Attending the AGLSP Conference

We’ve been posting information in this blog about the upcoming 2013 AGLSP Conference, taking place October 10-12 at Chicago’s Blackstone Hotel. If you haven’t attended an academic conference before, we can give you an idea of what to expect and, hopefully, an idea of why you should consider participating in this exciting opportunity. We encourage graduate students and faculty to consider presenting and/or attending our interdisciplinary conference, which will focus on “Urban Gateways: Immigration and the Global City.” Go to aglsp.org for specific Conference paper presentation and registration details.

Academic conferences are always devoted to whatever unifying mission brings the member organizations together. In the case of AGLSP, the association brings together graduate liberal studies programs from universities around the US and Canada. Most participating programs involve interdisciplinary studies in more or less traditional Liberal Arts graduate programs. Each year, the university that hosts the AGLSP Annual Conference selects a theme that draws from that university’s areas of specialization, some unique cultural or geographical entity, or some social phenomenon associated with that school. For instance, in Oct. 2012, Reed College in Portland, OR, focused on the history and future of the book; last year, Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, explored the importance of water across the disciplines; the year before, Rollins University in Orlando, FL, focused on the interaction between technology and the imagination. When AGLSP comes to DePaul, our theme will explore Urban Gateways: Immigration and the Global City. Watch for Calls for Papers to learn more specific presentation details.

AGLSP conferences begin with a Preconference Workshop day on the Thursday of the event. These workshops are geared towards MALS program directors and administrators, and topics include subjects like curriculum-building, dealing with administrative challenges, program marketing, new trends and innovations, incorporating social media as a community-builder, and so on. Participants share best practices and examine program areas in need of improvement. As the Workshop activities conclude, other participants begin to arrive to the conference hotel, getting ready for the Opening Reception that evening. The hosts and association directors welcome everyone to the conference, which leads into a presentation by a keynote speaker or panel of speakers to officially kick off the conference presentations.

The presentations begin early on the Friday of the conference. The day starts with breakfast at 8, followed by multiple 90-minute Concurrent Sessions that usually run until around 5 pm. These moderated sessions usually bring together several subject-related speakers who share their papers with interested participants. Presenters include students and professors from many universities and sometimes professionals in related fields. Many of the presenters use PowerPoint presentations, and some bring handouts and other ancillary materials. The host, along with AGLSP, works hard to create stimulating combinations of related speakers; lively conversation between panelists and audience is always encouraged. Participants enjoy the flexibility of moving from presentation to presentation according to their interests; details about each presenter and their materials are included in the conference programs each participant receives upon registration.

After a day full of presentations, participants take a break and then gather for the association Banquet. Once everyone has enjoyed what is usually a quite lavish meal, the association presents Faculty and Confluence Awards, which are sometimes then followed with entertainment. In Portland, after the awards, we were treated to a terrific juggling act and a view of some of Portland’s “Extreme Bikes” brought by several students.

Saturday begins with breakfast, a short Annual Business Meeting for the AGLSP member administrators, and then one more Concurrent Session that runs from 10:30 – noon. The Conference then adjourns, and many guests take their leave; but the activities don’t end quite yet. The host institution offers an afternoon excursion that may or may not relate to the conference theme.

This year in Portland, participants were invited to take a 6 hour tour of the Royal Gorge area along the Columbia River, led by two Reed College Science professors. Last year at Skidmore, guests were treated to a tour of Saratoga Springs’ actual springs, and we tasted many varieties of the natural spring water that have drawn people to the area for hundreds of years. We’re not sure yet what DePaul’s excursion will include, but given the fantastic ethnic diversity of Chicago, we know we will focus on specific neighborhoods and their culture. We will also find a way to show off our Lincoln Park campus to interested participants.

We’ll be holding our conference in the beautifully restored Blackstone Hotel on Michigan Ave. But participants are not held hostage; in all of the conferences we’ve attended, folks take time to get out and explore on their own. In Portland, the Governor Hotel was across the street from about a hundred food carts covering several city blocks. We were just 3 blocks from the famous Powell’s Books and a bit beyond that, one of the world’s biggest and most varied farmer’s markets. You can be sure that when people travel, they satisfy both their intellectual and cultural hungers to enjoy the best of the local offerings. We are certain that our guests will explore the many walking-distance attractions of downtown. They’ll be able to visit Millennium Park, the Museum Campus, the Art Institute, the Spertus Museum of Judaica, and many of the neighborhoods they’ll learn about. Our office will be preparing transportation and neighborhood guides so that our guests will find their ways around the city.

We’ll be counting on our fascinating MALS and IDS students to participate as presenters, volunteer to organize the sessions, and to act as impromptu city guides throughout the conference. You are our most valuable and interesting assets, and your enthusiasm and expertise will go miles in welcoming our 2013 AGLSP Annual Conference guests to Chicago and DePaul.

by Susan Jacobs, Associate Director