Sabbatical ≠ Vacation

February 25, 2015

Sandy Jung analyzes crime stats to build a base for future research

Be careful which definition you choose when you look up sabbatical. If you ask a faculty member how their “period of rest” is going, they may burst into ironic laughter.

While there’s no doubt that a sabbatical is a privilege, it’s certainly no holiday. The Canadian Oxford Dictionary calls it “a period of paid leave granted to a university teacher for study or travel, traditionally one year for every seven years worked.”

But what actually happens during a sabbatical? We asked a few faculty members who are currently in the midst of their sabbatical year to fill us in on what they’re up to. Sandy Jung is the first to be profiled in this three-part series.

A single year at EPS headquarters fuels research for years to come

IMAGE_STORY_Sabbatical_JungIf you’re looking for Dr. Sandy Jung, associate professor of psychology, this semester, you’ll have better luck finding her at the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) headquarters than in her office at MacEwan University.

It might not be the first place you would expect to find a prof, but Sandy feels right at home there. The year before her sabbatical began, she practically lived at EPS headquarters while reviewing their homicide files working on research based on statistics from homicide cases in the city between 2007 and 2012.

She’s spending her sabbatical year continuing that collaboration with EPS by generating summaries and descriptions of intimate partner violence and sexual assault cases. “We hope this information will help identify what domestic and sexual assault cases in Edmonton look like and examine similarities and differences within the larger national context,” says Sandy. “It could also help identify risk factors and highlight factors that officers could use to determine how important follow-up is in particular cases to prevent further violence.”

But working her way through tens of thousands of pieces of raw data is just part of the reason she’s there. After compiling the information EPS is interested in, Sandy can turn her attention to building a data set that will provide material to fuel her own research for years to come.

Stationed at a desk at EPS headquarters, she is preparing a sample of between two and three hundred cases for further study and analysis. Right now, she’s looking at each file and coding it for variables that she wants to look at in more detail—things like risk assessment and whether offenders have reoffended. It’s time-consuming work that will fill the remainder of her sabbatical year.

“It’s exciting, but it also takes a lot of time—and it’s not something I could do if I wasn’t on sabbatical,” says Sandy, who explains that to understand the files she also needs to familiarize herself with EPS’s electronic databases and inner workings.

Putting the work in now means that Sandy will have material to draw from for years to come. And she’s not the only researcher who will benefit.

“My students will have the chance to use this data set for their honours theses or independent research projects,” says Sandy.” And I’ll be able to draw from this experience and add to my teaching with examples I can use in my forensic psychology class.”

That’s not all. In addition to building a new base for future research, Sandy is also spending some of her time on sabbatical working with a fellow researcher in North Carolina on a project around sex offender registries, tying up loose ends with her past research, sending off papers, and reviewing data and writing.

“It’s been great to have a whole year to immerse myself in my research,” says Sandy. “It’s even busier than I originally planned, but as soon as you start doing these things you form more connections with community agencies and build new networks. And creating those partnerships is a win-win situation—community agencies can reduce or eliminate spending on research, while researchers can access a source of data that can lead to scholarly work and contribute to evidence-based practices. It’s really quite exciting.”

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