Students Host First-Ever Inter-Departmental Graduate Student Conference

by The College of Education  /   Apr 5, 2010

Spontaneous discussions between graduate students at the College of Education soon morphed into a full-blown, inter-departmental conference aimed at promoting an inclusive college environment.

From that early dialogue, the College of Education Graduate Student Conference Planning Committee (COE GSCPC) emerged. With encouragement from Dean Kalantzis and assistance of college staff, the committee's six graduate students spent more than 200 hours obtaining discussants, reviewing documents, coordinating technology, and rallying volunteers to turn their initial discussion into action.

On Friday, April 9, 2010, the Inaugural College of Education Graduate Student Conference brings together approximately 60 graduate students representing all six departments in the College of Education. Graduate student presenters will share their scholarship and research in multiple formats including paper presentations, poster sessions, and symposia throughout the Education Building. Conference sessions are scheduled from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m., and a reception will follow from 4 p.m. - 6 p.m. The conference theme is "Building Communities of Research and Practice," with the ultimate goal of encouraging collaboration within the college.

"Building community is hard work," said Erin Castro, committee member and graduate student in Educational Policy Studies. "I think it requires that we step beyond our departments and our comfort zones, and this can be challenging for those of us who oftentimes feel underrepresented. If we are committed to creating a sense of community, I think we have to take advantage of opportunities like this one to reach out and step up."

One of the strengths of the conference will be the diversity and variety of research topics presented and discussed. Conference topics include critical theory, comparative education, literacy, higher education, evaluation, measurement, and teacher education, among other topics.

Natasha Jankowski, graduate student in Educational Organization and Leadership, and conference presenter, looks to make meaningful connections with fellow students.

"It is not often that [graduate students] have the time and space to come together to share with each other, as a community, our ideas and questions, especially across disciplines in the College of Education," Jankowski said. "We have such a diverse and talented group of students. I want to gain insight and new perspectives on my work from students in multiple departments so that collectively we can present stronger, more thoughtful research."

In addition to showcasing and providing an outlet for graduate student research, the conference fosters interaction with the 2010 College of Education Distinguished Alumni Award recipients. Five of the six celebrated winners are participating as discussants for student presentations, as well as co-facilitating roundtable sessions during lunch with COE faculty. This will provide conference attendees the opportunity to better understand and integrate theoretical concepts with the practical experiences offered by the distinguished alums.

The conference is being supported through the generosity of University of Illinois Alumna, Dr. K. Patricia Cross, Professor of Higher Education, Emerita, Berkeley University. Dr. Cross has had a distinguished career as a university administrator, researcher, and teacher. She has been recognized for her scholarship by election to the National Academy of Education and by her receipt of several honors including the E.F. Lindquist Award from the American Educational Research Association, the Sidney Suslow Award from the Association for Institutional Research, and the Howard Bowen Distinguished Career Award from the Association for the Study of Higher Education. Thanks to the sponsorship of Dr. Cross, the conference is free for all participants.

The Graduate Conference Planning Committee anticipates that the conference will provide a yearly outlet for high quality research.

"My goal for this year in planning this conference was to make sure that it would happen the next year," said Nora Gannon, graduate student in Educational Psychology, and planning committee member. "The combination of a superb planning team, tremendous support from the dean and the college, and the quality of work submitted this first year has lead me to believe that this conference is just the first of many."