Like many other academic conferences this year, SPSP 2021 went virtual! Several conference goers at different stages of their graduate and post graduate careers shared their thoughts and perspectives on this year’s unique event.
Interviewees included Amanda Bernal (AB), a 2nd year masters student at the University of Texas at Dallas and first time SPSP attendee, Beverly Conrique (BC), a PhD student at the University of Pittsburg who has attended previous in-person SPSP conventions, Heidi Vuletich (HV), a postdoctoral research fellow at Indiana University and the former chair for the SPSP student committee, and Jennifer LaCosse (JL), a postdoctoral researcher also at Indiana University who is currently on the job market.
What events did you attend at SPSP 2021?
AB: I attended some poster sessions both on Thursday and Friday that were related to close relationships, individual differences, and intergroup processes. I also attended a few symposia that piqued my interest such as how cultural differences impact experiences in close relationships.
BC: Before the convention officially started, I first attended the ¡PODER! Latinx Community Retreat, which brought together SPSP Latinx graduate students for a day of encouragement with a faculty panel, fun times with a virtual game night, supportive community, and more! I also attended the Justice and Morality preconference on the first day of the convention, and then the Presidential Plenary on the third day of the convention. Finally, I also attended several symposia on a range of topics.
HV: I attended the professional development session on the academic job market, a mentoring event for early career scholars on open science, symposia, posters, the presidential plenary, and a reunion event. I also led the student lounge on graduate school advice.
JL: I attended the Intervention Science Preconference, the Awards Ceremony, Townhall, as well as three symposiums.
What did you like about this year’s convention?
AB: I enjoyed having access to the poster presentations and symposiums even after the conference ended so I could take a more thorough look through all the different topics. Additionally, the chat and Q&A feature on the Whova app made it possible to engage with other attendees. I feel like the stress that one would've experienced when presenting their poster in person was mitigated because I did not have to worry about giving the same spiel to everyone who looked at my poster.
BC: I really love that I can go back and watch all the talks I missed! Even though SPSP is one of the things I look forward to every year particularly because I love being around and meeting new people (I’m very extroverted), this year’s virtual adaptation of SPSP made attending multiple symposia so much easier. I also really liked that many were live tweeting this year which reinforced the fact that we’re all together apart (a nice feeling after 11 lonely months of the pandemic). Finally, I really liked that individuals from all over the world were able to attend who haven’t been able to in previous years due to accessibility.
HV: I really enjoyed being able to attend multiple sessions, even those that were overlapping. I also enjoyed the posters and being able to browse so many of them.
JL: It is great that I can watch content later instead of rushing to type up notes. I also liked that more people could attend, and no one had to stand in the back. Additionally, liked that there was a day between the preconference and the actual conference, so I was able to get some work done in between.
What did you dislike about SPSP 2021?
AB: There's nothing I disliked about the convention. I feel like SPSP was able to organize effectively a conference online! I believe that the different things the organizers implemented to increase engagement proved to be very successful.
BC: I would like to preface all this with my biggest (and only) dislike was completely outside our control due to COVID-19. At the end of my preconference, we all said “bye” to each other on Zoom and then hung up the call – and it was perhaps the one time all convention I felt a jarring sense of “now, what?” In other years, the end of the preconference (or any day at the convention, really) meant getting to meet more fellow social scientists or exploring the city we were all in (complete with local cuisine and local fun) before we did it all over again the next day.
HV: I missed seeing people in person and running into people in the hallways or lounges. Those interactions are always so much fun and rewarding.
JL: I did think that some of the symposiums were repetitive with what has been presented in previous years, BUT that happens every year at SPSP. Mostly, I just missed seeing people in person and being forced to interact and network. The networking events and splitting into small groups were intimidating in the virtual setting.
Any other thoughts or impressions of SPSP 2021?
AB: My first time attending SPSP was an enjoyable experience! I was able to find research that was related to my own research interests easily using the Whova App. The convention also gave me a lot of insight about future directions for my research as well as different ways to present my data. I would attend another SPSP conference in the future.
BC: SPSP 2021 was the best virtual conference I’ve attended since the pandemic started (which is no small feat given how big SPSP is). The Whova app had a good interface that made me feel like there was a help desk and helpers throughout the convention location pointing me in the right direction (like in previous SPSP conventions). One of the biggest differences in comparing this year to previous, in-person conventions was that there were more networking opportunities within and visibility of specific communities. For example, several joined our ¡PODER! Latinx Community Slack page by way of the communities’ message feature in Whova. It’s possible the entirely virtual aspect of the convention made groups like ours and others more visible for community-building! It was a great convention, and I sincerely want to thank everyone who made it the success it was! SPSP 2021 took Herculean efforts in coordination and planning, and it showed and paid off during the actual convention. Finally, I also appreciate how early into the pandemic the convention was moved to a virtual setting. I hope we can all see each other in person —if it’s safe of course— at SPSP 2022 (fingers crossed!).
HV: This past year has been different in so many ways. It's hard to compare this year’s convention to previous ones because the different formats almost make these different types of events. But I will say that I was very happy to attend SPSP 2021 and be part of it. I think the organizers did a great job and made the best of the situation. Overall, it was a very positive experience. Every year I attend I learn so much and grow professionally. I was not disappointed this year!
JL: In terms of being on the job market, the only real difference between this year’s convention and last year’s (when I was also on the market) was that more people could see the talk I gave at my preconference. I also appreciated not feeling like I have to be always “on.” In general, I really loved (and think it is important) that more international scholars were able to attend. I also love that I can access the talks I missed later on. It was also nice that the registration fee was less given the COVID-19 pandemic!
Special thanks to Amanda Bernal, Beverly Conrique, Heidi Vuletich, and Jennifer LaCosse for their responses. Responses were condensed and edited for grammar and clarity.
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