2 identities: 2 conferences: 1 week

Looking at my professional growth over the past few years, two identities emerge: Cara the academic and Cara the practitioner. 

In October of this year, I decided to go on an epic quest: could I do two conferences at the same time? I traveled to Las Vegas at present at the Association for Education Communications and Technology (AECT) conference and Devlearn

Since starting my learning technologies academic journey in 2016, I’ve been involved with AECT attending the last 3 conferences (Jacksonville (2017), Kansas City (2018), and Las Vegas (2019)). AECT is a higher education focused organization whose members are faculty, staff, and graduate students in educational technology research. I learned about AECT through my former advisor Dr. Correia. Dr. Correia encouraged me, along with Anna Leach, Natalie Gintert & Tim Nunn to submit a class project we completed to the conference. When it got accepted, we had the opportunity to present and publish a proceedings paper. After that, Anna and I decided to continue to work together for future projects at AECT. Given this year was my third AECT conference, I had confidence in what to expect and how to best deliver my presentations.

Devlearn, on the other hand, was a whole different challenge for me. After learning about Devlearn years ago, it has been on my bucket list to speak at. As an L&D person, Devlearn has been a conference I’ve respected and feared. Despite attending ATD ICE earlier this year with 10,000+ people, Devlearn has intimidated me. In fact, when I hosted a co-working session to encourage others to submit speaking proposals, I admitted my own self-doubts and anxiety. All year up until the proposals were due I kept asking myself if I was good enough to speak at Devlearn. When I received my acceptance email, I was in class and I had to get up and leave to go Tigger bounce for 5 minutes (I wish this was a joke but that legit happened). 

Going to both of these conferences was special to me because I was able to reunite with some of my favorite people. My dear friend Ceren was able to go to Devlearn and was my travel buddy and then when we arrived in Las Vegas, we were reunited with Anna Leach 🙂

Also to make the most out of this experience, Ceren and I flew out on a Sunday because my first presentation at AECT was on Tuesday and I wanted to have a day to ease into the chaos. 

Given the full jammed packed experience, each blog post will highlight a few special moments. Here are my picks for the top 3 special moments up until Tuesday.

#1 A Surprise Reunion

All the way up to the conference, I was in contact with Ceren’s boyfriend Utkan in Turkey who was planning a surprise visit to Las Vegas for the week. He almost blew it by checking into the airport the night before and he did a nice job of keeping her guessing. I did hate to see Ceren all sad because she was convinced something bad was happening. After we landed in Vegas and got settled in, I was in contact with Utkan on where we were. When we went to the elevators at the hotel, he came up behind us and I was able to snap this picture. All of us were crying.

#2 A warm welcome and hearty breakfast

Ceren and I were at the airport at the garish time of 4:30AM. We arrived in Las Vegas around 7:30AM and by the time we got the rental car, it was close to 9:00AM. We were invited to breakfast by Jac Hutchinson and her husband and her friends. I’ve known Jac for several years now and she’s more like a family member to me than a peer who works in the same profession. We met the crew at Ellis Island and it ended up being a place I’d visit 2 more times before leaving Las Vegas. The breakfast was delicious and cheap with easy parking access. Don’t believe me, check out the Trip Advisor.

#3 Sharing a special moment with two of my closest friends

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to clearly articulate how it felt to pick up this with these people. I cannot tell you how important it is to have people who love and support you no matter what. Anna has been such a dear friend ever since my master’s program at Ohio State and I would have quit the Ph.D. program a long time ago if I didn’t have Ceren. Both of them knew how much this meant to me and both of them wanted to go with me to pick this up.

My Devlearn speaking badge
Anna, yours truly, and Ceren

My next blog post I’ll share my reflections from my first presentation at AECT about open educational resources.


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