This post is about my most recent experiences at a research conference focused on child development that not only showcases what I did and saw, but also intermixed are some (hopefully) helpful insights on what you can expect to experience at most research conferences.
AUSTIN, TEXAS – WHAT A CITY
Although I’ve participated in the Society of Research on Child Development conference (SRCD) twice (Alexandria, VA and Philadelphia, PA), I have never been more excited to go than this year’s conference. One of the main reasons is the location being that it was in Austin, TX. I’m no stranger to the state of Texas as I was actually born and lived much of my formative years in Dallas. But the City of Austin has been rapidly climbing the ranks in terms of popularity and innovation (Austin was #1 on Forbes list of fastest growing cities in the U.S.). Being here in Austin, I can’t but feel that the city is indeed exploding. The conference is held in the Convention Center located at the heart of downtown Austin. Here, you are only a few steps away from the lifeblood of the Austin culture: great BBQ, live music, nature trails, and bustling shopping.
WHAT IS SCRD?
SRCD is a conference that focuses on research related to child development. Although SRCD has historically been a venue for developmental psychologists, the multidisciplinary approach on child development research has greatly expanded the reach of this conference. It is now a meeting place for educational psychologists (yours truly), sociologists, neuroscientists, economists, and scientists from numerous fields. In the years past that I attended, there were 1,000 to 5,000 attendees. This year, there was approximately 15,000 attendees.
The conference stretches from April 6-8th and is chock full of events starting from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Like any person who’s attended a conference, its always daunting to figure out where to start. No way am I going to even look at this year’s program booklet which cannot be printed without wiping out half a forest (458 page booklet). Thankfully, the SRCD mobile app is handy and can pretty much organize your day. You can organize your schedule by searching for your interest in a particular topic, presenter or session type (e.g., poster, roundtable discussion, symposium).
Now, let’s say that you have a burning interest in a particular topic on child development and it is related to young children and social media use. OK you’re set. But wait, there are many ways to consume this information from a smaller bite size (poster presentation) to a larger, more intense experience (e.g., roundtable discussion).
Held in these giant warehouse looking centers, you will see constant rows of tack boards each with a poster attached. The picture here shows a room with at least 300 posters. A presenter is standing by their project in the hope that at least one human being will visit so that they can share some tidbits of what their poster is about. As a presenter, you might try to make some sort of eye contact with a person passing by and you will suddenly feel the rush of human connection, but it will quickly dissipate as you realize that the person was just eyeing the graph or font that you used, rather than express interest in the topic that you are presenting. After waiting 20-30 minutes and seeing tumbleweeds roll past your feet, it is not uncommon to wander around and have sidebar conversations with the person next to yours.
My poster presentation was entitled, “Latino Parents’ Involvement with their Adolescents’ Participation in Organized Activities: Examining the Role of Ethnic Cultural Features”. I had a grand total of four people show up (not a bad number of attendees).
A 90 minute session that typically focuses on a particular topic by showcasing research from three separate presentations. As coordinator(s) of these presentations, there’s a number of different organizers: chair, moderator, and discussant. First, there’s the chair whose role is to introduce the presenters and pose questions to the audience. Moderators have the responsibilities of a chair in terms of introductions and time keeping, as well as keeping order in the discussion between panelists and the audience. A discussant’s job is to summarize the main points from each presentation with a usual allotted time to speak of 20 minutes.
My symposium was entitled, “Examining Latino Parents’ Understanding and Involvement in Youth Out-of-School Programs” and I served as co-chair. I was joined by two other people (a professor at Humboldt state and a doctoral student at the University of Illinois) who presented their papers. As co-chair, I introduced all our presentations and then facilitated a discussion with the audience (grand total of eight people). All in all, it was fun to present my paper to an audience who could give me quick feedback that I can consider as I am going forward with publishing to a much wider audience.
This format is different from the other types of presentations in the sense that there’s more of an interactive focus between the presenter and audience. Similarly, there’s a major theme and the discussion is hosted by a number of expert(s) in that particular field. As the name suggests, the experts are sitting side by side with the audience in chairs arranged as a circle. The session that I attended was focused on after school activities and was hosted by none other than my post graduate school mentor.
All in all, it was a very worthwhile experience and I love the thrill of running endlessly to people and discussing research. I want to say that this trip would not be possible without the generous support of Vanguard University and SRCD.
THE BBQ IS THE BEST
And finally, is there a place in California that can even compete with this? Beef brisket with homemade BBQ sauce complete with green beans and coleslaw.