Conference season is in full swing and this means that many graduate students are or soon will be traveling, some of them to their first conference. These conference experiences are incredibly valuable, providing opportunities for networking, hearing about new work in your field, and, of course, visiting book exhibits.
Yet, while many graduate students are aware of the professional benefits of presenting at conferences, it’s often very easy to ignore the professional organizations that put them on. Their logo may be on the conference lanyard and their name will be invoked repeatedly, but engaging with the organization itself, both during and beyond the conference, is something that few graduate students take the time to do. While this is understandable, given the time pressures on graduate students who are juggling a variety of roles on their own campus, it can be a mistake to ignore some of the great opportunities that professional organizations offer to graduate students in particular. To explore some of these opportunities a little bit more, I recently corresponded with Dr. Paula Krebs, the Executive Director of the Modern Language Association (MLA), the largest professional organization in the U.S. for the study of language and literature.