Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Equitable Conferencing: Caregivers Perspectives and Prospects

Conferencing as a Parent
by Tony J Carrizales,
Marist College

I have been attending academic conferences for nearly twenty years, half of those years as a parent. In preparing for my next conference, I pause here to share some thoughts and reflections on my conferencing as a parent evolution.
Soon after graduating and beginning my academic career I attended roughly two to three conferences a year. I made an effort to attend conferences throughout the country and on occasion, internationally. Over time, I lost some interest in conferences’ locations as places I had previously attended resurfaced. The interaction with colleagues and discussion about on-going and possible research began to create the greatest value in conference attendance. Ultimately, I went from attending a few conferences a year to one, maybe two within an academic year.  
Mid-way through my academic career, baby number one came along, followed by baby number two and baby number three.  My attendance at conferences slowed even more for me in the early years of my children -- limited to maybe once a year. That one conference was heavily dependent on location and proximity to where I lived.
As my children have gotten older -- my approach to conferencing as a parent has evolved. Two key factors impacted this evolution. The first is that I stopped viewing conferences as places and time spent away from my family and began viewing them as an opportunity to explore new places as a family. Even cities I had been to previously were now being viewed with a new perspective. It also helped that the children were getting older and traveling with them was much easier than when they were babies. 

The second key factor in the conferencing as a parent evolution is the approach that conference organizer have shown toward attendees. There has been an increase in conference promotions that encourage and welcome spouses to partake in events. There have also been recent conferences that have extended such resources and opportunities of engagement for children. 

Once again, I am excited about looking at the various conference schedules and locations. The panels and interactions with colleagues still provide the important academic value for attending a conference, but I am also excited to be able to bring my children to a new city they have never explored - a new zoo, museum, or park.

My class schedule, children’s’ school days, and my wife’s work schedule do not always allow for attending the three conference a year - I once did, but the stars do align every on occasion. As I prepare for my next conference panel - I am fortunate that my family will be able to join me in Anaheim, CA (not too far from Disneyland, I am told). Most notably, I believe I will be the most nervous I have ever been for a presentation with some of the toughest critics in the audience - my children.
I began this post noting how I have evolved in “conferencing as a parent” but in reflecting upon the topic – It may be equally attributable to the evolution of conference organizers. For example, here is note from the American Society for Public Administration conference organizers on their upcoming conference:  “Your children are welcome to attend any part of this year's conference for free. Whether it's a plenary, panel, networking reception, evening event or other conference session, you are welcome to bring your child.” Going forward and further – conference organizers can continue to encourage family engagement in conferences. Listing local attractions and museums for children or family activities can add to the overall experience of a conference for one participant who might have otherwise not attended at all. 

Tony Carrizales is an associate professor of public administration at Marist College and former editor-in-chief of Journal of Public Management and Social Policy. His research interests include diversity in the public sector and cultural competence. He received his Ph.D. from the School of Public Affairs and Administration, Rutgers University-Newark. He squad consists of Oliver, Claudia, and Warren, and his wife, Michelle.

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