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Presenting at a National Conference as a Student

October 27, 2021

My name is Gracyn Sage and I am a sophomore at the University at Mount Union with a major in nursing and a minor in peacebuilding and social justice. I participate in Alpha Phi Omega, I am a Raider Guide and Preview Guide, I am a student worker for the library, I am the sophomore student representative for the nursing program, and I am a Regula Scholar.

I have always had an interest in social justice issues and civic engagement, so I was ecstatic to find to integrate this passion into my major and into my work beyond the classroom. I applied to speak at the Peace and Justice Association Conference at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and my application was reviewed and accepted. From there, I centered my research on health and peace. I learned so much about how the two intertwine and how I can be an advocate for my future patients when I start a career in health care. I spent this past summer through October collecting data, conducting interviews, and learning extensive amounts of information on the coronavirus. 

The weekend of October 7 - 10, I had the opportunity to travel to the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and speak about my research and present my findings on health inequities exposed by the coronavirus and how a nurse can make a difference. I was accompanied by two Mount Union professors and a peer who supported me through the conference. I was nervous about speaking in front of so many Ph.D.’s and well-educated people, as I was one of the youngest presenters there, but my entire audience engaged in my presentation and asked me questions that both challenged and supported my thinking. I was able to speak to various professors, undergrads, and graduate students who were all gathered with one shared interest: peace. I heard several different presentations ranging from peace education, civic engagement and outreach, healthcare, LGBTQ rights, and others.  

My first academic conference was incredibly engaging and educational as I learned so much that I can work into my own life. The opportunity was one that not many people can say that they’d have, and I am so grateful for it. For any student considering a minor in peacebuilding and social justice or any students considering speaking at an academic conference, go for it! The best decision you can make is the one that pushes your comfort zone.

Note: Mount Union faculty members Dr. Mark Carroll, Dr. Sheryl Holt, Dr. Beth Canfield-Simbro, and Dr. Michelle Collins-Sibley all presented at the conference as well. Mount Union will host the 2022 Peace and Justice Association Conference on its campus.