2nd Annual Student-Scholar Luncheon

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You are cordially invited to the second annual student-scholar luncheon, “What I’m Telling My Students,” hosted by the Student Advisory Board. Preregistration is required for this luncheon due to limited space. This forum allows students to discuss various issues about the academic field with an experienced scholar in a small group over lunch. The luncheon will be held on November 23rd, from 11am-12:45pm at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta (International Tower Level LL1) (265 Peachtree Street Northeast).

Our invited scholars include: Bejamin Dunning (Fordham University), Eva Mroczek (University of California, Davis), Fernando Segovia (Vanderbilt University), James McGrath (Butler University), Jennifer W. Knust (Boston University), Karen L. King (Harvard Divinity School), Kimberly Stratton (Carleton University), Marjorie Lehman (Jewish Theological Seminary), Mark Goodacre (Duke University), Michael Cover (Marquette University), Miguel A. De La Torre (Iliff School of Theology), Nancy L. deClaissé-Walford (McAfee School of Theology), Paul Joyce (King’s College London), Robert von Thaden (Mercyhurst University) Sheila E. McGinn (John Carroll University) Tat-siong Benny Liew (College of the Holy Cross), and Brent Strawn (Candler School of Theology).

DATE: 11/23/2015
TIME: 11:00 AM to 12:45 PM
ROOM: Hyatt Regency Atlanta (International Tower Level LL1)

SECSOR in Context: Student Perspectives on a Regional Annual Meeting

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NOTE: The following remarks are a combination of the author’s own experience of the SECSOR 2015 Annual Meeting in Nashville, TN and those of four other PhD students, all of whom attended and presented papers in sessions related to Ancient Religion and Biblical Studies.

The Annual Meeting of the Southeast Commission for the Study of Religion gets a bad rap. This conference, which convenes the regional forces of the Society of Biblical Literature, the American Academy of Religion, and the American Schools for Oriental Research, is often considered a ‘stepping-stone’ conference – a conference where grad students and junior faculty go to pad their CVs until they’re ‘established.’ Once someone begins presenting at the national meetings of SBL, AAR, or ASOR, he or she may be tempted no longer to attend SECSOR. To be sure, there probably are proportionally more graduate students at SECSOR than at National Meetings, and it is a fact that few senior faculty (read: famous people) frequent SECSOR. But, like the ‘fruit-on-the-bottom’ yogurt that has become so popular of late, much of the value of attending a meeting like SECSOR lies below the surface. The following is an experientially-driven list of some putative pros and cons students (and others) should consider when weighing the relative worth of attending SECSOR’s annual meeting; it is based upon the experiences of 5 PhD students who attended and presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting. This summary attempts a frank, realist approach, endeavoring honestly to answer the question: “How much ‘bang for your buck’ do you get at SECSOR?”


Networking Opportunities – No, the collective religious studies faculty of the Ivy League schools don’t file into Volvos to pack the house at SECSOR (although you can find Ivy League faculty at regional conferences if you look). However, the networking opportunities that are available at regional meetings are often more fruitful. Many faculty of the myriad colleges in the SE region frequent SECSOR, and more often than not will actually have time to speak with prospective students, those interested in their research, etc… This is often not the case at the SBL/AAR National Meeting(s). Furthermore, some academics like travelling within their own ‘communities,’ and the schools where many aspiring scholars are going to get jobs are often represented at SECSOR.

Books – The book displays at SECSOR aren’t what they are at the National Meetings, but they are one thing: much less crowded. Book distributors have all the time in the world for interested readers at SECSOR, and discounts abound. Indeed, many grad students may know that the end of SECSOR’s Annual Meeting is a great time to score a free book!

Research Response – Any student presenting research at SECSOR may be a bit disappointed at the attendance for his or her paper, which can sometimes be in the single digits. But even at the National Meetings those who specialize in a given paper’s specific area are going to be few in number, and again, presenters generally have more time to interact with their interlocutors at SECSOR, both during and after panels.

Opportunity to Present – It’s no secret that one great boon SECSOR provides for students is a relatively easy avenue to gain professional experience and a CV line or two by presenting research. This is as it should be. Just because SECSOR’s acceptance rate is higher than the SBL/AAR National Meetings doesn’t make it any less a verifiable peer-reviewed setting in which to present research – it is widely recognized as such, and graduate students should take this under consideration.

