As my sabbatical comes to an end I figured it was time for a reflection because so much has happened over the last seventeen months that I don't want to forget.
I applied for sabbatical in 2019, long before the pandemic, Black In the Ivory was trending on Twitter, summer of social justice and Black In X Movement were things. I am so grateful to God that he inspired me to apply with no inkling of what was to come. It was exactly six years after my last sabbatical and I was unclear on what I wanted to do. The only thing I did now was that I did not want to step foot in a classroom for the entire year. So, I stepped out on faith even though I could not see the entire staircase.
Faculty apply for a sabbatical in order to refresh, rejuvenate, and relax. It is also to improve pedagogy, scholarship, innovation, and professional growth. My goal was to improve professional competence and promote excellent teaching.
At the time, I had recently earned full professor and I was burnt out. Full professor is what I had aspired to be since starting my first academic job in August 2003. This was a lofty goal considering there are less than 200 Black Women engineering faculty and full professors are even more rare. Black and African-American faculty only make up 2.4% of all engineering faculty. The job of a professor is very intense as they have to mentor, teach, write grants, write papers, do research, and conduct service. It is even more intense for women and faculty from historically excluded, marginalized, and minoritized populations. This is because of the additional service and service component due to hypervisibility. It is also because of my never ending mission to diversify STEM. It means that I constantly juggle many balls and wear multiple hats. My journey was particularly arduous because I left my first tenure track job after three years and completely started over at the new university. So that was 9 years to tenure instead of the typical 6 for me.
I have received so much more than I asked for during this sabbatical and I am eternally grateful. My original plan was just to go work in industry and learn some automation, controls, and robotics engineering skills that I could use in the classroom.
There is a quote that says "if you want to see God laugh, show him your plans". He saw my plans and raised me a hundred and I am so thankful that he saw so much more in me than I saw in myself. The first thing he saw was the ability to homeschool my daughter for almost a year and a half. I was able to teach her pre-algebra when her virtual school became a computer screen instead of a teacher on Zoom. I was able to apply and become the the Lawrence Giacoletto Endowed Faculty Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering, ASEE fellow, and IEEE senior member.
I was able to work with colleagues around the world to co-found Black In Engineering and Black In Robotics when we saw the need for racial justice and equity in the STEM academy. These organizations were part of the birth of a larger movement referred to as the Black In X network. I was also able to work with members of the #BlackInX community to host the inaugural conference and homecoming at the one year anniversary of the birth of the movement.
Tenure and promotion to full professor gave me the freedom to be completely me. Sabbatical gave me the time to do what needed to be done and focus on social justice. STEM equity, eliminating bias in AI. By making my purpose my passion, I was able to accomplish so much more than I envisioned.
I now get up everyday excited about completing my passion projects and enjoying the job that pays me and allows me to do them. I write my Black Women in STEM romance novels, record my future audio book, create Robot Slam poetry videos, Mobile Robot Tik Toks, and Kitchen Table circuits on YouTube. This is what walking out "My STEM is for the Streets" looks like.
Then as the perfect culmination of my sabbatical work, I launched my business, NoireSTEMinist on 7/1/21. I copyrighted NoireSTEMinist® in June 2022 and published my first fictional book, Elevated Inferno, on 7/1/22.