We asked Griffin Edwards to write up a few notes about this conference – his first experience in presenting a research paper – to give other Master’s degree students a sense of how it actually works. The conference took place February 28-March 1, 2020; their website notes that, “Graduate students (“colleagues-in-the-making”) are particularly welcome.” For more information about CSC, see https://www.aseees.org/about/affiliate/regional/central.
By Griffin Edwards, MA student, Russian & East European Institute
Thanks to REEI/ Mellon Conference Travel Grant funding, I had the opportunity to attend the ASEEES affiliate Central Slavic Conference (CSC) in St. Louis last weekend.
The CSC was only my second academic conference, and the first at which I had a chance to present. I chose this conference for a couple reasons: it was relatively close (four hours’ drive); was known to be very friendly and inclusive to graduate students as well as professors; and seemed like the perfect forum to present a recent paper I wrote on the use of new historical narratives in Russian foreign policy. I registered, booked a hotel room, and started work on a presentation.
Leading up to the conference, I was nervous. I consider myself a competent public speaker, but I’d never presented research before. I enlisted a pair of my REEI MA colleagues as a test audience; we met in Wells Library, and they gave me some tips to help smooth my oral presentation and beautify my PowerPoint. A few more run-throughs and the next thing I knew I was on the road.
I found immediately that the conference was indeed very collegial: while I usually dread welcoming receptions and struggle with rooms of strangers, I felt totally at ease among my fellow scholars. Few were tenured professors; most were passionate PhD candidates or eager undergraduates. A pair of associate professors from my undergrad institution, St. Olaf College, were even in attendance! It was great to chat with them and see how the Russian program has changed since I left. And my presentation went off without a hitch!
REEI/ Mellon funding was instrumental in my experience. As a smaller conference, little food was provided by the organizers, so my travel grant went towards coffees, breakfasts, and lunches, as well as gas and lodging. I’m extremely grateful for the funding I received; I could not have had such a wonderful experience without it. I look forward to future conferences and future presentations as I continue my academic career.