It’s Monday, and I’m finally settled in after work and dinner, ready to tell you about my day. It’s the only blog post this week in which you’re going to get the hour-by-hour account of what the Executive Director of the MLA actually did. But you know what? At the MLA we keep time sheets, and we record how each hour is spent by project job number. One of the most jarring differences between working in academe and for an association involves things like showing up at the office for a minimum of 8 hours, 5 days a week, keeping people informed of your whereabouts, or taking vacation time when you meet a college friend for an afternoon at the MOMA.
My Monday began on Sunday night:
7 P.M. Dinner in Tribeca with ten members of the Program Committee and two staff colleagues. This is “committee season,” and every week in fall we have one or more meetings of our standing and ad hoc committees. The MLA Executive Director chairs the Program Committee (it’s specified in the constitution) and serves ex-officio on all committees. This means I’m always working with groups of members on association publications, projects, professional issues, and governance. The Program Committee works incredibly hard: not only do the members evaluate hundreds of session proposals each spring, they also have general oversight over the annual convention.
When we take our committees to dinner, we choose interesting restaurants where we can get to know one another informally and discuss our work. Over moules frites and other bistro fare, we kept tabs on the Emmys, avoided Breaking Bad spoilers on Twitter, and discussed the work we were going to do the next day.
10 P.M. Having missed the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad (BB) that started at 9 P.M., I dug into some work until the second BB airing at 11:45. As I headed off to get some sleep around 1:15 A.M., I was thinking how Walt managed to… uh-oh, I promised a committee member there would be no BB spoilers, so I have to end it here.
9 A.M. I join committee members for coffee and breakfast at our office, and they are eager to get started. The first order of business, after introductions, is to practice scoring a special session proposal and discuss the results. Maribeth Kraus and her colleagues in the MLA convention office make sure that people who submit proposals get all the information they need, including the scoring rubric, sample sessions, and articles such as this one outlining what makes a successful proposal. New members got up to speed and asked great questions of their experienced colleagues, who encouraged them to begin scoring sessions early on in the process in April and pace themselves. I may or may not have noted that some chocolate after scoring 25 proposals is a great motivator.
10 A.M. Now the fun stuff begins in earnest. MLA President Marianne Hirsch, with the help of a working group, has spent the last two years constructing new models to replace the current Division and Discussion Group framework that we use to structure the convention programming. The committee met with Marianne in May and offered many suggestions. Now we have the task of examining the revised draft, studying the comments members have posted, and contemplating several thorny procedural questions. I loved leading this discussion with such intelligent and savvy colleagues on the committee. They uncovered inconsistencies, pointed out absences, and sorted out some problems that, frankly, I didn’t even know we had! This discussion consumed the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon, and I’m sure it will continue as I work with Marianne and the council, the MLA staff, and the membership at large to get us to the next iteration. These are aspects of my job that I truly enjoy– facilitator, mediator, communicator, and dreamer. Dreamer? Absolutely. You have to imagine all the “could be’s” and find ways to chase the right kind of change in a job like mine.
11 A.M. We take a break from heavy conceptual work to do some routine business: conducting reviews of Allied Organizations. Kathleen Fitzpatrick, co-liaison to the committee, then demonstrates MLA Commons, the scholarly communication platform she has led the MLA in developing. Most committee members are familiar with it, yet we learned new tips and tricks to utilize this amazing tool to the max.
1 P.M. Back in session following a (brief) delicious catered lunch of chicken, salmon and veggies. As one member said, “Yay, no sandwiches!” During the lunch break, I laughed at If Cats Took Selfies, inflicting my cat habit on people sitting next to me. If you follow me on Twitter (@rgfeal) just know you will get lots of tweets on #highered, #adjunctchat, #MLA14, #languagepolicy, and #LOLCats.
3 P.M. Our intense deliberations happily concluded, the committee disbands for airports or friends’ homes. I now have less than 2 hours before an emergency dental visit to tend to the tasks of the day. My assistant needs me to go over final budget figures for the Executive Director’s office (lots of savings in travel!). A stack of letters to sign awaits me. Google Mail has been fussy today, making communications difficult. I need to schedule several appointments for tomorrow and review materials from staff members who request my input. I do what I can, then make my way on the 1 train to Columbus Circle.
5 P.M. Scared of dentists? Read no further. Come to think of it, you know the drill (*groan*). I leave 30 minutes later too numb to show off the restored smile. Hey, I have time for a manicure on Christopher St. before heading home to do some pre-dinner work! Sailing on Sunday morning took its toll on my hands. Feng Li does her usual lovely work. I tip $4 on an $8 service.
10 P.M. Delivery from a local restaurant (c’mon, it’s New York, we don’t have to cook!) produces dinner, and here I am writing this blog post. In a rare moment of “OK, fine, I’ll sit here with you” is Meiga. When I finish this post, I’ll do some preps for my meetings tomorrow, then hope to catch eight good ones before the morning.