Today began the first ever Virtual SBLAAR Conference. This seeming innocuous shift actually impacted my personal life in several ways.
For the past decade, I have traveled on the third weekend of November to exotic American locations, like Boston and San Antonio. These trips include four or five days of connecting with professional colleagues. I have loved every jet-lagged minute of it!
Academic research can feel very isolating, especially in times when I have worked as contingent faculty. The SBLAAR conference provided an essential source of scholarship and networking (both by formal and informal means).
Since jobs in a singular specialization can be few and far between, I am often separated from friends and colleagues in my specific discipline by distance and time zones. The SBLAAR conference is an annual opportunity to connect and even encourage each other in shared interests. It is also a great opportunity to brainstorm new ideas and pose potential collaboration.
Over the past several years, participants complain about the number of sessions and ‘read’ papers. But, I think the stacking of sessions and multiple disciplines and presentation styles strengthen diversity in our field. Even when scheduling conflicts means I can only attend a handful of papers, sometimes these conflicts force me to consider another discipline. Sometimes I end up following an associate into a session I would not have considered. I have stumbled across the best papers this way!
I am optimistic that virtual conferencing can work well, because I have taken part in a number of symposiums virtually since the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020. But, I think we may have to let go of some long-standing assumptions about how we do things.