I was in a closed meeting when the chants of From Ferguson to MLA! Black Lives Matter! began from up high in the East Vancouver Convention Centre. Many of us came running out of the room, and we found ourselves […]
Originally published in the Winter 2014 MLA Newsletter
Most readers of this column began their job searches during an age when the MLA Annual Convention served as the site for college and university job […]
Originally published in the Fall 2014 MLA Newsletter
Most graduate students reading this column weren’t born when I attended my first MLA convention in the late ’70s. Short version: nervous, fascinated, out of place, thrilled, intimidated, enthralled. And New York City! Although the convention has changed a great deal in the ensuing decades, for most graduate students, one question still pops up consistently: What am I doing here?
This year the MLA convention is being held in Vancouver for the first time. The linguistically and culturally rich city promises to offer a particularly rewarding site for the convention, and I want to be sure all our members—including graduate students—are able to make the most of their time there. Having worked with the MLA Committee on the Status of Graduate Students in the Profession (CSGSP), I’m familiar with some of the ways that graduate students experience the convention. To find out more, I got in touch with several MLA members who’ve recently attended as graduate students, and here’s what I learned.
The convention offers important opportunities for scholarly development. Members reported that at sessions and in informal conversation, scholars pose serious questions and give good advice. Those who gave papers appreciated the feedback from scholars from a wide range of fields and institutions. The convention allows graduate students to hear and evaluate new scholarly work in their fields before it is published. One graduate student told me that a highlight of the convention is meeting other graduate students and identifying common research and professional interests. The comprehensive scope of the Program—which offers presentations in English and in languages other than English, on film, music, popular culture, the profession, comparative studies, and dozens more topics—means attendees can go beyond their usual range of expertise and learn what’s happening in other fields, something that smaller conferences don’t usually facilitate.
But cost is a hurdle. The number one challenge to attending the convention is cost. Travel and lodging expenses can add up to a hefty sum, and this year there may be fees associated with acquiring or renewing passports and visas for non-Canadian citizens traveling to Canada. Some departments fund graduate student travel, and the MLA offers $400 travel grants to all eligible applicants. For the first time this year, the MLA offered a block of rooms at a discounted price. Also new for the 2015 convention: students seeking roommates can post on MLA Commons. One member suggested staying with friends (or friends of friends) in the area, and another proposed that members in Vancouver who have extra space offer it.
And attending the convention can feel overwhelming. Some graduate student members recall feeling isolated, lonely, lost, or overwhelmed at the convention. While these sensations tend to hit all first-time attendees, graduate students generally have a smaller on-site network than other attendees, and they may also be facing the intense stress of seeking a job.
To help graduate student attendees feel connected and make the convention a good experience, here’s a list of ten tips from seasoned attendees. If you have a tip to add, I encourage you to leave a comment on this column on MLA Commons.
Familiarize yourself with the way the convention works. The CSGSP assembled a useful guide that takes you step-by-step through deadlines, items to pack, and ways to save money. More resources and tips are available in the convention blog.
As soon as you’ve decided you will attend the convention, begin to network. How? Use MLA Commons to get connected. Join the 2015 MLA Convention group and participate in discussions in other groups as well. Make plans to go out for dinner with a group. Find a roommate.
Check the convention area of the MLA Web site. You’ll find announcements on excursions, cultural events, and other relevant convention information. The cities we visit provide a rich range of cultural resources that can help you recharge.
Once the Program comes out, plan, plan, plan. Mark all sessions you may wish to attend. The MLA offers a mobile version of the Program, and you can create a personalized schedule and share it with others. If someone is presenting on a topic close to your research interests, you might drop a line and say you’re looking forward to the session and to meeting him or her. Many session organizers use MLA Commons to discuss the material presented, make social arrangements, and so on.
Find at least one other person—another student, a faculty member from your current or past institution—who will commit to joining you at the Presidential Address or the Awards Ceremony and the receptions that follow them. You won’t feel alone, and you will also meet new people. Congratulate the president on her address. Converse with award winners about the topics of their books.
The CSGSP sponsors at least two sessions. Be sure to attend those sessions and talk to the participants. You might also want to connect with members of the CSGSP on MLA Commons before the convention. They enjoy hearing from graduate students, and they want to be part of your on-site network. Read the CSGSP blog for information and resources especially for graduate students. Also check out sessions on nonteaching careers, contingent labor issues, and graduate studies.
