"Upon receiving a description of the panels on which I was to participate, I was stunned. Of the three panels I was sitting on, only one seemed to even remotely relate to the focus of my research and teaching. Uneasy, but willing, I prepared my comments for all three sessions and headed to the conference. Upon arriving, I was comforted, but also concerned, to learn that my trepidation was shared by my other conference participants as well.
I thought, "If everyone felt this way, what sort of panel discussion could we possibly have?" My fears were laid to rest, however, as soon as my first panel began. I discovered that the beauty of this conference is, in fact, the very thing that unnerved me the most. Unlike most other academic conferences, the Public Affairs Conference offers an opportunity for panelists to actually listen to and interact with each other and the audience. I found it refreshing that that both academics and practitioners were asked to serve on panels together. The varied perspectives that panelists shared through their brief remarks allowed a fuller discussion of topics than usually comes from a roomful of academics practicing in the same disciplinary subfield. I was often challenged by my fellow presenters to clarify my thinking or strengthen my arguments. Just as often, I was moved by their remarks, learning a fresh way to look at problems and potential solutions. I hope that prospective panelists will not be scared away by the unfamiliar format. The rewards of participation are worth the uneasiness of the process."
—Stacy Ulbig, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Political Science, Sam Houston State University