Dr. Robert Hubbard was one of two professors at Northwestern who were awarded a sabbatical for the 2021-22 academic school year. However, Dr. Laird Edman’s sabbatical in New Zealand for the spring semester was cancelled.
Hubbard’s sabbatical was spent in the city of Nassau in the Bahamas where he worked on several projects. Hubbard directed a Caribbean-inspired version of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” for the Shakespeare in Paradise Festival in Nassau. He was also granted a work permit from the University of the Bahamas to teach an introduction to theatre course on campus and consulted on a Theatre Work Group to create a proposal for a sustainable theatre major. He also did a lot of writing that included research, interviews, reviews and a first draft of a book. In addition to the sabbatical projects, he had many other wonderful experiences.
“I tried to open water swim in the ocean as much as I could, and that was glorious,” Hubbard said. “The Bahamian government took COVID very seriously, so I got in the habit of wearing a mask in-doors all the time. However, fully vaccinated people could eat in doors if they showed a vaccination card, so I was able to enjoy many wonderful restaurants.”
Meanwhile at NW, Drew Schmidt was the individual who took on the role of the Theatre Department Chair. Students, colleagues and faculty all missed Hubbard during his time away from campus.
“Professor Hubbard has been at NW for a long time,” Schmidt said. “So, in his absence we missed his leadership, his wisdom, his experience and his sense of patient calm.”
With that being said, the theatre department was more than excited when Hubbard returned.
“It was a homecoming! When someone is away for a season their absence can be deafening,” Schmidt said. “More than anything else it’s just nice to see him in his office, to have his voice in conversation and to hear his laugh throughout the day.”
For Dr. Hubbard, it was a simple transition as he was ready to head home, despite the drastic weather difference.
“The first day back, it was zero degree here and 80 degrees in The Bahamas, so that was quite a change,” Hubbard said. “But I do enjoy the seasons, so the cold weather does not bother me much.”
After his return to the states, Hubbard was able to reflect on his sabbatical and apply what he has soaked in from his experience here at NW.
“It was good for me to be in a place where I was a racial minority, I noticed this most during teaching,” Hubbard said. “Teaching a room full of eager students, all of African descent, made me much more aware of how my audience might interpret what I was saying, especially on issues of race. This experience was challenging, illuminating and transformative.”
With two other sudden vacancies in the theatre department last fall, Schmidt described how it would have been easy to ask Professor Hubbard to stay.
“Sabbaticals are so necessary for the hearts and minds and souls of your professors. This work is taxing,” Schmidt said. “We were happy to send our beloved colleague off to a place that was much more scenic and warmer, even if it was hard at home.”
Dr. Hubbard has been a NW faculty member since 2001 and has learned much from teaching, directing and acting. However, this sabbatical was a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn and experience something new.