Clarksville, TN – Deanna Carter, an Austin Peay State University history graduate student, felt a little like a celebrity. Whenever she walked through the lobby of the Hilton at Orlando’s Walt Disney World resort, people would stop their conversations and glance over at it.
Their attention was likely focused on her gray blazer, which had the words “Austin Peay State University Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society” stitched across the front.
“There were people from as far as California there and from some very prestigious schools, such as Carnegie Melon University, and they all knew us,” Carter said.She went to Florida in early January to attend the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society’s 2012 Biennial Convention, and the other attendees were curious to meet members of this “little” club from Clarksville, Tenn., that had earned best chapter in the nation awards three years in a row.
“A professor came up to us and said ‘oh you just have a phenomenal chapter,’” Robin Sloan, APSU history student, said. “It was nice.”
The attendees wishing to get a closer look at this chapter weren’t let down. In true APSU PAT fashion, the local organization had three students and two alumnae present papers at the conference. And chapter adviser, associate professor of history Dr. Minoa Uffelman, gave a special presentation on how to have a successful chapter.
“I shared information on our successful chapter, the activities we do,” Uffelman said. “I talked about our (scholarly) journal, and I told them not to underestimate the fun activities too.”
At this year’s conference, Carter, the APSU chapter’s president, presented a paper titled “The Ladies Hermitage Association: Efforts to Keep the Memory of the War of 1812 Alive.” Sloan’s paper, “The Industrial Revolution and Shifting European Society,” spurned discussions about old laws applying to current technological advances. And APSU undergraduate student Sammy Weakley discussed the personal life of the most famous Confederate Army general with her paper, “Robert E. Lee, Family Man.”
“He didn’t have much interaction with his family,” she said. “He really wasn’t that great of a husband.”
Sloan and Weakley admitted to being a little nervous because they’d never presented at a scholarly conference before, but Uffelman was quick to reassure them.
“They were prepared. They were all dynamite,” she said.
The group spent three days at the conference, and their ability to attend was another source of jealousy among the other participants. That’s because the APSU students received full funding by the University to attend.
“We had funding from student affairs,” Carter said. “Tammy Bryant (director of student affairs) and Cindy McElroy (student affairs administrative assistant) helped us out a great deal. Dr. Dewey Browder (chair of the APSU history department) was extremely generous and Pam Allen (history department administrative assistant) was helping coordinate with student affairs. Without their help, could we have done it? No.”
“When I said our university completely funded our trip,” Sloan added, “both the girls on my panel looked at me like, ‘Are you kidding?’ They took care of everything.”
Academic conferences provide vital opportunities and experiences for college students wishing to continue on with either graduate study or professional academic careers.
“Phi Alpha Theta is the vehicle through which we are able to network with our future colleagues,” Carter said. “And if Dr. Uffelman didn’t see to it that we get there, we wouldn’t go to these conventions and present and have these forward-looking opportunities.”
For more information on the convention or the local PAT chapter, contact Uffelman at email@example.com.