The decision to pursue a degree from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies often grows out of a desire to advance quickly in a particular field. Institute students want to hit the ground running when they graduate and have an impact as quickly as possible. One of the advantages the Institute offers is access to a global network of students, alumni, and faculty who collaborate often, and tend to converge in unusual and interesting places—like, for example, an international conference on social network analysis in Brighton, United Kingdom.
As Anthony Iacono BAIS ’14 recently told us, “At the end of June, I traveled with Dr. Philip Murphy and classmates Jeffrey Zeitz MAIPS ’15 and Will Heilbut MBA/MANPTS ’15 to the XXXV Sunbelt Conference of the International Network for Social Network Analysis (INSNA)” in Brighton. Social network analysis aims to understand social structures through the use of network and graph theories, explains Iacono.
Zeitz, Iacono, and Murphy presented twice at the conference, with the first presentation based on a research project that the two students worked on for Murphy’s “Introduction to Network Analysis” course in fall 2014. “In that course, we analyzed the inter-organizational network of a local anti-gang violence coalition consisting of dozens of public, private, and non-profit organizations,” recalls Iacono. “At the end of the course, Dr. Murphy suggested that we consider putting together a presentation for the Sunbelt conference. We submitted our abstracts and were able to secure funding to attend the conference.”
A second presentation authored by the trio focused on applying network analysis to decision making in the context of an Ultimate Frisbee match. Professor Murphy also presented a third paper at the conference, “Distributed Identity in an Organizational Network,” that was co-authored by alumnus Omar Salem MAIPS ’13, who was unable to attend the conference.
In addition to gaining experience delivering presentations to professional peers, a big part of the value of the conference for Iacono and his colleagues was the opportunity to hear directly from top scholars in the field, including “the scholars who had authored the very textbooks and articles we had studied in Dr. Murphy’s class.” Classroom experiences in Monterey also contributed to the students’ success at the conference. “As this was my first time presenting at an international academic conference, I was nervous about getting up in front of the top scholars in the field,” said Iacono. “I relied on the extensive experience I had gained from regularly presenting to my peers in class.”
“It takes competent professors, curious classmates, and a supportive institution to successfully send a team to present at an international academic conference like Sunbelt,” concluded Iacono, “and I feel fortunate to have been at MIIS, where all these pieces came together.”