By: Naomi W. Nishi, University of Colorado Denver

Grad school is a grind! But, it’s the work outside of school requirements that really make this true. Conference proposals, publication opportunities, and other academic service and engagement can feel like a full-time job! It feels like as soon as I’ve presented at a conference, my paper proposals for the next conference are due the next week. To help manage this important work, I try to think of these responsibilities in a cycle continually moving my work toward publication. 

When developing a conference proposal, it’s essential to read and re-read the conference call and the guidelines for submission. Ground your paper in the conference theme. Describe to reviewers how your work supports the theme, and make the connection explicit. Also, use the guidelines provided to structure your proposal. If you have a full paper you’d like to submit, you’ll likely have to do a lot of cutting down and re-writing to respond to the conference call. But, remember, reviewers will be asked to score your proposal based on the guidelines in the conference call, so make it clear and easy for reviewers. (Tip: volunteer to review conference proposals and you’ll get a much better sense of what a competitive proposal looks like!) 

Even seasoned scholars get rejected. It can sting, but remember the feedback you get on your conference proposal is a gift. The reviewers often offer you clear next steps for developing or revising your paper. So, give yourself a couple of days after reading your reviews, but then return to them and start revising using the theme, call, and guidelines for the next conference. 

Once you have a conference proposal accepted, celebrate! Since grad school is indeed a grind, we need to celebrate often to energize us and shoulder the rejections. After celebrating, get to work! Having a paper accepted in a conference is a great opportunity. If you have a solid draft of a manuscript to send to your Discussant and other interested folks at the conference, you can get excellent feedback that can be used to clean up your manuscript. In my experience, Discussants will often mark up a copy of your manuscript and give it to you at the panel after discussing all the papers in the session. But, in case they don’t give you a copy, be ready to take good notes on their feedback when they discuss your paper during the session. Don’t forget to send a thank you note to your Discussant after the conference and ask if they have any other feedback or notes on your paper. 

Conferences are tiring, so take a break when you return, but within a couple of weeks, come back to your manuscript and start revising, following closely the guidelines for the journal you’ve decided is the best fit for your article. After revising, cleaning up, and getting another set of eyes on your manuscript, submit to a journal. Celebrate again! Move the article to “under review” in your CV and start working on your next conference paper proposal!  

Naomi W. Nishi is a Motherscholar of two small children and a PhD Candidate in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Colorado Denver. Naomi’s research includes Critical Whiteness Studies (CWS) and Critical Race Theoretical (CRT) applications in higher education (with over a decade of professional higher education experience). Naomi’s dissertation uses CWS and CRT to examine whiteness and its impact on students of color through portraiture in college algebra. She holds an MA from the University of Denver and a BS from Michigan Technological University. 

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