A more humane relationship with work is possible.

We are working towards a world where extended leave is the norm, not the exception. To get there, we create evidence and tell stories about the transformative impact of sabbaticals on both individuals and companies.
As featured in:

Our Theory of Change:

More people taking sabbaticals...
Influences company and talent leaders and policy-makers to create sabbatical policies...
Enables people of all kinds from everywhere able to take time off…
Results in more people doing what matters to them, spending time with the people they care about, and working on things that are important.

Meet Our Team

DJ DiDonna

Founder

Dennis (DJ) DiDonna

DJ DiDonna has dedicated his career to commercializing social science research to create organizations which positively impact the world.
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Dennis (DJ) DiDonna

In 2019, DJ founded The Sabbatical Project to define, explore, and research sabbaticals. His book, based on hundreds of interviews with sabbatical-takers from across the world, will launch in 2023: be notified of its launch here. His work on sabbaticals has appeared in TIME magazine, Fast Company, the Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Quartz, Fortune and at TEDx in Silicon Valley.

DiDonna previously cofounded EFL Global, which enabled over $2B in capital to underbanked businesses and individuals across 20+ countries before being acquired in 2018.

On his sabbatical, DJ walked 900 miles on pilgrimage in Shikoku, Japan and ran a poverty research lab (LEO) at his alma mater Notre Dame. Outside of work, you can find him plotting how to be in Big Outdoors. DJ received his MBA from Harvard Business School.

Matt Bloom

Research

Matt Bloom

Matt Bloom is professor emeritus from the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame and the cofounder of Ritual.io—a wellbeing app based on his research.
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Matt Bloom

For over twenty years Matt and his WorkWell research team has studied the wellbeing of helping and healing professionals. One of their central focuses was on how people find and live into deeply meaningful work, as well as how the spiritual dimensions of work contribute to overall wellbeing. Matt is currently working on two books: one on wise wellbeing practices and a second on how people find work they experience as a life's calling.

Matt received his Ph.D. from Cornell University. Before becoming a professor, he was a consultant for Arthur Young and a financial advisor for Shearson Lehman Brothers. At Notre Dame, Matt taught classes on design thinking and innovation to undergraduates, MBA students, executives and organizations. Matt lives in the mountains of Lost River, West Virginia with his wife Kim, and loves going “off the grid” on backwoods trails whenever he can.

Kira Schrabram​

Research

Kira Schrabram​

Kira Schabram is an Assistant Professor of Management at the University of Washington.
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Kira Schrabram

Kira's research examines how to support employees who want to make a positive difference through their work in ways big and small, ranging from employees who view work as a calling‒ i.e. work as not just a paycheck but as a source of personal, social, or moral significance‒ to those engaging in everyday acts of helping, kindness, and compassion. 

Dr. Schabram is also a Faculty Affiliate of the Center for Positive Organizations at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, and her research has been published in top academic journals (Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, the Journal of Applied Psychology) and is frequently featured in outlets such as the BBC, CNN, Forbes, Financial Times, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

Laura Giurge

Research

Laura Giurge

Laura Giurge is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at London Business School and a rising scholar in the field of time, engagement, and the future of work.
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Laura Giurge

Laura earned a Ph.D. in Management from Erasmus University Rotterdam and two cum laude master’s degrees in economics and business and in human resources management from the University of Groningen. Prior to joining LSE, Dr. Giurge was a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Cornell University and at London Business School, as well as a Visiting Scholar at Harvard Business School. Her research seeks to make work better and enable all individuals to thrive and achieve their potential.

Giurge’s research has been published in top journals such as Organizational Behavioral and Human Decision Processes, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nature Human Behavior, and The Leadership Quarterly. She also publishes popular press articles in outlets such as Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal. www.lauramgiurge.com

Russell Woo

Corporate Advisory

Russell Woo

Spending half of his time as a management consultant and half as a performing artist, Russell believes wholeheartedly in the power of sabbaticals and in alternative working structures.
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Russell Woo

In his corporate work, he specializes in growth and digital transformations, especially focused on the impact of talent and training on the sustainability of long-term implementation. As an artist, Russell seeks to tell stories across several media, including classical piano, contemporary dance, and aerial circus arts.

Having personally benefited from sabbatical and flexible working policies in his own career, Russell is passionate about applying experience design principles to build customized working strategies for corporate environments. He has experience in strategizing and implementing talent initiatives across several clients, both through his work as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company and as an independent consultant.

Russell currently spends his time between Chicago and Las Vegas, and spends time off work every year regenerating his creative energy across performing arts festivals in Germany, France, and Scotland. Russell's LinkedIn and personal website.