Before, during, and after the convention, Twitter offers a way to connect with other attendees (and other interested people). Many graduate students have created a virtual community through Twitter, one that yields interactions, connections, and maybe dinner. Or at least coffee.
You’ll find members of the CSGSP and fellow graduate students in the graduate student lounge in the Vancouver Convention Centre (201, level 2, West Building), a great place to hang out, network, debrief, and eat some (free) munchies. Be prepared to exchange contact information.
Spend time at the exhibit hall. Not only do you get to see what’s being published in fields of interest, you can also chat with acquisitions editors about your work. If you find yourself in the exhibit hall between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m., chances are you’ll come across a booth party. Indulge!
If you are on the job market, take advantage of the preconvention workshops for job seekers, the demonstration interviews, and job counseling with an experienced professor (sign up at the Job Information Center, in the Fairmont Waterfront).
I hope these suggestions communicate clearly that whatever you are doing at the convention, your participation has enormous potential and great value—for all attendees, and for you personally. As one MLA member said to me about attending the convention, “I have always looked at it as an investment in my future.” My colleagues on staff and I look forward to seeing many of you in Vancouver.
Registration is now open for #MLA15. Hope to see you in Vancouver!
Since its release, the report of the Task Force on Doctoral Study in Modern Language and Literature has generated useful discussions about the challenges faced by our fields and potential strategies for […]
The Executive Council received the report of the Task Force on Doctoral Study in Modern Language and Literature at its meeting on 20–21 February 2014 and approved it for dissemination to the membership. The task […]
We are thrilled to announce a new structure to replace the division/discussion groups. Join in! http://news.mla.hcommons.org/2014/05/14/new-mla-forum-structure
We left it open precisely so MLA members could determine the scope. It could be about writing programs only, or it could include language program admins, DGSs, DUSs, and so on (so the sessions could vary year after year at the convention).
Rosemary Feal wrote a new post, Expanding Career Horizons: Possibilities, Pitfalls, on the site From the Executive Director on MLA Commons 9 years, 7 months ago
Originally published in the Summer 2014 MLA Newsletter
In recent years, the MLA has been exploring a new project to expand career opportunities for PhD holders, one we expect to refine and develop in the years ahead. Before I tell you more about the project, I want to acknowledge several potential objections to it. Some MLA members have told me that discussions of careers beyond the classroom are the wrong kind of conversation for us to have. This group of members believes that the MLA should concentrate on fighting for tenure-track positions on campus in language and literature fields—even though staffing decisions are particular to each institution. Some argue that the employment conditions of those already working as adjuncts deserve more of our attention. Still others note that, to the extent graduate education needs reforming, it should, if anything, focus more on preparing PhD candidates for the research expectations that they will face should they win one of the coveted tenure-track jobs.
I can see why members might feel this way, yet this project doesn’t need to be an either-or effort. The association has worked extensively on issues related to academic careers (full- and part-time), and we won’t abandon our advocacy and research role in these matters. We will continue to collect and analyze data, to argue for appropriate working conditions, and to create models for departments and institutions to follow. We will speak out and act up by naming harmful practices and calling for solutions. We will increase our support for graduate students, adjuncts, and unemployed members. And we will also provide resources so that PhD students can expand their career horizons.
When we began this collaborative project with the American Historical Association (AHA), our aim was to collect and disseminate information about long-term employment outcomes for humanists who hold the PhD and to develop structures that individuals and departments can use going forward as far as careers are concerned. Most people assume that the relative paucity of tenure-track jobs translates into long-term unemployment or underemployment for PhDs who don’t land a tenure-track position. Yet PhDs who desire full-time jobs can indeed find them—though not necessarily as professors. Data show that PhDs have had diverse employment outcomes for some time now. David Laurence, director of research at the MLA, has studied this issue. He observes that “people who enter the long and arduous path of doctoral study in the humanities do so having a postsecondary faculty career as their primary goal, and people who pursue graduate education in the humanities actually find careers in a far broader range of professional positions than postsecondary teaching, even if their first job after graduate school is a postsecondary faculty position on or off the tenure track.” The question, then, is not whether PhDs should pursue careers other than teaching, but rather how we as a field will respond to the evidence that they do.
