Putting Your Research out There: Graduate Students and Conference Presentations
By Layla Abdullah-Poulos ‘10, graduate student, SUNY Empire State College
July 9, 2015
Considering the myriad responsibilities that many SUNY Empire State College graduate students have, the idea of presenting at a conference seems like yet another daunting task. With studies, work and family, there is little time or energy to travel to conferences, let alone prepare to present at one. However, there are many benefits to presenting at conferences, which make it worth the extra effort to put your research out there.
Public Speaking Experience
Most professions value the ability to articulate ideas to an audience. While engaged in graduate studies, cohorts, instructors and professionals in their chosen fields expect graduate students to convey research and infer findings. Consequently, taking advantage of the opportunity to demonstrate your learning to the broader academic audience can assist in honing oration skills. Although graduate student Baraka Corley has experience in public speaking, he found presenting at conferences helpful in developing his skills to convey his research at an academic venue. “It gives you an opportunity to test your skills and really speak from a point of expertise because you have done the research,” expounds Corley. “And now it’s your chance to share it with the masses.”
Sharing Your Findings
Unlike undergraduates, graduate students are engaged in research and discussion toward one primary objective – to complete their final project. Subsequently, there is an increased need to expand beyond course books and even general researching in order to share and get feedback about their final project topic. This not only means talking to your primary mentor and course instructors, but to faculty across SUNY Empire State College and beyond. The more contact you have with experts in your field, the better you are able to assess where your final project fits in the intellectual dialogue of your field. Presenting at college and professional conferences gives you the chance to make connections with academics and experts in your field. This will allow you to share your research and get valuable feedback.
Corley was able to discuss his research with a variety of academics in his field when he attended NCORE, a national conference on race and ethnicity in higher education. “I had an opportunity to mingle with a lot of researchers, bright minds and students,” says Corley. “I also found there are common threads throughout the different topics that were discussed that related to my final project, so it validated what I am doing.”
Get Your Name out There
Although notoriety is not the primary purpose for engaging in graduate studies, it is important that your contemporaries know about you and your contribution to collegiate and professional dialogues. When you present at a professional conference, you get to share your innovative ideas with others in your field, who may invite you to present at other venues. When Corley presented his research on resiliency and internalized racism in higher education at the SUNY Empire State College Student Academic conference and then NCORE, both presentations were well received, and Corley received multiple requests to present his work at other conferences.
When graduate student Layla Abdullah-Poulos presented her research on Muslim women and global feminist movements at the Popular Cultural Association national conference, she was invited to submit her research to be included in a publication. “I realized that the culmination of my research and analysis generated an intellectual product that gained the interests of experts, who now viewed me as one,” explains Abdullah-Poulos. Thus, presentations can extend you and your research beyond coursework as well as increase your visibility as an up-and-coming new scholar or researcher in your field.
Enhance Your Curriculum Vitae
Presentations on your CV can be advantageous when applying to doctorate programs or seeking to become a higher education instructor. Presentations demonstrate a commitment to sharing knowledge and engaging in the academic dialogue. Conference presentations are the most accessible means to attain recognition for research. Unlike publishing papers in journals, writing book chapters or monographs, all of which are involved and time-consuming processes typically not open to graduate students, conference presentations afford the opportunity to share the knowledge you are contributing to your field and increase your appeal as a doctoral candidate or adjunct instructor.
Consider discussing conference presentations with your primary instructor. With careful planning, it may be an endeavor worth undertaking.