In Spring 2017, Brown University hosted a one-day regional conference titled “Women’s Intellectual Networks Research Symposium (WINRS), New England: A Meeting of Mathematical Minds”. http://www.dam.brown.edu/people/aah/WINRS/index.html
The AWM chapter at Brown received the Student Chapter Award in Scientific Excellence that year for their role in organizing this event. https://awm-math.org/awards/awm-student-chapter-awards/2017-student-chapter-awards/
The success of this conference inspired another one at the University of Virginia in Fall 2018. http://www.people.virginia.edu/~sm4cw/WINRS.html
Both conferences featured plenary talks, student talks, panels, a poster session, an AWM Student Chapter discussion, and tutorials. Such conferences build bridges between universities and connect researchers in similar fields. This is especially beneficial to upcoming young researchers, women, and underrepresented minorities. The geographic proximity of these universities makes it more likely that networks formed at the conference can be sustained and strengthened, which in turn should increase the probability that these researchers stay in the field and become highly productive members of the community.
AWM would like to encourage its members to host more conferences like this in all regions of the country. This kind of event provides an occasion to meet many people in the area who you don’t not know — even within your own field. Conference organization also looks excellent on your CV.
Here are some words of wisdom from past organizers.
- Find some faculty to spearhead the conference organization and use chapter volunteers for day-of coordination, chairing some sessions, etc.
- For the plenary talks, try to find someone well-known who can give a good general-audience lecture.
- Recruit a professor to “chair” each speaker/poster session. They can further recruit speakers locally, including graduate students and postdocs in nearby departments.
- Allow people to volunteer/apply for talks and posters when completing the registration form.
- When collecting abstracts, consider setting a word limit at asking speakers to use LaTeX commands so you can easily create a program.
- Consider giving the poster session during lunch (this worked well in the past).
- When recruiting participants, make sure to advertise at all the main universities, liberal art colleges, HBCUs, and all AWM chapters in the region. Make sure the language in your announcements include people at all levels (undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty members). You can also seek out people working in industry, government, national labs, etc. in your area.
- You may be able to get partial funding from your own department. It is also possible to get funding from the NSF. In particular, you may qualify for a mini-grant through NSF INCLUDE US (max $5000). Don’t forget to acknowledge funding sources on the website and conference program.
- When making a budget, it is best to overestimate.
- Speakers, panelists, and tutorial leaders should have funding priority.
- To make the most of your funding, reserve a block of rooms at nearby hotels and encourage people to share rooms. Most participants will need a max of 1 night in the hotel (unless they are coming from very far away). You can also suggest that people from the same university carpool and reimburse them for the mileage (with some limit).
- The website and registration forms should set clear (preferably early) deadlines.
- Consider asking participants for a board area of research / mathematical interest on the registration form. You can use this information to organize informal lunch/coffee discussion groups, etc.
- When scheduling, make some wiggle room. Account for breaks, transition times between different events, questions between talks, etc.
- Don’t forget to create signage for navigating the conference location, finding restrooms, elevators, etc. Consider including a small map with parking information in the website and program. Consider providing a lactation room.
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