1) You get to make connections with your peers.
When we were debriefing the very first summit last year, the one theme that came up repeatedly, in both formal and informal conversations, was that graduate students were really happy to have had an opportunity to network with each other. Between sessions, the room was abuzz with people talking about their research and sharing ideas. There were even some students talking about potential collaborations on future research. When the conference gets underway, you will be too busy to have the chance to make those kinds of connections.
Also while some schools come to the conference with several graduate students, plenty of students attend alone or only with an advisor. Since the summit takes place directly before the conference, it provides an opportunity to meet people who you can attend sessions with, watch present, or grab lunch with. These friends will be your colleagues as you enter academia or become a practitioner and you will be attending conferences with them for years to come. The sooner you make connections, the better your conference experience will be.
2) It provides a (slightly) less stressful and supportive environment for presenting your research.
Nerves can get the best of all of us. You don’t want your good ideas to be overshadowed by your fear of looking stupid or your anxiety over how other people will react to your research. If you’re anything like most of the graduate students I know, you spend a lot of time worrying about whether or not your ideas are good or whether you are “smart” enough. The summit provides a great opportunity to receive the support needed to remain confident in your work, while also providing you the opportunity to grow.
Don’t just take it from me, here is a comment from the survey last year:
“I really appreciate the effort that UCEA has made to welcome and celebrate grad students. I likely would not have submitted to the conference if it weren't for the grad student summit. I appreciated the "safe" opportunity to present my first work to peers in a nonjudgmental forum (2012 Summit Participant).”
3) Practice makes perfect (or at least better!).
For most of us, we have a long career of presenting ahead of us. As with all skills, we only get better at it the more times we practice. Last year, several students had their paper accepted into the summit and the convention. The summit gave them a great opportunity to practice their timing and to get feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of their presentation, with time left to work out the kinks. Regardless of whether you are presenting at the convention, the summit gives you an opportunity to practice condensing all your work into a short, interesting, thought-provoking presentation.
4) You will be mentored by amazing academics.
This year we are lucky enough to have 12 of UCEA’s past presidents serving as discussants for the paper sessions. While this does raise the ante on the quality of your presentations, these leaders in our field will provide you with very specific and insightful feedback. In addition, you will have the opportunity to sit down with them in a separate session that is intended only for feedback and small group discussion. This type of mentorship is invaluable to us, and we are thankful to be in an organization led by professors that provide support to future generations of scholars.
Dr. Daniel L. Duke, past president of UCEA and University of Virginia professor, responded to the request by saying, “Of course I'll participate in the Graduate Student Summit! I can't think of anything I'd rather do than listen to the next generation of scholar-practitioners and learn from them. Count me in.” How lucky are we to have mentors like that?
5) It's cheap!
Well, at least relatively cheap. On a graduate student budget, everything is expensive! You do have to arrive a day earlier than planned, but since it is directly before the UCEA Convention, you save on travel costs. You register for the summit when you register for the conference, so you can include the cost in your registration fees. For the low price of $35 dollars, you get a sit-down lunch at the 2013 Awards Luncheon, a reception with Plenum Session Representatives on Wednesday night, and much, much more.
Have I convinced you yet? If so, submit your proposal today (or by May 13th) on the UCEA website: http://ucea.org/2013-summit-submission/.
If you don't believe me, check out the feedback from the 2012 survey: