Speech Pathology Doctoral Student Jie Yang
As part of the IE Pre-Graduate School Internship, my intern and I attended an academic conference in Memphis with the partial support of an IE Travel Grant. The conference focused on addressing the key issues of speech development in early and later childhood. Experts in the field gathered to share their research updates in an informal setting. The conference also provided a relaxing environment for students, even undergrads, to present their findings. It was a conference where participants can help each other to refine their studies and collaborate on finding answers to questions of common interest.
For my intern, it was a great eye-opening experience to meet and listen to the talks of experts from around the world. Although she may not have understood everything that was presented at the conference, she at least was able to relate knowledge that she learned in class to research currently being undertaken.
For me, this was my third mentor-intern travel experience. The previous two were in spring 2007 and fall 2008, when I was still in the beginning stages of my doctoral study and had only been in the United States for two years. My intern even helped with all the travel arrangements. The only thing I did during those conferences was to tell them the topics and answer questions. I recalled how over the years I was nurtured in my research and teaching paths by my own mentor. For this conference, I tried to familiar my intern with possible formats used in academic conferences, such as paper, poster, and symposium presentations. I also shared stories and anecdotes with her about famous scholars, which I hoped might help her realize that researchers are not dull and cold people who only know how to analyze spectrograms -that they are fun and energetically involved in everyday life. As my mentor always managed to introduce me and my research to others in conferences, I did the same and tried to involve my intern in conversations.
We also told conference participants about the IE Internship. They spoke highly of the innovation that our university was able to provide to college students to enlighten them towards future academic success. To be honest, the IE Pre-Grad internship also benefits graduate students like me to foster our development as effective teachers. One of my friends who already is teaching at a university said that she wished she could have known how to be a mentor when she was a doctoral student.
The other good thing about traveling together with students was getting to know them personally, which is not possible in a classroom setting. What the IE Internship and Travel Grants provide graduate students is an experience to learn how to be a mentor in academia, which requires hard work and maturity. It also helps graduate students better know their discipline.