Development OpportunitiesSECSOR will often put together events for certain students at their Annual Meeting. Some of these are exclusively for women or minorities, but others are designed to attract (and help) graduate students generally. In 2015 a graduate student luncheon invited two early-career scholars to talk about the politics of publishing, dissertation work and networking, even power dynamics within academic departments. Other regional meetings also set up such events with some consistency. These can be some of the most valuable discussions to which a graduate student may be privy.


Paraprofessional Stigma – Graduate students and faculty alike are often guilty of thinking of meetings like SECSOR as being designed for graduate students (and they are, in part). Advisors may counsel students to present once or twice at SECSOR, and thereafter to frequent the National Meeting (that is, to ‘move up’). This accounts for SECSOR’s several-hundred-person attendance. It is true that by some reckonings a SECSOR presentation does not afford the prestige of a more conspicuous vanue, and everyone’s time is limited.

Book – Advanced graduate students may be interested in talking to publishers about book prospects, and everyone likes a broad variety of discounted reading material to peruse. Very little opportunity for either of these is likely to be offered at SECSOR.

R & D – In developing research ideas, one of the true functions of academic conferences is to provide the kind of multi-perspectival and comprehensive criticism needed to turn a project into a publishable product. Interested, incisive, broad-spectrum criticism is less likely to be available at SECSOR than at the National Meetings. That having been said, no one knows whence the best criticism of a given project may come.

Breadth of Scholarship – At National Meetings attendees routinely must choose between numerous panels they would like to attend. The exact opposite is sometimes the dilemma at a Regional Meeting: one may find at SECSOR only one or two papers over the course of the entire conference of genuine interest. However, interdisciplinary perspective never hurt any academic career, and not infrequently scholars must be coaxed into such dialogue.


Is SECSOR’s Regional Meeting worth going to? Absolutely it is. In terms of hotel cost, conference fees, and (usually) transportation, it is far more affordable than the National Meetings. Graduate students can almost always find at least several people who do work in their specific area at SECSOR, and with an advance email, one might find oneself with an hour or more of undivided attention from an important critic, future colleague, or career contact. Furthermore, presenting at SECSOR says as much as presenting anywhere that a grad student is serious about being a productive, social scholar.

Does SECSOR provide everything the National Meetings do at a cheaper price? No. It’s not the same thing. But diversity is the spice of life. SECSOR’s Annual Regional Meeting is an exceptional place to meet academics of kindred interest, to get some feedback on research, to make career connections, and score a free book (or two!) all in a low-key environment (and there is something to be said for the latter in and of itself). Will you get meet Princeton’s President and Harvard’s Graduate Dean for beers? Maybe not. And to be frank, more faculty in the SE region should adopt the habit of attending SECSOR every several years – it is a service both to graduate students and colleagues. But what SECSOR lacks in prestige it makes up for in utility, and either way, the former has got to be one of the most overrated and misused tropes in the academy. So, for my money, check out the SECSOR’s Annual Meeting next March in Atlanta. If you are a graduate student, you ought to have enough projects in the works to whip up a 10-page paper to share some of your research, and who knows, you may find yourself standing before a future employer, colleague, or co-author, and all in your home region!

Contribution by
Carson Bay
On-Campus Student Representative
Florida State University

Find a SBL Student Contact Near You

[To access our new map feature, click here.]

We have created a new map feature to help students find SBL Student contacts. With the new map feature, you can find email addresses for any of our SBL Student Advisory Board members, SBL Student On-Campus Representatives, SBL Student Regional Representatives, and SBL Regional Coordinators. All of our representatives have taken these positions hoping to be of help to students. Please contact us with any questions, concerns, or suggestions.

The map page allows you to explore the map, seeing where our representatives are located. The map page also features a filter above the map that enables you to select which type of representative you are trying to find. Below the map is a search feature. You can type names, institutions, and/or positions to find results. Click on any of the results to bring up that person’s map marker.

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Network Coordinator Positions Available

Applications for Network Coordinator Positions (On-Campus and International)

[Update: The deadline for applications has passed]

We are searching for current student members of SBL who wish to support the work of the Society and its Student Advisory Board by serving as the On-Campus Representatives Network Coordinator or the International Representatives Coordinator. Both roles will contribute to efforts to improve ways in which student member needs are met and to establish a stronger connection between the Society and its student members. For more information about the roles, follow these links.

