I thought it might be different this year at SBL. After all, it was my second time attending, so I knew what to expect. And besides, I had an MAT in Biblical Studies & Theology now… But despite enjoying some fabulous sessions, great conversations, and fun time with Jeremiah, I still experienced a good deal of insecurity at SBL.
It’s hard to separate it all out—What’s normal? What’s just me?, etc.—but I think a lot of my insecurities related to three specific demographic characteristics: 1) being young, 2) being female, and 3) being done with seminary (or, for the purposes of this post, DWS, for short). I have done a little thinking about those three areas, and I thought that it might be interesting to share my experiences/offer some suggestions to others in academia generally, but especially in the field of biblical studies. Either you can relate, remember a time when you could, or learn something new!
It is easy for we who are young to feel very out of place in the academic world. There is no real reason why anyone needs to pay attention to us, and our comparative stupidity may actually being annoying at times. However, it is so incredibly affirming to chat with someone who is 5 years older and finishing their PhD, or 10 years older and getting established in their career, or 30 years older and been-there-done-that. It’s so amazing to be included in intelligent conversation by people who know more than us—even if we hardly keep up from your perspective, it’s like a breath of fresh air from ours. After all, we only have so many friends who know anything about the field and care to discuss these things.
Even more importantly, it feels good to be noticed—not necessarily as the next star, but at least as an intelligent person who should have something to contribute in the future. You don’t have time to mentor every student, but it makes a big difference when you are willing to develop positive relationships with us—especially at places like Fuller where there is such a terrible faculty-student ratio in master’s classes. Several of my SBL highlights this year involved older and wiser individuals who took the time to have a long chat over coffee, invite us to breakfast, or tell us that it was possible to have both kids and careers. Never underestimate your power to make younger people feel included in the group, affirmed in their gifts, or reassured about the future. We may all be grown-ups, but those connections still mean a lot to those who feel like kindergartners in academia.
Continued in Pt. 2.