Graduate Students and the Annual Meeting
Christian A. Hale, December 2002
From the 2003 Annual Meeting column in the December 2002 Perspectives
You're a graduate student and amid the stress of reading assignments, finals, and just trying to eat and pay rent, you ask yourself, "Do I really need to go to the Annual Meeting?" Before making any hasty decisions, consider what attending the annual meeting can do for you.
First and foremost, the annual meeting is an excellent place in which to meet fellow graduate students who may share some of the same stresses, predicaments, and concerns as you. The AHA's Committee for Graduate Students will offer a reception for graduate students on Friday, January 3, 2003, 6:30–8:00 p.m., and is a great place to relax, unwind, and meet your future colleagues.
If you're a graduate student about to complete a master's degree and contemplating a PhD, the annual meeting can help you decide your next step. Apart from all the sessions that can give you an impression about the kind of research historians are engaged in these days, there are some special sessions that may prove particularly useful. For example, the session, "Careers in History"-sponsored by the AHA's Committee for Graduate Students and the AHA's Task Force on Public History-where the various options available to graduate students will be discussed. Former AHA President Joyce Appleby will chair this session on Saturday, January 4, 2003, at 2:30 p.m. (for more information, see page 131 of the 2003 Annual Meeting Program).
For those interested in the status of graduate school education, the annual meeting has a session dealing with this very topic. "A Time for Change: The AHA and National Efforts to Rethink, Review, and Reform Graduate School Education," on Thursday night, January 2, 2003, at 8:00 p.m., presents an opportunity for open and frank debate about the very nature of graduate school education. Also of interest is the Open Forum arranged by the Committee for Graduate Students, on Friday evening, January 3, 2002, at 5:30 p.m., where graduate students can discuss their interests and concerns with fellow students and AHA Council members. For more information on both of these sessions, please consult pages 69 and 107 of the 2003 Annual Meeting Program.
Of course, for graduate students about to enter the uncertainties of the job market, the annual meeting offers the Job Register to help make this process easier. In essence, the AHA Job Register offers an environment where graduate students (and others) can interview for multiple positions, all in the same place. It gives job candidates the opportunity to see the available vacancies and setup interviews all at the same time. Prospective Job Register participants should be aware that the hodgepodge of interviewees, interviewers, staff, and seemingly confusing protocol can make the experience quite stressful. But the Job Register is nonetheless an excellent way for graduate students to discover many future career possibilities in one place. Reduce some of the stress by being prepared-bring sufficient copies of your c.v. and other relevant material, and make sure ahead of time that you know where (and when) your interview is going to be held.
As you can see, the professional reasons for attending the annual meeting are many. It could definitely be worth the added expense, stress, and effort. If you haven't already made your arrangements yet, log onto http://www.historians.org to register, make hotel and travel arrangements, and read more about the sessions in the Annual Meeting Program. Your future awaits you in Chicago!
—Christian Hale is production coordinator for publications at the AHA.