Events Higher Education

Academic Conferences: What They Are and Why You Should Go

Conferences can be intimidating, but they are also an invaluable part of the academic career. Higher education professionals will find their life richer and deeper after attending conferences. Every conference experience builds off of what you know now vs. where you were before that first conference.

Whether your goal is to learn new ideas to improve your classroom, enhance your professional network, or make a meaningful contribution to scholarship in your discipline, conferences provide opportunities to meet others with similar goals and create communities for sharing knowledge and discussing issues. Higher education professionals regularly attend conferences as both presenters (sharing their research findings or lessons learned) and attendees (either listening to presentations or participating in conversations). Higher education professionals may choose one type of conference over another depending on their goals; some conferences are better suited for presenting while others are more beneficial for networking.

Before you go to your first conference as a higher education professional, it is important to understand what they are and what to expect. This article will provide an overview of academic conferences, including what they are, why you should attend them and how to get the most out of them. Additionally, this article will provide tips on how to pay for conferences and how to present at them.

What Are Academic Conferences?

An academic conference is an event at which researchers in a particular field or discipline come together to share their work. Conference participants typically include academics (professors, graduate students, etc.), students and professionals from other fields who are interested in the topic of the conference or who want to know more about a specific field.

Higher education experts can benefit from attending conferences as attendees and presenters, with attendance generally being more prevalent. Higher education professionals will find their life richer and deeper after attending conferences. Higher education professionals regularly attend conferences as both presenters (sharing their research findings or lessons learned) and attendees (either listening to presentations or participating in conversations). Higher education professionals may choose one type of conference over another depending on their goals; some conferences are better suited for presenting while others are more beneficial for networking.

The benefits of applying the knowledge gained from conferences to your workplace can be huge. Higher Education institutions depend on well-trained faculty who maintain a high level of professional development throughout their careers. Additionally, these conferences are useful for practitioners in the field of higher education to showcase their talents in presenting research proposals, exploring research findings, and engaging with conversations with other participants

Why Go to Conferences?

Conferences offer higher education professionals an opportunity to meet others who share their passion for scholarship and excellence in teaching. Higher education professionals also find that they become better scholars and instructors through exposure to new ideas and fresh insights.

Higher education professionals may choose to attend conferences as presenters with the goal of sharing what they have learned, or as attendees to explore new ideas with peers and exchange best practices across institutions and disciplines.

One of the biggest benefits of attending conferences is establishing and building relationships with other professionals, which can lead to collaborative grant proposals, faculty development initiatives and professional networks. Higher education professionals often discover new best practices for their work at conferences; they leave with a wealth of ideas and strategies for improvement, along with the anticipation of another conference (and another opportunity to explore new ideas).

You do not need be an academic superstar or sought-after researcher to benefit from conferences. Higher education professionals find that their experiences at conferences are enhanced by the people they meet and where those interactions take them; your conference experience is what you make it.

There’s More to Experience Outside the Classroom

Academic conferences are not limited to higher education professionals, as other disciplines may have their own types of conferences. Higher education professionals should consider attending other types of conferences in related fields where they can make valuable connections, including:

  • Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (AICU) Leadership Forums
  • The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
  • National Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference
  • National Music Teacher’s Association Convention
  • International Congress on Medieval Studies.

Higher education professionals should explore outside their traditional fields to broaden network potential, attend sessions that are relevant to their professional development needs, and take advantage of being exposed to new ideas.

Tips on How to Prepare for Your Conference Experience

Higher education professionals involved in conference planning find that there are some activities they can do in advance to make the most out of their experience, including:

  • Evaluate conference goals and determine presence/attendance needs early on
  • Attend conferences where you can network beyond your discipline
  • Set clear outcomes with specific objectives that align with your institution’s goals
  • Identify ways that higher education professionals across institutions can collaborate or join forces on a given topic for stronger presentations and more impactful workshops
  • Stay organized and manage your time effectively during the conference
  • Prepare for an active day with a mix of presentations, workshops and social events
  • Attend networking events outside scheduled sessions to gain exposure to a variety of higher education professionals attending the conference
  • Create a post-conference plan that identifies what you learned at the event, how you will apply it back on campus, ways that higher education professionals across institutions can collaborate or join forces on a given topic for stronger presentations and more impactful workshops as well as next steps for continued professional development opportunities
  • Keep Higher Education Professional Conference experiences top of mind when making those all important hiring decisions
  • Remain open to new ideas from colleagues and peers, realizing that conference experiences are what you make of it.

How Do Higher Education Professionals Get Paid to Attend Conferences?

Many Higher Education Professional Conferences offer a limited number of scholarships, grants or travel funding opportunities that higher education professionals can apply for. The focus will vary based on the conference theme and location, with some providing professionals from specific institutions with access to scholarships while others may provide professionals from a wide range of institutions with travel funding or other forms of financial assistance.

In most cases, these scholarship programs require higher education professionals to submit an application detailing their experiences as well as their need for financial assistance in order to attend the Higher Education Professional Conference. higher education professionals are typically required to identify their Higher Education Institution when applying for scholarship opportunities, but conferences will vary in this requirement.

How Can Higher Educators Attend Higher Education Professional Conferences?

Higher education professionals can often address questions or concerns about Higher Education Professional Conferences with their department administrators, which may include members of the faculty senate, graduate school staff or others in a position to assist with Higher Education Professional Conference planning efforts. If initial efforts are unsuccessful, it may be useful to launch an online campaign that identifies specific goals and asks colleagues for support promoting attendance.

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