SEPA 2016

2016 Annual Meeting of Southeastern Psychological Association, New Orleans, LA (March 30-April 2, 2016).

My bestie/lab partner Maylin and I drove to New Orleans for the SEPA convention. We’d had our noses pressed to the grindstone for the last few weeks on our poster about the effects of grit on academic success, and it was finally ready! I was extremely nervous about presenting at my first regional conference; every time I tried to go through my elevator speech, I could feel my heart race. Maylin introduced me to the Sneak Attack podcast; we spent the whole drive laughing at the first few episodes.

When we got into New Orleans, we checked into the hotel and put our bags down, then immediately went out into the French Quarter to explore and find some food. Though we spent a great deal of time out in the French Quarter during breaks in the conference, the first day was pretty special. The weather was nice, we tried on some funny hats, and listened to some crazy music in Jackson Square. We checked out a pretty cool occult shop too, and bought each other a pack of tarot cards!

When it was time to get registered for the conference later in the afternoon, we just headed back to the hotel and jumped into the fray! We got our programs and immediately set out to circle our friends who were presenting as well as any that caught our eyes.

The next morning began the first full day of presentations. It was really great to see so many interesting posters and talk to so many other early career researchers! It did seem like the majority of folks there were undergraduate, so everyone else seemed just as nervous as I was. I loved talking to people about their methods and motivations for getting into their specific research areas; a poster about the sexual subtext in 90s-00s cartoons was a particular favorite.

The research highlight of the whole conference for me came when I went into an oral presentation to support a friend and UWF Master’s student, Kyra. While the presentations preceding her were interesting in their own right, I was more focused on the American Sign Language interpreter!

The only specific neuropsych jargon sign that I remember and could reproduce today is the one for “subcortical”. I spent the rest of the afternoon showing people the new word I’d learned! Even the UWF Psychology department head was getting into it at one point.

Come Friday afternoon, I was feeling pretty sanguine about my own presentation. Honestly, the knowledge that everyone else had been just as nervous as I was at least once was extremely comforting. I did head back to the hotel room for a nap a little while before the presentation itself; it was raining cats and dogs outside so a jaunt into the French Quarter to clear my head wouldn’t work. I needn’t have worried though.

IMG_1357We had several people come up to our poster who seemed extremely interested, or at least feigned it very well. It was easier than I expected to answer all of their questions; it turns out that a years worth of thinking deeply about grit and conscientiousness and academic success is decent preparation for most questions that people can come up with on the fly.

In addition to exploring the French Quarter in my down time and gaining confidence in my skills as scientist who presents research, there was also what we were ostensibly there for in the first place: networking! I hadn’t actually “networked” in person quite so deliberately before, so I wasn’t exactly the most outgoing and networky person there. I did get some good conversation time in with the professors from my own department back home though! The department head shared an anecdote about the time his daughter brought a pet chinchilla home and a professor who wrote me all sorts of letters of recommendation recommended a novel (managing to spoil the big twist in the process).

Even though I had to leave early for my Habitat trip, I’m extremely glad I got to go to the SEPA 2016 annual meeting. The research was all fantastic, and there couldn’t have been a better city to put SEPA in than New Orleans. Hopefully I’ll be able to go to SEPA again one day with another presentation!

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