From what PhD students report informally, the field has typically responded in ways that prove less than constructive. Students say that when they express their inclinations to explore careers other than tenure-track assistant professorships, they often receive little support from their graduate advisers, who perhaps don’t know how to help or disapprove of the choice. Advisers may also feel compelled to adhere to the existing rewards structure for job placement: Research I university placements count big, liberal arts colleges count medium, and nonacademic jobs don’t count at all. The first necessary change is attitudinal. Andrew Green, associate director at the Career Center at the University of California, Berkeley, notes that PhDs who “take jobs that they find very rewarding in business, government, or a non-profit—but are not faculty positions—typically become non-entities within their graduate programs” (qtd. in Segran). Put simply: graduate programs must recognize that a significant percentage of PhDs can and will get jobs that are not like those of their mentors. As a profession, we must support students who pursue these careers, which should be viewed not as “alternative” but as valid options in their own right.
What can scholarly associations do to make it possible for PhD candidates to broaden their career horizons? With support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the AHA has embarked on a project that holds great promise for history PhDs (“AHA”), and the MLA is planning its next steps. A major report to be released soon from the Task Force on Doctoral Study in Modern Language and Literature, chaired by Russell Berman, past president of the MLA, will map out the essential changes that departments can undertake as they seek to meet the needs of PhD students today and to engage in better tracking of graduates’ careers. The recommendations in this report lay the foundation for a more expansive view of what we train PhD candidates to do and what they can do with that training.
The MLA has begun offering panels and workshops at the annual convention to showcase a variety of careers, and the ADE and ADFL Summer Seminars for department chairs have also taken action on the topic. Under the title Careers for Humanists, the Vancouver convention will feature a suite of activities, including a job-search workshop for those interested in pursuing careers beyond the classroom or the campus. Attendees at the session I organized for the 2013 convention, “Leaders on the Right Track in the Academy,” told me that they felt encouraged that the distinguished PhDs on the panel had found successful jobs related to the academy, jobs that involve high-level decision making, a degree of autonomy, responsibility for overseeing major projects and supervising teams, and so on. These career paths don’t come into view in most graduate programs.
What’s next? The possibilities we are exploring include establishing campus-based projects, creating regional networks, using MLA Commons for career development, and perhaps even holding a job fair. Graduate students will lead many of the projects and develop transportable leadership skills in the process. Our data collection and analysis will also evolve as we learn more about the employment choices of PhDs in our fields. For any of our efforts to be successful, however, three things have to happen. First, graduate departments need to take an expanded approach to job preparation and career tracking. Second, graduate students and faculty members must recognize that, while the assistant professorship may be the primary career goal, a multitude of opportunities are out there, and people can find immense satisfaction when they elect to pursue them. Third, employers need to see PhDs in the humanities as potential hires. The MLA is one such employer, and the dozen plus staff members who hold the PhD can attest to the applicability of the degree to the work of the association. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the Expanding Career Horizons project.
“AHA Receives Grants to Expand Career Tracks for History PhDs.” AHA Today. Amer. Historical Assn., 20 Mar. 2014. Web. 2 Apr. 2014.
Laurence, David. “Our PhD Employment Problem, Part 1.” MLA Commons. MLA, 26 Feb. 2014. Web. 2 Apr. 2014.
Segran, Elizabeth. “What Can You Do with a Humanities Ph.D., Anyway?” The Atlantic.com. Atlantic Monthly Group, 31 Mar. 2014. Web. 2 Apr. 2014.
Please see this story on testing and the Common Core. There is a link to sample tests.
Rosemary Feal wrote a new post, Why Was There a Session on Academic Boycotts and a “Right to Enter” Resolution at the MLA Convention?, on the site From the Executive Director on MLA Commons 9 years, 9 months ago
Originally published in the Spring 2014 MLA Newsletter
As many of you know, controversy swirled at the 2014 MLA convention, before, during, and after. I’m still receiving dozens of messages from individuals with no connection to the MLA, some of which contain hate speech, others offering a more reasoned perspective. Only about two dozen members have communicated with me directly about the controversy, but hundreds participated in discussions at the convention, including the open hearings of the Delegate Assembly, the assembly meeting itself, and the session responsible for one part of the controversy.
Although approximately 7,500 convention attendees had a chance to experience more than eight hundred sessions and the Chicago meeting was successful in achieving its intellectual and social goals, one session generated inordinate attention: “Academic Boycotts: A Conversation about Israel and Palestine.” This special session was evaluated by the Program Committee, which accepted about sixty percent of the approximately five hundred special-session proposals it received. At the Program Committee meeting in May 2013 (long before the American Studies Association met in late November), members discussed the merits of this proposal and determined, using the committee’s guidelines, that the proposer made a cogent argument for the topic, its treatment, and the qualifications of the panelists to achieve the stated objectives. As sometimes happens, the Program Committee, which I, as executive director, chair, made suggestions for revising the session description. The committee wanted attendees to know that the “roundtable is intended to promote discussion of strategy, ethics, and academic work in larger world contexts through the lens of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and that the topic was “how to respond to this boycott or how to evaluate academic boycotts more generally.” The proposer accepted these suggestions, as the description of the session in the Program reflects.
