As promised, I want to discuss why summer research funding is important to me a an active researcher.

I previously posted about what goes on in my professional life during the academic year. Theoretically, I am released from my duties from mid-May to mid-August. Those of you in the profession know, however, that administrative paperwork and assessment responsibilities don’t simply disappear once you are off contract. Additionally, most professors spend part of the summer reading texts and preparing courses for the following academic year. Some of us even attend scholarly conferences (for example, SHEAR is held in mid-July) and give public talks.

While I do all of the above during the summer months, that time is also critical for me to work on research projects. Travel to archives and other repositories is often necessary, which is where summer funding is most important. Over the past three summers (2009-11), I made roughly a dozen trips to the Tennessee State Library and Archives and The Hermitage, two trips to the Filson Historical Society, and one trip to the Library of Congress. Additionally, summer funds helped me purchase books that I needed for my research projects. Finally, this financial support allowed me to devote time to research, writing, and travel, time I would not have had if I were teaching summer classes.

The scholarly productivity resulting from these summer grants and fellowships has been substantial, in my estimation. Over three summers, I wrote roughly 200 pages of the Jackson biography, an historiographical article on Jackson and slavery published in History Compass, a nearly completed article on an early Klan leader (co-authored with a student), several book reviews, and a couple of manuscript reviews. These outcomes may be minor in comparison to historians at Research-I universities (or RU/VH, if you prefer the updated Carnegie designation), but for a university our size, that’s fairly rapid output. None of this would have been possible, though, without university and organizational support, for which, as I’ve mentioned several times recently, I am very grateful.

So, as the summer winds down, and I spend my days locked in a room with other faculty and university administrators, I’m reflecting fondly on the days not long past when I strained my eyes looking at microfilmed copies of Jackson’s handwriting and typed furiously (in more than one sense of the word) about his depressing finances.

Sigh. Times were so simple way back in July. The water was warmer, the sun was brighter, and writing syllabi was a dreaded task that could wait another day. Fare thee well, Summer. We shall meet again.