Conferences are the Place to Be!

By: Helen Barriere – Promotores Coordinator

There is a lot of truth to the statement, “it’s not what you know but who you know.” However, success in finding a job or an internship is a combination of strong academic work, great leadership skills on campus, and a network of people and support. While who you know can get you the interview, what you know will ultimately get you the job.

It’s never too early to start thinking about your next steps in college and what’s next after graduation. Ask yourself the following questions: Do you have a professional network you can reach out to for guidance when you are getting close to graduating? Have you secured an internship yet?  Have you attended a professional conference? If you answered no to any of the questions, then this article is a great start.

According to a recent study, about 28 percent of bachelor’s degree candidates and 20 percent of associate degree candidates had declared a STEM major. Of those who had entered a STEM program, 48 percent of bachelor’s degree candidates had left the STEM field by spring 2009. *

While the United States is falling behind in graduating students who major in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) , there is still an influx of STEM students graduating every year. Those students are or will be applying to the same positions and internships you apply for. Even recent graduates struggle to find a job once they leave school. Unfortunately there are a limited number of openings in every city for internships and/or full time positions. Employers want to fill their openings with students that have successfully maintained a strong G.P.A., gotten involved on and off campus, have technical experience, and display a willingness to learn. A strong network of peers and mentors can help set you apart from the pool and there are plenty of opportunities to increase that network.

Student Conferences can be your best allies when it comes to creating a network of professionals to reach out to, increasing your networking skills, and landing you the internship or the job of your dreams. Student conferences bring together professionals/industries from all over the country to meet one on one with students, conveniently placing them in one location for you. At these conferences, there are career fairs, workshops, competitions, and even mentorship programs students can participate in. There is a little bit of everything for everyone and every career level you are in (Freshmen-Seniors). The conferences are catered to help you network yourself as a student and present the employers with the top students in their respective majors.

Keep in mind that there are many items to consider when choosing whether to attend a conference or not. Location, registration prices, and travel costs present big challenges for many students. If that is the case, do your homework. Identify the companies that you would like to work for and check a conference’s list of attendees. There are national conferences and regional conferences. National conferences tend to have more companies, but regional conferences are more accessible to local students.

ALSO many conferences can award travel grants based on need or a lottery system. Don’t let the high costs deter you from attending. Think of every event you attend as an investment and plan early. Similar to scholarship deadlines, conference dates do not vary extremely. Locations change, but dates stay pretty consistent for most organizations. If you cannot afford to attend a conference this year, start planning for next year’s events.

Here are some tips that may help you as you plan your conferences:

  • Start identifying what conferences could benefit you and why you want to attend each one.
  • Find out when early bird registration starts and ends.
  • Find out what the registration fee covers and what programs they have organized in the past.
  • Talk to students that have attended and see which conference could be your match.
  • Look at the number of attendees and see what you prefer (i.e. more face time value with professionals and less companies represented or more companies represented with less face time value).
  • The key is to research and be prepared.


The following is a small list of conferences students should consider attending depending on their major and concentration:

Science Conferences:

UC Davis Pre-Health Student Alliance Pre-Medical and Pre-Health Professions Conference

(October 11-12, 2014; Davis, CA)


Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) (October 16-18; Los Angeles, CA)
Stanford University Minority Medical Alliance (SUMMA) (February 2015; Stanford, CA)


American Chemical Society (ACS) (Spring 2015; San Francisco, CA)

Technology Conferences:

Association of Information Technology Professionals

(March 26-29, 2015Omaha, Nebraska)


National Engineering Conferences:

American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) (October 7-11; Panama City, Panama)

Society of Women Engineers (SWE) (October 23-25; Los Angeles, CA)

Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (November 5-9; Detroit MI)

Black Engineer of the Year Award (February 2015; Washington D.C.)

National Society of Black Engineers (Anaheim, CA March 2015)

Mathematics Conferences:

Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (July 6; Chicago, IL)

STEM & General:

Women of Color (October 23-25; Detroit MI)

Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Award Corporation (October 2-4; New Orleans, LA)

Helen Barriere; Promotores de STEM Coordinator for HSI-STEM

Stay tuned for Tips on Navigating Through Student Conferences Like a Pro!

****Conference dates were taken from the respective websites. Make sure that you verify all information posted on this or any website. Plan any trips wisely, budget effectively, and stay on top of your academics while you are away at all events.****

* Report from the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics. STEM Attrition: College Students’ Paths Into and Out of STEM Fields