Position Descriptions

  • Network Coordinator (International) The IR Coordinator communicates with our International Representatives—Master’s or doctoral students in biblical, late antique, and related studies—and encourages them to represent SBL on their campuses. The task also involves sharing resources and ideas with fellow representatives and working with the Student Advisory Board to ensure that the Society stays in touch with the needs of its student members and addresses those needs through its resources and activities.
  • Network Coordinator (On Campus Student Representatives) The OSR Coordinator communicates with our On-Campus Representatives—Master’s or doctoral students in biblical, late antique, and related studies—and encourages them to represent SBL on their campuses. Communication involves Annual Meeting information, publication of newsletter, relevant upcoming events, ideas for campus activities (Annual Meeting presentation preparation reading groups, SBL information sessions, etc.), and provide supporting resources, in addition to attending the Annual Meeting (held in the US in November).

The ideal candidate will be able to commit to a minimum of two years. Candidates will also preferably have experience in academic networking on a variety of online social media platform. We strongly encourage underrepresented persons (e.g., women, racial and ethnic minorities) to apply.

If you are a student and a member of SBL and think you would qualify for one of these positions, please complete the application form here. The deadline for applications is Friday, May 15th.

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Maximizing Your Time at the Annual Meeting Like a Pro

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If you’re going to attend the Annual Meeting as a student, it’s imperative that you make the most of it. There’s fun to be had, but you know and I know that time is money.

Getting the most bang for your buck is not synonymous with the number of papers you’re presenting or interviews you have lined up. It’s about participating as a professional.

At the Annual Meeting, your job is to develop your curriculum vitae—the one that says what you have done and the one that is yet to be written. Here are some tips on what that professionalism can look like based on the stage you are at in your career. So if you’re wanting to…

Present at a Future Meeting

Make a note of best practices. Read the abstracts for the sessions where you see yourself presenting. Keep track of good and not-so-good presentations. Look for trends in subject matter and style. You’ll get a better sense of why some papers get accepted as well as what makes for successful delivery.

Get a jump on next year’s proposal. Often, the next year’s Call for Papers is discussed at or just after the current year’s annual meeting. Following a prospective session, let the presider know that you’re a student and interested in the subject matter. Politely ask if there’s anything you can do to keep up with the group (i.e. electronic communication, a business meeting for you to observe, a website). This can give you a jump on upcoming topics. Many scholars will be happy just to know you’re interested, and if nothing manifests, chalk it up to good practice.

Developing Your Scholarship

Don’t stop learning. Go to a session outside of your subfield. Listen in on a topic you find objectionable. Check out what’s going on in AAR. This is a great way to spur creativity and to raise critical questions about the ideas you take for granted.

Professional Development. Don’t overlook sessions on career advancement, teaching, or networking. Challenge yourself to leave the conference with a tool, skill, or perspective that you didn’t have before. It just may help you to better chart your scholarly path.

Wanting to Go on the Academic Job Market

Build your syllabi now. Hiring committees want someone who can start today. As such, the single best piece of advice I was given as a student was to request examination copies of potential textbooks at the book exhibit. This was a good way to begin crafting the syllabi that I eventually shared during job interviews, and it paid dividends.

Talk to strangers, especially at AAR. A lot of otherwise good candidates bomb during interviews because they have never had to talk about their specialty—let alone biblical studies—to people who couldn’t care less about the subject. There’s no better practice than to strike up conversations with people you don’t know and who don’t know what you know. If you can convince them that your work is worthwhile, you’ll have gone a long way toward rocking the interview.

Publish Your Work

Get ideas at the book exhibit. This is your chance to see what’s been covered. As you pass all the flashy displays, think about the gaps in the latest literature and how your coursework, questions, and hypotheses might fill them. This process has led to many thesis and dissertation topics.

Test the waters. If you’re at the dissertation phase, talk to representatives at different houses about where they’re headed. Give a teaser of what you’re working on and gauge reactions. The goal here is to find out not only who is interested in your research, but also what about your work excites them. All of this is data you can use to craft future book proposals.

Feel Like You Belong

Twitter. Get on Twitter, and follow the conference hashtag, #sblaar14. This is a great way—especially for introverts like myself—to be social without expending too much energy. A lot of us are willing to “tweetup” or meet in real life. So come by to see some friendly faces.

Remember. Impostor syndrome is no joke, but don’t forget that everybody at SBL was at one time a student. That means they too had the self-doubt, the questions, and the anxiety of trying to figure out what they’re supposed to be doing. If you find yourself feeling any of that, trust that you’re in good company. Take advantage of your Student Advisory Board. (They’re the real deal!) And please feel free to reach out to me (@seedpods) if you want to know anymore about what’s good at the Annual Meeting.

