A few months before starting her doctoral studies at Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE), Marjorie Hahn was a nervous high school math teacher about to make her first presentation at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association.
“I was a full-time teacher doing some research on the side and had never gone to this sort of professional setting before, so I had no idea what to expect,” said Hahn, who is now a PhD student in the GSE’s Curriculum Studies and Teacher Education program. “For me, that was a totally amazing but overwhelming experience, and I wish that I’d had something like SWAYWO beforehand.”
SWAYWO — which stands for “So, what are you working on?” — is a student-led conference that invites GSE students to convene and collaborate over projects while gaining experience presenting in front of their peers. The conference, held May 11, was brought back for its eighth installment as an in-person event for the first time since 2019. The event was on hiatus last year and held virtually in 2020 and 2021.
“I thought the idea for SWAYWO as an introductory conference for our students was absolutely incredible,” Hahn said. “I jumped on the idea of being involved in it.” Hahn was one of three event co-chairs this year, including GSE PhD students Marcos Rojas Pino and Megan Selbach-Allen, who, along with GSE Professor and Associate Dean of Educational Affairs Anne H. Charity Hudley, were integral in relaunching the event.
“Let me tell you something about conferences — they are the lifeblood of the professional and academic lives of educators,” Charity Hudley said in her opening remarks to attendees. “It’s where we get revived. It’s where we learn new ideas and share information. And I think it’s so important for us to not just think about SWAYWO as an event but as a skill.”
Fourteen students signed up to present their work in various stages of completion, on topics that ranged from education inequalities in Brazil and racial imbalances in American school attendance zones to predicting students’ math scores and the effects of expanding center-based child care in China.
In a keynote speech, Farima Pour-Khorshid, an assistant professor and teacher supervisor at the University of San Francisco School of Education, talked about connecting work and research to a greater purpose. The conference also featured three workshops in which presenters could discuss their research with their audience, troubleshoot ideas, and ask for help.
The event ended with panel discussions that touched on completing the first year of a PhD program and how to secure a job once the degree is done.
Around 70 people registered to attend this year, a number that students and staff involved in planning hope will continue to grow as the event gains momentum.
“It’s really important for us to keep this going, to support it and get more people involved as we now transition back to in-person,” Charity Hudley said. “I’ve seen students create knowledge, theories, and algorithms — but conferences allow us to create a true, active, and intellectual community.”
Founded in 2014 by Holly Pope, PhD ’16; Eduardo R. Muñoz-Muñoz, PhD ’16; K.C. Busch, PhD ’16; Catherine Lemmi, PhD ’19; and Devin Corrigan, MA ’15, the student-led effort in previous years has resulted in new connections, advanced ideas, and even published papers.
“We wanted to have a space where everyone could come together, learn from each other, and build professional identity,” Hahn said. “I’m really proud of what we’ve done, and I’m really excited to see how it can continue into next year.”
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