MLA Convention conundrum

This year’s MLA Convention program is up, and I’m already excited about connecting with people and hearing about their latest work. I’m also feeling a little uneasy about my own presentation, though. Or rather, I wish I could belatedly add a second presentation that is rooted in my current work at SCI.

Proposals for MLA presentations are due early in the year; I submitted mine mid-March, and I think most deadlines fell around the same time. It’s an entirely reasonable time frame given the size and complexity of the convention, but it also means there’s a significant lag between submission and presentation. At that time, I was still at Sloan, though I knew (unofficially) that I’d be starting at SCI soon after. I knew that my work this year would have me digging deeply into the landscape of alternative academic careers, but I didn’t know enough of the specifics it would entail to write a proposal on it, and the study that has been my primary focus didn’t exist yet. So, because I knew I wanted to go to the MLA (and because I wanted to give myself some research and writing homework), I proposed a paper that was grounded in my academic background — one I had been wanting to write, and that I’ll be happy to present and get some feedback on.

But at the same time, I have so very much I want to talk about related to SCI’s recent study. We have all the data, and while I’m still analyzing it, the MLA would be *such* a great place to talk about preliminary results and their significance. There are a number of great panels on alt-ac careers, on rethinking graduate education and the dissertation, and several others in the same vein, which I am simply delighted to see. I so want to contribute to what will be excellent and stimulating conversations — but I just couldn’t have predicted what I would want to say when proposals were due.

Another bind is that by the following convention, January 2014, I’ll no longer be at SCI — and I don’t know where I’ll be instead, or what exactly my work will focus on. It probably won’t make sense to present on the study at that point anyway, because by then the final report will be published. But then I fear I’ll fall into the same difficulty — I simply won’t know what I’ll be able to present the subsequent year. It makes me worry about when my work and scholarship will sync up with my public presentation of it, which is probably a feeling that others in short-term employment situations are well familiar with.

In the end, it’s not a big thing; I’ll participate in other ways, from questions at the scheduled sessions to informal conversations with people who are interested, and I’ll get word out about the survey results in other ways. But I think the feeling of disconnect might be hard to shake.