Hello from Washington, D.C., where it's the last day of the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Higher Education conference.
As always, it's nice to see colleagues that I only see once a year and catch up. This year, the conference was held in conjunction with UCEA, so I got to see some of my K-12 colleagues from Vanderbilt as well. I especially like seeing my younger colleagues who have found good jobs and are "all grown up."
Of course, ASHE isn't primarily a social hour. I went to more sessions that I have in recent years, and found the average quality to be higher than in years past. (Perhaps I just picked better, but the number of proposals does go up every year.) Some of the sessions were related to my own research; others were related to the issues I deal with as an instructor; others were simply things that sounded interesting. Frankly, I tend to learn as much - or more - from the latter, and sometimes it drifts over into my own work.
While the papers are important, the conference is perhaps most important as a networking tool. This happens both in meetings and in serendipitous encounters. For example, someone encouraged me to come work for [x], I learned about a grant opportunity in my research area, and I agreed to edit a book with a colleague. None of these would have happened if I hadn't been here.