Reflecting on the past year is mind-blowing to say the least. It was almost a year ago now that I was announced as the first student liaison for the 2021 IA conference. My photo on the website has stayed the same, but a lot has changed. My title has transitioned to Student Co-Chair, and I have worked tirelessly to live up to that name by engaging students as speakers, volunteers, and attendees, and by co-leading the sponsorship initiative. I was commended recently for doing the work of a Co-Chair, not just a Student Co-Chair, and it reminded me of my purpose in this role. I designed this position to be a teaching opportunity, not just a learning one.
As IA professionals, you understand the power and responsibility of language, and I hope to explain what the student co-chair label means to me. I talked with Cassini Nazir a few months ago and explained my struggle with the best title for this position, Co-Chair or Student Co-Chair. I see the label of “student” as my greatest strength, but many see it as a limitation or as an indication of lack of experience. It’s true. I don’t have much experience as an IA professional. But that is not my role. I have 17 years of experience in my field. I have been a student since I was 5 years old. I don’t say “…or whatever the kids are calling it these days,” because I know what we are calling it. I understand what students will read and what they won’t. Trust me, many won’t have clicked this link 🙂
My hope for this position was to demonstrate the benefits of engaging students as leaders in the IA community. What I lack in experience, I make up for by adding a different perspective. And that’s not to say I don’t feel out of place sometimes. I am excited to learn more about imposter syndrome at the workshop in April, because that is what I experience all the time. But discomfort is a small price to pay for making the position of Student Co-Chair permanent, and for reframing “student” from weakness to strength.
In an interview for the University of Maryland iSchool quarterly, I was asked, “What was the best advice you received in your time at the iSchool?” I answered, “I learned to ask for help.” In that spirit, I am here to ask for your help finding the next Student Co-Chair.
We need a Student Co-Chair
- who believes in this community and has the strength to argue that students’ voices are as important as practitioners;
- someone who will fight for an opening keynote younger than themselves;
- someone who will contribute to the co-chair team, not only as a mentee but as an equal or even a mentor.
I have made wonderful connections with many of you in the IA community, and I know that whoever fills this role next will be lucky to learn from all of you. But please keep an open mind and listen to what they have to say as well.
To suggest someone (or yourself) for IAC22 Student Co-Chair, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.