Students and Professional Development: Presenting at a National Conference
This article was originally published on the NCFR website, and was edited and submitted by Dr. Clara Gerhardt, Family Studies.
The NCFR Conference: A First Timer’s Perspective
By Laura Price, Family Studies Major and Business Minor, Samford University
Having never been to a professional conference, I did not know what to expect, or what I would be doing beyond presenting our research on family violence. The research we had submitted to the peer review process was a collaborative paper with my supervisor, Dr. Kristie Chandler, CFLE. Arriving at the conference made me realize what I had gotten myself into: a whirlwind experience of learning and new information about Families and Health; the chosen topic for the 2012 conference.
From the moment I arrived to the moment I left, I became immersed in a new world, one filled with new ideas and information that I had not accessed before. I heard renowned speakers discuss cutting edge topics, such as domestic violence and childhood obesity. One of these speakers was Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell, a domestic violence researcher and nursing professor at John Hopkins University. She applied a lifespan approach to domestic violence and examined the physical and mental responses to violence within the family. She researched domestic violence from a health perspective, while my focus was from an educational angle. It offered insights on how I needed to consider domestic violence from the points of view of different professions when researching domestic violence education. Different fields see and approach this topic in different ways, and Dr. Campbell enriched my understanding of how the health professions understand and deal with this sensitive topic.
One of my favorite learning moments of the conference was the ability to hear two graduate students from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign present their research on intimate partner violence. One of the students is continuing her research on domestic violence in upper class families, which is a topic not often covered. I found it interesting because it gave me new perspective, such as insights into how domestic violence education might be tailored to target this group that is often overlooked because they seem to maintain this type of family secret so well.
One of the most important things I took away from the conference was professional confidence. Presenting the research allowed me to interact with other professionals in the family studies field; and my ability to talk to them about my research was particularly confidence building and empowering. It was interesting to hear what others were doing in the field of domestic violence education. Talking to other colleagues has influenced our future research in a positive way by expanding the literature review and elaborating on the different perspectives.
The NCFR conference opened doors to a lot of information and professional contacts that I would not have accessed otherwise. It provided me with a professional experience and networking opportunities that gave me confidence in my abilities as a student researcher and allowed me to interact with others in this field, both professionals and students. Because of the opportunity to attend this conference and the experiences I had there, I am better prepared to enter the professional world of family studies and I have an understanding of what Family Life Educators do and the challenges they face.
Getting My Feet Wet: My First National Conference
By Heather Johnson, Graduate Student in Social Work, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Recipient of the NCFR Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award 2012
Attending the NCFR conference in Phoenix, Arizona was a wonderful experience; it was well organized, relevant, and educational. It allowed me to enhance my professional development and increase my knowledge on family related topics. As a recent graduate of Samford University with a Bachelor of Arts in Family Studies, this conference supplemented the knowledge I learned from my undergraduate courses and practicum. The conference included several presentations that explored different issues affecting families. Attending these presentations gave me a chance to hear multiple perspectives from professionals working closely with individuals and their families. These presentations fostered my critical thinking skills and increased my awareness of current issues in the field of family science.
Moreover, the NCFR conference connected me with other colleagues and professionals who are interested in strengthening and preserving families. I learned about different services and options available to families. I also learned about the potential job fields for a degree in Family Studies. Currently, I am pursuing a Master’s in Social work at the University of Alabama, and the NCFR conference was a compliment to the knowledge and experience I am developing as a social work student. The information I learned from the NCFR conference can be applied to my future career experiences with families.
I believe the NCFR conference has shaped my professional identity because it has allowed me to learn from others with real life experience and extensive knowledge about family science. Overall, my experience was very valuable and gave me a deeper understanding of what it means to be a professional working with families. I believe this conference better prepared me for my future career. While attending the conference, I was even fortunate enough to receive the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Research Paper award; this was a meaningful experience for me and one of the highlights of my undergraduate career. I thank NCFR for this encouraging acknowledgment of my research, as well as my research supervisor, Dr. Jonathan Davis, CFLE, who nominated me for this award. These many facets of professional development and networking all contribute to my understanding of what it means to be a Family Life Educator.