Gena Chieco

Coaching

Gena Chieco

Gena is a Life and Executive Coach who inspires high-achieving professionals to maximize their potential by accessing their inner wisdom and cultivating a growth mindset.
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Gena Chieco

Gena’s passion is in serving as a guide for personal and professional transformations through empowering clients with tools for navigating change, gaining clarity on purpose, facing fears with compassion, aligning with intuition, identifying strengths, and maximizing leadership potential. In the summer of 2018, Gena embarked on a transformational travel sabbatical, which continues to inform her approach to coaching. 

Earlier in her career as a lawyer, Gena served both terms of the Obama Administration as a right-hand to principals at the highest levels of the Federal Government, including at the White House, which gave her in-depth experience in the art of leadership. During her sabbatical, Gena began her coaching journey through the Martha Beck Institute.

When not immersing herself in her coaching work, Gena is plotting travel adventures, hiking, running, biking, writing, reading, or eating her way through Los Angeles, where she currently resides. www.genachieco.com

Gayle Grader

Advisory Board

Gayle Grader

Gayle Grader is an executive coach, career coach, business advisor, and strategist. Her life's purpose is to unleash human and business potential.
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Gayle Grader

Gayle is the Director of Executive Career Development at MIT Sloan School of Management, where she leads a team of executive coaches and industry advisors to deliver executive career programming and coaching services to executive MBA students and the alumni community. Outside of MIT, she provides private executive coaching and advisory services to a select group of clients.

Before joining MIT Sloan, Gayle spent over thirteen years providing private coaching and strategic consulting services to retail and institutional clients. In Gayle’s earlier career, she worked in consulting, investment management, investment banking and recruiting. Gayle has an MA in International Relations from George Washington University, and a BA in American Studies, cum laude, from Tufts University. She is a Professional Certified Coach through the International Coaching Federation and a Chief Guide for Chief.

Abby Falik

Advisory Board

Abby Falik

Abby Falik is an award-winning social entrepreneur and recognized expert on social innovation and the changing landscape of education.
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Abby Falik

Abby Falik is an award-winning social entrepreneur.

A recognized expert on social innovation and the changing landscape of education, Falik has been featured in Forbes, NPR, The Washington Post and The New York Times. In 2018 she was named one of Goldman Sachs’ 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs, and in 2016 Fast Company named her one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business. For her achievements as a social entrepreneur, she has been recognized as an Ashoka Fellow and a Draper Richards Kaplan Entrepreneur. She currently serves on the advisory boards of World Learning, Teach for All and the Harvard Business School.

She received a B.A. in international relations and an M.A. in International Comparative Education from Stanford University. She received her MBA from Harvard Business School.

Abby lives in Oakland with her husband, Joel Segre, and two young sons, Rio and Luca.

a photo of jeremiah chikhwaza

Jeremiah Chikhwaza

Chief of Staff

Jeremiah Chikhwaza

Jeremiah Chikhwaza is a seasoned creative who enjoys exploring the role of creativity in leadership and social impact. He leverages his skills to help leaders increase efficiency and maximize their impact.
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Jeremiah Chikhwaza

Jeremiah is the Chief of Staff at The Sabbatical Project. In his role, he supports the organization's growth and execution of strategic goals. He studied at the African Leadership University and enjoys leveraging his communication, management, and entrepreneurial skills to help leaders increase efficiency and maximize impact.

Jeremiah is passionate about helping professionals (particularly young professionals) adopt lifestyles that promote the longevity of their careers. He is a huge fan of youth empowerment and is a frequent writer, sharing on creativity and personal development in his weekly newsletter

Outside work, you might find him performing at a concert, planning a trip out of town with his wife, or learning a new skill. www.jeremiahchikhwaza.com

Rooted in Research and Experience​

What’s so powerful about extended leave?

After hearing about the transformative benefits of sabbaticals—and taking one himself—entrepreneur DJ DiDonna was surprised at the lack of research on the topic.

With support from Matt Bloom at the University of Notre Dame and the Templeton Foundation, the project interviewed sabbatical takers from all around the world, creating the world’s first research on non-academic sabbatical-takers. The interviews and findings convinced DiDonna of the broader importance of sabbaticals, and he set out to make them increasingly possible through research, advocacy and community. 

How to overcome the barriers to a successful sabbatical…​

Get Inspired

Sabbaticurious? Explore sabbatical stories, read our research, or checkout the upcoming book release.

Get Started

Committed and ready to begin your journey? Connect with a cohort or get one on one coaching & mentorship.

Get Involved

For advocates and alumni, tell us your stories, mentor others, participate in our research, or help fund the project.