Reflecting on 2011: One Presenter’s Review of the Loyola Graduate History Conference

Chicago’s famous Water Tower with Loyola’s downtown campus in the background–the site of the Loyola Graduate History Conference.

In preparation for the ninth annual conference, Loyola’s conference organizers have reached out to previous conference attendees in hopes of having them write up some thoughts about their experiences at our conference.  The following post was written by Brian Sarnacki, a graduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  You can learn more about Brian and his research here.

The conference, held this year on November 3, is an ideal setting for graduate presentations and especially welcomes public history content. Interested? See the call for papers.


As a second year graduate student, last year I wanted to get more experience presenting my work in a conference setting. I figured a graduate conference was a good place to get some feedback and practice in a rather low pressure situation (when compared to presenting at a major conference). I had a number of various factors I took into consideration: I was organizing my own department’s conference in the spring so I needed to present in the fall. My brother lives in Chicago so I thought I would use a conference as a good excuse to visit. Other graduate students in my department had attended Loyola’s conference the year before and recommended it. When I applied I figured I would I have a nice opportunity for practice presenting. However, I ended up getting much more than a practice venue.

Loyola’s conference certainly met all my modest expectations: I got more experience presenting (in Chicago to boot) and Loyola’s students and faculty offered valuable feedback on my research in a welcoming environment. Having worked on my own department’s graduate student run conference in the past, I was impressed with the well-crafted thematic panels, array of students from across the country, great facilities and well-stocked reception.

What impressed me the most, though, was the continuing discussion that followed my presentation.  At the conference’s reception, I continued to talk with other students and faculty, making my conference going experience more valuable than if I had simply dropped in for my panel and left directly afterward. I was happy to engage in the open exchange of ideas that I think all conferences strive to facilitate. The conference was a very enjoyable social and intellectual experience and I was pleased to see several Loyola students and even my panel’s faculty commentator when I attended the AHA this past January.

I began last fall with the modest expectations of gaining experience giving conference presentations, but I left Loyola’s conference with the social and professional networking conferences are supposed to provide. I was able to share my research, but the conference provided a venue for dialogue (both during and after the conference) that has proved much more valuable than merely discussing my work for a single panel.

Originally posted at the Loyola University Graduate History Conference blog.


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