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Earlier this week the Residential Life department at UNH offered its Residence Hall Directors a different professional development opportunity – a mini sabbatical. The inspiration for the day-long exercise came from Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind.

The participants gathered at the start of the day and completed a few of the suggested exercises in the book that warm up the right brain. In order to provide the reader a sense of the warm-up here’s a list of the activities we performed:

  • Make a self-portrait in five lines (lifting the pen from the paper only five times).
  • Identify a household object/problem that annoys us, say why, and propose a solution to the problem. If a solution is not obvious, just share the problem with the group.
  • Choose a person who you would like to dedicate the experience of the day to.
  • Write a fifty word (exactly) saga about your life.

When all of us had shared our responses to these prompts we split up to start thinking about our projects for the day. The instructions for what we had to do were intentionally abstract. We were encouraged, though, to think about issues that would somehow be related to the work we do and to try to stay away from electronics as much as possible to allow us to focus on the task at hand. We were to reconvene at 4 pm at a supervisor’s home.

I spend the remainder of the morning – about an hour and a half – at a downtown cafe jotting down thoughts and re-reading a paper about Marcia Baxter Magolda’s work on self-authorship. At lunch I joined three of the other participants for lunch and a quick check-in.

When we met again in the evening we spent about three hours discussing the day and sharing the fruits of our day-long research projects – if I may call them that. Each one of us spent the day thinking about very different ideas, some of us remained very abstract, while others focused on the specifics of certain problems that they had encountered in their work. Overall, the evening gave us all a good feeling of… satisfaction.

I was inspired the discussions to further explore my ideas and to share others with colleagues and in the public sphere – one of the best parts about the evening had been the feedback we received from other participants. This blog post itself is a result of this renewed inspiration to take time to think, write, discuss, and think some more!

While it is tempting to discuss my mini-sabbatical experience in further detail, I vowed not to make any task I undertake so daunting that I do not finish – so here’s the beginning of a journey that I hope will progress at a healthy rate, and one that I will try my best to document here.