Symposium Planning, 2019

Having just completed another successful symposium, it’s time for the community to think about and work on what the next iteration of the symposium will look like.

Just a brief overview. The current model of the symposium is not easily sustainable since it has been wholly funded from University of Cincinnati sources. What that means is that folks don’t pay a registration fee and a continental breakfast, lunch, snacks, and all day coffee/drinks are also provided to the participants for free. Funding pays for the room and the technology,  and it has also paid the expenses and an honorarium for some of the keynotes and featured speakers (this has varied widely per year but at minimum all invited featured speakers had their expenses paid). What this means is that the current model limits the number of participants that can attend since the symposium is charged per person. The average cost has been ~$15,000.

At the 2017 event, we had a session specific to talking about and thinking through the numerous issues associated with the planning of the symposium. Most importantly were discussions on what the event should feel like to ensure that we didn’t lose the ability to have engaged conversations with one another.

Following is an attempt at a summary of the comments for possibilities for the next iteration of the symposium.

Staying at every other year, in the early Fall was the consensus of the group. At this point, we are basing our planning on an early September date in 2019.

Financial Model
It seemed there was a consensus around charging a modest registration fee for attending. The fees that most seemed to circle around were

  • 75-150 for full-time faculty (realistically it would need to be at least 100 for the model to work)
  • half the price for contingent faculty
  • graduate students for free

This model does not mean local hosts could not attempt to find funding or that we couldn’t try another model (say through sponsorships of some type), but it did seem we needed to start charging a fee to give us more flexibility in planning.

feedback was split on whether the symposium should stay in Cincinnati or be moved. The rationale for keeping it in Cincinnati was the inclusive of the Kingsgate Conference Center and Hotel; it’s location within the city; it’s central proximity geographically and ease of getting there. All of these make it a reasonable choice. As Lisa mentioned as a related model, medieval scholars have gathered in Kalamazoo, MI for over fifty years.

The alternate idea of moving locations and having interested folks take over as local host also had its appeal. The biggest rationales for this was to move it around for convenience of geographic location; grow the community by inviting others to take on leadership roles; and inject new ideas into the planning.  Until the financial aspects are situated, it is difficult to see how to move the location.

There were numerous suggestions to determine a financial model in Cincinnati (working with the known entity) for 2019 and then move it in 2021.

As noted above, the size has been kept relatively small (40-60 people) due in large part to finances. There seemed to be a relative consensus of growing the number of people who could attend to up to 120, but most thought 80-100 was more reasonable to shoot for, at least in the 2019 iteration.

There was also agreement to keep the graduate student to faculty ratio roughly the same as it now. (See below for additional ideas to include both more graduate students and those people whose proposals may not be accepted.)

Leverage connections to other events
There was an interesting idea to work toward a more formalized strategy to extend symposium conversations–particularly around works in progress–to other venues. RHM scholars have created spaces at other disciplinary events so the idea was to formalize those by making time and space to gather and discuss works in progress (to include those who may have been rejected from the symposium). This could encourage more graduate student participation, as well as general participation.

This means we could look to work with those in RSA, NCA, CCCC, etc. to coordinate time and space for RHM scholars to meet and discuss/share their work. This way the spirit of the symposium works-in-progress and continue and nurture our scholarly endeavors.

In addition, in off years, we could hold writing workshops/retreats (in person or online) to move projects forward.

Some other interesting ideas

  • have the symposium CFP be a “live” version of a special issue topic for RHM, the journal
  • include a state of the field at the symposium that would be published in RHM
  • have a session that focuses on a series of recent works and talks about things such as questions that weren’t answered; methodological considerations; how to build on the work (even if we don’t agree)

Action item:

If you are interested in being part of the RHM Symposium Planning Committee, please email Lisa ( OR by October 2.


Be the first to reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *