Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"You're eventually going to enjoy coming to academic conventions...

...for the chance to reconnect with your friends."

The wonderful wife of one of my mentors at Ohio University (from where I earned my Ph.D.) once told me that attendance/participation at an academic convention, such as the one I am attending this week, was more than just being at the convention.

She said that at some point I would grow comfortable enough in higher education and feel as if I belong in the academy that I would appreciate the opportunity to see old friends.

Starting last year I began to feel that, and this year it really has come through. Tonight, for example, my wife and I had dinner with three people who attended graduate school with me. Two other people joined us. The conversation moved from our days at Ohio University, how that school and the town in which it is located have changed, where we are in our professional lives and where we are in our personal lives.

Earlier today, I heard from a woman who was an undergraduate student when I was at Ohio University and who is now in a doctoral program as well. We're planning to have breakfast Friday morning.

No, my professional responsibilities have not been tossed aside; tonight, for example, I am rereading a group of papers that form a research session for which I am the discussant. (For those not in higher education, think of a discussant as a kind of analyst.) I also have been meeting various people interested in an academic position at my current institution.

But the difference this year is that comfort with putting the convention away, so to speak, to share those conversations with people who are colleagues and friends. The handshakes and hugs make the day much better.

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