The Nobel Conference draws thousands of visitors to campus each year and is a great chance for those in attendance to hear about groundbreaking research from distinguished scholars, but behind the scenes select Gustavus students are given a unique opportunity.
For every presenter, two Gustavus students serve as hosts – escorting the guests where they need to go, eating meals with them, and making sure their questions get answered. This arrangement isn’t just a logistical one as the students also get the chance to have one-on-one conversations with the presenters.
Kendra Braegelmann ’13 got the chance to host Dr. Helen Mayberg — professor of neurology and psychiatry at Emory University School of Medicine — during last year’s Nobel Conference on neuroscience. “You get to ask questions that nobody else gets to ask, and be in that intimate setting,” she said. “It was awe-inspiring to spend time with someone who was that successful, who has been published so many times, and spoken at so many things.”
Student hosts are selected by Gustavus faculty members, who ensure that the student’s interests are in line with those of the speaker. Amanda Wood ’14 is a host during this year’s Nobel Conference for presenter Dr. Carl Safina due to her interest in marine biology and the conference as a whole.
“I am excited to be a student host because I’ve been thinking of going to graduate school for marine biology, so this gives me an opportunity to speak with these world-renowned researchers about topics that are ‘hot’ right now in marine biology.” Wood said. “I’m also super excited to sit in the front row during the conference.”
Student hosts make a major commitment to attend the entire conference and be an integral part of the speakers’ experiences at Gustavus. The students also serve as ambassadors for the college, giving the presenters a glimpse of student life at the College.
“You get to be with the person for the meals, the in-between time they have to talk about things, and you escort them into the Lund Center, just so that they know their way around,” Braegelmann said. “It gives the mentor a little glimpse of Gustavus and how we do things here and it gives us a glimpse into their world as a true scientist and what their commitments are.”
“As a student host, you are responsible for making sure the speaker knows what’s going on and where they need to be at what time. You’re also there to answer any questions and to make them feel as comfortable as possible,” Wood said.
For the student hosts, this experience can also help determine their plans for their future. “You get to talk to them about where they started and how they got where they are,” said Braegelmann, who is planning on pursuing a Ph.D. in neuroscience. “You learn that it’s not that far apart from where you are. It helped me realize that my goals are attainable.”
Heading into this year’s Nobel Conference, Wood is optimistic about the benefits of being a student host. “I also hope to make those connections in a field I am really interested in and to hopefully expand my network and build relationships with these researchers,” she said.
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