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Q: What does the term “load lift” actually mean?
A: If you have come from a university outside the Kent system, you may be used to the term course release, course reallocation, or something similar. At Kent State Stark, a load lift means that part of your normal teaching load is lifted for one semester to allow you to pursue a special project. Load lifts are typically granted for the equivalent of one course, which is three credit hours for most faculty. We offer both research and teaching load lifts, as described below.
Q: Who decides which load lift requests will be accepted?
A: The dean makes the final decision; letters either accepting or rejecting each proposal are sent from that office. The dean’s decision is based on the recommendations of the Professional Activities Advisory Committee (PAAC). Load lift requests are sent directly to members of PAAC.
Q: Who is eligible for a research load lift?
A: Any tenure-track faculty member, whether tenured or pre-tenure, who has not received a research load lift for at least one academic year, may apply for a load lift. You may, however, apply for a research load lift for the year immediately following one in which you received a teaching load lift. For example, if you received a research load lift for the 2015-2016 academic year, you cannot apply for a research load lift for the 2016-2017 academic year. You could, however, apply for a teaching load lift if you would like to do so.
It has been the practice of PAAC to give priority to untenured faculty, although, assuming the quality of the proposals to be equal, at least one load lift is typically given to a tenured faculty member, especially one actively working towards full professorship.
Among untenured faculty, those who have never received a load lift are given priority over those who have. Of those who have never received a load lift, those who have not received other types of support for research (RAGS grant, for example) may be given priority over those who have. However, the quality of the proposal is the prime consideration. Poorly written proposals with unclear goals are not competitive, regardless of the need of the applicant. Typically, if a faculty member receives a load lift then they cannot carry an overload at the same time.
Q: Who is eligible for a teaching load lift?
A: Any full-time faculty member, non-tenure track or tenure-track, who has not received a teaching load lift for at least one academic year, may apply for a load lift. You may, however, apply for a teaching load lift for the year immediately following one in which you received a research load lift. For example, if you received a teaching load lift for the 2015-2016 academic year, you cannot apply for a teaching load lift for the 2016-2017 academic year. If you are a tenure-track faculty member, you could apply for a research load lift.
Q: How do I apply for a load lift?
A: Load lifts are awarded on the basis of competitive proposals that are submitted to PAAC once a year. The application is available online. You can attach up to three optional supporting documents.
Q: What is the application deadline?
A: Load lift applications for the following academic year are submitted to the Dean’s Office in the spring of each year. The Dean’s Office sends out an email announcement each year announcing the deadline.
Q: Are there separate deadlines for the fall and spring semesters?
A: No. Applications for both semesters are submitted in the spring. The application form asks you to stipulate which semester you prefer. Sometimes, for staffing reasons, you may be granted a load lift but asked to switch semesters. If you indicate that either semester would work for you, you will be assigned a semester based on the number of other load lifts for each semester.
Q: How many load lifts are granted each semester?
A: The number may vary, at the discretion of the dean and dependent on funding available. Typically four research load lifts are available each semester but only two teaching load lifts for the entire year. It is important to note that the teaching load lift program is much newer and to date there have not been many applications. If a high number of quality proposals is received for either research or teaching load lifts, the number may increase, if staffing and budgetary concerns permit. Because there are far more faculty eligible for load lifts than the number available, proposals must be of high quality to be competitive.
Q: What criteria must a load lift fulfill to be accepted?
A: For both research and teaching load lifts, the quality of the proposed project is the primary concern. To be considered an excellent project, the description must be clearly defined and include specific objectives that are feasible to accomplish within one semester. It should also include a rationale for the project that explains its importance to the applicant’s academic field and professional growth and justifies the need for a load lift. Applications should not contain a “laundry list” of all the things the applicant has to do. Instead, the proposal should be for a specific, discreet project that can be accomplished during one semester. You also should include a clear, specific statement on how you will evaluate the success of your project. Teaching load lifts must demonstrate that the project goes beyond the usual class preparation.
It is possible to request a load lift to complete a specific portion of a longer project - as long as the scope and goals are clear. For example, a faculty member may propose to complete a specific portion of a book, as long as a clear rationale is presented.
Q: I’m not sure if the project I’m thinking of is appropriate for a load lift. What types of projects are acceptable?
A: Because faculty work can vary so much from discipline to discipline, there honestly is no set “type” of project that is acceptable.
In general, though, research load lifts are given for projects that can be categorized as research-based scholarship that will culminate in a written document or conference presentation. Teaching load lifts are awarded for projects involving extensive course development or innovation that goes beyond typical class preparation. For example, typically a load lift would not be given to someone who is switching textbooks or who has not taught a given course recently and needs to brush up. If you were totally re-vamping a course from the bottom up to accommodate new technologies or service-learning, or some other fundamental change, you might receive a load lift if you demonstrate that your project goes beyond usual updating of a course.
Load lifts typically are not given to complete administrative tasks.
Q: I’d like to engage in class-room based research. Would such a project be more appropriate for the teaching or the research load lift?
A: Research based on your own students would probably be considered more in keeping with a research than a teaching load lift. To date, no one has submitted such a proposal, although several people have asked about the possibility.
Q: What advice do you have for actually writing the project description?
A: Always begin by immediately stating the purpose of your project. Do not first give background information. You need to get right to the point and then follow with relevant details.
Q: Do I need to submit supplemental documentation, or is the online request enough?
A: The answer is a resounding, “It depends.” Load lift applications should be informative yet brief; pages and pages of documentation simply are not appropriate. However, documentation that indicates a compelling need for a project to be completed during a specific time period could be helpful, such as a book contract, a letter from a journal editor asking the applicant to revise an article by a specific deadline, a course that needs to be re-vamped by a certain time, etc. If you submit a teaching proposal for a class that you have taught in the past, documentation may help demonstrate how your project goes beyond typical class preparation.
Q: What if something unexpected happens after the load lift deadline, such as getting a book proposal accepted, which means I have a critical need for a reduced teaching load. Can I apply for a load lift due to my special circumstances?
A: Regrettably, no. At this time, load lift applications are accepted just once a year, in the spring, for the following year.
Q: The letter I received indicating that I received a load lift indicated that I should submit a report at the end of the semester in which I received my load lift. What form should it take, and what should it include?
A: Your load lift proposal should be your guide. Write a memo to the dean in which you explain how you accomplished the goals set forth in your proposal. If you completed an article or other publication, attach a copy of it. Submitting your report on time will maintain your eligibility for future load lifts.
Q: You’ve mentioned the quality of the proposal several times. Can you give some additional information about what constitutes “quality?"
A: A “quality” proposal is clear and concise, using language easily understood by those outside your own specialized field. The application form gives specific instructions on the type of information that should be included. For example, the description of your project should answer these questions: (1) What are your goals? (2) Why is your project important in your field? (3) How have you designed your project to ensure its completion within one semester?
Q: I still have some questions. How can I get more information?
A: Consult the chair of PAAC, the faculty professional development coordinator, or the associate dean.