Monday, April 16, 2018
April 16, 2018: NeMLA Recaps: Back to the Board
[This past weekend was the 2018 Northeast MLA convention in Pittsburgh. It was a great time as usual, and this week I’ll highlight some standout moments and conversations. Leading up to a weekend post on how you can get involved in this great organization!]
On two categories of reasons why I’ve rejoined the NeMLA Board.
As longtime readers of this blog know, much of my last half-dozen years has been spent as part of the NeMLA Executive Board, leading up to my year as President presiding over the 2016 convention in Hartford. That service ended with the 2017 convention in Baltimore, the conclusion of my year as the organization’s Past President. While I knew that I’d want to stay connected to this organization that has meant so much to me, not only for these recent years but for well more than a decade of conferences and experiences, I was quite sure my time as part of the NeMLA leadership had ended. Yet this fall I found myself running for the position of American Literature Director (to succeed my friend and colleague John Casey, who has done exceptional work with this position and area since 2015), and a couple months ago I was fortunate enough to win that election and as of this past weekend am now the next NeMLA American Lit Director.
Despite my passive voice “found myself” construction above, this was of course a choice of mine, and not one I made lightly given my general schedule craziness. If I’m being honest, the constellation of motivations at the top of the list are relatively selfish ones: NeMLA and the NeMLA Board are two of my all-time favorite academic communities, and I was genuinely sad to be leaving them and jumped at the chance to rejoin. As I wrote in this goodbye post (which now reads like a statement from one of those musicians who “retire” from touring only to be back out on the road a year later, but so it goes!), it’s rare to find such a professional community, and I would encourage everyone who does so to work hard to remain connected to it. To that end, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that whatever the time and schedule commitments and obligations, keeping that connection with the NeMLA Board going would offer me far more benefits than challenges. That’s my number one question about any schedule additions, now and going forward, and when I find ones that definitively contribute more than they take, I’m very likely to choose to pursue them.
There’s another big category of motivations behind this choice, though, and I’d classify them generally as “unfinished business.” During my years on the Board, I worked hard to bring a number of issues more fully into NeMLA’s conventions and conversations: adjunct faculty and issues of labor in higher ed; public scholarship and what organizations like NeMLA can and should do in our society; connections between academic conversations and public education; and relationships of academic conferences to local communities, among others. While the American Literature Director position has a number of specific responsibilities that will be my primary focus for each year’s convention—overseeing the selection of panels and roundtables within this area; finding Special Events speakers; connecting to historic and cultural sites in our host cities—I fully intend to find ways to continue those earlier efforts through this new role. I don’t wish I knew how to quit NeMLA (no more than Jake really wanted to quit Heath), and I’m very excited to see where this next chapter in the connection takes me.
Next recap tomorrow,
PS. NeMLA responses or thoughts? Other organizations or conferences you’d highlight?