It’s taken me way too long to post this, but I wanted to share my NCA experience, too. First, a big shout-out to Anna and Amy, who were on the job market this year. Y’all are great and you’re going to find fantastic jobs. Since I’m posting nearly a week after Anna, I’ve had the luxury of reading hers and want to pick up on something she mentioned, about talking to people at NCA. One of the things I love about NCA is being able to meet and chat with people. Kathy and Dawn, whom I did ICA with this spring, also in Chicago, were giving me a hard time about my proclivity to chat up whoever is around. They joke about me being a “networker” and have entertained the thought of letting me loose in a room full of strangers and just watching “Sutko do his thing.” (Their words, not mine, whatever they mean.) I don’t think of myself as a networker or anything like that. (I have a “friend request” backlog of about 30. Sorry to you 30 out there!) But I do like talking to people, and I get really psyched about conferences like NCA, or even better, this past fall’s CRDM symposium on Materializing Communication and Rhetoric, both of which provided fantastic chances to engage in face-to-face conversation with people who share similar interests. Getting that face-time with people is really valuable to me, because, well, that’s when you can really engage in some good discussions in a way you can’t through email or other means. At NCA and at the Materializing Communication and Rhetoric symposium, I met people whose work I want to emulate — people who we read in class and who are at the top of the field. I’m no sycophant, but anyone whose ever been through grad school can attest to meeting someone whose work had an impact (for better or worse, I suppose!) on their intellectual development. Through reading them, we get to know them as authors, but in meeting them, we get to know them as people / past graduate students / future professors and colleagues. You just can’t put a price on that.
So, one tidbit for advice I have for everyone is in line with what Anna already wrote, but I really want to highlight how you need to take advantage of conferences like NCA to chat with people, because when else are you going to get that chance? The Materializing Communication and Rhetoric symposium was huge for me and for others I spoke with, because it gave us the chance to meet people who are at the top of the field in theorizing communication, rhetoric, and materiality. And then, when I saw some of those same folks at NCA, it was like picking up a conversation we’d left off just the other day. And that’s a role that conferences in general provide, which is a different way of extending our scholarly and disciplinary conversations that are normally and sometimes unfortunately bound by journals.
All in all, NCA this year was just a huge success for me personally and for our program. I presented on two top paper panels (won the top student paper in Rhetoric of Science and Technology and presented, with Adam Rottinghaus from UNC, on the New Voices in Critical Cultural studies). And the paper I presented at the Urban Communication Foundation preconference was very well received; I got good feedback throughout the weekend when I re-ran into folks from that preconference. I also heard great things about the CRDM program from students and faculty at other universities. There was an overwhelming amount of interest in our program at the grad student fair, and I had a lot of good chats with people who noticed the strong showing we had, with over 20 papers, spread over 13 student presenters. That’s just great, and I have to say that it felt really great to see our program getting noticed that way. Now our job as students and faculty is to just keep on doing what we’re doing, because our formula is working well and gaining national recognition. So, I know that I won’t feel this way a year from now, because the week leading up to NCA is so hectic, but I can’t wait for San Francisco next year. Of course, I might also be punchy from the fact that I’ve got final paper deadlines staring me down. But hopefully at least some of these will make it to NCA next year, where I can “do my Sutko thing” all over again.
Dan Sutko, 2012