After putting together the ASLE Graduate Student Symposium last October, ASLE asked us if we might reflect on the symposium, and our experience of getting it in the air.
As are so many stories of the environment (and those who study it), this one is about tributaries, and the rivers they build.
In 2015, my colleague Mary Renda and I and our graduate workshop, The Border Collective, put together a panel for ASLE’s 2015 Biennial Conference in Moscow, Idaho. We hadn’t even touched back down in Michigan before we pitched each other a wild idea: What if we hosted an off-year symposium specifically geared toward graduate students? This is exactly what we did, and last October we were welcoming an international group of graduate (and one stellar undergraduate!) students to our home campus at the University of Michigan for ASLE’s first graduate symposium. This year, we hope to take two panels, stemming discussions begun at the symposium, to the 2017 ASLE Biennial Conference in Detroit.
Large, major conferences like ASLE can be daunting when you’re a junior scholar, and have yet to begin the collegial relationships so many academics fly to conferences to continue–particularly if you hold an identity (or identities) that have historically faced backlash, isolation, or otherness within the larger environment of academia. Even within the fields of environmental studies and ecocriticism, making this leap can it can feel exceptionally difficult if you focus on issues of environmental justice, and the tensions between theory and praxis, center and margins make it difficult to identify one’s scholarly “home.” With these things foremost in our minds, Mary and I wanted to make our off-year symposium an energizing space to share scholarship, meet similarly-oriented graduate students, and push towards a model of academic convening built on inclusivity and accessibility–both of which ASLE has identified as core goals for the organization as a whole.