Newcomer Events: Orientation & Coffee Hour
Reviewed by Patrick Harris, Miami University, FL (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Chair: Paul M. Puccio, Bloomfield College, NJ
Associate Chair: Leslie Werden, Morningside College, Sioux City, IA
Committee Members: Susan Chaudoir, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
Martha Marinara, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL
Sharon Mitchler, Centralia College, WA
Sean Morey, Clemson University, SC
Mary Beth Pennington, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA
Michael Rifenburg, University of North Georgia Gainesville, Oakwood, GA
Gretchen Rumohr-Voskuil, Aquinas College, Grand Rapids, MI
Cynthia Selfe, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Joonna Trapp, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Christine Tulley, University of Findlay, OH
Sheldon Wrice, University of Akron, OH
Being a typically cynical member of the current era, I was hesitant to attend the newcomer events at my first CCCC. It’s not that I didn’t believe people when they said the convention was friendly to first-timers, it’s just that I didn’t think it could possibly be as friendly as everyone claimed. However, at the urging of several colleagues, I bit the bullet and went to both orientation and coffee hour and was very glad I did.
For orientation on Thursday, I’d say about 50 people showed up, which was far more than I had expected. Various members of the committee introduced themselves, and I wish I could say exactly who was who, but not being in the know, I wasn’t able to keep track. This seemed to be expected—logical, considering the nature of the event—and most importantly, everyone stressed that it wasn’t just the welcoming committee that wanted to welcome people. My fellow newcomers were encouraged to acquire the little yellow “newcomer” ribbons for our badges, and we were instructed how to identify members of the newcomer welcoming committee. We were also told that we should feel free to ask questions of anyone, as everyone would be equally helpful.
Thinking this was entirely too good to be true, I showed up for coffee hour the next morning—wearing my little yellow ribbon, which I would’ve been against wearing two days prior. The coffee hour was structured cafeteria-style, as opposed to the previous day’s lecture-hall setup, which encouraged everyone to mingle, as we all needed places to put our coffee and pastries. I made the acquaintance of several newcomers, and the shared realization that we were all in the same boat made the whole thing less awkward than one might expect. We were given information about events that would be occurring outside the panel structure, recommendations for nearby attractions in Tampa, Florida, chances to directly interact with committee chairs and experienced conference-goers, and encouragement. It was an affirming experience, and it allayed some of the fears I had. Also, the pastries were excellent.
So, why am I writing this review? Ultimately, it’s because I’m hoping I can serve as an example to other newcomers—these events are worth attending. All that talk you hear of the CCCC being welcoming to first-timers turns out to be true, and I think I know why: Each new cohort of attendees is encouraged to be welcoming in subsequent years by virtue of having been welcomed. When I return—and I will return—I’ll be on board with helping first-timers if for no other reason than remembering being in their shoes and how well I was treated.
One of my advisors gave out some really great advice for networking at conferences, and he ended with something that stuck with me: “My advice privileges extroverts.” It’s true, of course—talking to strangers can be terrifying for some of us, and spending an entire weekend doing it even more so. There’s no simple cure for that, because social interaction is very much the point of these conferences. But it’s good to know that at the CCCC, they do their best to make my fellow introverts and I feel as comfortable as possible.