The Un-Sabbatical : Nothingness, Non-generative Thinking and Radical Rest as Essential Renewal for Twenty First Century Design Educators


The term sabbatical comes from the Hebrew word ‘Sabbath’, the day set aside as a day of rest from biblical creation. In 1880, Harvard University began offering sabbatical leave for scholars to take as a regenerative year’s break from the structure of their studies and teaching.  Today, a sabbatical suggests something quite different. To secure one, educators compete with peers by proposing rigorous plans, including research leading to publication or creative practice resulting in a significant exhibition or product launch. Being awarded a sabbatical means one work system is essentially replaced by another. Sabbatical is no longer a day of rest from creation or work, but merely an extension of the current academic structure.  Follow this educator’s Spring 2023 Un-Sabbatical – a fluid, fifteen - week design experiment, focused on “Radical Regeneration.” Hit the pause button on ubiquitous design sprints, committee meetings and pre-planned syllabi to witness a goalless, stream of conscious, visual video- brainstorm. The Un-Sabbatical releases us from familiar structures and “holds the space” for random ideas and un-imagined connections that generally remain out of focus, shadowy and blurry.   Inhabiting the Un-Sabbatical’s liminal space creates the conditions for Prima Materia or new “starting material” to emerge. The Un-Sabbatical looks inward and demands nothing short of radical reset. It is a prototype for a regenerative tool that design educators can use to remain healthy and creative as we face a twenty-first century upheaval in our classrooms, our work, our planet and ourselves.   


Patricia Kovic
Professor, Interdisciplinary: Product Design, Creative Action, Artist Community Teaching, Entrepreneurial Studies, Otis College of Art and Design, California, United States


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Design Education


Liminal, Speculative, Wellness, Pedagogy, Divergent, Innovation

Digital Media


The Un Sabbatical (Embed)


The Un-Sabbatical (mp4)