BY ERICA PAGE
Attending the 5th Annual Cincinnati Project Symposium was very rewarding. As a graduate student, I had never presented at or attended a symposium before, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. I thought we would discuss research that I might find interesting, but didn’t expect the discussions to be as engaging as they were.
As my turn to present my research approached, I decided to ditch the standard PowerPoint slides. I have never given a presentation without a PowerPoint before, and I’m usually a nervous wreck even with the slides as backup. However, the symposium made me feel comfortable enough to just speak. I talked about the work I have done over the previous year with Learning Through Art, Inc. and how much I gained from the experience. I told the audience about the opportunities I was afforded after working with The Cincinnati Project, and how I’m now working on my dissertation. Everyone seemed interested and engaged like we were among a community of like-minded individuals who just wanted to catch up. After I wrapped up, one woman even asked me how my dissertation was going! I remember sitting down with all nervousness gone waiting for the next group, eager to hear the next presentations.
As soon as the first panel began discussing their topic on absolute objectivity in research being impossible, I was glued to my chair. The panelists from disparate fields, only one from my home department of psychology. Because they were very passionate and engaging, they drew me in. I am a scientist by trade, so it is likely that any discussion of scientific matters would interest me. However, few conversations address my inner activist that is so near-and-dear to my heart given my minority status. I had been a member of activist organizations in the area, but never found a place where I could bring my skill-set and really make a difference. The next panel on scholarly-activism showed me that it was not only possible, but there was a group of women who did just that. I was intrigued to hear of the plights of scientists who aim to improve conditions for the disenfranchised and how the mechanisms through which research is funded sometimes stymie their efforts. It was a very enlightening discussion that left me energized to pursue research projects that uncover injustices and demand social and political action.
The topics of the symposium were very timely, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have attended and presented. Weeks later, I am still thinking of those topics and looking for ways to put those thoughts into action.