On Campus

The professor's non-holiday

The holidays are at hand. Now, I can finally get something done.

The best thing about the annual Christmas break is that I finally get a chance to get some work done. I mean “work” here in the professorial sense of my own research.

Don’t get me wrong: I love teaching. And even the many administrative tasks that seem to fill up my days provide some measure of satisfaction. But like many professors, I can’t help but feel that my research is my most important, even if most often neglected, work. Now, I know that I’m not curing cancer or anything like that, but here’s the thing: as much as I know that teaching does reach a certain number of students who are changed for the better, and as much as I love that idea, my students are few and those who are capable of being inspired are even fewer. I’m happy to teach for the dozen or so young minds I might help mold, but when the possibility of a few free days beckons, I can’t help turning my imagination to bigger things.

Research is so appealing to professors because, especially for those of us with tenure, we are free to pursue what interests us. Courses are taught because they need to be taught, but research is done because we want to do it. The courses belong to the university. Research belongs to us. Finally, research has the potential for enduring impact in a way that teaching does not. Students come and go, but a book is forever.

So thank the muses and St Jerome for this wonderful holiday. It’s time to get to work.

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