My First Conference

by Raina DeFonza

Hey everyone,

So this past weekend I had the opportunity attend a conference on undergraduate research at William and Mary College with my research advisor Professor Adeline Koh.

Not only did I get to attend, but I also presented (my first conference presentation!). We presented on our current Digital Humanities project about postcolonial studies. Professor Koh has started a digital resource for postcolonial research, and for my independent study I contributed a section on postcolonial feminism. In particular, my research is on “Domesticity and Kitchens”.

It was really exciting to present. We got a great reaction to our presentation and project, and it was nice to have some input from other professors and college administrators.

Altogether there were a lot of great presentations. One of my favorite presentations was by Dean Gary Johnson from University of Findlay in Ohio. He presented a student-journal of UG research he had recently established at the university, and he was soliciting advice from the other workshop attendees for suggested improvements on his project. His idea was to create a university-wide journal that could act as a forum for all UG students to submit and share their research. He organized a small group of students to work on the project with him, and the group sent out a call for submissions. Unfortunately, the only students who submitted any work were the ones who were running the journal. They published the first issue, but Dean Johnson commented that he is really unsure about how many people even read it.

So, their first attempt wasn’t as successful as he had hoped, but the concept is really great and with a few improvements, it seems like he could pull off a great publication. I think an outlet for student research within the college or university would be wonderful and may even insight interest in other students to do their own research. In his presentation, Dean Johnson requested any input or suggestions. What was great about the conference setting was that he was able to get a lot of feedback from the other members of the workshop. One professor suggested that he enlist the help from some professors, another offered that he have marketing students design the journal’s layout, and another shared her own experience of running a student journal.

There ended up being quite a nice dialogue about how Dean Johnson could improve his publication and get better results the next time around. It was great to see everyone’s enthusiasm about a student journal, and it made me wonder if we could have a successful one at Stockton. Professor Koh and I discussed it later and came up with a few ideas of our own. Koh suggested that the journal should be made digital, and I thought that getting professors more involved was definitely the best way to go.

Overall, I think the conference contained a message of hope for UG research. It was great to see how many professors and administrators were taking UG research seriously, enough so to travel (in some cases) across the country to learn about how they themselves can foster UG research in their own institutions.

My main take away from the conference was that these people want to encourage UGs to do research of their own. Most see it as really important to the students’ education and as an indispensable learning experience; but there is still a stigma around the word “research” that attaches it solely to graduate level work. Therefore, funding for UG research is practically non-existent at most institutions and the incentive for professors to work with students (in the intensive and focused way that is necessary for success) is slim. Still, there is a lot of support behind the idea and because of conferences like this one, the attitude towards UG research is changing for the better.

The conference made me glad that I was able to have this experience with Professor Koh, and also a little sad, in a selfish way. It really seems that UG research will be taking off in the next few years as attitudes change and funding shifts gears. Since I’m graduating in December, I’ll be missing out on a lot of the new interest surrounding it. But, for now I’ll take advantage of what I did get: a really great learning experience that will make a killer addition to my resume. =]

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