EDITORIAL: Rowan needs to emphasize conferences as a form of education

Members of the Physics & Astronomy Club stand together during PhysCon 2022. - Photo / Physics & Astronomy Club

At a university that prides itself on different forms of education, from internships to practical lab application, The Whit feels that one area less-advocated for within Rowan’s education principles is experiential learning.

“We are committed to providing rigorous, experiential, and engaging educational experiences,” the Rowan University official mission statement reads. “and inclusive culture that respects and values the diversity of all of its members.”

Experiential learning is defined by Boston University as a learning process in which students “learn by doing” and further reflect on that experience. This could be through internships or experiments, as well as their lesser-known learning experience — conferences.

The Whit considers conferences to be one of the perfect medleys of internships and lecture-based learning, offering a bit of everything for everyone.  At conferences, students have the opportunity to present their work, connect with professionals in their field and attend valuable, hyper-specific panels relevant to students’ education and career paths. 

At Rowan’s Rohrer College of Business, the Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance conference was held at Rowan’s Glassboro campus and registration was free. Rowan’s President, Ali Houshmand, spoke at the event, as well as other influential figures in this field; Michael McKee, International Economics and Policy Correspondent at Bloomberg Television; Bob Bunting, CEO of Climate Adaptation Center; Jaynee LaVecchia, former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice, and many others. 

While students may have the opportunity to work with some of these individuals during internships or future jobs, there are very few opportunities to be in a room with so many of these professionals all at once. 

Conferences also allow for students to be recognized for their academic work on a scale not possible at Rowan University alone. In early October, various students apart of Rowan University’s Physics & Astronomy Club attended PhysCon 2022 to present their work to a panel of judges for critique. Nick Kurth was one of these students, and he won first prize for his work in astronomy, astrophysics, gravitation and relativity. 

“This experience allowed me to showcase the hard work I completed over the summer, as well as make connection with other physicists who I’ll work alongside in the coming years,” Kurth said. 

Recently, several Whit editors were also able to attend Media Fest 2022, a journalism and broadcast media conference that covered a wide range of hyper-specific topics such as maintaining one’s mental health while reporting on traumatic events, how to integrate social media into your newsroom and effective editorial leadership.  

While these are all important topics for journalists to learn, most are not able to be taught in the traditional 15-week course setting, making conferences the place for student journalists and professionals alike to experience these discussions.

The Whit believes that, if given the opportunity, all students should take the chance to attend an in-person conference. Thankfully, there are several ways that students can fund these instances of experiential learning. 

One of the most accessible ways for students to fund conference attendance is through the Rowan Student Government Association’s (SGA) travel fund. This fund is accessible to members of SGA chartered organization and is what the Physics & Astronomy Club used to fund their PhysCon attendance. 

If students are a member of the Ric Edelman College of Communication & Creative Arts, they can receive up to $500 to attend a conference or “professional development” through the college’s Student Travel and Professional Development Fund — this is what The Whit utilized to attend Media Fest 2022.

However, if neither of these instances apply, all students have the opportunity to apply to Rowan’s Student Travel Fund for day, overnight, international and domestic travel.

Attending an academic conference is one of the most unique experiences a student can have while attending college. Rowan University has laid a solid foundation for students to do so, but the opportunity needs to be publicized more so that student’s can take advantage. All that’s left for students to do is take the reigns, find a relevant conference and starting filling out the appropriate paperwork. 

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