Making the most out of a conference

The Futurist Summit, a talk dedicated to the emergence of AI | Andres Davila, PantherNOW

Andres Davila | News Director

Out-of-state conferences are an underrated experience that students need to take advantage of.

Throughout my last year of university, I traveled to several conferences, each one different than the last. Going to three different cities–Chicago, Los Angeles and D.C.–allowed me to reflect on my career goals.

From the Hispanic Scholarship Fund Healthcare Summit which concentrated on opportunities in the healthcare industry to the D.C. Fly-In program detailing emerging technologies, each one piqued my interest for a different reason.

Going into these conferences, there is an overwhelming commitment to balance responsibilities. From missing classes and work, organizing ahead of time and a constant struggle to battle sleep deprivation are only a part of participating in these conferences.

Despite the stressful moments of these conferences, I don’t regret going. 

The D.C. Fly-In program ensured my passion for data science and technology. As someone who was continuously doubting whether or not I should go into the field, the components in the programs reassured me about my decision.

It may not have been the same for everybody, but that was the point of the conference: to stimulate interest in the field.

Within three days, the program fulfilled many aspects of artificial intelligence and how to approach this new technology in the future, ranging from talks to hands-on activities.

Interestingly, one of my favorite parts of the conference was the Washington Post’s AI Summit, blending the importance of journalism to discuss AI and how it’s impacting certain sectors.

This was unexpected. I was rather content that the program brought another perspective on what AI is. The summit discussed a new age of technology that gave AI a positive outlook to look into, which is not heard of frequently in the university.

Bringing in different figures in the AI industry, such as the vice president of global affairs in OpenAI Anna Makanju, to senators of opposite political parties arguing about AI implementation in policies, solidified my interest in understanding more about emerging technologies.

Conferences tend to have this expectation of having to create a professional image, but it’s not like you have to put a facade at these events.

It’s also important to understand who you talk to can make all the difference in the conference experience and career goals. 

You are surrounded by different types of professionals and recruiters, as well as students who are curious about the topic of the conference. In D.C., I was able to connect with people regarding technology policy, giving me more reason to pursue a career in the industry.

Another realization I had was that these conferences were not limited to majors. I saw this in both the HSF Healthcare Summit and D.C. Fly-in where there were a multitude of majors, ranging from biological sciences, economics, law, and mechanical engineering.

Despite the range of disciplines, the participants had similar intentions in their conferences, which is another good thing to recognize when attending these events: curiosity. 

The Fly-In had a group of people with whom we instantly bonded over similar interests–something I didn’t see in other conferences.

With these interactions, conferences also make you get out of your comfort zone (if you apply it right). It is a scary feeling, but discomfort can be growth at times.

Students need to be encouraged more to attend conferences and to make the most out of them. Even if it’s an excuse to leave, you never know what you get out of these events.


The opinions presented on this page do not represent the views of the PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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