The University of Texas at Austin begins innovative community sabbatical program

AUSTIN, TexasA program that affords the nonprofit workforce in Central Texas a "time out" from daily administrative duties via paid sabbaticals to explore new ideas and plan new projects will begin granting stipends this spring at The University of Texas at Austin.

The Community Sabbatical Program, which provides stipends of $2,500 to $5,000, places The University of Texas at Austin at the head of a national trend to make civic engagement central to the university's mission, said Sheldon Ekland-Olson, executive vice president and provost. He said the program is funded as a three-year pilot by the Office of the Provost, and jointly administered by the university's Humanities Institute and the Graduate School's Professional Development and Community Engagement Program.

The Community Sabbatical Program will provide paid flexible leave time on the university campus for directors or staff members of Central Texas nonprofits to research an issue or develop a new program related to their organization and its constituency. Successful Community Sabbatical grant applicants receive a $2,500 to $5,000 stipend. Each grantee also is matched with a "research cluster" of university faculty members with related interests and expertise who advise and collaborate on the proposed project.

Ekland-Olson said the involvement of university scholars in research relevant to nonprofit community organizations through the Community Sabbatical Program opens up new ways for faculty to put their skills and knowledge to use on behalf of Central Texas communities.

The Community Sabbatical Program is the result of a collaborative planning process involving the UT Humanities Institute, the Office of Graduate Studies and a community advisory council. Deborah Edward, executive director of Greenlights for Nonprofit Success, and a member of the advisory council, said the Community Sabbatical Program is a "great opportunity for nonprofit professionals to take time to reflect and return to their organizations with new insight into the programs they develop and manage."

The deadline to submit Community Sabbatical applications for 2005 is March 15.

Members of the Community Sabbatical Program advisory council include: Greenlights' Deborah Edward, Community Action Network Executive Director Fred Butler, Austin Free-Net's Executive Director Ana Sisnett, UT Humanities Institute Director Evan Carton, and the Office of Graduate Studies' Professional Development and Community Engagement Program Director Thomas Darwin.

For more information about the Community Sabbatical Program, or about its partner program, "The Humanities Institute Research Associate Program" for Central Texans engaged in independent research, contact Program Coordinator Sylvia Gale at 512-471-2654, or visit the Humanities Institute Web site.

For more information contact: Sylvia Gale, Humanities Institute, 512-471-2654, or Robert D. Meckel, Office of Public Affairs, 512-475-7847.