Redefining Academic Success: Reflections from sabbatical with Dr. Heather Leach

Higher Vibrations in Higher Education

Feb 22 2024 • 1 hr 23 mins

In reflecting on her stellar career thus far, Dr. Heather Leach brings a lightness to the journey. She recounts how she started her education but was “there for the soccer”… finding the degree came separately. Unsurprisingly, to me, she found Health and Exercise Science. Through an internship at NASA she learned what the research was… then came a MS and PhD and Postdoc and when we talked, she was in the last few weeks of her sabbatical (academic rest). We laugh and reflect on the journey, trying to lay out some “cheat codes” for you to find joy in your academic pursuits. A lot of it comes down to this: find your passion; dial up what you love, dial down what you don’t love; take sacred rest whenever you can. My favorite share... "What are you going to do with your PhD?... Whatever the hell I want." Other key takeaways include:

  • Find your passion and maybe you can “back fill” what job or degree
  • Exercise as treatment to chronic disease
  • You can hold on to the fun of learning when you constantly curious
  • Seek all the information you can: find the right fit for your expertise and daily desires
  • Beware of our own self-imposed goals
  • If you work all weekend or all break, there’s still more to do, where do you press pause, where do you stop
  • Along the way you might find the epiphany, “I know what I should do to play the game, but I struggle, it doesn’t excite me. If I got the grant if the reviewers say high impact but I don’t think we should do the study. Can I do rigorous science and follow the rules but do the work I think will actually make a difference to the field and the people we are doing these studies for?”
  • Slow down: Dr. Leach wishes she had had a 5 year plan with step by step foresight
  • If you have the privilege of sabbatical: TAKE it…figure it out, stay cation: Do not decline yourself the reset
  • You can make this whatever you want it to be (the pursuit, what you do with it, how you apply, who you serve) …. Don’t want for a dept head or mentor to tell you that
  • You can have a restful, peaceful, and filled with adventure, by design
  • Don’t forget the interests you had before, they don’t have to be hidden
  • Flourishing is firing on all cylinders: Let’s get it!
  • Redefining what success is, it’s not the same motivator that got us to tenure