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MLA Convention Blog

So, Why Did You Join the MLA? (Here, Have a Drink)

Part One

It’s shortly after sunset on Saturday, and I’ve just shared stories (and drinks) with some of the newest members of the MLA at a reception we organized called “Welcome to the MLA” (by which we mean both the association and the convention—as in, “are you going to MLA this year?”). Many of my colleagues on the MLA staff joined me in welcoming new members and answering their questions about what the MLA does (and how to use the new features on our Web site). The officers and several council members came to greet their new colleagues, and so did members of various MLA committees. I met one new member who is completing her PhD at the University at Buffalo (my home institution, when I’m not directing the MLA); she became interested in learning about the MLA Bibliography and how she might contribute as a field bibliographer when she moves to Colombia in the near future. I also learned she was working on a project having to do with representation of race in Peru.

Another new member, originally from China and now working in Canada, told me that the connections she can make at a huge conference like this one are what drew her to join. In fact, many of the people in the room told me that the reception gave them a “time out” from the chaos that the convention can be (especially for new members). One junior professor wanted to know what the MLA was doing on issues related to translation, and right there, on the spot, she was able to meet Vice President Catherine Porter, whose presidential theme in 2009 is translation, and Cathy in turn introduced another member who is instrumental in the organizational structures that support translation worldwide. I saw networking going on over chardonnay, exchange of e-mail addresses between bites of cheese, and I even overheard a conversation between two people who had studied at the same undergraduate institution and had not been in touch since. Funny whom you meet at the MLA convention.

Part Two

Now it’s shortly after sunup on Sunday (I managed enough sleep to be somewhat coherent, thanks to the coffee. Did I mention how much coffee MLAers drink?), and I have the pleasure of meeting the new members of the Delegate Assembly who have assembled for their orientation breakfast. If you’ve ever attended a meeting of the Delegate Assembly, you can imagine why this orientation is essential. I remember my first assembly meeting some twenty years ago: I had no clue where we were in the agenda because everything moved so fast, and I was often in doubt about what I was voting for (how do you amend something that’s already been amended, anyway?). In my welcome remarks, I told the new delegates how grateful we all are for their service. They are the motor that moves the direction of the association, and their work throughout the year helps set the MLA’s agenda. The Delegate Assembly meeting (which begins at 1:00 p.m. on 29 December) is open to all members, not just delegates, so be sure to drop in if you want to see governance in action.
 
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