My first NCA conference

Abigail Oyinkan Olajire
4 min readNov 24, 2023



Mikael Kristenson from Unsplash

Storying or writing about your experiences helps you make sense of it and glean some lessons! And that’s what I would be doing here.

I will be sharing a bit about the just concluded National Communication Association conference experience at National Harbor, Maryland. I also promised to write about it earlier.

I really lack the right adjective to qualify my experience in this program. In short, I wouldn’t have been anywhere else between November 15 and 19 2023. Here’s how it went:

A few days before the event, I went through the program schedule available online and then created what I called my NCA schedule. By doing this, I took note of all paper panels, discussion panels, and networking sessions that I wanted to attend. Normally, I love to work on a routine, so this schedule was helpful to help me make the best of each conference day.

A glimpse of my NCA schedule

There were a few sessions I really looked forward to. Those were the networking session with senior scholars in my sub-area of communication- health communication. I met seasoned scholars in a one-on-one session and relished their excitement to share their experiences with young scholars like me.

It was such a pleasure to meet the individuals behind the articles I read in my classes. I recall a few of their advice till now such as making it easy for people to read your work, what is your research identity i.e. your uniqueness in research?

I had the honor to meet some of them personally by taking up the courage to walk up to them after their presentation. Such grace and humility they exuded!

In fact, I would not forget in a hurry the NCA Office hours session. I sincerely appreciate NCA for this one particularly. As a graduate student, I sat and discussed my research ideas with the big wigs of their field from various schools across the US.

To make the best of my experience, I brought a printed one-page note of research interests, dissertation ideas, research goals, etc. to guide this rare discussion opportunity. If I recall correctly, I spoke individually with about five scholars! As a researcher still evolving in terms of my interest, this experience was another eye opener!

On the first day of the conference

Apart from these sessions, I joined panels and paper sessions based on my interests- health communication. Listening to these scholars, and questions from the audience sparked many ideas and thoughts that I continued to put down throughout the session. I remember sitting on my table when I got home just reading through all I had written down from all the sessions.

I also had presentations. Interestingly, three different types of presentations- research escalator (Thursday), research roundtable (Friday), and panel session (Sunday). The first two were for papers that are still in progress. So, I (and my research partner) sat with experts in the area the paper is centered on so they could provide recommendations as we move the project forward.

Also, my department had two major events I took an active part- the Grad Open House and Reception party. At our reception party, I met many alumni of my department who are now outstanding academics at various universities across the country. I was opportune to have valuable and fun discussions with some of them. I recall one of them saying this to me- read about your sub-area for fun, so your comprehensive examination would be easy!

(L-R) Na (my research partner) and me at our department’s Grad Open House

In fact, I promised to complete a book before Thanksgiving break is over and I did it! I read Mary Waters’s classic book on Caribbean immigrants and black identities. It was a fascinating read! My next book which is the fifth book for the semester is Essential Essays from Stuart Hall on identity and diaspora!

My just completed book on Caribbean immigrants

Lastly, I would not forget to add the great minds (graduate students and faculty) I met of different nationalities including my country- Nigeria! I am inspired by their groundbreaking and excellent works and can only look forward to nurturing these networks as we push the field of communication forward!

Just like CSCA, my first NCA was mind-blowing, humbling, mind-interrogating, … The list goes on. I also express gratitude to my department for this great opportunity for graduate students to be a part of these experiences early in our academic career journey.

I already look forward to NCA 2024 in New Orleans!

My next article will dwell on my third-semester experience as a graduate student.



Abigail Oyinkan Olajire

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