This past week I attended the HASTAC 2015 Conference at Michigan U in East Lansing. After a 2 hour delay and $10 airport Pringles I reluctantly bought, I boarded the plane and headed to Detroit Tuesday night. The plane ride wasn't exactly leisurely, not because of the antsy 3 year old I was seated next to, but because I was obsessively reading and rereading my notecards for my presentation I was giving on Thursday and worrying about the drive from Detroit to East Lansing in my first-ever rental car. Once I got to the hotel around 11:30 pm, I was mentally exhausted but feeling quite fierce for getting both myself and Cameron Glover safely to the hotel without getting lost or any major difficulty- thank you to my Iphone and Google Maps!
All that was left at this point was to order in Dominos, put on my PJs and crash until about 11 am the next day, since the HASTAC Scholar Unconference did not start until 1 pm Wednesday. I will add this simply for comedic value and because I know a few others of my fellow-conference goers will appreciate it: Cameron and I were also quite confused when we first peeked into our hotel bathroom to find that the "shower" was simply a shower head potruding out of the ceiling right into the small bathroom- no tub, just a small curtain to pull around. So basically we could sit on the john and shower at the same time. Cameron was the first to try it out that night while I pigged out on pizza— food always comes first—and I couldn't help but laugh at the cries of frustration and confusion as she tried to figure out how to shower without making a pool out of the entire bathroom. I should have kept my snickering to myself because I found my payback when in the middle of the night I stumbled into the bathroom to find my pajama pants and socks soaked as I stepped into the aftermath of the shower. By the next day we had our routine down and had the clean up towel allotted and ready after each shower.
The next day as I entered the Scholars Unconference I had a mix of emotions. I entered feeling excited to network and discuss new ideas and gain fresh outlooks, but I also felt a twinge of intimidation as I entered a few minutes late with Cameron and looked around to see everyone with their eyes in an Ipad or Mac while I was empty handed besides a pen and my phone. I felt a little unprepared for a moment. Soon that fear dwindled as we began to discuss topics and vote on what we would be talking about and I loosened up as I began to participate, but again the anxiousness threatened to rise back up as I sat in my first topic discussion group "Digital Humanities and Race/Ethnic Studies." As everyone began by introducing themselves I started to realize that besides Cameron (who just graduated this Spring—Congrats to Cam!) I was the only undergraduate. A lot of people were professors, some were in graduate school, and all had very specific reasons for wanting to discuess this topic—many related to concerns as professors. As they described their work and studies I began to worry again about my own presentation the next day and felt intimidated to present a paper in a small panel as an undergraduate in the midst of so many people far more academically and professionally accomplished. I threw it out of mind for the moment, as I introduced myself candidly, "I am an undergraduate Literature Major. I don't know if I have as specific of a reason for joining this discussion, but I've written a few papers on Orientalism and Racial Identity in Literature and honestly it's just something I'm passionate about. I'm also a blogger and writer and I like to be concious of both my privilege and the issues at hand in my life and for my writing." After I spoke I felt confident once again and really enjoyed interacting with such a diverse and accomplished group of people. Honestly I didn't want the discussion to end, especially because we barely finished introductions by the time we had to move on to the next discussion topics.
It was during the next discussion group that I began to feel a little frustrated. The topic was Pedagogy and anything that could fall under it including Accessibility which both Cameron and I were looking forward to discussing, but everytime the discussion would start up it quickly circled back to issues as a professor and dealing with university faculty. Soon Cameron and I were on the outskirts of the conversation feeling a bit out of place. I listened in and found a lot of iwhat was discussed interesting, and I understood, with the majority of participants being professors, that the discussion would naturally come back to those types of issues, but, as an undergraduate who isn't planning on going into teaching and isn't set on graduate school at the moment, I just felt there wasn't much I could add or take away from those specific topics.
After leaving the Unconference, Cameron and I headed out to explore a bit in the area near the campus in East Lansing and to eat. As literature lovers, we both were excited to find a three-story used book store and neither of us left empty handed. I also bought a pair of hippie round sunglasses with little flowers on the rim at a cute boutique. I was definitely thankful for a little down time to explore and have my first dish of noodles from Noodle & Company.
The next day was my final day in Michigan for the conference and the day of both my lightning talk presentation, "Social Media in the College Classroom," and Cameron's poster presentation on her project that she organized, a digital collated book review on "Trayvon Martin, Race, and American Justice." We started off the day with brunch with our mentor Adeline Koh and a few of her friends and colleagues who I was excited to meet. One of which was Jenny Korn who I happened to meet at the Unconference the previous day in our Race/Ethnic Studies discussion group. She had been a great natural moderator in the discussion and kept thorough notes which she emailed out to everyone involved. She was such a warm personality, and I was happy to connect with her again at brunch. We had good food and good company with intelligent and accomplished women of Digital Humanities among many other things. After which I headed to my presentation.
At this point I was feeling much more confident in myself and my place as a presentor as an undergraduate. I reviewed my notes and headed to my panel, New Ways to Work, Learn and Play in the Digital Era #S15, and gave my presentation which I feel worked out even better than I could have predicted due to the fact that the presentor after me in the panel was a teacher who used Instagram in the classroom with her college writing course. It came full circle having both the perspectives of the college student and professor together on the use of social media in the classroom. The follow-up questions reflected this usefulness as questions were pointed at us both to gauge a perspective from both angles,
After my presentation I headed off to see Cameron's poster presentation which went splendidly. Many people were interested in the project and her work and she made quite a few connections in the process.
Cameron and I ended out our last night in Michigan by heading over to the Art Museum to redeem our free drink at HASTAC's reception party. We enjoyed some more good company and cood conversation while we sipped on our drinks and ate appetizers. The next morning at 4 am as I dropped Cameron off at the Lansing airport and headed to the Detroit airport for my 8 am flight, I felt more confident not only in my driving skills, but in my ability to interact on a professional level and in myself at exactly the point I am in my life and academic career. It seems I find more confidence and volume in my own voice every day.