Pop Quiz

Pop Quiz: What do you get out of conferences?

Hey there, School of Doubt-ers!

Sorry this comes up a bit late, but the normally amazing but occasionally horrible Italian train system kept me from the internet for several more hours today than I originally intended. On the bright side, I had a lovely, stimulating, and productive conference experience over the last few days…good enough even to want to hunker down and get back to work!*

I look forward to this conference every year not just because it’s always a good excuse to travel and catch up with friends and former colleagues, but also because it’s one of the very few times when I am actually surrounded by people who have the faintest idea what I spend most of my time working on (something that is far from guaranteed even in the context of my own institution). It’s a kind of validation that is unfortunately all too rare in the day-to-day academic grind, where one’s own research can sometimes begin to feel like an unappreciated distraction from more pressing institutional concerns…or at least until tenure review comes along.

What about all of you? Do you find professional development or conferences to be useful or validating? Do you sometimes feel like there is too great a disconnect between what you research (or even what interests you) and what you find yourself teaching your students?

*Well, you know, as soon as I get home. There is yet some food to be eaten and wine to be drunk.

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3pm ET.

Featured image: Session of the Council of Trent in “Tyrolischer Adler”, vol.IX by Matthias Burglechner


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Dan holds a PhD in Music History from a major Canadian university and is now pursuing a M.Ed in Higher Education at another one, because he likes to collect very expensive paper. He performs stand-up comedy at venues all over Toronto when he's not busy playing JRPGs with his cat, Roy. You can follow him at @incontrariomotu, but he isn't going anywhere. You can also send him a tip on PayPal (paypal.me/dandonnelly) if you like his work!


  1. July 9, 2013 at 7:58 pm —

    Conferences are indeed great for interaction and inspiration! However, I wish I could follow up on even half of great ideas I get from them.

  2. July 9, 2013 at 11:33 pm —

    I enjoy conferences immensely. They have gotten way too expensive, though, and money for travel has gone down. I can only afford one a year and I’m lucky if I don’t have to pay anything out of pocket for that. Also, at the same time the costs to run these things have been rising, demand for cv lines has also been increasing, meaning more papers (and registration fees) are being accepted than ever before, with a corresponding decline in high quality presentations. I want everyone to have a chance to participate because conferences are so valuable for networking and sparking new ideas for research and teaching, but I have to admit I lose patience with papers that have no clear thesis, or presenters who begin their talks with “I don’t really have a complete paper yet because I’m hoping you all will help me flesh out these ideas” (fuck you), or the dreaded death by PowerPoint. How to fix it? No clue.

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