Drescher Leave Program Aids Junior Faculty, Professionals in Path to Permanency

Man in gray sweater points to a projection as he speaks to a classroom full of students.
Faculty and professionals can enhance their goal of receiving tenure or permanent status through the Drescher leave. Applications for the Fall 2024 semester are due Friday; applications for Spring 2025 are due in October. (Photo by Patrick Dodson)

By Margaret Hartley

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb. 27, 2024) — When Hillary Wiener took a semester-long leave of absence through the Drescher program, she found the time to revise two articles and write a third, all of which have since been published.

“Taking Drescher leave was very important to both my academic and personal development,” Wiener, an assistant professor of marketing in the Massry School of Business, said. “Having time to concentrate on research is invaluable."

A man in a white shirt and gray jacket holds a small robot
Assistant Professor Benjamin Yankson took a research leave in Fall 2022 through the Dr. Nuala McGann Drescher Leave Program. (Photo by Patrick Dodson)

Benjamin Yankson, an assistant professor of cybersecurity in the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity, said his Drescher leave allowed him time to develop a National Science Foundation career grant, complete manuscripts and submit them for publication, and work on a grant program for undergraduate experiential research through his Hack IoT lab.

“The award was significant in helping me improve my scholarship and providing me the time to jump-start my grant writing,” he said.

The Dr. Nuala McGann Drescher Leave Program provides funding for junior faculty in tenure track positions to take research leaves that can enhance their goal toward tenure. It also offers leaves to UUP-represented staff for professional development that will assist in their getting permanent appointment. The program is run by the New York State UUP, and funding at UAlbany is shared by the union and the University. Applications for Fall 2024 awards are due Friday; applications for Spring 2025 are due Oct. 15.

"The Drescher leave is a great example of the benefits the union has been able to negotiate for its members, providing crucial assistance to academic and professional faculty who are pre-tenure or permanent appointment,” said Paul Stasi, president of UUP’s UAlbany chapter and an associate professor of English in the College of Arts and Sciences. “I urge all eligible members to apply." 

Funding, and the number of leave grants offered each semester, is limited. But you can always reapply if you aren’t initially approved for leave.

“I applied three years in a row before I received the award in Fall 2020 and went on leave in Spring 2021,” said Aleksandra Kovacheva, also an assistant professor of marketing. “Looking back, the award was instrumental in giving me the time and energy to focus exclusively on research for a semester, at a pivotal stage in my career. All three of the projects that I worked on during my Drescher leave are published today — two in premier marketing journals. And while these publications took several years to materialize, the Drescher leave gave me the opportunity to move them closer to publication faster.”

The Drescher program was established by UUP’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee to promote diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity in SUNY’s workforce. Preference is given to employees who are underrepresented in their department, program or school because of their age, race, gender, national origin, military or veteran status, disability or any other protected status. This includes those who are underrepresented in a particular unit or program.

The University commits to paying the salaries of employees on Drescher leave, hiring a temporary person to fill their role and paying up to 20 percent of the replacement’s salary. UUP pays the remainder of those salaries.

Recipients of Drescher awards can apply to have their tenure clock stopped for the duration of the leave, something Wiener said she benefitted from. “I took a semester of Drescher leave, and so went up for tenure a semester later than I otherwise would have,” she said. “I had two papers accepted during that semester, so the extra time made a big difference for me in terms of my likelihood to get tenure.”

“The Drescher leave gives our faculty and professional staff the gift of time — a concentrated period that allows them to focus solely on their research, scholarship and professional development,” said Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Carol Kim. “And while this certainly has personal benefits for the awardees themselves, we have found the larger UAlbany community benefits because the Drescher awardees return invigorated and armed with new ideas to share.”

The application deadline for Fall 2024 leave is Friday. All application materials can be found through the state UUP site.

“The Drescher award and leave program is fantastic, and I recommend every junior faculty who qualifies to take advantage of it as a great avenue to work on scholarship or other initiatives supporting their respective long-term goals at the University at Albany,” Yankson said.