Last month during our workshop on best practices in partnerships for Aboriginal economic development, a colleague provided a very valuable presentation on research funding opportunities for the students in attendance and chaired a session with little advanced warning after an unexpected cancellation. This month when she was looking for a chair for a session at the CAURA conference (Canadian Association of University Research Administrators), naturally I agreed to return to the favour. I had no idea that would mean reconnecting with someone I haven't seen in 18 years.
I hadn't planned on attending any of the conference other than the session I was scheduled to chair, since I am not a research administrator and I assumed that I wouldn't know anyone other than the local participants. Of course, I don't question the value of networking with research administrators at other institutions — it's just a matter of priorities and other work items required my attention. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I heard someone calling out, "Janice! Janice! Janice!" as I walked through the venue and turned to see a woman who my sister played volleyball with in junior high and high school in Corner Brook. The last time I saw her was at their prom in 1994. We chatted briefly to catch up and I said I would be back later in the day to continue the conversation.
It just goes to show that you never know where or when social networks and histories will collide, and the value of conferences and similar events lies in both personal and professional networking and reconnecting.