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Professional Development Leaves: Principles and Policies

University policy gives guidelines for all different types of faculty leaves, including personal leaves (see This webpage specifically provides guidelines for professional development leaves (PDL) for FHSS faculty. If you have any questions, please contact the current Associate Dean for Development. It is also recommended that you visit with the associate dean about general plans and budgetary details before assembling a complete proposal. The associate dean can give guidance for a realistic proposal.


  • The university policy on professional development leaves states that a leave should be justified by "a significant extension of professional knowledge, experience, or skills beyond those already possessed." Leaves help faculty (a) keep current in their disciplines and (b) develop knowledge and skills that enable them to conduct meaningful research and provide high quality teaching. Leaves can be taken for a variety of reasons including (a) knowledge renewal (retooling), (b) the extension of knowledge (a faculty's competency is strengthened), and (c) publication of a significant scholarly work. Normally, leave applications that simply finish a research project or desire time for normal course development are not justified. Faculty members should produce scholarship and continually improve their courses as part of normal academic life.
  • A visiting faculty position elsewhere should focus on research rather than on teaching.
  • Upon returning from a professional development leave, the faculty member is expected to provide a summary of his or her experience for the benefit of colleagues.
  • There is a yearly December 1st deadline for proposals, in order to better anticipate the ongoing costs of supporting leaves. However, PDL proposals can be submitted at any time of the year if an exceptional opportunity suddenly arises (subject to budget constraints).
  • Remember that college funding of PDL costs is a rarity that we enjoy at BYU. Most institutions only have resources to allow faculty to have salary and benefits during a part-year sabbatical and partial salary for a full-year sabbatical. There is typically no funding for travel, lodging, etc. that is provided by the home institution. Faculty at these institutions must seek external funding or fund PDL activities out of pocket (and economize in doing so). At BYU, we are anxious to provide needed financial assistance for a successful PDL. We simply ask that faculty are frugal and realistic in planning their PDL budgets.

Eligibility for Professional Development Leaves

  • Department chairs oversee the PDL process and an applicant should discuss potential leave plans with their chair before they consider applying. Work with your chair to design a meaningful PDL and to ensure that timing of the leave works for the department.
  • Generally speaking, you must have CFS to apply for a leave. Pre-CFS faculty may be granted a leave for "extraordinary opportunities" that the department chair and college dean support. The CFS "clock" typically does not stop during such leaves, however.
  • Faculty members desiring leaves immediately post-CFS must wait for university CFS confirmation before a PDL proposal will be considered by the AAVP (Associate Academic Vice President) and AVP (Academic Vice President). A tentative PDL proposal is submitted at the December 1st deadline (to support college planning).
  • Professional development leaves of a semester or more are allowed once every seven years (six years in between the end of one leave and the start of another). Exceptions for rare opportunities can be entertained. If an exception is granted, the amount of time less than 6 years will be added on to the waiting requirements of the next leave request.

Length of Leave

  • The standard length of a professional development leave is six months. A leave may be granted for up to one year (but not at 100% salary; see additional details in the Costs section below).
  • University policy dictates that a leave of six months allows for one semester and one term (Fall semester and half of winter semester is NOT a possible time frame).
  • With approval of your department chair, you may officially ask for a 6-month leave (to ensure 100% salary) but supplement time away from campus with the term you are "off contract" (spring/summer/fall OR winter/spring/summer). However, the college may only have resources to pay for 6 months of PDL support, so you may have to cover expenses of the additional two months out-of-pocket, with research funds, or with external resources.

Costs Associated with a Leave: General Guidelines

  • The university provides salary and benefit support (as needed) during a leave. For leaves longer than 6 months, the faculty member must find salary support as BYU provides full salary only for leaves of 6 months or less. In other words, no salary is provided for any additional months beyond 6 months in a PDL experience. If you desire to take a leave lasting longer than 6 months, it is wise to contact the benefits office to see how benefits are impacted as well (there is a fair amount of complexity involved which is difficult to encapsulate here).
  • The college may provide financial support for other aspects related to the leave (travel, lodging, research support, etc.) Support is intended to safeguard faculty members against taking a financial hit during a leave. Highest priority is given to leave applications in which the faculty member has secured outside funding to defray costs.
  • This financial support is NOT a stipend. If outside entities will pay significant amounts to support a leave (salary, benefits, lodging, etc.), then university support can be reduced or perhaps eliminated. University policy also states, "It is inappropriate for the university to provide funding in addition to that available from outside sources if it results in a double salary or in an unusual financial gain for the faculty member."
  • Faculty are expected to be reasonably frugal in their proposals. If a faculty member asks for a large number of supports (travel support, research funding support, RA support, lodging costs, etc.), the associate dean may ask faculty to choose their highest priorities and scale back their budgets. This is a matter of limited budgets and consistency in expectations across faculty proposals (these proposals often vary widely). The final proposal also needs to be approved by the current AAVP for Faculty Development, and the AAVP has consistently asked for adequate frugality and justification of all PDL expenses.
  • The college is particularly anxious to support faculty in opportunities to serve as a fellow or visiting faculty at other institutions, which are most often extended time commitments (usually at least 4 months). These long-term scholarly visits are often the most impactful and financially efficient arrangements. We prioritize opportunities in which the institution provides moving and/or housing support for the faculty member.
  • Once a budget is set, it cannot be revised upward. Faculty members may need to adjust their plans if the cost of a professional development activity exceeds the original budget. Please confer with the associate dean about these issues, particularly if it means that an activity may be dropped or substantially altered (which may also mean some savings for the college budget). Revising a budget downward is always welcome.

