YOU are the presenter we’ve been looking for

by Brian Arao

Near the end of my first year as a master’s student in higher education and student affairs, my assistantship supervisor informed me that the department would be sending me to an international conference in the fall. I was delighted, excited, and grateful. I had never been to such a conference and couldn’t wait to attend to develop new relationships with and learn from colleagues from all over the world. As the reality of this wonderful news started to sink in, my supervisor said something that floored me – “You should submit a program proposal. I think you’d be a great presenter!”

I thought, “Me? What could I, a first year grad student and new professional in this field, possibly have to say that would be useful or interesting for attendees at an international conference?” In retrospect, I understand that while this is a common first reaction to the idea of presenting at a conference, it was magnified by imposter syndrome. On a level of which I was not fully conscious, I had internalized oppressive messages suggesting that folx like me – queer, first-gen people of color – didn’t have knowledge worth sharing.

Thankfully, my supervisor and other more seasoned professionals with whom I worked challenged these notions and encouraged me to consider presenting. Once I’d decided to do it and what I wanted to present on, new questions arose: how do I write this proposal? What kinds of information do I need to include, and in what forms? What possible pitfalls should I make sure to avoid? Again, I was fortunate to have great mentors to coach me through the process of drafting a high-quality conference proposal. I remain grateful for their willingness to share the wisdom they’d gleaned from their many experiences presenting at conferences; without it, I may not have had my proposal accepted, which remains an important turning point in my career.

I share this story because I know that many of you – perhaps especially those of you, like me, who hold marginalized and minoritized identities – may be feeling the same way I did when it was first suggested I try my hand at presenting. You may not have the same kind of access I did to supportive champions who can help you with this task. As a member of the ACPA19 Convention Planning Team, I want to tell you this: you are the presenter our profession has been waiting for, and we want you to submit a proposal!

As you work on your proposal (which of course you’re going to do, right?), I encourage you to use the program reviewer rubric to inform your writing. The program team has worked hard to develop this tool, which we hope will help you understand what criteria reviewers will be assessing, how to map each criterion to specific parts of the program proposal form and worksheet, and how reviewers will be scoring within each criterion. Think of the rubric as a guide that will help you in framing your innovative and brilliant ideas in a way that will boost your proposal’s likelihood of being accepted for the convention. We are excited to read your proposal in September 2018!

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