Advice for Grad Students and Other Conference Goers

The Pacific APA is in session and so it might be a good time to share this helpful post about good conference-going behavior (via Hannah Bondurant). From the intro:

I do… have something to say about the unwritten rules that accompany your forays into the Greater Academic World. Because when you attend conferences, colloquiums, workshops, or other group activities and events, there are many unwritten rules that apply, ones that I see broken with alarming frequency by students who otherwise seem perfectly fine, even kind and generous…. Because, you see, nobody really explains them to you–you’re just expected to know them intrinsically, or to pick them up along the way as growing pains, part of the unwritten curriculum of professionalizing. Unfortunately, the simple truth is that if you don’t curb these behaviors early on, they become habit-forming and can lead to your being known as “that grad student who…” and then, “that job candidate who.….”, and then, perhaps, “that professor at x who.….” [fill in the blank with a not-great behavior] Which, in turn, can color your career in all sorts of ways you might never have foreseen or intended when you originally made that choice or set of choices.

And here is PrawfsBlawg’s advice for clear and concise conference questioning, which everyone should read. Please.

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John Schwenkler
10 years ago

I like this advice a lot, but interpreting #1 too stringently isn’t fair to those with family obligations, other work responsibilities, and/or limited travel funds that restrict the time they can spend at conferences. I know that I’ve done the “jet-setting” thing for all of these reasons, and hope it wasn’t held against me.

10 years ago

I agree with John Schwenkler’s above comment. Travel expense is a serious consideration for grad students (I remember some years ago there was a blog post by some phil grad student complaining about this, but I couldn’t find the post now). Perhaps in addition to giving advice on congeniality, faculty members (especially tenured ones) could make more substantive help to encourage grad students participation in conference, e.g. by setting up some kind of voluntarily contributed transfer fund that compensates financially those grad attendants who would like to stay longer and participate more actively in panel discussion. Just a thought.