GCC's 2023 Annual Conference Facilitates Community and Connection

The Graduate Career Consortium held its 2023 in-person Annual Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, June 27-30, with over 225 professionals in attendance.  

The Pre-Conference Workshop for New Professionals kicked off the conference on Tuesday, June 27, with a full day dedicated to helping those new to graduate-level career development learn more about the field, meet other professionals, and get connected to resources available through GCC and beyond to help them thrive in the profession. 

Beth Olson addresses Pre Conference Attendees
Beth Olson addresses 2023 Pre-Conference Attendees. 

Beth Olson, Associate Director and Career Coach at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, has led the Pre-Conference planning eight of the nine years the program has been in existence and shared her reflections on this important event. 

This year’s Pre-conference “New Graduate Career Professionals Workshop” in Indianapolis was the ninth time the GCC has hosted this event. This year’s committee created our first in-person pre-conference workshop since 2019, following three years of rich, interactive on-line workshops that welcomed many new GCCers in 2020, 2021, and 2022.
Pre-Conference History
How did this event get started?

At the East-Coast Regional Meeting in January 2015, GCC members Kerry Landers, Beth Olson, Amy Pszczolkowski, and others brainstormed ways to welcome people new to the profession into GCC and provide an introduction to graduate career development. We launched the first pre-conference workshop in New York at the 2015 GCC annual conference with the purpose of creating a network of professional connections for new members while reviewing the nuts and bolts of our career-development/professional-development work with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.
The Pre-Conference Workshop day is packed with information, resources, potential mentors, . . . and fun! The workshop attendees create such a vibrant, interactive community of connections that we have had many people attend more than once. Here are just a few comments from this year:
  • “I found it very helpful and insightful as I take my first career steps.”
  • “I was one of the lucky folks who got to attend the wonderful pre-con session at the GCC in-person conference.”
The value is immeasurable for many reasons: for people new in their career-development roles; for those attending their first GCC conference and seeking colleagues; for those seeking concrete suggestions for advising/coaching, resources, and programs; and for many who launch their own path as future leaders within the GCC and beyond.

Each year, the pre-conference committee is usually made up of relatively new GCCers who understand the need for and value of such an immersive experience early in their career/professional-development positions. Their creativity and energy infuses the day with a richness and depth you will not forget.

Pre Conference Committee

Members of the 2023 Pre-Conference planning committee were (from left to right): Dianne Hull, Lauren Lyon-Gutierrez, Evan Walsh, Beth Olson, Benedicte Gnangon, and Alicia Roy. 

Pre-Conference Impacts New Professionals

Two attendees at the Pre-Conference Workshop (and new GCC members) shared their thoughts on attending the Pre-conference and annual conference this year:

Alex Yen, Postdoc at Boston University’s Professional Development and Postdoctoral Affairs office

From the Pre-Conference to the last day of the conference, I loved my experience at GCC’s 2023 Annual Conference because it introduced me to the wonderfully supportive community I have joined. The Pre-Conference committee framed the importance that GCC places on its members creating connections with one another, not only among us trainees but also throughout the organization between early, mid and senior career professionals in our field. Panels such as “We Built That” and “Ask Me Anything” showed me the value that GCC places on mentorship when seasoned GCC attendees/career professionals came to talk, listen, and encourage those of us just starting in the field. The time and effort taken to celebrate trainees’ belonging in pre-conference set the tone for the rest of the conference. I felt a constant, generous kindness from everyone I spoke to, from 2023 Conference Chair Lauren Easterling sharing the story of her career path with me, GCC President Derek Attig and President-Elect Robbie Pearson making sure to stop by my poster, to my colleagues in New England discussing how we could be more proactive allies to our counterparts affected by DEI bans. The intentionality to foster mentorships, build local and widespread communities of support, and most of all foster new connections for trainees and new GCC members makes me ecstatic to be with everyone at the 2024 GCC Annual Conference in Philadelphia next year. 

Ioannis Chremos, Career and Professional Development Program Manager at the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at the University of Michigan Medical School

My engagement with the GCC as a trainee member and conference attendee has been profoundly rewarding. Presenting two sessions at the GCC’s Annual Conference has also been a pivotal experience in my personal and professional development.

Over the course of the conference, I had the opportunity to network with over 40 professionals from diverse backgrounds as we connected either through business cards or LinkedIn. Thanks to the abundant networking opportunities at the conference, I was able to exchange ideas and perspectives with professionals and experts across the US and Canada. These experiences have significantly boosted my confidence and understanding of our field.

The Pre-Conference for New Professionals proved to be a crucial turning point in my learning path. We explored various tools and resources with nearly 30 other new professionals, learning innovative strategies and best practices for career advising and how to manage our professional development programming. We had the opportunity to listen to and ask questions of a panel of seasoned professionals and learn all aspects of working in Career and Professional Development. The resources I was made aware of at GCC have helped enrich my professional toolkit and broadened the scope of my work.

However, beyond the educational benefits and professional growth, what made my GCC experience truly unique was the sense of community it fostered. Meeting my mentor, Dr. Sonali Majumdar, in person and being part of a supportive, inspiring, and encouraging group reinforced the importance of our community. I am most grateful for GCC as it constantly strives to nurture an environment that promotes creativity, innovation, and continuous learning.

