How to Become Better at Academic Networking


Step One: Become a DRC Fellow. If you’re anything like me, this should do the trick.

Networking can be challenging for me. I came to Comp/Rhet late, when I was already halfway through my graduate school career. Making the switch from Literature to C/R made me a much happier, engaged and successful student, but it also made me feel a bit isolated. There was a lot of catch-up to do, and I was a bit unsure how to go about forging the kind of professional and academic relationships my peers seemed to find so rewarding.

Joining the DRC Fellows has been invaluable in helping shake off the last of that uncertainty. Working with Anne, Naomi and the other Fellows showed me concretely not only how productive collaboration can be, but how genuinely enjoyable as well. Our projects were so much better, more complex, and effective because we developed and discussed them together. Each of us had our own assignment, but it was clearer and clearer with each post, after each meeting, that our work as individuals was powered up by our connections to the group. These connections not only let us bounce ideas around or call in another Fellow for help with a post; they also opened doors to connect with others in the field: Liz and Lindsey found some amazing contributors for their projects; the DRC’s Twitter gained new followers; I got a personal introduction to Cheryl Ball (yay!).

Knowing and working with other people who do the same stuff you do is really fun, too! I met Merideth first, in a quirky Greensboro coffee shop; then Brenta at 4C14; and everyone else at Computers and Writing. These in-person meetings were easy, natural, fun – not just because we’d spent a lot of time talking already onscreen, but because we do the same stuff and share a huge body of common knowledge, experiences and exasperations. Being an academic can be isolating, especially during grad school. Hanging out with the Fellows reminded me that it can create some enduring friendships as well – I know I’ll be seeing most of these people at C&W and 4Cs for many, many years to come.

Networking within the field is as much about fellowship (if you’ll excuse the bad pun) as about opening doors for future work. Before this year I knew these things intellectually, but experiencing them firsthand really brought them home. I’ve already seen the impact of this travel beyond my work with the DRC: my own Twitter feed (and followers) have expanded dramatically; and a few months ago, I submitted a panel proposal with someone I met at 4C14. These are small things, but they’re significant for me – signs of my growth as a scholar, and as a member of this field I love so much. This growth is a legacy of the DRC Fellow experience, one that all on its own makes me grateful and proud to have been part of the program.


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