Phi Alpha Theta Michigan Regional Conference
I became a history major upon returning to Grand Valley after a nearly two year break from college. Since then Ive taken fourteen history courses, yet I had yet to present a research paper until last weekend. I have presented research in classes, but never a paper. I chose to do a senior thesis with the History Department and Professor James Goode as a way of challenging myself and engaging with material interesting to me. I have spent countless hours researching and writing about US policy towards Syrian intervention in Lebanon in 1976. Phi Alpha Theta is a history honors society and the Phi Alpha Theta Michigan Regional Conference presented a forum for my findings and allowed me to receive feedback on my scholarly efforts.
Research papers and paper presentations require different sets of skill excel. In writing a paper you have a long period of time to present a thesis and detail in evidence. Meticulous research strengthens evidence and constant reworking improves the thesis. Paper lengths vary, but the structure is typically the same. I know these things from writing many papers during my studies. Three to four supplemental writing skills (SWS) course per semester have strengthened my understanding of what is required in a good paper. However, I have had little experience presenting my papers. The Phi Alpha Theta conference allowed me to offer my research and argue my thesis beyond the confines of a written paper.
The conference also exposed me to other students research, including graduate students. I have been to wonderful lectures, speeches, and presentations in the past. But the graduate students at the conference inspired me to continue my scholarly pursuits beyond my undergrad. My fellow undergrad presenters showed me what a good paper presentation should be like. But the graduate students displayed what thorough research and mastery of a topic produce. Two of the grad students presented topics of great interest to me and I want to be able to engage with material as much as them. I have always seen myself going to the Middle East upon graduating to improve my Arabic and see where my interests will take me. I still believe I need to approach Arabic fluency but I am certain that grad school will be in my future.
The conference introduced me to the professional academic world. Being surrounded by so many motivated and passionate people enhanced my education. By presenting at this conference I am inspired to offer my research findings more often. I feel as though I better understand the format for presenting a paper. My paper was very well received, but my presentation skills require honing. I will apply my experiences very soon at Student Scholars Day and carry this experience with me into the future.