Monday, October 26, 2015

Networking: Another difference between institution types

So I strongly suspect that most of my keen, incisive observations about the differences between my new (public, big, R1) institution and my old (rural, private, tiny, SLAC) institution are pretty freaking obvious, but they still keep smacking me in the face like they're subtle and earth-shattering revelations.

Well, maybe not earth-shattering.

Anyway, one that's occurred to me lately is the ease of networking at this big school, which also happens to be very close to four other schools. At Field, I was the lone medievalist of any kind at the entire college; I was also a half-hour drive from any OTHER college or university, and those others (a couple of community colleges, a state university, and two smaller private universities were within about 45 minutes) weren't really powerhouses in my field. Nor did I have any real "in" at those schools. Nor did I have a great deal of time (or, okay, desire--I'm a little shy) to cultivate such "ins." Nor am I--truth be told--any good AT ALL at networking.

For the longest time--in fact, still now, but I'm fighting it tooth and nail--my inclination, when asked about my research, is to change the subject as quickly as possible. It's probably easiest to just blame that on my thoroughgoing imposter syndrome.

NOW, however, I am in a substantial community of medievalists (from a variety of disciplines, from all five colleges/universities in the area), some of whom are very friendly and have made a point of introducing me around. And there are Events--a series of seminars, for example, that I'm involved with and that brings together scholars from a range of Humanities disciplines from various periods; at our first big meeting this last weekend, I had lunch with an art historian, an English professor, and a religion professor, from three different colleges, all of whom have interests that overlap with mine. (Also an archaeologist, which was cool but less professionally relevant.) This coming week, I'm invited to a dinner with a Big Shot Awesome Medievalist visiting Nearby College, so I will get to talk with her and the other local lit-medievalists who will be attending. And immediately upon arriving on campus I was asked to give a talk this Spring to the local medievalist group (because of a dearth of willing speakers, I suspect).

All of a sudden, I get how people wind up with those prefaces that thank twenty-five thousand people. If you're at a school with a large network of scholars, and that also invites scholars to campus, you will meet more people; you will have circles that can help you think through problems or give feedback on manuscripts; you will (eventually) be invited to submit to collections or give talks or do other cool things of that nature.

I should mention here that the acknowledgements page to my first book thanked, I believe, exactly three other medievalists: my dissertation committee. No, make that five: I also thanked the reviewers.

I still think that I'm not very good at networking. But I'm excited to see how being in an environment that facilitates networking might help me to find a (local, live) scholarly community.

1 comment:

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

That's really awesome! I have reached out to local Shakespeareans, and have only had one that I've become kind of buddies with. The others were cordial, but didn't invite me to lunch or anything like that. I have had lunch with the other guy a couple of times and stayed in email contact. (He's very, very near retirement, and I would love his job, but he seems determined to teach until death, which I hope doesn't come soon. He's a great guy!)

It's very lonely being the only person who does what I do at my SLAC. The medievalist is the only person who is really interested in what I have to say about early British stuff, and I fawn over her really cool material culture stuff. But other than that, the networking for me is left to conferences. I'm naturally pretty good with talking to strangers and whatnot, but my imposter syndrome also makes me clam up about my research, despite the fact that it seems to be the only thing going extremely well right now. Anyway -- I'm glad things are going well there and that you're feeling welcomed into the fold!