How students can get the most out of the AP-LS conference: Advice from an early-career professional
Clinical psychologist Dr. Lauren Kois knows exactly what it’s like to be a student at the Annual Meeting of AP-LS. After receiving her master’s in psychology at New York University, she served as the Chair of the AP-LS Student Committee as a first-year doctoral student. Several years of conference attendance later, Dr. Kois received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology (with a forensic focus) from John Jay College at the City University of New York. In 2017, she accepted a position as an Assistant Professor of Psychology and core faculty of Clinical Psychology (Law Track) at the University of Alabama. Read on to discover what this early career professional has learned about the unique experience of being a student at AP-LS and how students can make the most of their time there.
Why should students interested in forensic psychology attend AP-LS?
There are great psychology-law organizations out there, such as the International Association of Forensic Mental Health Services (IAFMHS). Each organization has its own style. AP-LS has a good balance of "experimental" and "clinical" topics, focuses on empirical work, and is the premier forensic psychology organization in the field. It also cares a great deal about students and puts a tremendous amount of resources into student support.
What can students do to get the most of out the conference?
Everyone has a different approach to conferences. This may not be a popular opinion, but here's mine: As a student, you should go to everything. This is what I encourage my students to do. Fill your days with talks, go to the events, and meet people. If your lab studies a topic, you should go to talks in that area. If you don't, you might unintentionally give the impression that you are disinterested or lack curiosity. You will be exhausted, but the experience will help you be a stronger scholar and get socialized to the field, and that's why you're there.
If you have your eye on a specific program or lab, AP-LS is where you can find out some of the research they will be producing over the next few years. The publication process takes a while, so conceptualization and data collection for articles published one month likely took place a year or even years before. If you are interested in a topic or a lab, go to those talks to get a picture of "hot off the press" research.
What events should students make sure to go to?
Talks and events are important of course, but I strongly encourage students to attend the business meeting, which is usually on Thursday evening before the welcome reception. Leadership (e.g., President, Committee Chairs) provides an update about the status of the Division. They explain what they voted on in their executive meeting, talk about our financial status, and where AP-LS is going moving forward. Sounds kind of intimidating, but I promise it is not—all are welcome, it is very casual, and people are friendly. It's a great way to get socialized to AP-LS and realize that you (yes, you!) really do have the opportunity to get involved in AP-LS leadership.
How can networking at the conference help students in reaching their academic and career goals?
I think AP-LS has a lot to do with where I am today. Networking, getting inspired by talks, and the Student Committee were huge for me. I cannot plug it enough – get involved in AP-LS leadership! Run for student committee or a committee liaison (e.g., Professional Development of Women Committee). Committee service is fun but also a great way to network. Several of my close friends are those I met from serving on the Student Committee and we even got a peer-reviewed publication about AP-LS student leadership out of it (Kois, King, LaDuke, & Cook, 2016).
How exactly should students go about networking and introducing themselves to influential professionals? What are some common mistakes that students make in doing this?
This can be tough. For many AP-LSers, the conference is a chance to be with friends (e.g., grad school classmates) they only see once per year – at AP-LS. So, while professionals are usually very student friendly, it's important to remember that they are likely there for a number of reasons. It's nice when students ask questions during paper Q&As, or approach after a paper session or during a poster session. For me, though, I want to spend most of the welcome reception and social hours catching up with friends and past students and advisers.
What would you say to students who feel awkward or socially anxious about networking?
My first AP-LS was 2011. I was the only student from my program who attended AP-LS that year, with one faculty member. I looked around and saw that many of the professionals seemed to be friends, and I knew that couldn't be because they all attended grad school together. So, I thought, "Well, if we're going to be friends in 15 years, why don't we just do it now?" The Student Committee breakfast will help you link up with other new people right off the bat, and poster sessions are a great place to start conversations. Given that it's typical to ask questions about posters, it's unlikely that someone will think you are intrusive or pushy if you strike up a conversation at that time.
What is conference attendance like as an early career professional compared to when you were a student?
Much better! The primary difference is that I have more friends I look forward to seeing, but that's simply from having more AP-LSs under my belt and meeting new people each time (see, it really works). Another difference is that I get to see my students present and their professional development grow, which is incredibly rewarding.
Please do not forget that there are about 1,000 conference attendees in the same city as you, in your hotel, on your flight. Students sometimes forget this. Have fun, be nice, and keep your professional game face on.
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About the Editor:
The American Psychology-Law Society (Division 41 of the American Psychology Association) Student Committee is composed of elected student leaders representing the interests of our student members.