Travel & Lodging Costs with a PDL

  • The college does not pay daily per diem (meals) when a faculty member is a visiting faculty or fellow at another university or institution. The faculty member's salary is relied upon to provide for most day-to-day needs, just as if they are living at home. Per diem is allowed for trips that fit the usual mold of faculty travel (attending a conference or statistical training for a few days, for example).
  • Travel and lodging costs are usually the primary reason for substantial variance in the amount that faculty members may seek in a PDL support budget. Accordingly, we thoroughly review all such plans and will push faculty members to minimize costs. One way we evaluate all proposals is to consider the cost to the college per week (activity by activity). We can then see how proposals roughly compare and address outliers. We will provide guidelines for faculty members who need to revise their proposals.
  • For developmental opportunities that are brief in scope (statistical training, engaging with potential collaborators, or initiating data collections), faculty should carefully consider how they might temper the amount of necessary travel and lodging time. We understand the need to be on site in many contexts. But, if the same results can be expected with a more frugal approach (e.g., Skype conversations), faculty should pursue alternatives to costly travel and lodging.
  • If a faculty member is invited to give a talk or otherwise visit a university or institution very briefly (2-3 days, devoid of any interest in data collaboration or collection), the hosts should provide for all or most of such costs.
  • It is understandable that a faculty member may want to take a spouse or eligible dependents (defined as under the age of 19) to a PDL experience when it is longer than 3 weeks. When a spouse and/or any eligible dependents travel at university expense, the expense must be justified (especially with international travel). The faculty member should describe the additional cost of family travel (compared to expenses of traveling solo). In particular, we pay close attention to what percentage of the total budget is proposed for family travel and lodging costs. Given that the focus of a PDL is the faculty member's development, the budget cannot be predominantly focused on family travel and lodging.
  • Family travel is also best justified when the length of time is substantial. For example, flights to an international destination are more expensive, relatively speaking, when it is for 6 weeks vs. a 6-month stay. The cost of the travel is also better justified over a lengthier period of time, as it feels less like a travel experience and more like a focused investment. Finally, lodging is often more affordable when length of stay is longer.
  • Faculty members who anticipate high travel and lodging costs should seek financial support from the institutions they will visit, or from external fellowships (e.g. Fulbright) and funding sources. Within the confines of BYU, some faculty have sought Kennedy Center or WRI support for research and travel needs in order to defray what is asked of college funds.
  • We may also suggest that a faculty member consider an adjustment in plans so that they can break up travel time away from family (so that family travel is not required). For example, it may be much less expensive for a faculty member to take three two-week trips, spread out over several months, than to bring a family of five along for six weeks.
  • For long-term leaves at other universities or institutions (>2 months), faculty members are generally expected to rent their own homes, particularly when housing costs are prohibitively expensive at the PDL destination. The plan to rent one's home (and the amount of expected benefit) should be included in the budget presented to the college.
  • Faculty needing longer-term lodging are expected to thoroughly evaluate the most reasonable housing options. In other words, options such as, vacation rentals, and hotels should be contrasted with each other to find the most efficient option, and the faculty member can discuss the comparisons and justifications with the associate dean.
  • If the college cannot afford the travel costs of a particular faculty member, we may offer a set amount that the faculty member can choose to supplement with funding from other sources or out-of-pocket.

Faculty Center Supp​ort

  • The Faculty Center has a page ( which gives additional guidance for professional development leaves (physical facilities storage, renting/finding a home, online schooling for children, federal funding websites, Fulbright Scholar Program, and CIEE International Faculty Development Seminars).

Application Process

  • The first step is to complete and print the cover page and signatures page found on the University AVP website. You then complete and print The College Proposal Form. If you have trouble downloading these documents, try a different browser. Please submit the printed documents to by December 1. Six-month leave applications submitted on December 1st are for consideration for summer/fall of the very next year OR winter/spring of the year after. Longer (between 6 and 12 months) applications are considered at the same time, with the leave beginning summer term of the very next year.
  • The College Research Committee may help review leave applications, and the Associate Dean for Development makes recommendations to the Dean, who decides how applications may need fine-tuning before being sent to the Associate Academic Vice President for Faculty Development. You may be asked to revisit your proposal one or more times to make adjustments until it is fully finalized.
  • The associate dean will not submit your proposal to the AAVP until all details are completely finalized. For example, if a university is interested in hosting you during your PDL, but they take a few months to finalize whether they can offer a stipend or other financial support, your PDL application will be in limbo until details are finalized. Keep this in mind as it sometimes leads to higher costs for travel when finalizing a proposal.