Sabbatical Recognition 2020

About Sabbatical Leave

Academic sabbaticals represent a period of leave granted by the University of Illinois for the purpose of study, research, or other pursuit in support of academic excellence at the University.  Faculty must qualify in terms of required years of service and have a clear and cogent plan for work to be accomplished during the leave.  Ten UIS faculty were recommended for sabbatical leave during the 2020-2021 academic year.

The Deans invite you to join them in celebrating with their faculty who have been recommended for sabbatical leave during the 2020-2021 academic year. Faculty are listed by college, below.

College of Business & Management

Te-Wei Wang, Management Information Systems

head-and-shoulders photo of Te-Wei Wang

Associate professor  Te-Wei Wang proposes to use his sabbatical to investigate “using predictive analytics in cryptocurrency valuation. The main purpose of this research project is to build a predictive model to predict the price movement of cryptocurrency.” In addition, Dr. Wang plans to enhance his technical skills in data processing by learning Python. This sabbatical project can also potentially lead to the development of new courses in the MIS Department.

College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

David Bertaina, History

photo of David Bertaina with marble pillar

Associate professor David Bertaina proposes to use his sabbatical to investigate the “medieval Iberian intellectual networks, which impact our knowledge of Spanish views of the Qur’an and the transmission of a particular Christian Arabic text.” One of the most influential works to shape medieval European views of the Qur’an is the Liber Denudationis. Previously, scholars have not been able to identify the book’s author or place of origin. Dr. Bertaina has recently discovered that Ibn Raja is the author of the text; a breakthrough discovery in this field of study. Dr. Bertaina plans to work with colleagues at the University of Cordoba in Spain to analyze the Arabic and Latin versions of the text. He will be collaborating with the editor of the top journal for Spanish Arabists and plans to produce at least one publication from this work. This project will also increase Dr. Bertaina’s competence in teaching HIS 378 –Christian-Muslim Encounters and in leading study abroad courses to Spain.

Brytton Bjorngaard, Art, Music, & Theatre

head-and-shoulders photo of Brytton BjorngaardAssociate professor Brytton Bjorngaard proposes to use her sabbatical to take workshops and complete research to improve her professional competence in letterpress printing, restore UIS’ Vandercook 219 Proving letterpress, develop a new body of creative work, and create studio manuals and safety guides for student use. Ms. Bjorngaard will travel to San Francisco, New York City, and Wisconsin for the requisite training to work with and restore UIS’ letterpress. The resurgence in the contemporary field of art and design of the one-of-a-kind, textural designs created by a letterpress make expertise in this medium a valuable skill for Ms. Bjorngaard and Visual Art students at UIS.

Donna Bussell, English & Modern Languages

photo of Donna Bussell with medieval text in backgroundAssociate professor Donna Bussell proposes to use her sabbatical to do research on the liturgies for Mary Magdalene in medieval England. This will involve analyzing information in Springfield and going to archives in England and possibly France. She will also explore digital humanities methods that will be useful in her own research and allow her to instruct students in these organizational and analytical methods.

Hua Chen, Biology

photo of Hua Chen in biology lab with arms crossedProfessor Hua Chen proposes to use his sabbatical to study the carbon dynamics in terrestrial ecosystems with particulate attention to restored wetlands at Emiquon. Dr. Chen also plans to collaborate with a colleague from Oregon State University to investigate woody root decomposition in the Pacific Northwest old-growth forests. Climate change is an important challenge we are facing globally and this is an important research area. Dr. Chen plans to complete two manuscripts for journal submission and use the information from this project to enhance his teaching of Restoration Ecology and Global Change Ecology.

Stephen R. Johnson, Chemistry

head and shoulders formal photo of Stephen R. JohnsonAssociate professor Stephen Johnson has as the main objective of his sabbatical research to collect, preserve, and biochemically characterize invertebrate venoms to isolate components known as toxins to investigate their use as non-opioid alternatives for the therapeutic treatment of pain. He will collaborate with colleagues at the Southwestern Biological Institute in Tucson, Arizona, to collect venomous specimens from four southwest deserts in the U.S. The research will support strong undergraduate research experiences and dissemination of scholarly work in the form of publications, invited talks, and lectures. This work will also allow Dr. Johnson to master a new facet of mass spectrometry and enhance his teaching of electives that are specifically designed for this academic realm (i.e.,CHE/BIO 425 Medicinal Chemistry and CHE/BIO 432 Introduction to Neuroscience).

Michele Miller, Psychology

head-and-shoulders photo of Michele MillerAssociate professor Michele Miller proposes to use her sabbatical to begin a new line of research that will investigate school-based trauma informed teaching and responding. To do this, Dr. Miller will: 1) interview administrators and teachers from District 186 in Springfield to assess their knowledge about the impact of trauma on children and their current responses to child trauma, 2) use publicly available state and district-level data to determine baseline measures of student disciplinary actions and the efficacy of teachers, and 3) use her expertise to support a school-based facilitation team that is part of the Springfield Resilience Initiative. Dr. Miller will be collaborating with colleagues from the Departments of Psychology and Teacher Education and the Child Advocacy Studies (CAST) program at UIS.

Peter Shapinsky, History

head-and-shoulders photo of Peter Shapinsky in Japanese gardenAssociate professor Peter Shapinsky proposes to use his sabbatical to investigate “the impacts of the inhabitants of maritime borderlands in East Asia, particularly Japanese pirates, Zen monks, and sea-merchant families, on the composition of Japanese sea charts produced before the arrival of the Portuguese in the 1540s.” By bringing to light maritime maps that were previously not thought to exist and tracing their histories, Dr. Shapinsky hopes to demonstrate how they contributed to the views of elites and mariners, which in turn convey a dialogical image of East Asia as a region. In addition, based on this research, he plans to develop new classes on maritime processes of intercultural exchange and global cartographic history.

Ann Strahle, Communication

photo of Ann Srahle with tripod camera and student at UIS colonnadeAssociate professor Ann Strahle proposes to use her sabbatical to do research on a project examining communication and the roles of military chaplains within the National Guard. Ms. Strahle plans to diverge from the current work in this field of study to examine the chaplaincy using a critical-cultural communication model that should lead to publications and conference presentations. This research will also enhance her teaching of Media Law and Ethics, Introduction to Mass Media, and Multimedia Reporting. Her work has the potential of not only bringing new light to the national discussion surrounding the First Amendment and religion, it will also allow UIS students to better understand these complicated issues.

College of Public Affairs & Administration

Richard Gilman-Opalsky, Political Science

head-and-shoulders photo of Richard Gilman-OpalskyProfessor Richard Gilman-Opalsky proposes to use his sabbatical to lecture nationally and internationally on his forthcoming book, The Communism of Love: An Inquiry into the Poverty of Exchange Value, which will be published in late 2020. These presentations will showcase the high quality scholarship that is produced at UIS. In addition, Dr. Gilman-Opalsky will start a new line of research about twentieth and twenty-first century philosophies of marginalized women. This work will support the creation of a new course about women in political philosophy that will address student interest in women philosophers.

Return to the Faculty Honors Celebration page to select another faculty recognition category