Academic Conference Crashing 101

Today I did something very bold, though for many of you the tale I am about to tell will seem rather tame. (I just love alliteration) 

I’m taking a course, Contemporary Literature and Film of the Southwest.  It’s a great class. The teacher is so enthusiastic about the works we read and the films we see that even though they are not the genre I would generally be attracted to, I find myself wanting to explore them.  (Westerns being one example).  And while viewing what I generally consider  “entertainment” (films) through a socio-political lens, and trying to ascribe deeper layers of meaning is intellectually challenging for me, I’m finding it rather stimulating.  (Example, Gary Cooper’s High Noon was really about /was a statement against McCarthyism).  This kind of thinking is really putting my brain through some serious aerobic exercise.  And I like it.  I may not be good at it yet, but I like.  

The class has both graduate and undergraduate students, and as a graduate, our requirements for the class are different.  In fact, being a graduate student is different (more on that later).  In this class a large portion of our grade will be determined by a conference paper that we will write.  The topic, entirely our own choosing.  We are required to submit an abstract to a conference, and of course write the actual paper…  and if the abstract is accepted, potentially present the paper at an academic conference.  (eeek!)

I had no idea what a conference paper was, making the assignment very intimidating.  Once I wrapped my head around the concept, I had an idea to write about Blogs as the New Regionalism.  To make a long story short, the more I looked a blogs, the less foundation I felt I had to make such a case.  

With some guidance from the professor, I’m going in a new direction, and he suggested I check out this conference session at the American Studies Association:

Histories of the Dust Heap: Waste, Material Cultures, Social Justice, which included a presentation by Stephanie Foote, “Enviroblogging: Green Spaces in the Virtual World.”

While the topic is not exactly relevant to my paper, I decided to check it out.  

Fact:  I am not a member of the American Studies Association

Fact:  I am not really sure what “American Studies” is

Fact:  I’ve never been to an academic conference

Fact:  I was not registered for the conference

Fact:  I have never crashed a party in my life.

The conference was taking place a mere 2 miles from my house, I decided to go for it.  First I had a fashion crisis–  I wanted to look like I belonged.  The first two pairs of pants I tried on were too tight (damn, I thought with all the walking I’ve been doing I’d lost some weight).  The third pair fit just right.  Basic black dress pants.  I added a black and white striped button-down blouse for a business casual but not too chic look.  These are academics, afterall.  (no slam against academics, but they are not known fashionistas–  too busy thinking about bigger issues I think).

And off I went.  The conference center is where the David Byrne concert was held (he’s a musical genius, you know) so I knew where I was going.  I even parked at the Double Tree Hotel right next door.  I arrived at the conference center with seconds to spare….  actually by the time I found the room, they had already started. A quick check of the map and determined stride and I must have looked like I belonged.  No one questioned me except to ask where the West side rooms were. 

And so now I know what a conference paper is, I took some notes of some big words I can use in my paper, and I have a pretty good idea of what is expected as far as “presenting” the paper should mine be accepted.  

And I have crashed my first party.  (does it count that it was an academic conference?)

Bonus:  the parking attendant at the Double Tree must have been on break, I got to park for free ($5 savings, good for one burrito at The Fronteir)

Note:  The David Byrne Concert was awesome. His new music rocks. His dancers were phenomenal.  The lighting sublime.  The old music with a slightly updated remix was fun.  If he tours in your direction I encourage you to go.  Well worth the time and money.

One thought on “Academic Conference Crashing 101

  1. I’ve been so out of it I feel like I’ve been living under a rock. BUT, I am anxious to catch up with your new life and all that goes with it. Congratulations on your new home (yes, I’m really that far behind!) I miss my sushi friend!!! This summer has been a blockbuster of trauma so I’d have so much juicy news to talk about if we were to go out to dinner!! Oh well…miss you but so glad to read things seem to be going well. Now, to catch up….


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