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New Funding for Student Organized Conferences

By Jason Hamman

New in 2007, SPIE Student Services will be awarding Collaborative Conference Grants (CCG) to Student Chapters. This funding is designed to facilitate collaboration and networking between chapters at a conference while providing the resources needed to create a significant student professional development event.

The reality of research life is that many students are unable to travel to far off conferences to present their work or attend courses. Even fewer students are exposed to career development resources that are specifically related to science and engineering. By organizing student events in their own local regions, chapters should be able to overcome some of the main limitations associated with conference attendance: time and money.

The Collaborative Conference Grant provides up to $2,000 per award to proposals that help create an opportunity for student chapter members to examine aspects of their career development. While a broad view of student professional development includes all technical conference activities, this grant is specifically meant to enable students to host and participate in something outside their technical realm.

Possible activities for a career development workshop include:

  • Resume and CV writing tutorial
  • Technical presentations - displaying science effectively
  • Recruiter/Career fair or discussion roundtable
  • Practice employer interviews
  • Industry site visit
  • Language skills for presentations

An example of a recent successful event was the Career Day organized by students from chapters in the Great Lakes region. They brought professionals from the Career Services Center of Kent State University to the event for a half-day workshop and discussion of career planning and job searching skills for engineers.

Nearly all students in your chapter will face tough career questions during their time at school, so planning an event where your chapter members can explore these questions may have more universal appeal than the technical side of events. Whether you are considering remaining in academic life or looking for alternate career paths, starting early is key.

When applying for the Collaborative Conference Grant, begin by developing the organizational plan and conference goals. Events need to be well thought out, and plans should include multiple strategies to market the conference-not just through the chapter website. A comprehensive conference planning worksheet is available as a free download. Workshop creation may be challenging at times but it has the potential to be the most rewarding aspect of chapter involvement, giving students the opportunity to have face to face interactions with other optics students and professionals from their region. Collaboration with students from other universities is an important opportunity for SPIE Student Chapters, in addition to being a lot of fun.

For more information on the Collaborative Conference Grants visit the Chapter Management page.

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