International Women's Day Symposium: An Interview with our Academic Events Officer
SASiety’s inaugural full-day symposium is less than a month away. We are very excited about the programme and will be announcing the topics of the individual talks soon! Whilst the day itself is going to be a great experience for all attendees, we were wondering what it takes to organise a symposium.
I virtually chatted to our Academic Events Officer Natalia Fantetti to ask her a few questions about organising SASiety’s first International Women’s Day Symposium.
Why did you choose International Women’s Day as the day to host our first symposium?
There are two reasons really. Firstly, it is a great opportunity to amplify women’s voices not only in academia but also in the arts. With my own research I’m working on a project that is trying to bring women’s voices to life. So naturally, it is at the forefront of my mind, which made me think that this might be a good topic for our first symposium.
Secondly, we are also one of a few universities, if not the only one in London, that is doing something like this. At least on this scale: as a full-day symposium. I did my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at King’s College and we didn’t have anything like this, or at least that I was aware of. That is also one of the reasons why I wanted to do this.
Do you want to tell me about some women who inspire you?
Oh, there are so many! I come from a line of very strong women in my family and I owe all the opportunities I have had to them. My grandmother was working in the fields and now I am doing a PhD. I am very grateful for everything they have done and achieved for me to have these opportunities. Their courage and commitment to moving forward is something I really look up to.
As for academics and historical figures, there are so many I don’t even know where to begin. I am working on so many different histories of strong women and they are all really interesting and inspiring in their own way.
What are your hopes and aims for the day?
I want to facilitate hearing different perspectives on women’s contributions to academia, the arts and life in general; get scholars and people with various viewpoints to talk to each other. It is all about conversation.
Really, it is a twofold aim. We want to challenge ideas and think about thought-provoking concepts with our themes and speakers. But the symposium is also a celebration of women.
What are you looking forward to the most?
It might seem like I have to say this, but I am looking forward to all of it. But it is true! I am personally interested in all of the topics, of course, because I helped to come up with the panels, alongside SASiety’s president, Elena. But I think there is something for everyone.
What was the most difficult task?
For me, it was the first time organising an event like this. Finding the starting point and planning where to go from there was probably the most difficult task. And of course, keeping on top of the sheer number of emails.
Going forward, what do you hope will happen with this event in the coming years?
I hope people enjoy it and we can make this a yearly thing. I want to open it up to students next time with a Call for Papers and build up panels from that. This year everything had to happen really fast. We had a time constraint, so we had to contact our speakers directly. We said, ‘Hey we like your work, would you be up for this?’. But for future events, I definitely hope we can get us students involved more actively.
Would you mind giving us a little sneak peek of future academic events?
As I said, I really hope the International Women’s Day Symposium will become an annual thing. We could have this one in the spring and then one in autumn. That would coincide with Black History Month as well, so that is something to think about. But I am open to any other ideas.
It would be nice to have two or three conferences or symposiums a year. To me, it is important to hear what people are doing and bringing them together into a cohesive whole.