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Student Research Conference Celebrates 20 Years

Over its 20 years, the Student Research Conference (SRC) – a unique student-led conference at the Harvard Graduate School of Education – has paved the way for graduate student researchers to hone their presentation skills, receive valuable feedback, and discover their peers’ work. In recent years, the conference has attracted a substantial number of participants not only from HGSE, but from around the world.

“The most beautiful part of this conference was this notion that students were taking very seriously their own education and felt a responsibility for crafting learning experiences that would help us be better as professionals,” says Project Zero Researcher Veronica Boix Mansilla, Ed.M.’92, Ed.D.’01, who as a doctoral student helped establish the first SRC. The idea for the student-run conference grew from a group of doctoral students, including Mansilla, who had earned Spencer Fellowships and were interested in offering a professionalized education experience to share research. “We were early in our careers but thought we needed to learn to present our work, organize, and collaborate with people,” says Boix Mansilla.

Professor Susan Moore Johnson and Lecturer Katherine Boles supported the doctoral students in their endeavor. “We had encouraged our doctoral fellows and other doctoral students to submit proposals for AERA conference papers,” Johnson says. “We saw the SRC as providing a trial run for those students, so we modeled the types of sessions – paper presentation, symposium, poster sessions – on the AERA conference options.”

For the past two decades, the annual conference has grown exponentially in size, magnitude, and impact. This year’s conference, SRC@20: Looking Back, Moving Forward, invited participants to consider how their research contributes to the history of academic scholarship in education while simultaneously pushing the boundaries of the field into the future.

Co-chairs Galen McQuillen and Dara Fisher – both Ed.D. candidates noted this year’s conference marked a significant increase in scale and outreach efforts, with nearly 180 presenters – double previous years – and almost 300 participants. In addition, workshops on library, career services, and publishing research were added to the agenda.

Aliza Yair, a master’s student in the International Education Policy Program and first-time participant, shared research on issues of culture and identity in the European Union and the struggle for Europeans to reconcile competing senses of national, regional, and global citizenship. She was met with a supportive room and felt good about the presentation. “After you get this sort of validation when you present it to people, you realize the ideas are pretty good,” Yair said after her presentation.


“It’s a very comfortable first environment to present work,” Fisher says, noting that AERA can be really overwhelming for first-time researchers and SRC is a great first step. The overarching “HGSE mentality” of what Fisher describes as being a supportive environment, focused on making student’s work better, is a large part of the SRC’s continued success.

“The consequences are much lower here,” McQuillen adds. “Here at HGSE it is a good environment to critique the work, give feedback, and also look at how to can we make this better.”





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