The week after the start of spring semester classes, I attended the 17th Annual Society of Social Work Research Conference in San Diego, CA. This was my first time attending a national conference, which was a great honor as a MSW/PhD continuum student in the early stages of defining my research interests and career plans after earning my degree. This experience not only helped me become more aware of current research being conducted in the field of social work across the country and beyond, but also provided me with the opportunity to practice and gain further insight into the professional skills I will need as I continue in the doctoral program.
During the conference, I was able to attend various paper presentations, symposia, workshops, and poster presentations led by graduate students and faculty members from various social work programs. It was truly amazing to not only hear about innovative research methods and subject areas, but to also have the chance to ask questions and speak one-on-one with presenters. It was also encouraging to see UNC well represented at the conference by current PhD students and alumni of the program, who showed me what I have to look forward to and what I have to prepare for.
Along with learning about social work research, the SSWR Conference also gave me the chance to gain a great deal of knowledge and some experience in valuable professional skills. Activities usually considered mundane, like getting coffee, exercising, or getting a bite to eat, were all opportunities to network and communicate with other professionals. During these informal interactions, I was able to get practice in explaining my research interests clearly and concisely, active listening, and relating to others while maintaining a professional demeanor. I was also able to gain understanding of effective presentation styles, the importance of connecting with your audience, and how to answer questions after a presentation. These are all skills that can help me in both my professional development and even in my personal relationships.
After attending SSWR, I look forward to returning to the conference in the near future as a fellow presenter. With what I gained by attending this year, along with the support and guidance of experienced faculty and students, I feel confident that I am on the road to success. I will never forget this experience!