Disciplinary conferences and associations provide another opportunity to develop and build experience in leadership and collaboration. By contributing to a conference, you can demonstrate to employers that you take initiative as a leader.

Steps You Can Take

Contribute to the Organization of a Conference

Conference planning is highly collaborative and can be an important professional skill, both in academic employment, and in other careers where the ability to run events, facilitate discussions, fundraise and budget, and coordinate schedules is valued. If you are interested in organizing a conference on campus, many research centers, institutes, and departments sponsor workshops and conferences initiated or organized by graduate students. Annual state, national, and international conferences provide regular opportunities to organize panels. Also take a look at the “Steps You Can Take” section in the Equity & Inclusion competency to learn more about being a leader for equity and inclusion in your discipline. 

On organizing a panel or a conference, see “So You Think You Want to Organize a Conference?” Inside Higher Ed (2012), and “Of Cannibals and Conferences,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2015).


Organize a Session at a Professional Conference

Organizing a session or panel at a professional conference demonstrates knowledge of your field and an interest and willingness to contribute to its further development. It also provides experience with logistics and team management, both of which are applicable to project leadership in many settings. The process of organizing a panel can start over a year before the conference itself, so keep abreast of the deadlines for your professional organization. Budget several months for coming up with a theme and assembling a roster of panel participants. For more, see “How to Organize a Panel for a Conference,” The Professor is In (2013).

On timekeeping and chairing, see “Best Practices for Timekeeping at Conference Panels,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2013), and “Conference Rules, Part 1,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2008).