Subsequently, following its November meeting, the American Studies Association voted to boycott Israeli universities, an action that received considerable (and mostly negative) media attention. And that is when the phone calls and e-mail messages started coming in to the MLA. I received warnings of what would transpire if I didn’t cancel the session. I was approached by two individuals representing large outside groups that opposed the MLA session. One person asked me to use my position to call off the session or instead allow people with an “opposing view” to be added to the Program. Another asked for space at the convention so a group could stage a “counterpanel.” I denied both requests, just as I would have for any other topic.
Why? Because the MLA supports the fundamental right of its members to organize convention sessions according to the policies and procedures of the association. Convention programming is member-driven. Not all sessions can please everyone, of course. Some convention attendees will go to a panel and think “Hmm, those presentations I just heard were rather one-sided,” and then they will make their voices heard by offering a pointed comment or asking a tough question. That’s why we convene: to address issues—sometimes difficult and complicated issues—in scholarship, professional matters, and, yes, public policies that affect scholars, teachers, and students.
Of the hundreds of messages I received, almost all cast aspersions on the MLA just for holding the session that was approved by the Program Committee. One person after another declared that the panelists (and, by extension, the whole association) were motivated by hatred, bias, and a covert intention to promote an association-wide academic boycott. The letter writers invoked academic freedom, which seemed to mean that the MLA must be compelled to present what they thought attendees should hear. That’s certainly not how the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) views academic freedom. Cary Nelson, former president of the AAUP and one of the most outspoken critics of the session’s content, said that the “AAUP’s position on academic events is that they do not have to incorporate opposing points of view. I agree. It is the job of those who disagree with speakers to organize their own events to promote the positions they support” (qtd. in Jaschik).
Think about it: the MLA faced a virulent attack for allowing a conversation to happen. And a conversation it was. The session moderator posed questions to the panelists that challenged their views. Audience members lined up at the microphone to state a range of opinions during the half-hour discussion period. The “countersession” (held independently of the MLA at a hotel near where the MLA session took place) went forward—and was even announced at the MLA session.
An academic conference is a meeting of peers: the structures are overseen by members, and the meeting is intended for them. Members—and only members—can organize sessions. Can nonmembers offer opinions of the work we scholars do? Of course. But should they be allowed to reengineer our convention programming to reflect their views and values? Of course not—nor are MLA members entitled to stage a panel at a conference of another professional membership association, even when they hold strong opinions on issues of vital importance.
Members gave me advice. One suggested I quietly work behind the scenes to create a countersession to the roundtable on academic boycotts. Another encouraged me to find a way to have the Program Committee ensure that sessions of an “activist” nature have a “pro-contra” character in the future. Although my job would have been a lot easier if both suggested courses of action had been undertaken this year, I refuse to interfere once the Program Committee makes decisions, unless a procedural error is made (for example, if we were to misplace a submission). I believe that our members have the right to have proposals peer-reviewed by the Program Committee without the constraint of having them set apart as “activist” and as thus requiring special measures for balance.
As for the “right to enter” resolution, there are three things to say. One: members in good standing have the right to submit resolutions (see art. 11.C.3 of the MLA constitution), to discuss them (at the convention and on the MLA Web site), and to vote on them. Two: resolution 2014-1, approved by the Delegate Assembly, concerns the right of American academics to enter the West Bank. Please read what it says. Three: the resolution cannot become a statement of the association unless it clears two more hurdles (see art. 11.C.7 of the MLA constitution), including the requirement that “resolutions forwarded to the membership must be ratified by a majority vote in which the number of those voting for ratification equals at least ten percent of the association’s membership.” Despite the conclusions to which numerous outside groups, nonmembers, and even some members have leaped, the MLA membership has not yet ratified this resolution. If the resolution passes the Executive Council’s fiduciary review, it will be up to the MLA’s approximately 28,000 members to decide what happens next. The vote of the membership follows a month-long period in which any member may post a comment on the members’ section of the MLA Web site. This is a conversation that should happen, and I encourage you to participate in it and to vote on the resolution. Despite majority votes, neither of the two 2013 resolutions cleared the ten-percent bar. Not enough members chose to submit an electronic ballot and have their say. If my in-box is any indication, 2014 is turning out to be quite a different year.
