Saturday, November 12, 2011:
Following the conference presentations, our time was spent mostly on the road, with us making stops in Macon, Georgia; Birmingham, Alabama; and Meridian, Mississippi. Having these stops helps make the road trip go by quicker, even though it doesn’t actually change the time in the car.
We spent much our previous night discussing sports, which meant that we didn’t finish our blogs until about 4:00 am. Consequently, we slept in a bit, and prepared for our conference.
The Georgia Political Science Association conference was being held at the Double Tree Hotel, in Savannah’s historic district. They offered panels covering multiple and diverse topics, allowing each of the students to pursue their own interests. This being my first conference, I wasn’t particularly sure how these things worked. I was under the impression that scholars would be presenting final products of their research; but it is actually an opportunity for the researchers to be critiqued by not only the panelists and discussant, but also the audience as well, with the hope of improving their work.
For example, in one of the panels, “Implementing Policy at the Local Levels of Government,” each reader (four in this case) had 10-15 minutes to explain the outlines of their research, share their results, and explain the significance of their project. Once this was done, the discussant offered a critique and suggestions to each panelist.
When I discussed this with Professor Yawn, he pointed out that the criticism may at times sound harsh, but it is only offered to help the researcher improve their research prior to submitting it for publication. It is preferable, he noted, to be criticized for mistakes that can be fixed now, than to be rejected for publications because of mistakes that weren’t considered.
Of course, many of the mistakes aren’t “mistakes” at all. Much of the panel criticism involves brainstorming ways to expand or refine the research. For example, one paper by Saundra J. Reinke, “Ready, Willing, and Able? Evaluating the Preparation and Training of Nonprofit Managers,” was a strong descriptive study of the challenges faced by non-profit managers in staying current on all aspects of their job. One idea floated for expanding the study, however, was to interview/survey members of non-profits’ boards of directors to get another perspective on training needs and constraints.
Another example of this process is illustrated by a panelist’s research on “urban sprawl” in Gwinnett County. She explored various possibilities for Gwinnett County’s unprecedented growth, but purposefully excluded the impact of the interstate. She had her reasons for doing this, but the other panelists and discussant felt strongly that it had to be included. This was the interesting part of the panel session, and I liked it a lot.
Afterward, we stopped in Macon, Georgia, where we ate at the Market Square Cafe and saw a statue of one of Macon’s own, Otis Redding.
We finished our evening with stops at the Vulcan, in Birmingham, Alabama
and Jimmie Rodgers‘ hometown of Meridian, MS.
From Johnny Mercer to Otis Redding to Jimmie Rodgers, it was a long day.