Frequently Asked Questions

Why would I want to present at a conference?

Conferences such as this provide a way for scholars to exchange ideas and present their research. The conference offers you an opportunity to participate in scholarly conversation. You will have the experience of writing an abstract, writing or revising a paper, reading or presenting your work in a panel with other scholars, and answering and posing questions. This is very valuable experience for anyone who plans to teach, engage in literary research, or go to graduate school. It is also good general experience in presenting information in a public forum. The presence of many diverse voices further strengthens this conference.

When and where will the 8th Annual UCMLA conference be held?

The conference will be held on Friday, March 10 and Saturday, March 11, 2017,​ in the University Business Center, room PB 192. The keynote address will be held in PB 191, the Alice Peters Auditorium. There will be a craft talk on Saturday.

What is the purpose of this particular conference?

Academic conferences serve multiple purposes. You share your ideas with a scholarly community and benefit from their feedback. You attend panels on authors or themes that interest you and learn from the perspectives of the panelists. Professional conference papers often lead to full-length articles appropriate for publication. This conference aims to mentor undergraduates in the process of presenting their research, to involve graduate students as event organizers, and to foreground the field of multiethnic literatures of the Americas.

What counts as “literature”?

This conference welcomes presentations that critically engage "texts" in a variety of formats. While literature certainly includes traditional forms (fictional prose, poetry, and drama), cultural studies allows us to expand this definition to include other artifacts that prompt related critical reflections. Presentations on film, television, art, music, and other popular forms are welcome, as they would complement more traditional literary analyses at this conference.

Which geographical areas does the term “Americas” include?

The term includes North, South, and Central America, as well as the Caribbean.

May I write about literature in Spanish, French, or other languages from these areas?

Yes. However, we ask that you present your paper in English.

Can my paper focus on texts by white writers from these areas?

Yes, if the writer’s whiteness is relevant to your analysis of the text, or if the work demonstrates a significant engagement with race or ethnicity.

What is an abstract?

An abstract is a summary of your complete argument. We ask that you keep your abstract limited to 250 words.

Who may submit an abstract?

The conference is intended for current undergraduates (from any department) and students who graduated within the past year. Students enrolled in Open University Courses may submit abstracts as well.

May I get advice or feedback on writing an abstract?

Yes, the UCMLA organizing committee will be offering a Workshop on Writing Abstracts on Friday, Dec. 9 from 10 a.m. to noon in PB 182A. In addition, we will provide feedback on abstracts that are submitted in advance. Email your abstract to us as a Word document or PDF file and paste it in the bod of the email by Dec. 1, 2016. We should have our feedback to you by the beginning of January.

When is the abstract due and where do I submit it?

The abstract is due Monday, Jan. 23, 2017.​ Please email us your abstract as a Word document or PDF file ​and paste it in the body of an email. If you have already submitted an abstract for feedback, please resubmit your revised version or a new abstract by this deadline. The conference organizing committee will select from among the submissions and group the chosen abstracts into appropriate panels.

Is it okay to submit an abstract based on a paper I wrote for a class?

Absolutely. If the abstract is accepted, be sure to revise your paper to meet the criteria of the conference.

When will I know whether or not my abstract has been accepted?

If your abstract is accepted, you will receive an email from the conference organizers by mid-February.

Once my abstract has been accepted, how much time do I have to write the paper?

You will probably have until the day of the conference to prepare your paper. However, panel chairs sometimes ask panelists to submit their papers a few days earlier so that they can formulate their own remarks about the panel as a whole. Be prepared.

How long should my conference paper be?

Your paper should be about 7 pages long, or whatever you can read coherently in 15-20 minutes. It is vital that you rehearse your reading ahead of time and respect the time limit because otherwise the chair or moderator of your panel will have to cut you off abruptly.

Do I need to incorporate scholarship?

Yes. What matters is not the number of sources consulted but how meaningfully your paper engages with them.

How does a panel work?

The conference program committee groups individual papers into panels based on general thematic connections. There are usually three or four presenters per panel. Each panel has a moderator who introduces the panelists and invites them to come up, one by one, to present their papers. A Q&A follows, in which the moderator facilitates questions from the audience and the panelists respond. There is usually a short break between panels.

Do I just read my paper?

Yes, most presenters at English conferences just read their papers. Occasionally, a presenter will speak to the audience or combine speaking with reading. You may also incorporate audio-visual material if you wish. In that case, let the organizers know of your technological needs in advance.

Any tips on presenting?

Yes, visit UCMLA’s web page and click on our Advice for Presenters page.

May I attend the conference if I am not presenting a paper?

Please do! We encourage everyone, including the community, to attend. The audience is also welcome to ask questions about the papers during each panel’s Q&A.

Does conference etiquette require that I attend every panel?

No. Your conference program will give you the panel titles and names of panelists, and you may choose which ones to attend. It is courteous to sit through a complete panel (usually 3 or 4 papers) and make your exit during the break between panels.

What if I want to attend all the panels but need a snack break?

Feel free to bring a snack with you and eat it at any time while you are in the audience. Depending upon funds, we hope to be able to provide you with coffee and cookies in the lounge. The idea is that you get a chance to mingle with presenters and attendees in a relaxed setting.

Will graduate students have a role at this conference?

Yes! This conference is enriched by the presence and support of the English Department’s graduate students. Once we have selected abstracts and placed them in appropriate panels, we will invite graduate students to serve as moderators. So let us know if you are interested. But just to have our graduate students in the audience and engaged with the presentations makes the conference a more stimulating experience for all.

I’m a graduate student interested in moderating. What would my responsibility be?

A moderator’s basic responsibility is to introduce the panel at the beginning and take questions from the audience after all panelists have presented. Most moderators ask for brief bios from their panelists ahead of time. Some also ask for their papers in advance so that they can read them, draw connections among them, and ask questions of the panelists to spark discussion. However, it is not a moderator’s job to keep a conversation going. In fact, moderators should aim to be a subtle facilitating presence during the Q&A, allowing the audience to take the lead. 

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