Two years ago, I had no idea what an academic conference was. I assumed that professors and researchers just kind of hid in their labs and wrote things that only their obscure peers would read. Two years ago, I didn’t know anything about the active research process across any science, and I couldn’t have imagined that I’d be willing to buy a plane-ticket and drop a massive fee to hang out in a convention center with a bunch of psychologists.
I spent this last weekend in New Orleans, LA. Now that we’re back in Caldwell, I’m still spinning to comprehend all that happened over the last few days. I attended the 2013 Society for Personality and Social Psychology meeting with 7 other students and my advisor. For each of us, this was a culmination of work on each of our successive projects. All of us had presented some of our findings in our own college’s Student Research Conference, but this was an opportunity for each of us to present our findings on a trans-national scale.
This was my second attendance of an academic conference, and by far the most exciting. SPSP is a mecca for the social and personality disciplines of psychology, and attending was an awesome opportunity for me to communicate with others in my domain and to receive feedback and advice on my work.
However, one of the most powerful experience that all of us as visiting students received while we were there, was seeing the perceptions of the other attendees. I only met one other student who wasn’t a Masters or PhD candidate, and as far as I know, we were the only undergraduate level students that were presenting research. This carried over to when we were presenting, with our viewers becoming surprised to hear we were undergraduate students.
As an incoming student, I chose The College because I knew I wouldn’t be able to thrive without working with the mentorship of my professors and advisors. As I began to delve deeper into the academic research of my field, I’d briefly wondered if the cost of this closer mentorship would be a lack of access to larger facilities and resources that larger institutions had available. This conference has shown me the opposite.
Our college may not be a research juggernaut that Californian or East Coast universities can claim, but I’ve realized that this may not be as important. The scale of my projects might have been different if our program had a greater budget, but in the end, facilities and hardware resources haven’t been the determining factor in my success. Instead, I’ve had professors that are willing to spend hours of their time outside of class, investing in my growth. In another life, I might have been at a school where I could've volunteered at 6 different labs. But instead, I've had one, where my advisor has instilled the precision and knowledge I need to be competitive and even fool some professionals and grad-students on the floor of a poster session.
Andrew is a senior psychology major from Boise, Idaho.