My first APA

For better or worse, conferences are a part of professional life for people in all sorts of professions. There are conferences and conventions for almost anything.

In my field, psychology, there are a ton of conferences. I’m in media psych, which is by nature interdisciplinary, more so than many psychology disciplines. So there are even more conferences to go to, including communications, tech, and media focused conferences. But I’m a grad student on a grad student budget and have to be more selective about what conferences I go to.

The American Psychological Association conference is an easy choice, because it’s the biggest one for psychologists. I knew last year I was going to go this year, so a fellow student and I put together a symposium and our advisor graciously agreed to chair it.

We submitted the proposal for the talk in October and I found out in January that we were accepted for a two-hour symposium. Exciting! My first APA and I was going to be presenting.

I ~should~ have started working on my presentation in January after I found out we got accepted. But I had my first baby in January, had lots of complications, lingering health problems, and did not take a semester off of school. All my available energy, which there was not much of, went to taking care of my daughter, coursework, and other projects with hard spring deadlines.

Then more and more stuff kept coming up because of course it did. Life is many things, but never are problems presented in an orderly queue, when you have the time and energy for them. So by the time I started serious work on my presentation, it was mid-July.  This was not what I had planned.  I wanted to have it done by July and have plenty of time to practice.

I realized I had to bring a friend on to help me because more and more stuff kept happening and the time I needed was never available. There were also some issues with one of the presenters on the symposium that I thought about talking about here, but decided not to because I don’t want to rehash it.  

Like any field, or anything involving interactions with people, sometimes you just can’t get along with the people you’re working with, for a variety of reasons. Although at the time, it was distressing to me and definitely made me even more behind, now that it is over, I am grateful for the learning experience.

So the week before, I am trying to finish my presentation and also fix my membership so I could go to the conference I was already scheduled to present at.

I finally get my presentation done, in a terrible frenzy, the morning we were supposed to give it. My friend and coauthor was a fantastic support. A different friend fixed me for the presentation so I wasn’t a sweaty mess.- APA was in Chicago and wow was it humid.

The morning APA started I had to fix my membership and register for the conference so I could even get in to give my presentation. That was another thing that happened over the summer. When I finally joined APA, I joined at the wrong membership level, which increased the price of attending the conference from $100 to almost $400, which was definitely a mistake on my part.

The presentation itself went great, despite all the mishaps and ridiculous stress. There were a lot of friends from school there who came for moral support and to hear what we were talking about.  

After the presentation was over, I had no idea what to do! It was the first day of the conference and my first time at APA. There were thousands of psychologists and hundreds of interesting presentations.  So I followed my friend Sheila to a round table discussion she was invited to on colonialism and race in academia, or at least that was what the conversation seemed to be about. I never found it on the program and have no idea what division sponsored it or what the name of the panel was. It was really interesting though and it was great to get to hear the discussion.

After that, I found my friends from school at their poster sessions and got to see what they were up to. Although we all came from the same lab, I had not been in it since the year before, so I had no idea what they had been working on.

The next day, I was fortunate to find a friend from dog Twitter, who works for APA. It was fantastic getting to meet with Angela and talking about dogs, social media, and psychology. Outside of my friends from school, pretty much no one I know really cares about psychology or ever asks me about what I do, so getting to talk with her was definitely one of the highpoints of the convention for me.

I was able to make it to a program on learning R, a statistical programming language, on Friday morning, but the Wi-Fi was terrible in the room and I was not able to pull up the slides during the presentation. After the presentation, I asked some questions about resources and took some notes, which I will be following up with soon.

APA had some massage therapists, so after the R talk, I put myself on the super long list for a shoulder rub and wandered around the exhibitor hall, talking to people, and getting info and free stuff.  It was so nice to be surrounded by psychologists and grad students. It’s easy to get isolated professionally, especially as a grad student, so being reminded of the large community of psychologists that I belong to was really encouraging.

Friday night there were social functions for division 46, the media psychology and technology division, and for my school. At the division 46 social, the head of my program, who was the division president in 2015, was the recipient of an early career award, so it was great to get to see Jerri Lynn get some professional recognition for all the work she has done.  The Fielding get together was nice too; I got to see so many friends from my old lab.

When I got back home, I started brainstorming ideas for a symposium for APA 2020. Having quickly learned from my previous bad experiences, I picked a group of friends who are all doctoral students and from the same lab. We have had a few brainstorming sessions and are in the process of working out the specific talks for the presentation. Submission deadline last year was in mid-October, so we are going to be ready with a fantastic symposium talk that ~fingers crossed~ will get accepted.

Next year for APA, I am downloading the app, am going to read the programs a few weeks before, and actually use the app. Hopefully I will be presenting again and moving forward with a fantastic group of people, so next year I can enjoy myself.