Conferences go much beyond just giving and hearing papers. In fact, I think the social interactions are actually central. I had to miss out on some of this since I had to spend some time doing some editing. But I still got to meet and hang out with some great friends, especially since many of us have now moved to various places about the world. But now that I’m finished with my studies, these relationships do have a different angle.
As you meet new people and catch up with others, I’ll echo Nijay that the change from student to scholar is an interesting one. Since I still don’t have a full-time position, I still feel in the middle of things. The further you go along, you realise that most things are not really that new or different, though that doesn’t mean they are necessarily less interesting. But I think it leads to being much more selective in the topics and people you go hear.
One new part of the conferences was interviewing and concern with jobs. I’ve been approached about a tentative opportunity, and I also had a couple of interviews as I take part in that search towards that next step. I did come to an important realisation about the job market in relation to past experiences: I am very content with my academic journey, but your academic past does bear consequences. While I have a few theological differences from my time at DTS, I still quite value the experience I had there, not least with regard to my introduction to historical theology and Trinitarianism. I think DTS’s reputation is derived more from its history in the last generation rather than its current position, and, accordingly, mainline and non-confessional programs may see my experience at DTS as a point of concern. On the other hand, my thesis research in deification and readings not traditionally explored by protestants can be a question mark for confessional schools . Once you get beyond the strange terminology, much is actually not that unique, but with lots of competition this could be a way to filter out someone. As I mentioned, I am content with my academic journey and I have a couple of solid job leads, but for those starting out it does help to be aware of the consequences of different decisions.
Conferences in the south are always great because of sweet tea, chick-fil-a, and biscuits and gravy. I didn’t get out much from the conference area because the hotels were connected to a mall with a food court, but the weather was great. I returned to Durham, and we promptly got about 4 inches of snow! Plus there’s no Thanksgiving break, so I got to teach at 9 am on Thursday, the morning after I got back.