Talking Conference Experience with M.S. Student Brittany Bahl

M.S. Com student Brittany Bahl had the opportunity to attend and present at the Midwest Popular Culture Association 2021 Annual Conference. The conference took place in Minneapolis, MN, from October 8th-10th. We had a chance to catch up with Brittany regarding her first-time experience at the conference.

Brittany states, “it was a great experience, though a little different than it might have been normally because COVID was still a concern at that time and attendance was a lot lower than in previous years. Even so, I was still able to network with some people from other universities and got an opportunity to learn about what other kinds of research they were doing.”

Brittany presented a paper that has become the first chapter of her master’s thesis: “Prince Akeem’s Stolen Royal Oat: The Rhetoric and Legacy of Coming to America.” The paper she presented at the conference is a rhetorical analysis of the Coming to America film franchise, focusing on the rhetoric of toxic masculinity within the film, dealing with issues like representation, objectification, and consent. As a film analysis, it fits very well as a presentation piece for the MPCA. Bahl mentioned that “preparing for the presentation wasn’t too stressful, but I wasn’t sure what to expect (apart from a 15-minute time limit). The conference I attended was small, and most sessions had fewer than ten people in attendance. It was a lot less formal than I had anticipated, and it seemed everyone did what felt comfortable. Some presenters had detailed PowerPoint presentations, while others just stood up front and casually talked about their research for about 10-15 minutes.”

When discussing her interest in attending conferences such as MPCA/ACA, Brittany explained that submitting and presenting papers to conferences while in your master’s is “a good way to bulk up a C.V.” if a student is interested in pursuing a Ph.D. Since beginning the Program, Brittany has had the opportunity to present at two different conferences. She explained that “the process of submitting a paper wasn’t complicated once I found a conference with an open call for papers (CFP). The most difficult part is finding somewhere to send a paper.”

Some advice Brittany would give to other students looking to submit papers to conferences include,

  • Find professional organizations, small or large, and check when they have CFPs for conferences, or sign up for their newsletter and watch for announcements.
  • Ask a professor you know well if they would be willing to look over a paper you’re interested in submitting for a conference. I have had a professor who has assisted since beginning the process.

As for presenting at the conference,

  • Try to prepare something in advance if possible and then attend a few sessions prior to yours and get a feel for what others are doing.
  • Mainly, just try to get your work out there.
  • Make sure you give yourself enough time to edit your work.
  • And follow the organization’s guidelines for submissions. If your paper is selected to present, don’t stress. You’ll get to meet different people, maybe stay in a cool city, and get to share your work. 

Earlier this week, Brittany defended her thesis to the School of Communications M.S. Graduate Committee and was recently accepted to The University of Iowa to pursue her Ph.D. in Communication Studies.

Confessions of an M.S. Com. Student: Sam Elliott-Mosley’s Top Five Takeaways

Hi, I’m Sam! I received my Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from GVSU in 2017, and after taking a year off to focus on my career and plan some future goals, I will be graduating again this spring from the Master of Science in Communication program. I am the current president of the Graduate Communication Association and work at Spectrum Health as a project specialist. I have plans to continue to pursue higher education in the future through a doctoral program focused on Communication. Here are five takeaways from my years in the program:

  1. Find what you like. I know this is easier said than done, but take every new thing you learn into consideration for your path. Notice the materials you make connections with and seek out more. I took an interpersonal communication class from community college on a whim, when I was young and still undecided with what I wanted to do with my life. Curiosity can open you up to the life you’re meant to have. 
  2. Do the work. Read as much as you can, even if you don’t want to. Talk about what you read with someone (in class or otherwise). The more you read, study, and explore, the more you’ll be able to understand what you like – and what you don’t. Also, I’m not just talking about reading for your classes, reading for pleasure is part of what keeps me sane during the bustle of the semester.
    Currently reading: “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”
  3. Get cozy & appreciate yourself. I find coziness and comfort VITAL for success. Over time, I have tried to set up my ideal study space and make studying part of my self-care practice. It becomes so much easier to incorporate study into your life when it comes with soft pillows, multi-colored pens, and nice candles. Putting in the effort is hard enough, so you don’t need to be hard on yourself. Seek out and revel in delights, both large and small. Finally, pet all the dogs you have a chance to. 
  4. Ask questions. It’s okay to not know things, that’s why you’re here. Ask your professors, your classmates, your co-workers, anyone. Listen, discuss, ask more, repeat. 
  5. Do it for yourself. Although some people may face external pressures around attending college, I think I started to be most successful when I realized I wanted to do it for me. Education is expensive, so treat it like an all-you-can-eat-buffet.