My trip to the Politics of Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration Colloquium (PRIEC) at the University of Washington was out of this world! I come from East Los Angeles and up until attending the conference the furthest I ever traveled from home was CSU East Bay. My McNair faculty mentor sent me an electronic flier for the PRIEC with a one line message saying “you should come.” I immediately jumped into action and forwarded the information to the McNair Scholars Program with high hopes that they would cover my airfare. Eventually everything came through and I was on my way to Seattle by way of Southwest Airlines out of Oakland International Airport.
I was incredibly excited to attend the conference because it was right up my alley. Half of the papers to be presented tackled many of the questions I had in the field of Latino Politics and to top it all off the faculty organizer hosting the conference was Dr. Matt Barretto, a scholar/researcher whose work I cited multiple times. A week before making the actual trip, I came into contact with him because I needed a place to ‘crash’ while in Seattle.
To make a long story short, the trip was an adventure! I first tried to rent a car at the Seattle airport but I had no credit card nor was I 25 years of age. I eventually found the one bus that went through downtown Seattle then across the sound into the university. With 5 hours to kill, I got off at downtown with enough time to catch some breakfast and get lost.
The conference began at 2pm and I arrived with minutes to spare to meet up with my advisor so she could introduce me to her fellow colleagues. There I met the Political Science heavy hitters in the field of race, ethnicity, and immigration politics. I was able to finally match a face to the people I only knew from books and journals. To my surprise, a good majority of them were in their early 30’s, young, hip, and down to earth. From the impression that I got, the field is young and on the cutting edge with much to be researched.
The conference gave me a crash course in the type of research community I want to join. I am reading lots of statistics, lost of models, lots of theories, and lots of criticism to prepare myself. The students that presented had already or were on their way to defend their doctoral dissertations and were looking for faculty positions at various universities. I sat patiently and quietly for 5 to 6 hours with an open mind to absorb their knowledge. All I can say is that I left the conference highly motivated. The presenters at the conference will remain in my mind until the time I am presenting my heart out as they did.
First and foremost, I have to thank both the McNair Scholars Program and my advisor, Dr. Melissa Michelson, for giving me the chance to make this happen. The rest was done with stubborn determination, an iPhone for navigation, and Seattle’s public transportation. The experience only lasted a day and a half but it is one that would stay with me for the rest of my life. I can say that I was motivated to continue working harder; because of the trip everything was suddenly thrust into perspective, the idea I had of college being a stepping stone to something greater was confirmed. I saw a glimpse of what my future holds and all I can say is that I like it.