At the NCHC business meeting bright and early this morning, my boss -- who is also, as the incoming president-elect, the chair of next year's conference -- stood up to give a preview of the 2012 annual meeting in Boston. He painted a glowing picture of an uncrowned schedule that would allow the city to be a key "program" at the conference; of the prestigious and compelling plenary speaker; of the gorgeous venue and attractive amenities. And then he mentioned, almost offhand, that the conference would be held almost a month later than this year -- November 14-18, 2012.
I got a sinking feeling. That sounded suspiciously like the weekend before Thanksgiving, which is when the American Academy of Religion holds its annual meeting. I mentioned the confluence to a fellow religion scholar whose Honors half-time duties brought him to Phoenix to attend this meeting; "isn't the AAR in Boston, too?" he suggested. For a moment I was full of hope. Perhaps I would just be shuttling from hotel to hotel, attending some sessions at each conference and discharging various board and committee responsibilities by swapping lanyards and badges several times a day.
Then I checked the website. Yep, the NCHC conference dates were the weekend before Thanksgiving. And nope, the AAR was not meeting in the same city; we'd be in Chicago while my boss executes the signature event of his tenure in Honors national leadership for 1800 of his closest friends.
I ended up in the same position earlier this year when our instiitution hosted a regional conference on a weekend when I was already committed to be In Atlanta for an AAR board meeting. It's a terrible conflict. On the one hand, I have longstanding commitments and specific offices to fulfill in the AAR for the next year or two, and my role in NCHC is much less formal. But on the other hand, my institution and my closest colleagues are taking on huge organizational tasks, and just when I could be of the most help, I disappear.
These collisions of conferences will be less frequent once I rotate off the AAR board -- at that 2012 meeting in Chicago. I'm ready at that point to assume more formal roles in NCHC. It's sickening and heart-wrenching, though, to see the involvement requested and reasonably expected of me peak at the same time in two organizations whose calendars have in no way been aligned for my benefit..