Jaschik, Scott. “Should Panels Be Balanced?” Inside Higher Ed. Inside Higher Ed, 3 Jan. 2014. Web. 21 Jan. 2014.
Have you checked out the new PROFESSION? http://profession.mla.hcommons.org/
Originally published in the Winter 2013 MLA Newsletter
This fall, during the week of 22 September, I served as the guest blogger for PhDs at Work, a Web site where people like me who earned PhDs but do not hold academic appointments describe the daily activities they perform in their jobs. I welcomed this opportunity, because I think it’s important for those of us who use our degrees outside the classroom to speak about our positions and to offer our guidance to others who wish to pursue alternative academic careers. What follows is a modified version of my blog post for Friday, 27 September.
My workweek draws to a close, and I’m satisfied with what we’ve accomplished on staff. Rather than tell you about my day—the highlight of which was wonderful discussions with the Publications Committee and the Committee on Assessing Student Learning—I’d like to reflect on my response to one of the statements PhDs at Work asked me to complete: “If I had to do it all over again, I would. . . .” What I wrote was this: “I would have been less conventional and more of a risk taker when young. I’m making up for that now.” What does this mean for my career? To most academics, I probably appear to be conventional, at least more conventional than they are. I hold an administrative position in an association that runs like the not-for-profit enterprise it is. Lawyers, auditors, fund managers, and consultants all pass through my office. I study the bottom line, I assess progress on strategic priorities, I assemble creative teams, I run workshops, and I work long hours in the office and on the road.
Yes, I recognize the conventional in me, yet I know I take more risks now than I did in my professorial days. I always had many interests, and learning languages, which came naturally to me, served as a connector to the larger world. By the time I was seventeen, I had spent a summer in France with a school group and a year in Guatemala as an exchange student. If you’d asked me back then what I wanted to do for a living, I would have said (and did say, in fact) “secretary of state.” Yet I didn’t pursue an academic path that might have led to government service. Instead, excelling at languages meant that I majored in French and Spanish and studied literature. I didn’t know that I would love doing the literary part or that I’d have a talent for it. In my senior year, I half-heartedly applied to law school (just one) and wasn’t admitted, and I also applied to a PhD program in Spanish—and was courted. The conventional path begins here, and, in some ways, it was the path of least resistance.
The usual stages of an academic career ensued: TA, MA, ABD, adjunct, PhD, more adjunct, postdoc, assistant professor, associate professor, full professor, department chair. During those twenty years I wrote a few books and dozens of articles, gave conference papers, continued expanding my scholarly range, taught tons of courses, got very involved in the MLA, and so on. None of these things could be construed as “outside the box” or risk taking. I suppose some of the scholarly work I did treated unconventional topics, but it was all in the service of a typical academic career.
When I say I take risks now and am making up for the conventional years, that’s an exaggeration. First off, it never really occurred to me to take risks by exploring nonacademic jobs when my life as a professor seemed to be unfolding so well. Had I not obtained a tenure-track position (I worked for three years off the tenure track after I finished my PhD), I would have surely sought out other options. Yet I do wish I would have known I had so much untapped capacity in me. Whenever I describe the varied responsibilities of my current position, most of which I learned on the job, I can hardly believe that the trained academic has become a proficient executive. But why not? I see models all around me now that I know where to look.
Knowing that I have a depth of potential, and that I have already realized a good chunk of it, means I can take risks. In fact, leading an association requires an entrepreneurial spirit and a willingness to calculate risk and then go for it when warranted. I have led major change (though hardly by myself!), and this is decidedly not your mother’s or grandmother’s MLA. Not only do I want to pursue the right kind of change, I also want to shake things up in more ordinary ways that reflect my personality. Come to my party at the annual convention, and there may be a conga line, much to the surprise of those who are accustomed to a tweedy kind of dignity. I have found ways to carry out my duties with the seriousness required of the position while also managing to “be myself,” because who else is going to do that?
In my professorial days I was raising a child, which added to my sense of inhabiting conventional limits. Now, my after-work hours belong to me. Since becoming executive director of the MLA, I have trained for and completed two half marathons, joined a hiking group, learned meditation, attended four silent retreats, walked the English Way of the Camino de Santiago, and, just this fall, taken sailing lessons and achieved my basic keelboat certification. My job energizes me to learn more, try something new, reach a bit further. It also pushes me to take leisure time and use it for something other than work whenever possible. I’ll be back on a sailboat this weekend, enjoying a few hours on the Hudson River, too busy tacking and jibing to worry about drafting and revising.
