By Brooke Foster
During the last weekend of February, I attended the Dimensions of Political Ecology Conference at the University of Kentucky. After obtaining funding through the Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability, myself and two other DGES undergraduate students flew to Lexington, Kentucky unforgivingly early that Thursday morning. I had never been to a conference before, and I still often view presentations as a challenge. But because my fellow undergraduates convinced me this was an incomparable experience, I went and met some of the most amazing people, got exposed to a vast array of unique research, and received excellent feedback about my own research at the poster competition.
The first notable benefit of attending the DOPE Conference was simply how many totally cool people I met. While many of the attendees were from the University of Kentucky and the Appalachian region, there were professors, PhD students, and Masters from all institutions all over the country and even the world. I even met a few people from the University of Oklahoma that I had never known before. The opportunity to hear everyone speak through their own presentations and panel discussions introduced me to the broad range of opportunities and creativity that are possible for academics and researchers.
By meeting these inspiring researchers, I was also exposed to their fascinating research. This conference really opened my mind to expand my understanding of how different research can look depending on funding, discipline, and individual creativity. Two of my most memorable sessions actually included graduate students from the University of Oklahoma. One of them was entitled “‘Plastic Sweat Metal Skin’: Body Ecologies and Visceral Geographies,” and this session in particular focused on unique conceptions of scale and space to explore topics ranging from sweat and the politics of perspiration technology to a study on milk and white patriarchy. Another session I thoroughly enjoyed was a panel called “Imagined Geographies of Movement, Migration, and Citizenship.” This was my favorite because the panelists were presenting on research that directly relates to my own research on imagined geographies, place attachment, and mobility and even my potential future career as a lawyer working at the intersection of environment and immigration as a response to climate-induced migration. Sessions such as these were absolutely energizing and motivated me to incorporate a new set of understandings into my own work and life. The research I learned about even has me considering graduate school before law school.
Early Saturday morning, it was finally time for the poster session. Myself and a handful of graduate students showed up to the exhibition area ready to share our research with our posters in hand. It was interesting to experience the different ways each of us presenters approached the session. Some simply stood by their poster and waited for questions, while others like myself were more forward and made a strong effort to share our research with audiences. As I said before, presenting my work has always been a daunting experience. But at the conference, I really pushed myself to work through my ideas to intrigue people and motivate them to offer feedback. I am happy to say by receiving the preparation I did from Drs. Person and Peppler and by engaging with people as I did, I won the poster competition!
I am very grateful for this experience. I learned so much about the process of conducting research, sharing it with others, and networking with people to truly get the most out of my research and academic experience as a whole. I received great feedback from people at the poster competition and even got pushed to explore questions I likely would not have considered otherwise. This was an experience of growth and inspiration, and I look forward to attending DOPE 2021 with the same excitement and even more developed research on “Gendered Expressions of Place Attachment, Mobility, and Justice near the Tar Creek Superfund Site.”
Read more about OU students at the DOPE 2020 Conference here.