As a newcomer, these experiences have been crucial in shaping the initial steps in my professional journey, emphasizing the value of engaging with the GCC.

Group Table at Pre-Conference

A group of GCCers engage with one another during the Pre-Conference for New Professionals. 

Robbie Pearson, the GCC’s incoming President, reflected on the importance of the GCC’s Annual Conference to the community: “The GCC’s annual conference provides an important opportunity for members to connect over their shared experiences as graduate and postdoc career development professionals. Members can not only brainstorm solutions to the challenges they face in their work, they can also share their creative ideas, celebrate big and small wins, and align their work with best practices in the field. Our members frequently convey the great value they find in the GCC community’s spirit of sharing; our annual conference is one the greatest expressions of that spirit. I am deeply grateful to Lauren Easterling (Conference Chair) and members of the Conference Committee (all volunteers) for developing a program that foregrounded sharing for three days.”

The core of the GCC Annual Conference took place over two and half-days (Wednesday-Friday) of programming and networking opportunities for the hundreds of GCC members in attendance.

The theme for the 2023 conference was “Navigating Career-Related Crossroads.” According to 2023 Conference Chair Lauren Easterling, the goal of this conference was "to provide a program and space for all attendees to consider the different crossroads - figurative and real intersections in one's career path - for both ourselves and the students and postdocs with whom we work." Also, our host city Indianapolis and the State of Indiana are known as the "Crossroads of America." 

Wednesday and Thursday of the conference featured two amazing keynote speakers:

Author Simone Stolzoff’s talk: “How to Keep Your Work from Taking Over Your Life” focused on the importance of developing personal identities that go beyond our careers and professional performance. His advice was as relevant for the graduate students and postdocs we serve as it was to GCC professionals themselves, who often give so much to their careers and the trainees they serve. Attendees were left with the recommendation that they should diversify their identities beyond their profession or work. Reminding both the grad students and postdocs we serve and ourselves of this important point is essential to ensure we make the time in our lives for what really matters. 
Simone’s debut book The Good Enough Job: Reclaiming Life from Work was published in May 2023 by Penguin Random House.

Stolzoff Speaks During the First Conference Keynote

Stolzoff speaking to a packed room during our first Conference Keynote. 

Our second keynote speaker, Katie Kearns, gave a deeply personal and authentic talk focused on her professional experience and the social and emotional aspects of graduate-level career development and its impact on us as practitioners. She set a tone that was echoed during the conference of being brave professionals willing to step up and offer our opinions and insights to others at our institutions and beyond. We have a valuable role to play in shaping the future of graduate-level education and postdoctoral development and must be brave enough to engage leaders and other stakeholders in transforming it. 

Beyond the keynote speakers, there were 34 member-generated sessions held throughout the first two days of the conference

Member-generated session topics included content focused on developing impactful career and professional development programming; engaging faculty in career and professional development of graduate students; fostering improved mentoring experiences among grad students and postdocs; helping new professionals advocate for themselves and their work; advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion; and creating an IDP for Graduate Career Professionals. 

Attendees hear from presenters during a GCC Member-Generated Session.
Attendees hear from presenters during a GCC Member-Generated Session. 

Importantly, the slides and resources presented during all sessions were shared out to the GCC membership after the conference via our online resource repository so the wider community could benefit from content and processes developed by fellow GCC members. 

The annual conference also offered opportunities for attendees to better engage with the GCC’s communities and committees. GCC Regionals held meet-ups and discussions to plan for their winter regional meetings and a showcase of GCC Committees and members’ work during Thursday afternoon’s poster session allowed for those in attendance to engage with one another and learn more about how to get involved in our organization. 

GCC members interested in getting involved in a committee or project can express their interest via this form. 

Social activities during the conference included a welcome reception and meet & greet the evening before the full program began, ample time for conversations during breakfast and lunch each day, an exciting evening out on Wednesday to Punch Bowl Social (a gaming and entertainment venue), and the GCC tradition of dine-arounds on Thursday evening. Finally, Friday afternoon was filled with optional member excursions throughout Indianapolis, including a tour of Lucas Oil Stadium (home to the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts), trip to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and outing to Newfields, Indy’s art museum and art park. 

GCCers enjoy bowling at Punch Bowl SocialSecond group of GCCers enjoying bowling at Punch Bowl Social

Several GCCers took part in bowling during the Wednesday evening outing to Punch Bowl Social, which was included in Conference registration. 

To close, this year’s Annual Conference highlighted key strengths of the GCC and our membership, reinforcing the values of our organization (learn more in our Strategic Plan):  
  • Member-Driven
  • Knowledge & Collaboration
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Community & Belonging 
  • Learning & Development 

We look forward to seeing 2023 Annual Conference attendees engage with the GCC this year, attend this winter’s Regional Meetings, consider volunteering for one of our committees, and taking full advantage of our sharing, collaborative community. 

Save the date for GCC 2024 Annual Conference
Be sure to save the date for our 2024 GCC Annual Conference, taking place in Philadelphia June 25-28, 2024. 

Want to volunteer to help in our 2024 Annual Conference planning? 
Learn more on our Conference Committee webpage.

Use this form to express your interest in joining the Conference Committee as we plan for 2024!