cheryl standing by her poster which is in a hotel hallway

How My First Academic Conference Went

Last week, I traveled to Portland, Oregon, to attend the Western Political Science Association's Annual Meeting. I had signed up for the postering session I participated in two years ago, but that meeting was canceled due to COVID-19. I still find it hard to believe that I am graduating this year, in part due to how signing up for the WPSA felt just like yesterday.

a lake view from the window of a plane
The view in B.C. was stunning! I had a layover in Vancouver.

Initially, I planned to present a paper I had written in my first-year political science course. I was intrigued by the authoritarian style of Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orbán. One of the professors for that course was intrigued by my initiative, and agreed to supervise my work. I met him every week to discuss the progress I had made in revising my paper and in planning the contents of the trifold poster I plan to present.

Since then, I have completed a Killam Fellowship at American University. For this conference, I decided to pivot and to present a paper I had written during my exchange instead. To design the poster, I used Adobe XD, which is a prototyping app that is similar to Illustrator. The app works offline, so I made finishing touches during my flight to Oregon. Instead of printing it in Toronto, then carrying it onto the plane, I made the decision to have it printed at my destination. I Google'd a printshop that was able to produce large posters and contacted them to settle on a timeline. I wound up sending my poster in midday Wednesday, picking it up end of day Thursday, and presenting it Friday afternoon.

As this was a three-day-long conference, I was able to select other panels to attend—in addition to presenting my work on Friday. I attended a couple of panels, each consisting of papers being presented in 15-minute segments, a discussant summarizing each paper and offering feedback to each author, with a question and answer period to tie off the hour and a half long panel. I enjoyed hearing about a diverse array topics spanning from Soviet-era politics to fostering a sense of belonging in democracies. One of the best aspects of any conference is the diversity of interests and backgrounds that come together for the purpose of exchanging ideas and of building relationships.

A sign reading Portland Oregon
I saw this sign while crossing the bridge between a COVID-19 testing site and my hotel

I had met a few new friends during my postering session on Friday. There were about twenty posters in total, and they were presented throughout the halls of the second floor of the hotel. It's easy to go up to presenters and to ask about what they're sharing on the poster and what motivated them to undertake this research. I was asked the same questions by other conference attendees, among them graduate students and professors also.

I am grateful for the opportunity to attend this political science conference before graduating. I am also grateful for the funding that the Frank Peers Award (offered by the department of political science) yielded. Removing the financial burden of traveling abroad, booking accommodation, printing posters, and so forth made a world's difference. I am thankful for the opportunity to share my research and to learn about the directions I can go into for graduate school. If you are thinking about presenting your work, a conference is a great venue to do so.

0 comments on “How My First Academic Conference Went

Leave a Reply

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