One of the perks of being an Architectural History graduate student at the Savannah College of Art and Design is having opportunities to step out of the classroom and get some real world professional experience. Recently, I had the privilege of presenting a paper at the Ninth Savannah Symposium: The Architecture of Trade.
Presenting a paper at an academic conference may sound intimidating and it can be. But it can be very rewarding, too. For me, it was a chance to push myself a bit farther outside my comfort zone.
The process is fairly simple. Most conferences require you to first submit a 300 word abstract on your paper. I chose to frame my paper around a few ideas that I wanted to use for my master’s thesis so writing a short abstract was fairly straightforward. Along with the challenge of writing only 300 words (my first draft was over 750) I was given the following advice: keep it simple, make sure it is interesting and don’t forget to include a clever title.
Once my paper was accepted, the real work began. At the symposium, you only have twenty minutes and you only get one chance to make a good first impression. So, my paper went through numerous drafts (I lost count how many) and I spent a lot of time selecting my PowerPoint slides (more advice here: make sure they are “visually stunning.”)
Of course, you are writing a paper that will be read out loud to an audience, which is a bit different than writing a paper for a professor who will be reading it in the comfort of his office. So, I had to think about my unique speech patterns, making sure to limit architectural jargon and avoid getting tongue-tied over superfluous words.
But, the most important step in the process was rehearsal. I rehearsed my paper in front of a mirror to see how my facial expressions affected what I was saying. I rehearsed with friends, to whom I owe a debt of gratitude and I rehearsed in front of some of our department faculty, whose critique was enormously valuable to get my paper into its final form: fourteen-pages, 3208 words, and almost exactly 20 minutes complete with a polished, professional PowerPoint presentation.
By the time of my session at the symposium, I was well prepared. The night before, I read my paper one last time before going to sleep and then didn’t look at it again until I was standing at the podium, in front of professional colleagues and friends who wanted me to succeed.
I should mention that no matter how much preparation you do, always expect the unexpected, or just remember the Boy Scout’s motto, “be prepared!” Try to think of everything that could possibly go wrong and try to anticipate a solution ahead of time.
At the end of the day, the success of my paper gave me good feedback for my thesis and confidence I can take to the next conference.
(Editor’s Note: Glen Umberger is currently an M.F.A. student in the Architectural History program at SCAD.)
The 9th Savannah Symposium: The Architecture of Trade, February 5-7, 2015, successfully fulfilled the high expectations we have for this series. In addition to the two esteemed keynote speakers — Nasser Rabbat, Director of the Aga Khan Program in Islamic Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Joyce Appleby, Professor Emerita of History at the University of California, Los Angeles — 45 speakers participated, representing eight countries (Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Germany, Israel, South Africa, United Kingdom and United States). The symposium offers junior scholars a chance to hone their skills and share insights from the cutting edge of scholarship. Among the presenters were 15 graduate students (10 pursuing their Ph.D. and 5 their Master’s degree). One of the goals of the series is to bring together academics and practitioners from different disciplines and it was thrilling to welcome diverse historians (architectural historians, art historians, social historians, economic historians) and architects, preservationists and planners. We were especially thrilled to see 67 SCAD students register as attendees, representing several different academic majors.
Our Survey of Architectural History Career Opportunities that exist outside academia has been updated, presenting data from January 2014 through December 2014. See the “Careers” tab above. The data was based on 129 full-time position announcements, which is up from 119 announcements posted for the previous survey period (7/13-6/14), continuing a steady upward trend since 2011. The Southeast continues to offer more positions than any other region in the country, which has been the case for over a decade.
Read about the forthcoming 9th Savannah Symposium: The Architecture of Trade being presented by our architectural history department — at “Thread”: The official SCAD Blog.
Our Survey of Architectural History Career Opportunities that exist outside academia has been updated, presenting data from July 2013 through June 2014. Of note, more opportunities opened within the Southeast (32.7%) than any other region in the country, which has been the case for over a decade. Among the five majors categories of employment, Preservation Planning and Administration (46.2%) and Historical Research and Evaluation (32.8%) — two areas more directly related to the focus of our program — represented over three-quarters of the 119 full-time job listings.
After about six months of inactivity, the architectural history department blog is stirring back to life. The quiet period, ironically, has resulted from the flurry of activity that has kept me from staying on top of our in-house web presence. Over the past six months, our department has seen the implementation of overhauled degree programs, launched this fall; the selection of our very own Olivier Maene (B.F.A. 2014) as the 2014 graduating class Salutatorian; several student and alumni achievements, including the securing of impressive new positions; and a spate of faculty publications, including the principal culprit for my silence — my role as the lead author of an exciting new book on Savannah’s architecture — Buildings of Savannah — as the inaugural city-focused volume within the Society of Architectural Historians’ Buildings of the United States series.
In the coming days and weeks, updates to our faculty, student and alumni achievements will be posted, along with the past year’s data for the Career Survey.
Please stay tuned!