in Spain. The class included Cal Lutheran’s Shariliz Poveda ’21, an editor of Echo.

Hettinga finished teaching the class, but left Europe sooner than she expected when the pandemic travel bans began.

“We were walking around Madrid the last day I was there, with the streets empty and the shops closed,” Hettinga said. “It was a little scary.”

The sabbatical was taken, but Hettinga’s project continued. The course in Spain was a pilot for a class she planned to teach at Cal Lutheran in the spring of 2021, “Latinx Media in the US,” linked to her work to help develop a minor in Spanish media.

The Spanish media minor’s idea, a proposal that was approved to start in fall 2021, actually started with one of her students, Hettinga said. A Latina student told him about another school that had a publication in Spanish for students and said, “I want to do this.

Cal’s Lutheran students published the first Eco Insertion in Spanish in Echo in fall 2018. To create stories for the special section, students in a newsroom teamed up with students in a Spanish Conversation and Composition class to produce articles in Spanish.

When Hettinga taught the Latinx media class at Cal Lutheran in the spring of 2021, students delved into issues such as media coverage of Hispanics during the Great Depression and how “the language, themes, and stereotypes” of the 1930s still exist, she said.

The class also discussed current events, including coverage of COVID-19, and how Latinx communities were less likely to receive the vaccine even though they were among the hardest hit.

Hettinga said she was “very proud that it all came from a college student and her desire to realize Cal Lutheran’s identity as a HSI (Hispanic Serving Institution) and to serve her community as a Latina.”


Jamie Bedics, Associate Professor and Director of Clinical Psychology Programs at Cal Lutheran, took his spring 2020 sabbatical to finish editing a book on Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

DBT is a form of therapy that helps people manage painful emotions and relationships using four skills: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. It was created for suicidal patients, especially those with borderline personality disorder, but has spread to help people with depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse. and alcoholism and bipolar disorder.

Science, however, hasn’t exactly caught up with this expansion, Bedics believes.

“There are a lot of signs that the treatment may be helpful,” he said. “At the same time, the general conclusion from the state of the literature is that we know much less than we think.”

He is a strong supporter of DBT, but as a researcher believes the science behind it needs to be stronger.

“If you like something very much, you have to criticize it,” he said.

He asked contributors to The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Manual to think critically about the scientific evidence related to DBT treatment. Unlike other DBT texts, “this one indicates where the evidence is both strong and low, ”he said.

Bedics said his sabbatical was not directly affected by the pandemic. But the purpose of his research can be applied to our understanding, or in some cases our misunderstanding, of the coronavirus.

“The key to this book was understanding how to become better producers and consumers of research,” he said. “It is through a balance between questioning and understanding, change and acceptance that a field of study can advance.”


Professors on sabbatical leave in 2020 presented their projects as part of the Scholars’ Festival in April 2021. Here are some examples of their work:

Kristine Boucher, chemistry teacher

Project: “The use of Lego bricks to model structural and stoichiometric concepts in general chemistry”

Butcher worked on developing classroom activities that use Legos, including worksheets with questions for student groups. “I had already developed one that I had used a few times, so I used my sabbatical to develop a few more and work on a manuscript for an article discussing them,” she said.

Rainer Diriwächter, professor of psychology and department director

Project: “Remembering Wilhelm Wundt and the Second Leipzig School of Psychology”

Few people in the United States seem to know Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920), “generally considered the founding father of modern psychology,” Diriwächter said. And American psychology textbooks, he said, mistakenly portray Wundt as a structuralist. His sabbatical research, published in the journal Human Arenas, explored how Wundt’s works should be viewed, “and what happened to his work / ideas through his successors”.

Karrolyne Fogel, math teacher

Project: “Irreducible L (2,1) labels of torus graphs”

Fogel said his project “is working on a subject that looks a bit like the allocation of radio frequencies to antennas: the closer the antennas are to each other, the more likely there is to be interference, hence the more frequencies allocated. must be kept away. Using natural numbers as labels / frequencies, we find the smallest number of labels that meet specific distance conditions (the irreducible part L (2,1)) for a given arrangement of points and edges (the part of the toric graph).

young ariana, associate professor, psychology and professional license

Project: “Prayer and decision making”

Young and his colleagues explored the relationship between prayer and intuitive decision-making. “In three studies,” she said, “we found evidence that praying to God causes people to rely more on intuition (that is, automatic and instinctive responses) when speaking. decision.” An article on the research is being considered for publication.

Karen Lindell has been a newspaper, magazine and website editor and publisher for over 15 years, including at Ventura County Star, LA Parent Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Ojai Valley News, VC Reporter and She lives in Los Angeles.

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