My First “Big Girl” Academic Conference

I’m writing this from my gate at LAX as I wait for my flight back to Denver. I’ve spent three frenetic weeks back in Southern California, mostly centered around my trip to the International Communication Association Conference in San Diego.
While a substantial portion of a professor’s job is to teach students, that is really only the tip of the iceberg—the most visible element to society. We can divide a professor’s responsibilities into three key areas: teaching, research, and academic service. The time spent on each area varies depending on the type of university employing that professor (research university, liberal arts college, etc.) and the status of the professor (adjunct/temporary appointment/assistant/associate/full, etc.). CU Boulder is a tier one research institution so research is an extremely significant aspect to the responsibilities of all our faculty. 
This emphasis, in turn, trickles down to us graduate students—especially since the job market in higher ed has become increasingly competitive. When future employers take a look at my CV, they will particularly look for teaching experience and publications (preferably in top academic journals).
Conferences are a platform to share research papers that you will subsequently submit for publication. They’re a great space to float ideas, get feedback and criticism, and then revise your work before offering it up to editorial scrutiny. They’re also a useful venue to meet other scholars doing work in one’s field, whether they be peers or seniors. 
The ICA conference, which I just attended, is probably the top gathering of communication and media scholars across the globe. It’s competitive; this year I believe the conference accepted around 45% of submissions. The sessions cover quite a range of subfields, from more comm-oriented fields like interpersonal communication and organizational communication to social science-oriented studies of media, such as those scholars studying media effects, to humanities-oriented studies of media, asking more philosophically or historically grounded questions about the nature of media and culture. At any given time over the five-day conference, you could select from around 20 different sessions. Then every evening there were receptions to attend, hosted by universities and ICA divisions either at the hotel or at restaurants in downtown SD.
Academic conferences are expensive to attend, so scholars usually only attend when they are presenting. That way you can often get your conference travel sponsored by your institution. I managed to get in this year, not because of my current research, but from building on some research I did while working at Biola and subsequently while studying at Claremont. I participated on a panel about MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, but I spoke specifically about the Minerva Schools, which are a Silicon Valley endeavor to supposedly revolutionize higher education. 

Instead, I argue that the Minerva Schools are primarily an effort to transform U.S. higher education into a high-return export while simultaneously raising some serious concerns about what we understand the role of the university to be in contemporary society. 

I encourage you to peruse their website and watch some of their videos, but pay careful attention to their rhetoric and the tangible implications of what they suggest. I’d love to hear your reactions, positive or negative. What do you like about what they offer, and what concerns you about their vision for education?

I now have a few (mostly) uninterrupted weeks with which to focus on my research.
 I have a busy summer, but I will be keeping you updated on my research trips, remaining conferences, and other related activities. Plus I’ll be sharing some thoughts from my current research projects, along with some other things about media and society that I’ve been contemplating. Here’s to a delightful change of pace!
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