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Friday, March 13, 2020

March 13, 2020: NeMLA Recaps: Mentorships

[Last week was one of the busiest of my professional career, featuring a series of great Boston events, culminating in the 51st Northeast MLA convention. So this week I’ll recap that convention and those other events, leading up to a special weekend post on what’s next for NeMLA and how you can get involved!]
On two overt initiatives and one subtler form of mentorship at NeMLA.
1)      The CV Clinic: I remember quite clearly when my friend, the feminist comp/rhet scholar (and truly badass poet) Indigo Eriksen, created this new initiative for grad students and early career folks at NeMLA. I’m pretty sure I knew right away how valuable this service would be, in no small measure because I sure could have used such advice and guidance in my own grad school and adjunct faculty stages. And through my own sessions at just about every CV clinic since that first version (something like 6 or 7 years ago now), I’ve come to believe it’s one of the very best things any conference could offer—not just for the practical advice, but also and perhaps especially because it builds connections, conversations, and networks that can endure far beyond these 30-minute sessions. I’ve kept in touch with many of my CV Clinic mentees, and value these relationships a great deal.
2)      Publishing Mentorship: Over the last couple years, another remarkably badass scholar and NeMLA community builder, Claire Sommers, has taken over the leadership of those professional sides to the conference and organization and added new ones to the mix as well. That latter list includes the inspiring Undergraduate Forum, but also a less visible and equally important initiative, the Publishing Mentorship program. I talked at the conference on a session (organized by Claire, natch) about my experiences in the first year of that program, which certainly seems to have been helpful to my mentee but which I know for a fact was deeply meaningful for me. The chance to read, give feedback on, learn from, and help move forward the work of a fellow scholar with whom we have no other relationship—meaning that this particular dynamic can be entirely about this form of support and collegiality—is quite simply different from any other side to the profession I’ve experienced, and I recommend that everyone who has the chance to take part in an initiative like this find a way to do so.
3)      Annual Reconnection: This is a complex point, and I don’t imagine I’ll be able to do justice to it in a few sentences. But I found myself thinking a lot at this conference about the number of people whom I see at and around NeMLA (and in most of those cases only at and around NeMLA), but with whom (because those connections are more or less annual and thus part of one of my more consistent professional communities) I feel that I’m engaging in often decade-long conversations. That’s a truly meaningful dynamic in lots of ways, but perhaps an underappreciated one is that it helps us both talk about and reflect on our stages and arc, our continuities and changes, the ongoing development of our work and career. I can safely say that I’m a significantly better scholar thanks to my NeMLA connections and relationships, which is just one more argument for being part of this exemplary community and conference!
Special post this weekend,
PS. If you were at NeMLA 2020, I’d love to hear your thoughts and takeaways as well!

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