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APSA conference report

Old Members’ Trust Graduate Conference and Academic Travel Grant Report – Ashley Wright DPhil, Politics

Thanks to the generosity of Univ’s Old Members’ Trust, I was able to attend the first conference of my DPhil. I finished the American Political Science Association conference (30 Sep -3 Oct) feeling reinvigorated and reenergized about my research and the academic year that lies ahead. After an initial year that was largely virtual, the conference helped me to connect in a meaningful way to relevant scholars and new ideas and new directions in the field. Even though the conference itself was also virtual, I nonetheless felt that I came away more grounded and engaged in what is happening in my discipline. I’m so grateful for this opportunity at this early stage in my doctorate and for the renewed inspiration it sparked.

I particularly enjoyed a panel on Democratic Backsliding, including new empirical ways to conceptualize transitions to democracy, a new index measuring democratic backsliding, and an examination of how the identity of raters influences democracy ratings. Each of these topics is pertinent to my research and, while I had read some papers by two of the academics on the panel before, hearing them present their work and take questions was a lively, stimulating way to engage with their latest projects. Additionally, I became familiar with the work of two new academics, whom I had not encountered before, but whose work is also relevant and insightful, provoking extensive reflection on my own research.

One of the plenary sessions also addressed how crucial diversity in the profession is for complex tasks—particularly as applied to social science research and the way it shapes both problem and solution search. This rigorous engagement with a current topic helped anchor the ways the discipline is responding and adapting to pressing questions.

In conclusion, from both a professional and a personal standpoint, I found the APSA conference hugely engaging, enlightening, and encouraging. I’m tremendously grateful to Univ and OMT for the ability to attend and eager to delve deeper into my own research this term, equipped from this experience.

Find out more about the range of travel grants and scholarships available to assist Univ students on our Travel Grants page or read further travel reports.

Published: 24 November 2021

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