ANZCA2016 conference: student experience

In the first week of July, the University of Newcastle hosted the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association’s (ANZCA) annual international conference.

It is a big event on the Association’s calendar and A/Prof Phillip McIntyre and I were thrilled to co-convene the event with delegates coming in from all over the world.

The conference was a great success with many positive comments from delegates but what I’d like to focus on here is the opportunity we were able to give some of our Communication students.

Phillip and I sent a shoutout to UON Communication students asking if they’d like to volunteer for the conference week. We did slightly bribe them with offers of seeing some of the big names in our field of research, names that they regularly cite in their undergraduate work (Tony Schirato, Stuart Cunningham, Sue Yell, Terry Flew, just to name a few).

We had several student volunteers who worked really hard over the conference week attending the information desk, directing delegates, taking photos and videos, tweeting, and generally helping out.

They also had the opportunity to see up-to-date research in our academic area from really smart people who are some of the leading national and international academics in the field of Communication.

It was very rewarding for us to hear the stories from the students about how they asked questions of these academics, how they learnt what academics do, and how excited they were to see up close the research work that is being done in our field of Communication.

We asked them to write a few lines to tell us of their experience and here’s what we have so far.

Ashley Grogan (3rd year journalism student)

Recently I participated in an internship for the ANZCA 2016 conference held at the University of Newcastle and it was an experience I’ll never forget. As a Bachelor of Communication student and aspiring journalist, I was eager to learn as much as possible from the respected academics and scholars that presented their engaging papers and research. From the memorable and electric presentation style provided by Tony Schirato presenting his paper ‘Digital Media, Fantasy Sport and the Transformation of the Contemporary Field of Sport’, to the raw and powerful story of Dr Joanne McCarthy’s career presented by none other than the award winning journalist herself, the conference continued to leave me speechless. Not only were the famous keynotes amazing, but also papers from students were of a high standard and provided insights into subjects of communication that I had never before considered. Overall, the ANZCA conference provided me with new insights, experience and knowledge that have grown my skills as a journalist and will continue to help me throughout my career.

Jenna Schofield (3rd year journalism student)

I am so grateful to be able to volunteer at the ANZCA Conference! What I took away from the conference were the ideas presented in keynote lectures and conference paper presentations. The ideas presented challenged and informed my knowledge on the subject. After the lectures and conference paper presentations, I developed questions and because all the academics were quite approachable, I discussed my questions with them and it was great to have an academic conversation with the academics. These conversations deepened my knowledge on the subject and sparked future research ideas.

Robert Prosser (3rd year, media production student)

Being a student volunteer at the ANZCA 2016 conference was a great experience. To be involved in something so significant to the University of Newcastle and the school of Design, Communication, and IT  was fantastic and exciting. I was able to observe and learn from so many influential and important speakers, and I got to sit in on each of the keynote presentations and saw A/Prof Inger Mewburn, Prof Tony Schirato, and Joanne McCarthy to name a few.

The rooms in the ICT building were used for the parallel sessions with each of the presentations running for 15 minutes. I was assigned a room to ensure it was ready and to assist with any problems, this meant I was able to be present for the seminars and group discussions. It was fascinating to listen to the captivating and innovative presentations which were emphasising some important and cutting edge research within the field of communication.

Overall, I had an amazing experience volunteering at the conference and I gained a lot new skills and knowledge. I feel I made some inroads to developing relationships and connections with people that are important and influential to the industry I am preparing to go in to, and it also helped me consider the possibility of continuing my studies after graduation.

I also made some new friends with fellow students and new contacts within the University. I encourage anyone who is interested in volunteering in any capacity to be prepared to step outside of their comfort zone as I did. You will gain as much from the experience as you put in and I personally found the experience very beneficial and valuable.

Sharon Baldemor (2nd year, public relations student)

The ANZCA conference was a great opportunity for me. I felt lucky to be around to participate and volunteer. I would like to give my thanks to Dr Janet Fulton for giving me an opportunity to help and I am still overwhelmed to have met great participants, speakers and guests. I really admire our talented, intelligent and one of the kindest teacher I have ever met Dr Phillip McIntyre. As an international student this is one of the greatest event I have taken part in and I will always be proud of.

The talks and keynotes were full of knowledge and questions, which made me feel like I really need to strive harder in my next courses to be on the same path as these researchers  who I look up to and who make a great contribution to our society.


To finish up, we could not have done it without these wonderful students and, while they write that they are grateful for the opportunity, we are also grateful that they worked so very hard to make the conference a success.

I’m sure they will be pretty chuffed that Professor Tony Schirato specifically mentioned them in his thank you email …

“Thanks again: & please especially thank all the student volunteers … they were great.”


  1. Wonderful volunteers! So helpful during the conference.

    Sometimes the connections between our teaching and research aren’t always visible to the students so I imagine it was an interesting experience for them to see the research side of their lecturers’ work.


    1. Yes! But I was very happy that they were able to see some of their academic rock gods but also to realise these people are very approachable and happy to chat about their research.


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