Conference Musings

Winter. Cilantro. Los Angeles. Conferences. You either love them, or you hate them. While I absolutely cannot stand temperatures below 60 degrees, I am quite fond of the other three—particularly conferences.

I was introduced to professional conferences two years ago when I attended the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) Convention in Anaheim, California. Four conferences later and I’m hooked. In fact, I’m currently serving as the Program Co-Chair and Social Vice-Chair for the American Public Health Association (APHA) Physical Activity Section. In these roles, I work with a wonderful co-chair and committee to procure abstracts, recruit and train reviewers, curate a balanced program, plan a social networking event, and handle many more behind-the-scenes details.

Why do I do this? Well, conferences provide opportunities you just don’t get every day, like networking with professionals in your specific discipline from around the country or presenting your research to a new audience. Conferences also help build your resume or CV and demonstrate your commitment to professional development. And did I mention social events?

Sally Pelto-Wheeler and Derek Herrmann at the Indiana Park and Recreation Association Conference, February 2018.

Last month, I was fortunate to present for the first time at the Indiana Park and Recreation Association Conference inFort Wayne alongside my colleague, Sally Pelto-Wheeler. Our presentation, The Use of County Health Rankings in Parks & Recreation Agencies: A Public Health Perspective, was well-received by a room full of park and recreation professionals. This presentation was considered a “mini session,” despite starting last June, but it was well worth the time and effort.

Have you considered presenting your own work at a conference? You’re in luck! The Indiana Public Health Association (IPHA) is hosting a student poster session on Tuesday, April 17, 2018, in the Indiana Memorial Union. Abstracts are due by Friday, March 16, with a maximum limit of 300 words. (Not that anyone is counting, but before this sentence, this blog is at 299 words). IPHA is seeking abstracts across a variety of categories, including original research, community partnerships, and program assessment/evaluation. Learn more here. Or register for the conference here.

Are you still not convinced this opportunity is for you? Think back to all of the hard work you’ve put in over the past year or two. Do any projects jump out at you? Have you made a difference in the community? Consider applying with a classmate or professor and approach this as a learning experience. Just last week, I submitted an abstract to APHA with the help of a classmate and our professors. We’re anxiously awaiting to find out if we were accepted, but the process of just putting it all on paper and condensing an entire semester’s worth of work into two paragraphs was very rewarding. We all have to start somewhere, so why not start right here on campus? I hope to see your poster next to mine next month!


Derek Herrmann



Derek Herrmann is a Master of Public Health candidate with a concentration in physical activity and also a visiting research associate in the Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies.  He studies the role of the built environment in active living, with additional interests in parks and recreation and arts and cultural development.

By Derek Herrmann
Derek Herrmann Graduate Student, Visiting Research Associate