Blog-Profile-Richard Newton
Guest Contributor
Richard Newton
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
Elizabethtown College
Elizabethtown, PA
Website: sowingtheseed.org
Twitter: @seedpods

Do you want to hear more on this subject?
Come check out our SBL session on this topic: Annual Meeting Orientation: Practical Tips for Maximizing Your SBL Annual Meeting Experience

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Student Luncheon: What I’m Telling My Graduates

Update 3: November 1, 2014
Registration is now closed. Thank you everyone who registered and who showed interest. Come back to hear more as we provide reflections on this event and others after the annual meeting.

Update 2: October 29, 2014 @ 3:30 PM EST
Registration is now re-opened for a very limited time! There are a small number of spaces opened. We apologize to anyone who is unable to attend. We’ve had over 900 visitors to the RSVP site. However, in order to ensure that the event is productive and beneficial to both the invited students and scholars, we have had to restrict the number of attendees to a manageable level. We plan on having reflections on our sessions posted to this site soon after SBL. We will try to have even more spaces available next year.

Update 1: Interest in the student-scholar luncheon has been overwhelming! As a result, we have already reached our original limit for student attendance. However, we have plans to increase the number of students that can attend. We will announce via Facebook and Twitter when registration re-opens for you to RSVP. We want to make sure to secure additional scholar participation before opening up more spots to prevent diminishing the experience for the attendees. Thanks for your understanding and your interest in this event!

Original Post:
You are cordially invited to the first annual SBL student member luncheon, hosted by the Student Advisory Board.  Preregistration is required for this luncheon due to  limited space. This session provides graduate students with an opportunity to learn from the academic experiences of established scholars through short presentations of their academic autobiographies and smaller group discussions. Each panelist will have 5-7 minutes to talk about their graduate school experience and discuss what they are telling their current students about navigating the field of biblical and religious studies. These presentations will be followed by smaller group discussions over lunch.

Our invited scholars include:  Dr. Annette Yoshiko Reed (UPenn), Dr. Ra’anan Boustan (UCLA), Dr. Vincent Wimbush (Claremont), Dr. Stephen D. Moore (Drew), Dr. David Adamo (Kogi State, Nigeria), Dr. Margaret Mitchell (UChicago), Dr. Christopher B. Hays (Fuller Theological Seminary), Dr. Ross Kraemer (Brown), Dr. Willie Jennings (Duke Divinity School), Dr. Adela Yarbro Collins (Yale Divinity School), and Dr. Traci C. West (Drew).

DATE: 11/24/2014
TIME: 11:00 AM to 12:45 PM
ROOM: Room 6 B (Upper level) – San Diego Convention Center (CC)
REGISTRATION:   http://sblgraduatelunch.splashthat.com

When you register, a ticket will be sent to your e-mail account indicated on your registration form.  This ticket must be brought to the luncheon for admittance. Registration will close when the event reaches the maximum count or November 12th.   If you have questions, please e-mail sblstudentsboard@gmail.com or tweet us @SBLStudents.


Student’s Experience of SBL’s International Meeting in Vienna

I have attended SBL events before, but the conference in Vienna was my first experience of SBL’s International Meeting. My expectations of the meeting were not very high, but when I returned home to Sweden I was more than pleased.

The location of the conference in the old, beautiful university in the middle of the magnificent city of Vienna of course impacted the positive experience in a significant way. The generous reception at the impressive Rathaus the first evening set most of the participants in a good mood. Four days packed with paper presentations could be tiresome. But the diverse conference program, with its variety of speakers from different countries and academic levels and all kind of topics, made it easier to keep the motivation. What I appreciated most with the conference, however, was the fellowship with fellow workers and the possibility of making new acquaintances. It is very stimulating and encouraging to meet other people who do similar kind of research as oneself. For my own part I benefited a lot from the seminar on the Authority and Influence in Biblical Texts, since I study leadership in the Gospel of Matthew. The conference thus put me in touch with people in my own field and I got some contacts of significant value. Another great aspect of the conference was the fellowship with my colleagues from my home university. I had the privilege to go to the conference with a couple of people from my own faculty. Spending some days together enables you to get to know your colleagues better. The conditions for developing good relationships could hardly be better than a beautiful Vienna in summertime.

My first participation at a SBL International Meeting was thus very satisfying and beneficial. I really hope that this was not my last one.



Guest Contributor:
Daniel Hjort
Ph.D. Student in New Testament Studies
Centre for Theology and Religious Studies
Lund University, Sweden