Guest Blogger: Maggie Lally

I am pleased to introduce the final guest blogger of the semester. Maggie Lally attended the graduate conference in Tennessee.

In September, I received a grant from the Graduate Student Association to travel to Middle Tennessee State University’s English Graduate Student Organization’s annual conference. My purpose in going was two-fold: first, I went for the experience of presenting my ideas in front of an audience and second, for our organization, as we’re trying to expand our program research symposium into a regional conference and I, as chair of that committee, wanted to see how another school set up their graduate conference. I learned a lot from this conference and since this is information that could be valuable to other organizations, I wanted to pass it on, with a few changes that I think would better serve College of Charleston programs, since our school is much smaller than MTSU.

The first thing that I really liked was that the English Graduate Student Organization (EGSO) had several emails for the conference as well as a webpage. As a student traveling from out of state, it was helpful to be able to check the conference website for information like the name of the building where the conference was held and when I was presenting. The GEA has an email set up for our conference already, but when we expand, it will be necessary for us to have a webpage as well.

Another thing that they did which I’d like to implement with the CofC Graduate English Association (GEA) symposium is having a faculty key-note speaker; the EGSO got one of their faculty members to speak about his research, which he connected to the conference theme. Having a faculty member who was invested in the program to the extent that he was willing to spend a Saturday afternoon with graduate students speaks very well of their program and I know that in our English department, we are fortunate to have faculty members with the same level of commitment. I also think that to have a faculty member on the program makes it clear that this is an event to be taken seriously; though the EGSO conference was much smaller than a professional conference, it was clear that everyone there took what they were doing as seriously as if it had been a professional conference, which is key to its success.

Now, as aforementioned, there were a few things that I think would work better for CofC if they were changed slightly. Registration at MTSU began at 7:30 am and the day did not end until 8:30 pm, which was a very long day. I think that, especially being right in the heart of the city where there is so much activity, it would be nice to have a slightly shorter day with conference panels running concurrently to enable the people who travel from out of town to see a little bit of the city before they head back to their school; I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to see more of Tennessee on my first trip there. Besides, what better way to demonstrate our famous Southern hospitality than by taking visiting graduate students out for the evening in Charleston?

Overall, though, going to the conference was a very positive experience; everyone who attended was respectful of others’ work and asked good questions. The EGSO conference committee certainly succeeded in creating an atmosphere that was friendly and intellectually stimulating at the same time, which is what the GEA is striving to recreate in our own research symposium.

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