In the coming school year, I am hopeful and look forward to contacting colleagues again through the meeting.I like to read Kim’s articles “Conference travel hesitates,” This did give me some pause, because I think traveling. As I expected in Kim’s writing, the focus is not just a single event or what is happening now; instead, it is used to explore our thinking about the future.
There is one sentence that impressed me: “But it’s okay to have small meetings with close colleagues from other institutions on Zoom.” This is a background of hesitation about travel and the possibility of deciding not to attend face-to-face meetings in the coming year (of course , If the conditions persist, this may be extended indefinitely). In addition to all practical problems, my thoughts also jumped to those who just started their careers.
The main benefit of the meeting—at least for me and the other people I talk to frequently—is not the “new” information you get there. Most of the content you hear in the meeting has been or will be published soon. On the contrary, the main benefit of the meeting seems to be the network (for people who are just starting out, start to enter the peer network). If leading academics and practitioners choose not to participate, these benefits will disappear. Having an established network is likely to make attending such a small Zoom party very reasonable, feasible, and perhaps even better. But what if you haven’t developed your network yet? To be honest, the first two years of conferences I attended as an assistant professor were the most important for my academic career because I was able to build a network.
Having said this, I appeal to senior scholars and highly respected practitioners in the field of higher education: Remember your influence. The decision you make next year will affect the decision made by the conference organizers next year, which can easily snowball. So if you hold a small gathering of colleagues, don’t just invite those you are already close to. Maybe everyone agrees to bring a junior scholar/practitioner and introduce them to this small network. Really, this may be the difference between prosperity or decline in their careers.
–Philip A. Oort
Assistant Professor of Higher Education Student Affairs
Fort Hays State University