Milestones in a PhD student’s life
Going to conferences is one of the best ways to keep track of your evolution as a PhD student. The first conference you ever go to will probably be a little (a lot) overwhelming: conferences provide a lot of new experiences.
Your biggest goal will be to avoid saying something stupid when you meet someone smart whose papers you’ve read (that remains one of my top goals at each conference I attend). As you grow as a scholar and attend more conferences, you’ll slowly take on volunteer roles and play a more active role at the conference by moderating sessions (introducing presenters and moving the session along) and reviewing papers to help decide whether those papers deserve a presentation spot at the conference. You might even have the chance to discuss someone else’s paper by presenting your views on the paper directly to the authors, and to other scholars in the audience. I enjoyed all those experiences and more at conferences throughout the years, including the Management Accounting Section Midyear Meeting (MAS) I attended a few weeks ago in Atlanta, Georgia (the Peach State!). MAS is a big conference for management accounting researchers and it was my first conference of 2023.
This was also the first conference where I submitted my dissertation paper! A year before MAS, I decided that I wanted to try presenting my paper in an academic setting. I submitted my paper in August, it was accepted for presentation in October, and I presented it at MAS, marking one of my biggest scholarly activities to date.
Presenting my work at MAS meant I had the chance to hear peoples’ feedback in person (yes, it’s scary), and it meant I was able to answer questions about my work (also scary). As with all scary experiences, it meant growing in lots of different ways. More than anything, it felt like a milestone in my time in academia and a way to remember that growing as a PhD student is about taking a bunch of tiny steps towards having your own scholarly voice.
My experience attending conferences, meeting new people, and presenting my work has been rewarding and is one of the many reasons why I enjoy being a PhD student.