Paul Kei Matsuda

Memorable Encounters

I just came back from AAAL in Washington, D.C., and CCCC in New Orleans. Both conferences were productive and stimulating in many ways.

At AAAL, Miyuki Sasaki, Aya Matsuda and I presented our interview-based phenomenological research on multi-competent academic writers. The collaborative process was interesting because we all brought different methodological and theoretical perspectives. But things came together nicely, and many people gave us positive comments. AAAL also featured a “graduate student night,” where experienced members of the field shared insights into the academic job search process. It was really well attended, and I enjoyed working with a group of graduate students who asked great questions about various issues in academic job search.

At CCCC, I attended the Executive Committee meeting and other related meetings. In addition, I gave two presentations. One of them was a discussion session on second language writing, organized by Jonathan Hall. Other presenters included Christina Ortmeier-Hooper, Jay Jordan, and Deirdre Pettipiece. The other presentation was part of a panel on the internationalization of composition that I organized. It included Chris Anson, Min-Zhan Lu, Joan Mullin, Xiaoye You, and Deb Holdstein. Both of the sessions were well attended, and I (and other presenters) received a lot of positive feedback.

One of the most stimulating aspects of the conference experience is the opportunity to interact with graduate students from various institutions. Each year, I talk with many graduate students who are interested in my research or who are interested in working with me in the Ph.D. program. Others are seeking insights that might help in their development as a teacher, researcher, and a member of the profession. During this conference season, too, I spoke with many graduate students about various issues in the field as well as issues related to their professionalization.

I don’t have the time to go into details of all of the interactions, but I’d like to share some thoughts about what makes some of those encounters particularly memorable. Although it’s impossible to remember everyone, I do try. I recognize many of the people I meet at conferences the next time I see them (which seems to surprise some of them). And there are specific things people do that make them particularly memorable.

First, I tend to remember people I encounter frequently (duh!). They attend many of the same sessions and meetings that I go to. They come to business meetings, award ceremonies, receptions. They introduce themselves and say “hi” when I see them again in the hallway. Or they at least make eye contacts and smile.

When they introduce themselves, they say their names and institutions clearly. Some of them even hold up the nametag as they say their names. They always wear nametags (even during dinners and receptions), which is helpful when I’m not sure if I remember their names. Some of them also give me business cards or handouts from their presentations. They also have websites where I can learn more about them and see their photos.

They talk about specific pieces of my work, how they encountered those pieces, what they thought of them, and how they are using them in their own work. They mention their advisors who know me, and in some cases, their advisors talk to me about those students.

They also talk about their own work. If they are presenting or have presented, they can describe the session in a sentence or two and, when asked, provide a succinct summary in ways that are relevant to the context of the conversation. I often can’t attend their sessions because of various meetings, but I do try.

They ask questions. They ask about my work and about own professional development experience and strategies. They may have specific questions about their own teaching, research or professional development situations. They usually provide enough contexts about their own experience and their current situation so I can understand their questions and provide most appropriate and relevant answers. Some questions are personal, but I don’t mind as long as they can explain the relevance of the question to their own professional development.

They often send me a follow-up email message about the encounter—it helps especially if they briefly mention in the email how we met and what we talked about. Some of them send me pictures we took together (which I really appreciate). Some even send me their pictures to help me remember what they look like. They may also have a link to their own professional website, where I can see their faces and learn more about their background and current projects.

Some of them also ask me to be their Facebook or Mixi friends.

And they come to the same conference regularly and present something whenever they can so I can attend their sessions and learn more about them and their work.

I look forward to seeing many of you at next year’s CCCC, AAAL and TESOL--and at the Symposium on Second Language Writing!

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Last update: January 6, 2008