KOKOMO, Ind. — Christian Bunce networked with professionals in her career field, and learned about current research — all without missing classes at Indiana University Kokomo, and from the comfort of her own home.
She and more than a dozen of her classmates in the psychology program were among those attending the Indiana Psychological Association’s (IPA) annual conference, which transitioned to a virtual presentation on Zoom this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Bunce, a junior, the opportunity confirmed that psychology is the right career field.
“I was able to meet virtually with practicing psychologists, and get an idea if this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, and are these the things I want to study,” the Kokomo resident said. “It allowed me to expand my network, and I received a free student membership that will allow me to continue building contacts.”
That’s just one of the benefits of attending a conference, and why psychology faculty have invited students for the last five years, according to Rosalyn Davis, clinical associate professor of psychology. Funding from the Kokomo Experience and You (KEY) program has allowed faculty to take students to conferences in Indianapolis, Chicago, and other locations in recent years.
This year it was easier than ever, with the IPA offering free attendance and memberships to students.
“It’s an opportunity for them to see the types of career available to them in psychology, network with recruiters for graduate programs, and see presentations by other students of their research, to see the kinds of research they could be doing themselves,” said Davis. “Many of our students want to go to graduate school, and conference attendance, where you’re taking the time to learn more about the field on your own, is one of the things that looks impressive on a resumé.”
It also gives them a chance to see people specializing in fields other than those of their faculty, Davis said.
“We all have our own areas of research, and conferences give them a wider variety to consider,” she said. “They can talk to presenters in areas that interest them, by sending a message on Zoom. The presenters love having students there so they’re usually very accommodating about talking to them.”
Senior Amber Beatty has attended the Midwestern Psychological Association and IPA conferences in person before, and was happy to attend virtually this year.
“It’s a great opportunity to stay up-to-date on research,” she said. “It was a valuable experience to learn more about my career. It being virtual made it more available to me. My schedule is very packed right now, but I was able to go to a presentation when I had a break, instead of having to miss a whole day of classes, and arranging how I would make up work.”
Beatty was especially interested in a presentation about training in racism and race for counselors and supervisors.
“It talked about how to enhance training by working with Black people and other people of color, and how to engage in advocacy, using our privilege, knowledge and skill to empower others,” she said. “It’s something that will be useful to me in the future.”
Bunce said a session she attended about maladaptive perfectionism made her look differently at herself.
“I didn’t realize that I was treating myself badly if I felt I wasn’t doing my best,” she said. “She showed us different ways to look at our performance. There are ways I can have the perfectionist mindset, but treat myself in a more friendly way, to make my perfectionism a good thing. Since I will be continuing to graduate school, which is more challenging, I need to make these changes.”
Davis noted that for many, it was a good first experience, that will encourage them to attend in-person later.
“They didn’t feel as out of their depth as they might have at a large conference, but they still got the good experience in terms of knowledge, so they will feel more ready for the next one,” she said. “They still got the feel and rush of being part of the profession.”