Award provides chance to grow professionally

Taking a sabbatical at the College is considered a chance to improve one’s scholarship, a period for research, development and implementation. In the past, such an opportunity has been funded by a reduced sabbatical salary. This often puts the squeeze on professors juggling finances and projects, but that cut is about to be vastly offset.

On Wednesday, Jan. 29, President R. Barbara Gitenstein and her husband, Donald Hart, announced the “Gitenstein-Hart Sabbatical Prize,” a $100,000 award given annually to one professor. The endowment is designed to expand the College’s scholarship and facilitate individual research, a big boost in faculty support from the administration.

“With this gift, we can expand the opportunity for generations of faculty in early or mid-career to engage in the kind of sustained deep scholarship that will profoundly shape not only their careers but the College,” provost and vice president for Academic Affairs Jacqueline Taylor said.

According to her speech, Gitenstein noted how strenuous it can be to balance academics, family and finance all at once, particularly for a professor early in his or her career. She and Hart experienced these struggles firsthand, but their endowment aims to ease the burdens that complicate a professor’s research.

This year’s recipient is associate professor of physics Nate Magee. His research, scheduled to begin in the next academic year, will explore experimental cloud physics, a medium for delving deeper into studies of climate change.

“My main focus is on the behavior of the ice crystals that make up cirrus clouds — the high altitude, thin and wispy clouds,” Magee said. “We’re applying new nanotechnology tools to answer fundamental questions about the way these ice crystals behave in the atmosphere, and in turn how they impact climate, questions that weren’t accessible before recent technological innovations.”

Such high-intensity research requires a sizeable budget. This has often stifled a professor’s studies, but thanks to the Gitenstein-Hart endowment, Magee’s future work will be made more feasible.

“I’m planning to dedicate intensive time toward data collection in the lab, submit several projects for publication, aggressively pursue federal funding for my lab and make week-long visits to four other research institutions in an effort to spur to new collaborations for my research and my TCNJ student collaborators,” Magee said. “The award will definitely help make (these) easier to accomplish and will certainly make the entire sabbatical year easier to manage for our family.”

This year’s prize was specially intended to select a recipient as soon as possible, according to the College’s website. But as the endowment grows, its capacity to fund multiple faculty members on sabbaticals will grow.

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