I have a venture to share with you that started a few years back as a beer-to-beer chat with another University colleague as we lamented about how different things seemed than those first halcyon days when we imagined our lives in academia. We summarized that something seemed to be missing in our fragmented academic careers. This is shared by many - the work-life balance is a challenge for lots of folks, especially with families.
There were three things that came up during our conversation. They all related to a healthy and balanced existence. You know - finding the space to stay alert and happy with all parts of ourselves.
First, we felt stymied in our academic writing and wanted to build a time to focus on getting a product completed (article for submission, proposal for grant, etc). We both tend to work well when there is a dedicated time and space for writing, and if there are others who are also engaged in this at the same time.
Second, I was curious about integrating creative personal work with professional academic work as a way to balance the intellectual aspect of my life. I used to build and work on boats. I started to think of boat building as a metaphor for personal and professional growth and wanted to pilot a community boat-building workshop to see if others took as much joy from building an organic shape from flat sheets of wood as I did. My colleague was intrigued and asked if it was possible to create a boat in a few days. I assured him that it was; I once built a rowboat in 7 hours with another woodworker in a speed boatbuilding competition (we totally won).
Finally, we both agreed that shared cooking and time for exercise or meditation were great ways to connect with ourselves and others and that having teams of folks responsible for kitchen duty was a good way to both build strong friendships and save some typical costs.
A rented house for 8-10 people, in an inspiring natural place, with sleeping, cooking and exercise options, that allows for creative outlets as well as focused intellectual work seemed like a logical solution to these three intersecting themes.
This vision included: A) An opportunity to work for some time each day on academic writing. B) An opportunity to work on some creative project each day (like building a small boat, but could also be poetry or painting or dance) and C) An opportunity to spend time preparing and sharing and eating meals together.
The goal would be that each person would bring something to the retreat to work on – draft of a paper, data to examine, book chapter to finish - and commit to the group to produce a product (for some accountability). Same with the creative endeavor – Bring a book/instructions/materials for some craft/art/creative endeavor you’d like to learn, commit to the group to show some evidence of the product, and then have at it.
So….Fast forward to today. This project is actually going to happen!
the LeftBrain/RightBrain Retreat will happen at two different locations - once at the beginning of the summer, and once at the end - bookended to give participants a jumpstart as well as a space to finish up some important work.
I am in the planning stages of putting together two of these retreats for some fellow faculty as a pilot program. Can't wait to see how things go!
I am also going to complete a short research study that will explore the value of this type of professional development. This will likely include qualitative data collection (short interviews, daily video self-diary entries, artifact collection) to contribute to the knowledge base in this area. There is no pressure for participants to participate in this.