How ASPE Made Me Bleary-Eyed for the Better!

By Lou Clark

“How ASPE made me bleary-eyed for the better …or…

Why I highly recommend Grants & Research presentations at the annual conference!”

 I must confess as I type this, I am a bit bleary-eyed.  I finished my first year as a doctoral student in the Hugh Downs School of Communication at Arizona State University last week while working full time as the SP Coordinator at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix. Throughout this year that’s been a true mix of excitement and exhaustion, I’ve often thought “How did this happen?” Then I remember.

I attended my first ASPE conference in San Antonio, July, 2008. Let me set the scene – hot, humid, hospitable, happenin’ Riverwalk, “Remember the Alamo!” …Texas. I fly in a day early to attend the “Basic Scholarship Pre-Conference Workshop” sponsored by the Grants & Research Committee. Feeling unusually quiet, I walk into the non-descript, too cold hotel conference room.  I don’t know anyone. I make small talk with the people around me; they are nice. It’s 8: 00 am and the presenters begin. We introduce ourselves to each other as I feel like a bit of an imposter though I’m excited to be here. I’m a theater person, a playwright, a director, a person who works with actors, not a scholar, right?

For the past year working as an SP educator, I have found myself thinking about performance in new ways but haven’t found the vocabulary to translate it to myself, let alone to colleagues. I realize that I need a new language to describe these ideas. This pre-conference workshop seems like a good place to find more words. During the first two hours we learn all about Glassick’s criteria for scholarship which provides a framework for developing, measuring, and presenting scholarship. Ok, so now I have a framework; a model to work with. We take a break and I have new words, concepts, thoughts flying around in my head. I’m excited! During the second part of the workshop we receive individual mentorship on how to conduct a literature review. I sit alone, at first, in front of a computer screen and realize I have no idea how to begin. Karen Szauter sits next to me and starts asking me about what I’m interested in. I talk about theater and she tells me she has a colleague like me. I think, “Cool, maybe I’m not crazy after all.” Searching for “theater” is getting me nowhere I tell her. She says try “applied theater” or “applied arts” and with a click, I’m home.

Though I am bleary-eyed as I write, my heart is full with the anticipation of seeing colleagues and friends in June at the San Diego annual conference. Some of these wonderful, smart, and generous people are, in part, responsible for both my current state of disrepair and also for treasured professional and personal growth. I offer this recommendation of the Grant’s and Research presentations as a testimony to them and to ASPE. If you’re new among our ranks, I hope to meet you in San Diego and if you’re interested in all this but think you’re not a scholar, I especially hope to meet you.

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