NAU Grad Students Host New Conference
Northern Arizona University hosted the first Intellectual Intersections graduate student conference at the du Bois Center on January 29, 2010. The conference was a tremendous success. The university provided an interdisciplinary, inter-university forum for the sharing of research and ideas. From all accounts, attendees gained from their participation, helping fulfill NAU's educational and research goals.
Throughout the day, graduate students from NAU, Arizona State University, and the University of Arizona presented their research in seventeen sessions. A total of sixty-five presenters and many attendees deliberated on topics as diverse as international conflict, health care, sustainable development, education, and music theory. NAU professors and graduate students volunteered their time and expertise to act as panel chairs and discussants.
Fred Solop, Department of Politics and International Affairs chairman, started the day by evaluating the meaning of research sharing and describing the purpose of the conference. Professor Miguel Vasquez offered an inspirational and upbeat assessment of challenges facing graduate students and the value of higher education to society at a mid-day plenary session. We also held a post-conference gathering at the Weatherford Hotel for further conversation.
The idea for the conference emerged from the professional development course in the Department of Politics and International Affairs. Students participating in the course decided to attempt to create a conference with wide appeal to graduate students of all disciplines throughout Arizona. We hoped to generate a positive forum and to bring graduate students and professors together in a unique environment to enhance dialogue, so central to the mission of higher education.
The conference quickly became larger than any of us initially could have guessed possible. We received far more proposals than we planned for and were encouraged by the support of many members of the NAU community. As a result of the success, we hope to continue the conference in coming years.
The conference was organized by student members of the Graduate Association of Political Science (GAPS) and was made possible by a wide range of sponsors. These sponsors included the Office of the Provost; Office of the Vice President for Research; Graduate College; Politics and International Affairs; Student Activities Council; College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; College of Education; Ethnic Studies; Women and Gender Studies; Geography, Planning, and Recreation; Sociology; Forestry; and Criminology and Criminal Justice.
I would highly encourage students who are interested in starting or hosting a conference. The process was a great learning opportunity for conference organizers. In coordinating the Intellectual Intersections conference, graduate students practiced essential skills such as organization, fundraising, and marketing. Casting a wide net is important because there are a great many graduate students searching for opportunities to present research and listen to others. Our university is very supportive of such endeavors and hosting such a conference also provides a chance to interact with diverse university personnel.
(Photos courtesy of NAU Department of Politics and International Affairs)