Decompress: Minnowbrook

The three-day conference in the Adirondacks ended yesterday; in the
afternoon, several of us caravanned back to campus in the rides provided by the
University. More background: The event convenes each year in the spring.
Put on by the Graduate School staff whose work involves professional development
for graduate students, the conference draws together PhD students and faculty
from a variety of disciplines (journalism, anthropology, geography, and so on)
and institutions (SU, Onondaga CC, and several SUNY schools). Attendees
pop in and out throughout the three days, but altogether there were 40-50 people
present on any given day. Our program sent two faculty members and three
students, all of us involved with the Future Professoriate Program at SU. The
program, as I noted the other day, was a mix of general sessions and concurrent
sessions. On the final day (yesterday), there were a few roundtables, but
with just 30-45 minutes, they felt too brief to get into much substantive
discussion. Still, the conversations across disciplines linger as the most
compelling aspect of the conference. It’s unusual to locate avenues for
cross-disciplinary contact, much less opportunities for the convergence of
multiple disciplinary vantages rather than the perspectival 1:1 of rhet/comp and
geography, let’s say, or rhet/comp and IST. This oversimplifies, of course, glossing that
any individual might be a nomadic collocation–a knot of multiple
influences–unto themselves. But I’m getting at primary affiliations and
recognized roles: the label on a name tag, for instance.

Here are the sessions I attended (with session type in parentheses):

Influencing Classroom Culture (general)
Integrating Research into Teaching (concurrent)
Insights on Publishing (concurrent)
Electronic Portfolios and Portfolio Critique (general)

Learning from Experiences – The ‘Un-Vita’ (general)
Using Technology to Extend the Classroom (concurrent)
Tenure, Unionization and other Facets of Faculty Life at Different Institutions
Academic Job Interviewing Simulations (general)

Beyond the Lecture: Bringing the Classroom Alive (general)
Experiential Learning (concurrent)
Setting and Fulfilling your Independent Research Agenda (roundtable)
Building Connections–Professional Networking (roundtable)

The first night’s session on electronic portfolios was
surprising in part, at least, because I was the only one in the room with an
electronic portfolio of sorts, even if "portfolio" never really comes to mind
explicitly when I think about the assorted self-representations I’m assembling
here. The session was
split between a general overview of professional portfolios and breakouts where
six of us introduced our stuff and talked through the ideas driving whatever
we’d brought. But the lead-up discussion kept breaking down, split along
an event-modeled framing of portfolios as a particular response to a particular
exigency (answering a committee’s request, for example, related to a job app or
T&P) and, on the other hand, portfolios as a habit of collecting and
presenting that which is in progress throughout a doctoral program of study.
I sensed that the breakouts, perhaps because they were more focused on
tangible portfolios, were more satisfying for everyone. As I talked, I
tried to get at the idea of fashioning a digital ethos and being in the
network underscored by habits of writing activity.

The session on "Using Technology to Extend the Classroom" involved an
overview of the many technology-oriented expectations imposed on the faculty at
Onondaga Community College. Problems: so many sites! so many passwords! poor
design! I suppose I’m being flippant, but what started out reasonably strong
ended with examples of eBay bids (our professional technologies blend with
our personal technologies!) and finally–the centerpiece of the really interesting
conversation that capped the talk–an ameil from a desparate student that
included, Gasp!, typos, no capitalization and informal address.
Interesting about the Q&A and related discussion was that it primed us into us to
cross-talk about writing in a roundabout sort of way without those of us
from the writing program needing to defend or assert any particular view.
Responses ranged from "danged unconscientious students!" to "big deal."

I suppose I’ll sound like I’m complaining if I write that I left the
professional networking session wishing for something slightly different.
It’s not that the advice was bad. That’s not it at all. It’s just
that "Building Connections" fell neatly into the business-modeled domain of
shaking hands and being a good muckety-muck (flip again?). My bias against the
"market yourself" gloss grows out of experiences here in the blogstream, coming
to know others and in turn to be known by interactions that blur the
faux-division between professional networks and social networks. How can
the logics of social networks and social networking apps overhaul the
versions of professional networking (as pandering)? Maybe it can’t.
But I really like the question, and even though change along this front moves at
a glacial pace, I think we must continue to ask: why not look to social
networking models? why not ponder the connections denied because of too hastily
relegating social networking models to the trivial, to the inconsequential?
I brought it up briefly, but then somebody suggested I was an extrovert.
Oh, maybe. But I’d resist self-identifying with anything -vert.
Versions, rather. A rinse of extro- and introversions: Yeah, well, and I
did have a business card on hand.

There’s much much much more, but this is ‘nough for today. Eventually I
want to get down a few thoughts about 1.) Sounds of… projects, 2.) the halo
–an advisor’s reputation as perceived network influence, 3.) the
claim that "scale is dead" (and resurrected!) over dinner on Wednesday and the
related argument discussion that nearly had me breaking a sweat
(what happens when PhD students across disciplines disagree?), 4.) job interview
simulations (play-acting a search committee with folks from other
disciplines–me, a geographer and an info science technologist–interviewing an
anthropologist and then a comp/rhet candidate), and 5.) chatting with the editor
of Names: The Journal of
and related ideas about toponyms and