Jefferson Abbey, a senior in the CSU History Department, attended the annual meeting of the American Historical Association. Interested in graduate school, he wanted to see if he was making the right choice. Here is his reaction to the event:
This year I had the pleasure of attending the 2017 American Historical Association conference in Denver. The event featured more than three hundred 90-minute sessions discussing a range of topics from slavery in the 16th century Spanish Empire, to presentations on how best to use animation and video technology to make abstract ideas stick.
I arrived at the conference the first day an hour early and as I watched people arrive I was struck by a sense of wonder. As hundreds of historians filled the Colorado Convention Center I considered the vast amount of knowledge surrounding me. When it was time for my first session I eagerly sat and awaited the panel of historians to present their papers. While I waited I gave careful attention to the nametags surrounding me and quickly began to realize I was in a room full of historians whose work I knew. As my mind processed thoughts of “I have read her book” or “I have cited his article” I feared that by being at the conference I might be punching above my weight class. In the first session my fears were confirmed. Each presenter spoke about his or her topic in such detail that I had difficulty following. In the Q and A session I was blown away by the thoughtfulness and significance of each audience member’s question. They were not asking about facts. The people in the audience asked questions that inquired about the significance of each presenter’s research and I suddenly realized that in the Q and A, the process of developing and refining the field of history was happening before me.
As I sat in more sessions I learned lessons that are impossible to gain in the classroom alone. By day two I began to track with presentations and develop questions that looked beyond mere facts and into broader avenues of historical inquiry. I was growing as a historian. By day three I committed to asking a question to the panel in front of a room full of professors. When I nervously stood to ask my question I introduced myself as an undergraduate student to the surprise of the room. When the session ended, multiple professors approached me from various universities who asked about my area of interest and some encouraged me to contact them for advice as I moved forward into graduate school.
The AHA Conference was an eye opening experience that I encourage anyone interested in pursuing a higher degree in history to attend. I was able to connect with potential advisors from across the country, my ability to think critically about the discipline of history expanded, and I left the conference certain that I had chosen the right major.