The AuDacity Experience: A Student’s Perspective

Author: Brynn Morales

As an audiology student, I have found AuDacity conferences to be invaluable in so many ways. Although the two that I have attended were very different, they both brought new experiences that will shape me as a professional. Last year, the Academy of Doctors of Audiology did an incredible job of making the students feel welcome and important. Every aspect of the weekend was designed to ensure students and professionals received a great education, all while having a good time. Lobby Day, a day dedicated to meetings with congressional members of Capitol Hill to lobby for the Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act, was the stand-out event that made the entire weekend so unique. Hundreds of audiologists swarmed the Hill to advocate for our profession. This enthusiasm from so many audiologists showed students how dedicated the ADA is to the future of the profession. For me personally, last year’s conference set a high bar for all future conferences.

Though AuDacity 2020: Forge Ahead and Forge Ahead Down Under looked a little bit different this year, it was still chock-full of invaluable classes and events. As a student, I received a Starkey student scholarship to attend the conference, and with that scholarship came special student events. In past years, this scholarship included travel costs, registration for the conference, lodging and special swag. This year the scholarship still covered registration, and the swag was sent by mail. Opening the package containing a book, notebooks, a thermos, a hat, a games, and many more treats really set the tone for the weekend!

This year certainly lived up to that expectation, even though it looked a little bit different. The conference started off jam-packed with educational classes on Friday. The options seemed endless, from Diagnosing Dizzy to Industrial Leadership panels; Friday started the weekend strong. The ‘Design Thinking’ theme highlighted the importance of thinking creatively as an audiologist, especially in the current climate. The presentations emphasized the importance of thinking outside of the box for the ever-evolving field of audiology. As a student, it is always important to hear current professionals speaking to the evolving nature of the field. Listening to seasoned and enthusiastic audiologists talk about the future of the field inspires me as a student to think innovatively to push the profession even further. After these classes, the students had an opportunity to meet together in a Zoom call to chat, play some audiology bingo, and meet Starkey representatives. This time together felt as natural as it possibly could have through a screen! Students from all over the world were sharing their experiences with COVID, clinical placements, and university classes. This time felt very special, as it was a unique way to meet my future colleagues. Seeing so many young and determined faces made me so proud of my field knowing that it is and will be filled with life-long learners. The ADA and Starkey did an exceptional job at creating a space for students to network with each other and learn from other’s experiences. This time was the perfect platform for reconnecting with old friends and meeting new students who are excited about autonomous audiology. I think I can speak for most of the students when I say that this reception was an integral part of the weekend for making us feel connected and excited.

Though the day was over for ADA members, the other portion of the conference was just beginning for many of the other attendees. The Independent Audiologists Australia and Independent Audiologists New Zealand began their classes as we waited eagerly for our next day of classes to begin. Seeing the ADA partner with audiologists from across the world made me very excited as well. Often times, students can get tunnel vision and lose focus that there is a huge world of audiology beyond our university. Being able to learn from audiologists who have a completely different education system was very special. This partnership fostered ingenuity and encouraged the opportunity to learn from a different perspective. As a student, getting this different perspective opened my eyes to new trains of thought that will ultimately make me a better audiologist. By utilizing the virtual platform, AuDacity made it possible to learn from our colleagues all the way around the world.

Continuing into Saturday, the education did not slow. The last day of the conference was packed with new and intriguing workshops. The vast array of topics showed the diversity of knowledge and wisdom that was brought to the conference. One of the best parts about the conference this day was the ability to pop in and out of sessions to learn about relevant topics. Workshops like the industry showcase highlighted the new technology that we will be working with for years to come. Overall, the Saturday workshops were extremely relevant to the times.

The students also attended a track tailored specifically for us. In these courses, we learned about the most current technologies, schools of thought, and best-practices. Even though we were not together physically, the virtual learning was still extremely engaging. And knowing that this track was designed specifically for students made it all the more important. The information we were receiving created a great foundation for what we were seeing at our individual clinic sites and classes. The topics sparked conversations that were applicable to our current positions in school. Even with first- through fourth-years being present, the information managed to stay relevant to all students.

Throughout the entire weekend, AuDacity managed to make virtual conference feel extremely welcoming and informative. The little things the ADA did are what really made it a special event. By making the platform look like a conference center filled with avatars and booths, the ADA made the event feel like it did in person. They really thought of everything when they made spaces like the networking area and the Exhibit Hall. With this attention to detail, it was obvious from a student perspective that AuDacity 2020 was planned with intention. I felt comfortable as a student going into the main event hall to pop into a class, or going to the networking area to meet audiologists and ask questions. The entire weekend made me feel confident in my profession and confident in choosing the AuDacity Conference as a place to learn. I look forward to joining my colleagues at future AuDacity conferences to learn and continue forging ahead!