Karen Borglum Reflects on a Sabbatical “Down Under”

By Karen Borglum, Assistant Vice President, Curriculum and Assessment

I was honored and grateful to receive a sabbatical during summer 2015. For me, the sabbatical was a time to spend with my family to create some really amazing memories together. Those of you who know me know that I love to travel, so we decided to spend a month in Australia and New Zealand. The trip was completely self-funded and was something we planned for over a year.

We were very fortunate to be in Sydney during Vivid Sydney, a program mostly focused on projecting incredible light and sound shows on buildings throughout the city, including the iconic Sydney Opera House. Watching the performing lights and listening to the music provided a feast for the senses.


Karen’s 14-year-old daughter, Mackenzie, swims with whale shark.

The greatest part of our trip was swimming with whale sharks off the Ningaloo reef on the northwest coast of Australia. Coming face-to-face with the largest fish in the Indian Ocean was humbling, to say the least. We were very fortunate to see one of these 20-foot-long animals engage in vertical feeding, which allowed us to swim within 15 feet of this majestic creature. According to the marine biologist on the boat, it was a rare occurrence.

We landed in Christchurch and worked our way north to Auckland. We learned a little bit about the unfortunate earthquakes that hit Christchurch and saw the memorial to the 185 people who died. We took the train from Christchurch west to Greymouth, enjoying great views of the beautiful Southern Alps. We then made our way to North Island, where we went black water rafting, which involved riding on a tube on a moving river in a cavern. Being 220 feet underground in very tight quarters, combined with climbing and jumping from rocks — all in an effort to see glowworms — was enough for me to feel my age!

We had seen the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” movies, so we knew that New Zealand was beautiful, but the vast and pristine landscape was more spectacular than we had imagined. To help maintain this country’s ecological integrity, we were required to have our shoes cleaned at the airport before they would allow us into the country!

karen-borglum-hobbiton-groveWe managed to see Hobbiton, and learned a lot about director Peter Jackson’s
secrets in the movie, The Hobbit.

There were so many other things we saw and experienced as a family that will stay with us forever. It felt good to slow down and enjoy the moments that naturally arose.

I did feel compelled to do some research during my sabbatical, so I also investigated the institutional hours of general education within all 28 state colleges and the 12 state universities. I will be sharing my research this fall at the Curriculum Committee meeting as we move to our November General Education meeting. The data is interesting, and it offers some diversity of ideas, but there are some similarities as well.

I would highly recommend applying for a sabbatical, a gift to give yourself for all you do at the College. We are the number one community college in the nation because of the people who work here.

I urge you to go and create some memories. Give yourself time to relax and enjoy something you always wanted to do but never felt that you had the time to try. You will thank yourself and the sabbatical committee.

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