Such a rewarding experience: one student’s needless fear of an academic conference

Dr. Jenna Woodrow, Brian Wallin, Dr. Jeff McLaughlin, Rosina Whitelock, Caitlin Noble, and Navarre DiCarlo celebrate a successful conference at the closing banquet held in the Terrace on Saturday night. PHOTO BY HUGO YUEN

Mike Davies– Roving Editor:

Upon hearing about the return of the TRU Philosophy, History and Politics Conference early in the fall semester last year, I decided to explore the various aspects of the conference itself and see what it was all about.

I’d attended a few of the sessions the previous year and was entertained, but definitely disappointed in a few areas, and I wanted to explore the possibility of participating in this year’s edition of the event.

After being contacted by Brian Wallin, the promotions director of this year’s affair, about the possibility of an article in the Omega, I decided to throw my support behind the event and submit a proposal for a presentation I’d been considering putting on at the conference.

Being a bit nervous about presenting a paper to an academic symposium-especially a paper written for a class well over a year before I was to present it in a field that is not my particular area of expertise-I was a bit worried about how this would unfold.

But upon attending the event itself, I found that my fears were completely baseless.

Undergraduate conferences are an opportunity for students to engage each other in various discussions on chosen topics and to revel in their love of those subjects with others of similar backgrounds and interests.

“I came down to this conference three years ago,” said Vanessa Farrugia, a presenter from Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton.

“When I was looking for undergrad conferences again this year and saw that it was still going,

I really wanted to come back and present again.”

She and two fellow history students approached their school with the idea and actually received funding to make the trip and present their papers.

“We would’ve come anyway,” she said, “but the funding was pretty nice.”

“It shows the level of support that we receive, as well as the fact that these events are recognized as a valuable opportunity for students to take advantage of.”

As for myself, I soon realized that support, along with enthusiasm, was a prevailing theme at the event

Friendly faces surrounded me as I looked out over my audience and once I started my presentation, my fear quickly melted into a level of enjoyment of the experience.

I began to realize that everyone there was in the same boat.

But in all honesty, I’m glad I got to present in the morning of the first day of the two-day event as it allowed me to thoroughly show my support for the rest of the presenters and enjoy their presentations without the distraction of wondering if my presentation would live up to all the rest.

I was consistently impressed with the level of professionalism and quality of the presentations while never feeling out of place or unwelcome, even though, like I said, these disciplines are not the ones I typically delve in to.

And I was definitely not alone in this feeling.

Many people were presenting papers on subjects outside their chosen fields and were welcomed and supported the same as everyone else for their willingness to engage in areas beyond their typical areas of expertise.

Samta Dhanjal, who graduated this past December with a degree in Mathematics, presented a paper on a Marxist approach to the concept of prostitution and felt the same welcoming enthusiasm that I did.

“This is a fantastic event,” she said.

“Everyone here is so supportive and encouraging. I almost felt that I was even more welcomed because they recognized that I’m sort of out of my own element here.”

As well as being afforded the opportunity to present a paper to my peers and engage in a plethora of discussions on various interesting topics, I was also given the chance to see two amazing keynote speakers.

Dr. John Sandlos from Memorial University put on a wonderfully entertaining and informative presentation regarding historical environmental issues in Canada on Friday night in the Clocktower.

The banquet on Saturday night featured TRU’s own Dr. Jeff McLaughlin, who took the crowd on a journey through the development of comic books and their reflections on the society surrounding them.

He also echoed his sentiments of the value of these types of conferences and showed his support by sticking around and partying with us all night.

He even bought me a beer.

Granted, the banquet came at a cost of $38, but it was more than worth it for the quality of the food at the event itself, especially considering that the Comprehensive University Enhancement Fund (CUEF) subsidized the $60 registration fee for the conference for TRU students.

Overall, my first experience presenting at a conference was exceptionally rewarding.

It sort of makes me glad, in a way, that I’m not graduating within the next year so I can go back and do it again next January.