Graduate Student Conference: Insiders, Outsiders, & In-Betweens

Submitted by Stephanie N. Welch on


Over a dozen graduate students and professors stepped away from their projects this spring quarter on April 15 and 16, to take part in an interdisciplinary conference at the University of Washington, Seattle. “Creating the time and creative space to share ideas, concepts and simultaneously enjoying yourself within the academic community…” was just one of the goals in organizer Kristina Pilz’s vision, when the IGSC 2016 team started working on the program for this year’s conference last summer.

The organizing committee included professional graduate students of the Departments of Germanics (Nathan Bates, Justin Mohler, Kristina Pilz), French & Italian (Preston Albertine), and Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media Studies (Richard Boyechko). Andrea Geier, and Habiba Ibrahim were the featured keynote speakers, inspiring participants to actively share their research they are passionate about and make their chosen topics accessible to academic insiders, outsiders and in-betweens. Geier shared her findings after investigating various travel and masquerade motifs in contemporary German Literature, and Ibrahim encouraged the attendees to take a closer look at the in-between world of black oceanic life spans.

The benefits of an interdisciplinary approach were also evident in the work of the many panelists who contributed to the event. Discussion surrounding the migration of an equine-themed folk tale gave way to close readings of supreme court documents, revealing a surprising common thread in the narratives of asylum seekers. Novels, films, and language itself were frequent objects of interest, leading to an inspiring variety of source material (not least of which was the autobiography of a 17th century Spanish lieutenant who was also a nun!). Featuring twelve panelists from nine universities, the conference proved to be an excellent opportunity to connect with fellow scholars, share ideas, and challenge assumptions.

The presentations also struck a chord with participants outside of academia, who remarked, “It is good to see so many papers from various disciplines building on each other and creating a bigger picture.” With this positive spirit, a chance to interact with peers from various universities within the U.S., and a captivating campus environment enjoyed from the conference facilities at the Simpson Center for the Humanities, it truly was a weekend that offered plenty.

For more information about the event, including photos, presenter biographies, and abstracts of each paper, please visit our website at