Five Things That Make MPA an Amazing Learning Experience for Students (and everyone else)

This was my fourth Midwestern Psychological Association Conference and, honestly, each time I go, I find new reasons to love and appreciate it. Here are just a few of those reasons.

  1. The Speakers. Every year, I’m amazed by the quality of the speakers who come to MPA.  From Dr. Al Bandura, the Psi Chi Distinguished Speaker in 2013 (who I got to have dinner with), to Dr. Traci Mann, this year’s Psi Chi Distinguished Speaker, MPA has outstanding speakers on a variety of topics.  This year, for example, included Dr. Dana Dunn, Dr. Michele Gelfand, Dr. William Graziano, and others.
  2. The Research. I realize I’m double-dipping here because, technically, all those speakers I just mentioned are presenting research.  But, there is so much high quality research at MPA that it warrants even more attention.  In particular, the student research put on by Psi Chi is really impressive.  This year, there were nearly 600 submissions by students researchers, far more than any of the five other APA regional conferences.  You can catch a glimpse of that research by listening to the latest episode of Psychology and Stuff, where we chatted with 15 student researchers from universities across the Midwest.
  3. The Networking. Throughout the conference, students get to have one on one conversations and create connections they would never be able to make otherwise.  One of our students, for example, who is heading to Denver for sports psychology learned of a cutting edge measure of concussions that is not out in the literature yet.  Another students is going to run a study she ran here, at another university, to access a different sample. Students get to meet faculty from different schools, hear presentations from names they have only read about until now, and generally tap into the world of academics that is otherwise hard to see. 
  4. The Comradery. On top of all the academic benefits of attending MPA, there are social benefits too.  I see this in our students every year.  Those who attend come back closer to their classmates.  They learn a lot about each other, have shared experiences that mean a lot to them, and have fun together. To quote one of the students from the podcast when asked what the highlight of the conference was for her, she said: “Definitely going out and getting to bond with our classmates…. I got to meet some really cool people and make some new friends.”

    And that bonding isn’t just for the students.  MPA offers me and my colleagues a great opportunity to step away from our usual work on campus and connect with colleagues from my own campus and elsewhere.  For example….

  5. The City. Let’s not forget that Chicago is the third biggest city in the United States with a lot to offer with regard to sightseeing, food, the arts, and entertainment.  Every year, I watch as my students (many who are visiting Chicago for the first time), broaden their horizons, see things they have never seen before, and experience the world in a new way.
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