This is my last night in New York. It is the last night of MLA 2018, and I must confess that I have been pleasantly surprised by the experience. I didn’t know what to expect coming in. The MLA conference is impressive. There are hundreds of panels filled with incredibly competitive and successful scholars many of whom have decades of research and publication experience behind them. The sheer immensity of the content can be intimidating.
It can also be inspiring. It is exciting to be a part, however small, of such an undertaking. I know that, for me, the experience is one that I will certainly value as I continue to pursue my research interests and goals. After all, that is why I came.
Indeed, I came to MLA 2018 for two reasons.
First, I was lucky enough to be accepted to present with an incredible panel of scholars on “Open Pedagogy: Practices in Digital Citizenship and the Ethics of Care.” In the panel, I talked about on software practices in the classroom with a focus on open source technology and the opportunities and challenges that using such software presents. The panel discussion that resulted was delightfully productive and I was grateful not just to the presenters but to the attendees whose comments, questions, and contributions helped to make the panel even more interesting and enlightening.
Second, I had the distinct honor of being accepted into the Connected Academics Boot camp. To be honest, if I was worried about MLA, I was even more worried about the boot camp. I applied because I want to explore career possibilities for doctoral scholars that extend beyond the traditional professoriate. Connected Academics seemed like a perfect opportunity to do that. I was worried, though. I am older, and I have a large amount of what I would call professional baggage. More often than not, that puts me me in a very different place than many of my cohort. To be fair, there were times when I felt a bit like the odd-man out, but overall the experience was far more generative and fruitful than I could have hoped. What impressed me about the Connected Academics was the optimism and the sheer excitement they brought to the idea of exploring these new career options. We, as humanities scholars, need that optimism. We should be advocating for and celebrating the idea that our skills and expertise are needed not just inside the University but in every facet of our society. We still have a few sessions to go, but I already know that I will leave this conference with a renewed passion for encouraging humanities scholars to look beyond the University. As I go on the market this fall, I am not sure where I will end up. Thanks to Connected Academics, I look to that time not with trepidation but with a sense of hope and expectation. That alone made the trip worth it.
So there it is, my MLA 2018 experience in a nutshell. I will probably go more into depth later on, but I wanted to post this reflection while it meandered through my mind as I sit here on my all-too-comfy bed in my all-too-comfy my hotel room. It’s been a bit snowy, a bit cold, a bit chaotic, and I got to learn all about bomb-cyclones first-hand. Mostly, though, it’s been an wholly positive experience.