Friday, 11 July 2014

Publishing opportunities, discovering new interests, finding a mentor and community, and more!


Today’s blog post comes from Monica Chahal, recipient of a Green and Gold Student Leadership and Professional Development Grant. The Green and Gold Grant is administered by CAPS and funded by the University of Alberta Annual Fund. At CAPS, we strongly encourage students to actively engage in their career and follow their curiosities because such action often reveals – even creates – opportunities for them. Monica’s experience shows the career impact of the actions we take and connections we make – in Monica’s case, publishing opportunities, discovering new interests, finding a mentor and community, and more! 

The Green and Gold Grant enabled me to attend the 35th Annual Popular & American Culture Studies Conference.  The reason I wanted to attend the conference was for its uniqueness and the potentiality of including public pedagogy, science fiction and urban culture in the classroom.

The conference itself was a truly unique and extraordinary experience, receiving the Green and Gold Grant gave me a much needed confidence boost and forced me out of my comfort zone. I attended three separate professional development sessions, all of which became extremely important and useful in the months following the conference. For the first time (due to lack of confidence and opportunity), I was able to speak to a publisher, directly, at the session on academic publishing and glean much needed information and direction.  I also had the benefit of being able to chat with the editor of a particular journal, which led to the editor offering to read two abstracts for two different papers in order to provide feedback and guidance regarding future publication possibilities, ultimately resulting in the submission of these two articles to her journal. I was also able to connect with a publisher for Intellect, who was very interested in publishing a journal on Hip Hop Culture and I will be contacting him over the summer to see if I can provide some assistance in the creation of this publication. Currently, Intellect publishes 82 double-blind peer reviewed journals world-wide; to be able to work on this from the ground up would be amazing. Additionally, I also attended a professional development session regarding the job search in academia, my first session of its kind outside of the University of Alberta and hosted solely by American Academics. As an urban researcher, many of my possible job opportunities lie in the United States, and I felt that this session provided me with an immense amount of guidance, advice and information regarding everything from how to write a curriculum vitae, to how to prepare for the interview and the multiple forms an academic contract may take. This session became tremendously important when I had my first academic interview in an American Institution 2 months following the conference.

Next the conference presentations themselves. The presentations I attended were extremely insightful, fascinating and useful to my practice, both as a pre-service educator, academic and beyond. For example, I spent a morning (8:00 am-11:45 am) attending presentations under the heading Rap and Hip Hop Culture 2 and 3.  My own research is linked to my personal interest in marginalized student populations, and as a result I have begun to explore Hip Hop Based Education and Pedagogy.  However, at the University of Alberta, and in particular within my own faculty, I am isolated. This was the first academic session I have been able to attend that focused solely on Hip Hop as an academic pursuit. While attending the first session (Rap and Hip Hop 2) the speaker, a professor from Howard University, offered to mentor my work and research.  Without attending this session, I would not have made a contact that I know I will cherish for many years. 

At the end of the second session (Rap and Hip Hop 3), I received the business card from a professor and journal editor from the University of Maryland. Due to my newly found confidence in networking, I have now submitted an article to his journal and am awaiting a response from another critical contact I had formed. In my final session, I was taught about the Harry Potter Studies, and was able to learn how to integrate a canon that is widely popular among youth of all ages into my own classrooms at the University, while still educating students in science, ethics and morality. Even more beneficial, was the connection, I was fortunate enough to make with the Area Chair for this section, who, after hearing about my focus on marginalized students and white privilege, invited me to submit a chapter proposal for his edited volume. Finally, in between the attended sessions, I was able to further connect with other conference participants inspiring a feeling of community of which I had not felt in a very long time.  Also, as a result of the many contacts I have made, myself, along with colleagues met at the conference, are now leading small publication groups with others at the University of Alberta.

In conclusion, all of this has been immensely gratifying as within my curriculum vitae my weakest section has been that of peer reviewed publications. As a young academic, I have had difficulty in finding a match between my articles and journals, and had become quite frustrated. However, the Green and Gold Grant provided me with the realization that I am supported, giving me confidence and thus encouraging me to put myself forward, ask for guidance, and gain much needed feedback . Consequently, I am certain that as a result of this single conference, I will become a published author.

This was hands down, the best conference I have ever attended. More importantly, it is a conference that has created for me, many professional networks, publication opportunities and a newfound sense of purpose. 

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