I had a marvelous time at the MAP conference with morganlf
. I have reams and reams of handwritten notes, which I will begin work transcribing so I can post them!
In general, it was very interesting to go to an academic conference as a non-academic. It's the first academic conference I'd ever been to. (Sirens has the shape of an academic conference, but is run by fans, and so is not quite the same thing. In a good way.) I'm sure there must've been at least one other person who just went as a person interested in medieval studies (as opposed to as a grad student, post-doc, or professor), but I didn't see any.
In a lot of ways I think I enjoyed it all the more for that: I didn't have to network if I didn't want to, could just attend whatever sessions caught my fancy (and skip sessions if I felt like it; I spent a few sessions with a cup of coffee and my laptop, writing, because I wanted a break from Focused Listening), and was free of the pervasive anxiety about acceptances, publications, jobs. I listened to fascinating sessions, and enjoyed a beautiful, clear, blue-sky spring day on the lovely University of Puget Sound conference with the daffodils coming up and the apple trees in bloom.
The highlight, though, was on Saturday. We'd just sat through the plenary (which featured the most unbelievably beautiful illuminations from the Arnstein Bible), and were discussing going home early since poor morganlf
was coming down with a dreadful head cold. (I hope you feel better, by the way!) And then, across the room, I spied a familiar profile.
In college, I had a professor, one of the medievalists, who was my favorite prof and my senior thesis adviser. I took a ton of classes with him over the course of my time there, from the general medieval overview course my freshman year through a series of courses focusing on various elements of medieval central Europe (Poland, Hungary, Bohemia, Austria). He was my adviser for my thesis on Charlemagne's capitularies and manorial management. But it hadn't even occurred to me that he might be there.
"OMG," I said to morganlf
, "that's my professor!"
"Go say hi to him!" she said. "I'll watch your laptop!"
So I lunged across the rotunda, saying, "Doctor Knoll! Doctor Knoll!" And I had that little flash of thinking, wait, he's had thousands and thousands of students, it'll be kind of embarrassing if he doesn't really remember me....
But he turned around and smiled really wide and said, "Connie!"
We had a nice chat, during which it became even more clear that he actually did remember me. ("I was just thinking of you this year. I'm trying to reorganize my library before my move, and I was wishing I had someone to help me who had both an understanding of library organization and the history of central Europe, and you popped immediately to mind.") He also didn't seem to be fazed about the fact that I just went to work after college instead of grad school, and he was downright delighted that I was still interested enough, nonetheless, to attend the conference so I could keep learning. I also found out that he retired two years after I graduated, and is moving to Portland soon. So we exchanged contact info.
I'm really glad. He was part of what made my undergraduate experience at USC so great: he was very intelligent and academically rigorous in his classes, and pushed us to do well—but in a way that was unfailingly supportive and genuinely kind, and that made me believe that he actually cared and wanted every one of us to do well. And he was a fantastic thesis adviser. I'm so glad I got to see him again. It was absolutely the perfect ending to a very fun conference.