My First Research Conference Story

Abigail Oyinkan Olajire
5 min readApr 2, 2023

I was challenged and inspired

Marcos Luiz Photograph from Unsplash

In this article, I’d provide a snippet of my experience at my first-ever research conference at St Lois, Missouri. It’s a regional conference called Central States Communication Association that was held between March 31st and April 2nd, 2023.

Before leaving for the conference, I have been advised to network with scholars at any given opportunity. Although, I wondered how I would go about that, perhaps because it was my first time or I just didn’t know what to expect. But I did my best and still more to learn!

I arrived at the conference on Wednesday 30th of March 2023 at about 5 pm with two of my colleagues from my department. Since we arrived after registration was closed, we just checked into the hotel and prepared for the next day.

I should also note before I continue that before I left for the conference, I spent some time going through the program booklet to itemize the panels and presentations I’d love to go for.

I would regard Thursday as the official start date. I gave two separate presentations of my work which was honored to receive a debut paper award.

I consider this recognition significant because this is my first ever conference and then seeing my little efforts on a paper I wrote before I started my doctoral program recognized was nothing short of humbling, remarkable, and exciting. My paper looked at the effects of cultural belief systems on the preventive behavior of Lagos Metropolis residents about COVID-19 and its vaccine.

Lagos State is in Nigeria and it is often regarded as the commercial hub of Africa. I spent the last 10 years of my life in Lagos before I moved to the US last year. Click this link to view my presentation.

I was sincerely grateful to the audience and respondents who came to listen to my presentations and provided thoughtful feedback as I prepare to publish the paper in a journal.

My presentations were at 11 am and 3.30 pm, but I joined an 8 am presentation to understand the dynamics of the conference presentation, although I had rehearsals with my advisor a week before which I am also grateful for.

I also joined the Graduate Student caucus meeting just before my presentation where I was nominated and selected as the incoming secretary of the caucus for the new session. Another opportunity to serve which I did not expect. But I am excited and open to the challenge.

By the time I was done with the presentation, it was about 5 pm, I had brief conversations with a few scholars that I met and then I went for dinner with my colleagues about 30 minutes away from the conference venue.

On Friday, since I did not have any presentations, I moved from one panel to the other, listening to interesting research work from scholars- including international graduate students like me on great topics such as intersectionality, and minority health. These studies sparked critical areas that I hope to explore within and after my doctoral career.

At noon on Friday, there was a luncheon to honor and celebrate scholars at various levels in their careers for their great work in teaching, research, and service. I am always appreciative of platforms where efforts are rewarded and CSCA did that at the just concluded conference.

On the second day of the conference

After a particular session on inclusivity in the classroom, I had to reflect on my classroom strategy because it was challenged by the various presentations from each panelist. My new teaching statement would be grateful I came to CSCA 2023!

I was also challenged cum inspired by the works of other presenters -graduate students and faculty alike. I made a conscious effort to ask questions and join the conversation as much as I can in a few of the panels I joined.

I remember asking a panel of autoethnography experts about the feasibility of a study on identity negotiation as an international student within a culture that is a bit different from mine. I got the answer and I must say that work is already in progress! I hope to very soon share my auto-ethnography work.

By asking this question, I was honored to meet and network with a renowned ethnography scholar who is willing to aid me through the writing process. So for me asking questions, good questions is a great way to network.

As we rounded up the conference, I visited the Arch as it was close to the Hyatt Regency hotel where the conference took place. It was an opportunity for me and my colleagues to appreciate nature and explore the beautiful scenery of St Lois!

CSCA 2023 was a significant experience for me and I hope I harnessed the opportunity that came with it, but if not, I hope to be at Michigan in April 2024.

I am also especially thankful to my two colleagues whom I traveled with for making this program more memorable!

Do you have some tips for me as I prepare for more conferences later this year? Kindly share in the comment section!



Abigail Oyinkan Olajire

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