CSCA ’23: Getting comfortable with incoherences

Abigail Oyinkan Olajire
5 min readApr 7, 2024

Incoherences are okay too!

Mel Poole from Unsplash

Sitting on a comfy chair at the airport waiting for my flight back to Columbia, I decided to reminisce and write about my experience at the just concluded Central States Communication Association (CSCA) in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

It was another opportunity to see the knowledge production happening and what boundaries are shifting in the field of communication.

This is my second experience. As usual, it was another wonderful time with scholars nationwide. Please read about my first experience here.

So, here’s how my conference went:

This conference was just after Spring break, so I took time to prepare my schedule.

A snippet of my schedule

I went to the conference alone and my flight was very smooth. I sincerely whispered a prayer before I left that there should be no delay considering the weather and recent news from my colleagues about flight cancellation. Thankfully, there was none!

I arrived at the conference location at about 6.50 pm, so I just checked in with my roommate (and classmate) whom I had a swell time rooming with.

My conferencing started properly on Thursday at 8 am. It started with a research-in-progress round table on a research paper I have been working on and needed some feedback as I move forward with a conference presentation and publication- hopefully.

It was such an incredible and helpful session. I had three outstanding professors provide me with thorough feedback. I really appreciated that these professors thoroughly read my paper before the session and took their time to give me helpful insights, recommendations and very importantly, encouraged me to keep the project going.

I promised myself to always submit ongoing research papers for conferences. Sincerely, it’s a golden opportunity to sit with experts in your research area while they provide direct feedback on your writing so far.

In fact, I recall submitting a paper for a round table at a previous conference in November 2023. These professors' feedback has shaped the tremendous progress of the paper so far.

Lesson: Submit your project-in-progress to conferences for feedback before sending out for conference presentation or publication.

At the last conference, I was appointed as the secretary of the Graduate interest group of the association, so we had our business meeting where we presented awards to outstanding papers and panels, discussed next year’s conference plans, and passed the baton of leadership to the new executives. I am privileged to serve as the vice president of the Graduate Caucus for the new session.

For the first time, I also served as the chair of the Top papers of the graduate caucus. I listened and learned from incredible works graduate students like me are contributing to building knowledge in our field from various schools across the Mid-Western states.

Introducing the top paper presenters

I also presented a paper that I wrote with my research partner and professor from one of my classes. It tried to determine what type of message frame would be more effective for college students when they are fatigued.

Rather than fear-framed messages, we recommended responsibility-framed messages to encourage college students to follow health prevention measures such as COVID-19. I am happy to talk more about this study.

A snapshot of my presentation slides

Later on Friday evening, I had my last presentation where I chaired a panel on a discussion with esteemed graduate students at different phases in their graduate career to discuss “Getting comfortable with the incoherences of Graduate School”.

The panel was aimed at engaging in a dialogue with graduate students about the struggles we face as we navigate our graduate career, how to embrace all incoherencies at this stage, and seek advice from experienced graduate students on their journey to arriving at their research agenda. I learned a great deal from these experienced graduate students. Here are some of the tips shared

  • Ask yourself- “what is the problem I want to solve”?
  • Speak often with your advisor about any ideas you have. They have trodden this path before.
  • Seek other social support systems that cohere with you in terms of content, personality, etc.
  • Passion is good but not enough!
Speaking at a panel session

Throughout the conference, I saw and interacted with familiar and new faces. I joined diverse panel sessions- discussion and paper panels.

I recall joining a panel that discussed how health communication scholars can be involved in interdisciplinary research teams. I also sat with international scholars who shared their failures and successes in their evolving teaching careers.

Let me also add that during the conference, I had to wrestle with the many deadlines and tasks waiting for me to attend to. I tried to forget my ‘worries’ and just focus on the conference, but I am not sure I succeeded in arriving at that disposition.

But I hope I made the best of this conference, but if not, I hope to be Cincinnati in Ohio in 2025.

Many thanks to my department for this opportunity and constant support. I can’t thank Mizzou Communication enough!

My next piece will explore my experience in Spring 2024! A lot has happened!

Above all, God is faithful!

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Abigail Oyinkan Olajire

I am a health communication researcher interested in creating and implementing cultural competent solutions to health problems for underserved communities.