Graduate Social Work Students
Graduate social work students are often notified of and encouraged to attend local conferences in their field of study. Such events afford students the opportunity to network with other social work professionals and learn about the research and work in which social work academics and professionals are engaging.
Attending a conference certainly offers these benefits for students, but presenting one’s own work at a conference goes even further. These are a few of the many reasons graduate students in social work should be encouraged to present their work at conferences.
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Bridging Research and Practice
Social work is a professional field, meaning the academic study of the profession is meant to be applied in practice. While research and writing are vital steps in evidence-based practice methodologies, social workers aim to adapt research findings into effective interventions and strategies.
In other words, social work research and writing is not meant to remain in academia, but extend beyond the university realm into professional practice, and presenting one’s research at a conference is one way to share research findings with a community who can benefit from them.
Social work students, especially, are engaged in regular research and writing as part of their academic formation, and presenting one’s work at a conference offers students the opportunity to do more with their papers and assignments.
Connecting with an Interested Audience
Conferences are generally organized thematically or topically so that attendees can selectively choose which sessions and presentations to participate in based on their professional interests.
The audience members present at a given session have chosen to be there because they have some interest in the work to be presented. Connecting with a professional audience of this nature is helpful, especially for students, in meeting social workers whose research and practice interests align with one’s own.
Students can gain a better understanding of their particular areas of interest, and the work others are doing surrounding similar topics, by presenting their work at a conference and engaging with the audience members who attend.
Building Skills and Confidence
Presenting one’s work at a conference requires a certain level of confidence in addressing a topic and comfort in speaking publically.
Social Work students can challenge themselves to develop or hone these skills through conference presentations. This experience can help students to build confidence in these areas through the feedback they receive.
Conference presentations are also impressive resume components to attract potential employers, signaling a high level of competence and expertise.
Engaging in Cross-Disciplinary Conversation
While some conferences are specifically for the social work profession, many conferences are focused on broader topics that appeal to social work and other fields, such as conferences in mental health, group work, community-based interventions, etc.
These conferences provide students the opportunity to not only connect with and present their work to other social workers, but to engage in cross-disciplinary conversations with conference attendees from other fields as well.
Social Work students can gain an enhanced understanding of how their work interacts with other disciplines and professions to complement their social work studies.
Funding Available for Social Work Students
Conference fees and travel expenses can be a deterring factor for social work students, but many graduate schools offer funding or reimbursement specifically for student conference presentations.
These resources are not always well advertised and often go unused, so students might have to seek them out. University support goes a long way in assisting students to present their work at conferences, and many conferences offer scholarships or reduced fees for students.
Social work students would be wise to seek out opportunities to present their work at conferences, and graduate programs should encourage and support students in doing so.
The opportunity to present one’s research and engage with a community of like-minded professionals while building valuable professional skills is one not to be missed.