On Wednesday, 29 November, the IWM hosted the 2023 Autumn Fellows' Conference. Organized by and for emerging scholars, it constitutes a forum for exchange across disciplinary boundaries and affords researchers an opportunity to present their work and gather feedback in front of a larger audience. Below, co-organizers Hana Kopecka, Galyna Babak, and participant Jan Musil share their thoughts on the event.
What was the most challenging part about organizing the 2023 Autumn Fellows' Conference?
Kopecka: Everything went very smoothly, largely due to the amazing support we had from IWM staff members, who kindly assisted us along the way and took care of all the practical aspects of the conference.
Babak: I was very happy to organize the conference together with Hana! I would like to thank her for her patience and constructive decisions during the organization. The most challenging part was - as usual - to make everybody keep deadlines.
Personally, how have you experienced the conference?
Kopecka: I had an amazing experience. From the perspective of an audience member, I found it highly interesting. Despite the program being densely packed, the format of having each talk followed by a commentary and discussion, along with the width of intriguing topics, kept the conference engaging and fun. From the perspective of a presenter, it was a great opportunity to share my research with the IWM community in a friendly environment and get valuable feedback from my commentator, permanent fellows, and other visiting fellows.
Musil: Like any conference, it was tedious and exhausting. And even more so with us truncating our coffee breaks with questions and enthusiastic discussions. I was excited to finally learn about other fellows' excellent projects, of which I had only superficial knowledge from our lunch discussions. I am grateful that Hana and Galina, as well as the staff involved, made the conference go seamlessly. I also appreciated Ludger's take on closing remarks - I won't tell more lest I spoil it for the next cohort of fellows!
Were there any surprises? Something you found remarkable?
Musil: It was fascinating to see how the fellows' characters, attitudes, experiences, ideologies, and personal engagement, which you get to know to a certain degree during everyday life at the institute, imprint on their work and the way they present it.
How do you think emerging researchers benefit from formats like this one?
Musil: I think we are mostly used to presenting our research either to highly specialized professionals from our respective fields, or to the general public, whatever this label means. The Fellows' Conference was, at least for me, a rare opportunity to present my subject to humanities scholars coming from various backgrounds, which proved to be fruitful - I believe for everyone - in terms of getting unexpected but relevant feedback.
Babak: It is a wonderful format that allows different scholars to present their latest research and share their ideas with others. At the same time, it gives an opportunity to integrate scholars from various fields better into the Institute's environment, as well as the academic community in general.
Kopecka: Events like the Autumn Fellow's Conference provide an invaluable occasion for emerging researchers to share their research with the community, get feedback, and discuss different perspectives, stemming, among others, from the multidisciplinary nature of the conference. The ability to choose a commentator for one's talk is also a unique opportunity to create connections with local researchers and discuss ideas.