by Mary Miller
As someone who had never presented at (or even attended, I think) an academic conference, it’s been really exciting to have presented at two different conferences in the past two months. But while it’s been exciting, it’s also been a bit stressful – public speaking, and being perceived in general by people if I’m honest, is not something that I’ve ever felt totally comfortable with. However, I recently had the opportunity to attend the 2023 Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association conference in Philadelphia, and it was such an incredibly fun time. Working together with my peers and seeing what others were working on in the field helped to assuage any anxieties I had about attending the conference.
As a part of the roundtable discussion presentation that consisted of myself, Heather Verani, Becca Betty, Megan Tyson and Dr. Pfannenstiel, we presented on “The Applicability of Composition Pedagogy.” Sharing our experiences in the spring 2023 semester’s Composition Pedagogy class, we each took a turn explaining our writerly identity and how we defined the applicability of composition pedagogy, and it was way more encouraging to be a part of a group rather than giving an individual presentation. Working together with my classmates and knowing that they are always actively cheering me on was exactly what I needed in taking these first steps towards professional skill-building.
At the conference, it was so relieving to see that the people who came to our discussion were willing to participate in our questions and have a thorough conversation about composition pedagogy and how it is applicable for them. Getting to hear different perspectives was very meaningful to me, and it felt like all the work we put into generating and facilitating a conversation paid off.
We had one of the earliest presentations, so the rest of the day we were free to check out other’s work, and it was a blast. The environment was very low-stakes: everyone was simply taking the opportunity to share what they were passionate about. In hindsight, if I had taken the opportunity to share an individual presentation, I would have been totally fine and absolutely supported not just by my Millersville friends, but the conference attendees as well.
I got to hear presentations about dystopia in film (complete with a Terminator 2 mention!!! yay), horror movies (the discussion of the “Sharktopus” trilogy was a standout), and punk music – basically some of the things I love talking about the most. I also got to see Dr. Pfannenstiel’s incredibly interesting presentation on feminist games pedagogy, one that sparked a lot of conversation afterward! Attending these specific presentations with Becca let me geek out afterward, and we were discussing the presentations long after they occurred. I was even able to talk to some other conference attendees as we shared our interests with each other. It was just so much fun to be able to attend an event that let me share and absorb everything I’ve been learning as a grad student.
All that is to say, if you find yourself with the opportunity to attend a conference like MAPACA, please do everything you can to do so and make the most of it! My initial plan was to arrive for our roundtable presentation, and then take the next train home, as I was super anxious about taking the train, speaking in front of others, being in a different city, etc. But I’m glad I
stayed for the whole day, as it was an immensely unique and valuable opportunity. I’m so excited to see what next semester will bring