Postscript: More than one person who read this text as it was originally published on PhDs at Work remarked that my going to graduate school for a PhD could hardly count as a conventional thing to do. Even though the year was 1977 and the gains of feminism were fairly well established, I had no family members after whom to fashion a postgraduate career path. My father had a high school education, and my mother, who immigrated as an infant to the United States from Sicily, attended what was then called Buffalo State Teachers College. Her parents studied reading and writing in primary school, and they were proud that their daughter became an elementary school teacher. If my mother had graduated in 1977, she surely would have been seen as “PhD material.” In truth, I’ve been a risk taker from the moment I boarded a plane for France at fifteen, as were my immigrant, working-class family members who sailed on a ship bound for Ellis Island nearly one hundred years ago.
Hoping everyone who reads this goes and comments on the draft proposal on Groups! http://groupsdiscussion.mla.hcommons.org/draft-proposal/
Blogging this week at PhDs at Work! http://phdsatwork.com/2013/09/22/witl-rgfeal-intro/
Originally published in the Fall 2013 MLA Newsletter
Now there’s a question I have never gotten—you can imagine the one I do hear—yet I think it’s important to let members know how we choose convention sessions. The first key thing to understand is that some of the association’s entities (such as divisions, discussion groups, allied organizations, and MLA committees) are entitled to sessions that do not undergo review by the Program Committee. Sessions that the committee reviews fall into two groups: special sessions, which are organized by individual members, and nonguaranteed sessions, which are submitted by MLA entities that wish to organize additional sessions (e.g., a discussion group is guaranteed one session and can compete for up to two more nonguaranteed sessions). The committee generally accepts around fifty percent of proposals; this percentage varies by year and depends in part on the number of guaranteed sessions and on space considerations.
Using a process analogous to what granting agencies do when they evaluate proposals, the Program Committee makes public a set of criteria, provides examples of successful proposals, and offers assistance before submission (or before resubmission, if your proposal wasn’t accepted). The committee scores each proposal on a 1 to 5 scale. Few proposals receive the highest score (5), which indicates that “the session proposal is well thought out, the rationale is convincing and properly documented, the panelists are shown to be well qualified to undertake the topic, and the session will be attractive to an audience.” Most accepted proposals receive an average score of 4; this means that “one or more elements” of the proposal may not meet the qualifications of a 5: “For example, the rationale might be underdeveloped; the discussion of previous scholarship might be insufficient; or one paper might not be as stellar as the others” (“Scoring Guidelines”). The committee looks for clearly articulated proposals that promise new ways of seeing (or doing) things and for presentations (or workshops) that form a coherent whole and that promise to reward attendees with a well-integrated intellectual or pedagogical experience. Just as fellowship and grant panelists learn to evaluate submissions once they’ve read stacks of them, so do Program Committee members, who typically read over four hundred proposals each year.
The reason your session was accepted is not (only) because the topic is compelling or (only) because the participants have relevant experience or name recognition that might draw an audience. The committee also considers the way you explain the focus of your proposed session and how it builds on existing knowledge, why you chose the speakers and presentations you did, and how those speakers will relate to one another in the session. (Session proposers can find plenty of guidance on the MLA Web site; especially helpful are “Proposing a Special Session,” “Convention Session FAQs,” and “Special-Session FAQs.”) The Program Committee tends to accept sessions that are supported by a strong written proposal and not those that feature solely a timely subject, a worthwhile cause, or a prestigious speaker or two. In short, proposers should not assume that the committee will “get it” and should not simply trust that a good topic, a list of interesting paper titles, and a set of fabulous panelists will a great session make.
I realize that session proposals often get written without much lead time for review and revision. Only a superproficient special-session-proposal author can turn out a 4.5–5 quality proposal in the wee hours before 1 April. For most of us, the time-consuming process of drafting, consulting (with fellow panelists and other colleagues), and rewriting produces the best results. Let us know how we can help.
“Scoring Guidelines for MLA Special Sessions and Competitive Sessions.” Modern Language Association. MLA, 22 Mar. 2011. Web. 3 Sept. 2013.
Hoping many members will participate in the convo on new group structure to replace current divisions and discussion groups: http://groupsdiscussion.mla.hcommons.org/
Please participate in the discussion on revised Divisional Structure! http://groupsdiscussion.mla.hcommons.org/
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