Presenting at Conferences: Two Graduate Students Share Their Experiences
April Oglesbee’s Story
I recently presented a paper at the Southwest/ Texas regional Pop Culture/American Culture Association conference in Albuquerque, NM. Say that three times fast. I spent the majority of the time before my presentation fighting nausea, nerves, and a sudden sense that I had made the biggest mistake of my life thinking I could do something like this.
As I wandered through a sea of people discussing vampires and alternative family theories, I kept my head high and pretended that I had a right to be at the head of a conference room with an audience staring at me. When it finally came time for me to present my paper, I did. The simplest explanation is that my training in class took over and I was suddenly presenting to my peers. When the questioning began, I expected to feel like a special guest at the inquisition, but instead, I felt like I was having a discussion in an evening seminar. I was no longer pretending that I had the right to be in front of these people; I knew I had the right and that they were my peers. I realized that I did feel prepared and that I did have something to say within my field and about my text. Surprisingly, they thought so, too.
I attended several other panels over the course of the conference and, I have to say, I was not the only graduate student feeling inadequate and scared. The one difference that I could see between myself and the other students was that I was prepared, whether I knew it or not. The other graduate students never seemed to find a solid rhythm outside of their fear, and their papers seemed to lack any sort of scholarly, in-depth focus. Now, I’m not tooting my own horn here; I’m tooting the UWG English department’s horn. The reason I was able to deliver any sort of professional thought and answer questions about those thoughts in such a successful way was because of classes like Dr. Hipchen's and Dr. Erben’s, which engage you every class period in the very process of what it means to be a professional scholar. So when I think about the upcoming Undergraduate English Conference, I’m proud that we can offer our students the opportunity to grow and experience the scholarly world in a friendly atmosphere that will prepare them for the future.
Amelia Lewis’s Story
Recently, I presented research at my first academic conference. I was presenting my paper titled "To the Outward Observances of Obedience and Respect She Submitted”: The Tension in Macaria's Narrative and Gendered Negotiation of Identity” at the California State-Fullerton Conference on narrative identity hosted by the Acacia Group.
Quite frankly, I was very nervous and spent days obsessively editing my work. My nerves were not helped when I realized that they had misplaced me when organizing the panels. The mistake came from the fact that my text, Macaria, shares its name with a 17th century British pamphlet. This coincidence, therefore, led them to place me with a Renaissance British panel with my 19th-century Southern American text. This mistake was revealed ten minutes before my panel. I was the last to present, which gave me plenty of time to contemplate the urge to cry and/or run from the room and pretend this conference never happened. I soon realized, however, that I had nothing to fear. Listening to the other presentations gave me confidence in my own work. By the time I spoke, I was able to present my research with a reassured poise that surprised even me.
The conference truly opened my eyes to a few key facts. First, conferences are not as terrifying as they seem. English graduate students need to start presenting their work to develop their careers and their own research. Second, the West Georgia English program has amazing students and faculty. Despite my trepidation before the conference, I quickly realized how well prepared I really was with my research. The brilliant Dr. David Newton guided my project and what amazes me is that we have an entire department full of this quality of brilliant professors capable of providing this guidance to develop papers that can match or beat the quality of research from any other university.
Though the amazing professors deserve all the credit and kudos possible, they are not the only group that deserves praise. Our students also deserve immense amounts of respect. The program contains many talented and intelligent individuals who are capable of creating original research that I have no doubt can match the quality of any other graduate program out there. We truly have a remarkable program filled with gifted students and top-notch, caring faculty. I know I may stray into territory here that may be deemed sappy, but this conference allowed me to gain confidence in my own work and made me all the more proud of the work of our program as a whole. Our program’s dedication to promoting quality work and professional presentations manifests itself in many ways including the Third Annual Undergraduate Conference to be held on April 3rd. Everyone is invited to attend in order to hear the presentations and encourage this day of professional development.
| English students Brian Crews, Trista Edwards, Sumner Gann, Samantha Godwin, Jadon Marianetti, and Jessica McMillan were recently notified that their critical work has been accepted for presentation at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research (NCUR), held this summer at Salisbury University in Maryland. What's more, the Honors College and the Vice President's office will cover almost all of their travel and expenses. While Trista and Brian are currently seniors in our program, the other students
||came exclusively from sophomore literature surveys and thus represent perhaps the "next generation" of hard-working majors.
If you see Brian, Trista, Sumner, Samantha, Jadon, or Jessica, please congratulate them. Their papers reflect a semester's long critical engagement with literature and a successful application of interpretive writing processes.