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From Anxiety to Accomplishment – the road to presenting at my first conference

By Anya Nailea Carbonell, TERC


The Conference on Research in Equity and Sustained Participation in Engineering, Computing, and Technology (RESPECT) was my first professional conference experience out of college. Being a recent Boston University graduate, this would be my first professional event as an “adult”. However, my three years of experience at TERC, a STEM education research and development nonprofit based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, gave me the confidence to face this challenge.


While not my first project at TERC, working on the CompuPower project with Dr. Maria (Mia) Ong, Dr. Michael Cassidy, and Sabrina De Los Santos was the first time I helped write a conference proceedings paper and presentation. CompuPower was an in-school technology and leadership program aimed at exposing rural high school students to culturally responsive computing projects. TERC partnered with Arizona State University’s Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology to investigate the experiences of students who participated in CompuPower. While offering a STEM oriented curriculum, CompuPower allowed students to explore their own identities and interests.The projects were led and centered around the students, and they took charge of their own learning.


I’m a first-generation, low income college student, with my family hailing from the Dominican Republic. Because of my upbringing, I have a deep passion for education and social justice. I explored these passions through the participants of CompuPower because much of their work centered around marginalized identities and communities, and social justice issues that affect youth today like climate change and destigmatizing mental health.


After working on four projects, I have learned a lot as a researcher and a lifelong learner during my time at TERC. I began my time there with little confidence and a lot of self-doubt, but after joining the CompuPower team, I realized that I was well equipped for this role. My anxiety about my skills turned into confidence through the encouragement of my team and they pushed me to develop professionally and personally in many ways.


On the day of the presentation, I expected to be worried. However, I was calm and collected when I began speaking. Despite buzzing with excitement during the presentation, I was no longer worried about my performance. Any anxiety I had melted away and I spoke with confidence. Even my previous worries about the Q&A portion were gone and instead of freezing at an unexpected question, I found it difficult to stop talking.


I ended the conference feeling proud of my presentation and of co-authoring my first peer-reviewed conference proceedings paper (Ong et al., forthcoming). I thought about giving up many times, but presenting at the RESPECT Conference was incredibly rewarding.


Reference:

Ong, M., Cassidy, M., De Los Santos, S., & Carbonell, A. (forthcoming). Rural Students Exploring Identity, Techno-Social Justice and Safe Spaces in a Culturally Responsive Computing Program. Proceedings of the Conference on Research in Equity and Sustained Participation in Engineering, Computing, and Technology (RESPECT).


Material for this project is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Education through Grant No. U411C160121 (PI: Kimberly Scott). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Education.

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