The 47th annual meeting of the Northeast Modern Language Association begins Thursday, March 17, in Hartford, Connecticut. I will be posting summaries for some of the sessions in which I am fortunate enough to be participating. For this initial post, I want to express my gratitude to NeMLA for providing not only opportunities to present my research and to discuss topics of importance to me with other scholars, but also for the work opportunities the organization has provided.
As Director of Marketing and Communications for NeMLA, I am in contact with the Board, with local organizers, and with session participants to best advertise the special events, the local tourism, and the presentations that take place each year. The work I do helps publicize all that NeMLA has to offer in the professionalization and scholarship of its members. Collaborating with the Board and with staff at the University of Buffalo, we proofread all sessions before they are in print and online, we draft the content and layout for the two newsletters mailed each year, and we use social media to direct advertisements directly to interested audiences. Some of my greatest satisfaction comes from being able to help spread the word about funding options, workshops, speaking engagements, and advising that NeMLA offers to scholars and teachers of languages and literature.
My work with NeMLA started by just presenting. In my second year at the English PhD program at Stony Brook University, with encouragement from advisers, I submitted abstracts to sessions that may fit with seminar papers and initial dissertation research. One of the remarks repeated by NeMLA participants is that the conference benefits from being one of the largest conventions, attracting scholars from all over the world, while still having the close-knit structure of a regional conference. If I had not felt welcomed by NeMLA in my first presentations, I’m not sure how my career path would have differed: the organization opened up opportunities in work and in maintaining associations with colleagues at other universities and organizations.
NeMLA was an outlet for presenting on content that was within my methodological approach in gender studies, even if the content was far removed from the usual source material I was analyzing. While working on my dissertation in domesticity in the antebellum United States, it was my paper on Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog that secured me a spot on a roundtable organized by former NeMLA executive director Elizabeth Abele. Elizabeth was one of many mentors I have had in my studies, and she provided opportunities for me to become more involved with NeMLA that helped me in at least three important ways. First, she developed the roundtable into a volume, which became one of my first printed publications. Second, she recommended me to work on the NeMLA convention newsletter, which eventually turned into my position as Director of Marketing and Communications. Third, Elizabeth kept encouraging me to present at conferences, which helped me to develop topics that demonstrated my breadth as a scholar. Based on how Elizabeth constructed her own roundtable, I co-organized my own with NeMLA and K. Wayne Yang and Keith McCleary at UC San Diego. This roundtable, on comics and pedagogy, eventually developed into another roundtable Keith and I held at the MLA in January 2016.
My participation in NeMLA is work that I take seriously. I try to stay involved each year, beyond my capacity as convention staff, to keep organizing sessions and keep presenting on other organizers’ sessions. In addition to the debt I owe to Elizabeth, I appreciate the opportunities provided by NeMLA Board members and staff including executive director Carine Mardorossian, associate executive director Brandi So, administrative assistant Renata Towne, and webmaster Jesse Miller. I have enjoyed the opportunities getting to collaborate with them, and I think their work on the 2016 meeting in Hartford will help the organization progress and better address the goals and interests of NeMLA’s membership.