Doctor Who? Why Graduate Students Should Attend the 121st Annual Meeting

Chris Hale, December 2006

I still remember seeing one the most renowned American historians in person at my first annual meeting in San Francisco in 2002. He walked through the exhibit hall with his entourage and a definite air of authority. "Who is that?!" I ignorantly asked my colleague Rich. "Dude! It's Eric Foner. Duh!" he most graciously replied. Humbled by Rich's graduate-level response, I realized that as a graduate student, I really had no idea who anyone in profession actually was. The AHA's annual meeting is probably the best place for graduate students to meet and possibly greet the various professors, doctors, and academistas heard so much about in class. But it is also about a lot more than that.

The social life of a history graduate student can often times a bit disjointed, cut off from both personal and academic peers. So for those graduate students who may feel a sense of disconnection, the annual meeting is a great place to get acquainted or reacquainted with the goings-on of the historical profession, and the exhibit hall is probably the best place to get started. Located this year in the Hilton Atlanta's Galleria Hall, the exhibit hall is a bustling academic marketplace where colleagues can meet and greet, exchange ideas, and check out the latest titles from the top university presses. The exhibit hall is a must for those looking for a publisher for their dissertation.

Another great way for graduate students to connect socially and academically is the AHA's new blog "AHA Today" (located on the AHA's web site at http://blog.historians.org). Though not just for the annual meeting, the "AHA Today" blog is an excellent tool with which one can connect with fellow students who might be attending the meeting, discuss academic and professional issues, and organize meetings and social functions. I and my colleagues like to go out and experience the cultural offerings of every annual meeting city we attend, and I encourage all graduate students to do the same. "AHA Today" is a great way to do this, especially if you don't know anyone who may be attending.

Furthermore, the annual meeting hosts numerous sessions and receptions where graduate students can socialize and discuss historiography, research, writing, life, the universe, and everything. This year, the AHA's Committee for Graduate Students (CGS) will host an open forum and reception for grad students. The Open Forum will take place on Friday, January 5 from 5:30–6:30 p.m. in International Meeting Room 1 of the Marriott Marquis. The cash-bar reception will take place immediately afterward from 6:30–8:00 p.m. in International Ballroom 4.

CGS has also put together workshops and sessions that should prove beneficial to graduate students. "Writing for a Wider Public: A Workshop on Trade Publishing," on Thursday, January 4, at 3:00 p.m. in Grand Salon C of the Hilton Atlanta, is a roundtable session that is a must for those writing a dissertation. On the morning of Friday, January 5, at 9:30 a.m., CGS will co-sponsor a workshop on "Interviewing in the Job Market in the Twenty-First Century" with the Professional Division and the Coordinating Council for Women in History in the Hilton's Grand Ballroom C.

Speaking of job seekers, the annual meeting also has the Job Register. While it can be at times a stressful and chaotic experience, the Job Register—located this year in the Marriott's Marquis Ballroom—is an excellent venue for those hoping to find employment in the profession, whether academic or public. Prospective Job Register participants can find more information on the AHA's web site at http://www.historians.org/annual/jobs/index.cfm.

Film buffs should take advantage of one of the new events created for the 2007 annual meeting—the AHA's Film Festival. Sponsored by the University of Iowa's Department of History, the festival is the first of what we hope to be many. One of the highlights will be a screening of the new documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon that will take place on Saturday, January 6 at 4:45 p.m. in International Meeting Room 3 of the Marriott Marquis.

The AHA offers a discounted registration rate to financially-strapped graduate students: preregistration rates are $45 for members and $55 for nonmembers, while registration rates at the annual meeting are $50 and $60. Preregistration continues through Friday, December 22, 2006, so take advantage of the low rates.

The AHA has also negotiated discounted travel rates with Association Travel Concepts (ATC), the official travel agency of the 121st Annual Meeting. ATC offers excellent discounts on airfare and car rental to and from Atlanta; for more information, visit www.historians.org/annual.

So definitely attend the 121st annual meeting in Atlanta. You'll experience a rich and rewarding intellectual and social exchange with your future peers.

—Chris Hale received his Master's degree from George Mason University and is the production manager for the AHA ‘s publications department.