Bethel Professor Tells Sabbatical Story

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MISHAWAKA—On Friday, March 22, Dr. Elizabeth McLaughlin, associate professor of communication, shared her sabbatical story. She was originally scheduled to speak on February 1 but chose to post-pone the event due to the unusually frigid temperatures sweeping through the region at that time.

McLaughlin took her sabbatical in the fall of 2017. She began by talking about her expectations for the sabbatical, then explained the reality of what happened and concluded by reflecting on God’s grace. 

McLaughlin said that going into the sabbatical, she expected to spend time resting and relaxing and planned to catch up on what she felt were “scholarly duties.”

However, the reality was that, due to many unexpected factors, she had little to no time alone. She was also suffering from exhaustion. 

“I had a lot of drive,” said McLaughlin, “I had a lot of goals for this; but I didn’t have a lot of gas.” 

Yet, despite the difficulties, McLaughlin saw God’s grace in many instances, including a vacation to Colorado with her husband. One of the greatest blessings that came here at home was when she received permission to use a small office at St. Mary’s College as a private space to get some work done.

“In talking about the work of the sabbatical, I had some original plans,” said McLaughlin. 

McLaughlin wanted to write a book; originally, she planned to write about “how the image of God enhances teaching and learning in communication classrooms”; but it seems that God had other plans. 

McLaughlin ended up changing her focus to writing a book for a series by the Peter Lang Publishing Group called “Speaking of Religion.” 

McLaughlin said her book proposal was accepted in October of 2017, her first draft was finished in December of 2017, the final draft completed in April of 2018, and after going through the editing process it was finally published in January of 2019 under the title, “Women’s Voices of Duty and Destiny: Religious Speeches Transcending Gender.”

During the publication process, McLaughlin received assistance from other Bethel connections, including Megan Clabbers, a 2003 graduate who helped McLaughlin with copy editing, and Maria Vidal, who graduated in December 2018 and designed the cover for the book.

As part of her presentation, McLaughlin requested that Jaclyn Holmes and Ariana Jones, two current Bethel students, do a reading from the book. They read the section containing Mary McLeod Bethune’s “This is What American Democracy Means to Me” speech.

McLaughlin went on to discuss some of the copyright nightmares she endured, most of which were successfully resolved, though she was unable to obtain permission to use a speech by Malala Yousafzai. This greatly disappointed her, because she wanted to include a Muslim voice in the text.

McLaughlin concluded her speech by looking back in gratefulness for the many ways God worked everything out.  

“Our lives are really in the hands of God,” said McLaughlin, “and this really is a wonderful season.” 

To learn more about her book, visit www.peterlang.com

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