CHICAGO – The Midwestern Psychological Association held its annual conference at the Palmer House in Chicago. As an aspiring psychological researcher, my interest was piqued; here is how it went:
So, easily the best part about the conference was the commute, and I say that with as much sarcasm as a person can muster, as it was a 40-minute bus ride, an hour-and-a-half train ride, and a 15-minute walk to get to the building it was held in, and a 20-minute wander around a hotel – which could generously be described as ostentatious, mind you – to find a single room. However, that is the score with travel, so I cannot complain too much, as it was not their fault.
The conference, when I got there, was actually pretty interesting. The best way to describe it is as a variety of simultaneous psychology lectures. Each room in the Palmer House had presentations either every 30 minutes or every 15. Attendees could come and go as they pleased; if something sounded interesting, go drop by, and if you were currently in another lecture, just duck out in the least obtrusive way possible. Personally, I tried to wait until the end of a talk to leave, especially if the speaker was an undergraduate student; if being on your phone in class is enough to upset a professor, imagine actually walking out on a student presentation.
The first stop was the registration desk, and when I finally got there and pinned on my badge, I was able to peruse the posters put up by the presenting attendees. Interestingly enough, plenty of the posters on display were made by undergraduate students with seemingly minimal involvement of a supervisor, evidenced by the only name with any credentials being the last one in the list of authors. Naturally, there were graduate and doctoral students presenting or roaming around, but I was genuinely surprised by how many people were there who did not have a single degree under their belt.
The 15-minute presentations were usually undergraduate students presenting the findings of their studies, either independent or for a Research Methods adjacent course. The 30-minute presentations were often professors or researchers – anybodwho had letters after their names – giving lectures on specific research topics, general trends in literature, or a brief overview of a new publication of theirs. Again, they were often held in the same room, so watching a junior try to follow well-accomplished professionals giving what felt like a TEDTalk was both slightly amusing and remarkably pitiable.
The day’s activities, the day of April 21, did not begin until 8:30 a.m., CST. That is when the first seminars, workshops and presentations took place. The one on the itinerary that caught my eye was a presentation on multilingualism. Unfortunately, for a reason I did not overhear, the presenter had to cancel their talk at the last-minute, but there was a similar talk taking place 15 minutes later, so I decided to stick around.
After that, there was a brief workshop on ways to prepare for the GRE, or Graduate Record Examination, and what kinds of questions the test includes. As a hopeful graduate student, I found the presenters to have some useful information, the majority of which can be summed up with going to www.ets.org/gre. The website has plenty of practice problems, study materials, registration information, and tools to help you interpret your performance and how to improve. So, any grad school-minded readers should definitely direct their attention there.
I had popped into various lectures for the rest of the day, before I experienced a major gripe I have with this conference: the event scheduling. Plenty of interesting topics were talked about, all at the same time, while there were often hour-long periods where nothing was happening until the next big thing. The break at noon was understandable – people have to eat. Not me of course; I was too anxious to leave the building, and I wasn’t paying for hotel food.
However, at about 2 p.m., CST, there was a significant break in the action. Nothing was scheduled until an hour later, and all of those lectures were two hours long, taking the time up until an event that, for an introvert, was ominously labelled as the “social hour.” Seeing as nothing else in the program interested me, and only socialization remained, I hopped on the next train-to-bus-to-train to home and promptly collapsed on my bed.
Summarily, the conference was certainly an educational experience, both on topics in psychology and what to do as a graduating senior psych student. The moratorium stage after college is often talked about, but never in a constructive sense. Attending this conference made the after-college period seem a bit more manageable, which is why I recommend the experience to anyone in the psychology program, specifically, the same event next year, taking place on April 20 – 23, 2023.