Student Leadership Conference

The OSA Student Leadership Conference

The OSA Student Leadership Conference is an immersive experience which hosts 200 student chapter members from around the world. The conference occurs the first few days before OSA's Annual Conference, Frontiers in Optics (FiO), and serves as a fantastic way for students to immerse themselves in an environment full of professional development content, networking, and fun.

Student attendees will hear from world-renowned lecturers who focus on topics such as:

  • Which Path To Choose - The benefits of Academia and Industry
  • Marketing Yourself Successfully - A discussion on highlighting yourself in a job interview and perfecting your resume
  • Giving The Perfect Presentation
  • Utilizing Science To Impact the Community
  • Making The Most Out Of Your OSA Membership
  • Leveraging Your Student Chapter To Maximize Impact
  • Taking The Leap From Student to Early Career Professional - strategies and guidance from those who have recently made the leap
  • And many, many more...

In addition, students are provided with an atmosphere for engaging one another to discuss their own career trajectories, challenges faced, and ideas for successfully overcoming those challenges. Here is a sample itinerary that can be used for securing a VISA. 

Attendees choosing to attend FiO after Student Leadership will receive an additional three nights sleeping room at the conference hotel and a waived technical registration to the meeting. There is a fee of $100 USD to add this offer to the student leadership experience.  OSA can provide financial assistance for those unable to cover this fee.

Below you will find extensive answers to some of our more common questions. If you don't see an answer to your query or if you still have concerns please contact Terence Rooney at 

Join our WhatsApp group if you’d like to communicate with one another before/after the program!

What is the Student Leadership Experience?
The Student Leadership Experience really consists of two parts, the second of which is optional but strongly encouraged:

  • Part 1: The Student Leadership Conference, which begins with a reception on the night of the 13th and concludes on the night of the 15th. All programming, lodging, and meals will take place at the National 4-H Conference Center in Bethesda, Maryland. This conference is focused on professional development, networking, and engaging with one another on the activities of your chapter. Students will be in rooms of four of the same gender during your stay. On Sunday night, a bus will transport attendees from the 4-H Center to the Washington Marriott for the second part of the experience.
  • Part 2: The Frontiers in Optics Conference (FiO), which spans from the 16th to the 19th and is focused on technical content. OSA will cover your lodging at the conference hotel (Washington Marriott) for the nights of the 15th, 16th, and 17th. Students will be in rooms of two of the same gender during your stay. Attendees will need to secure their own accommodations for anything past these nights.

 What exactly does OSA cover?

  • Airfare to and from the conference.
  • Shuttle bus from the 4-H Conference Center to the Washington Marriott on Sunday night.
  • Accommodations at the 4-H Conference Center for the nights of the 13th and 14th (you will be paired with three roommates of the same gender).
  • Accommodations at the Washington Hilton for the nights of the 15th, 16th, and 17th (you will be paired with one roommates of the same gender).
  • Meals and beverages in the following order:
    • Friday, 13 September
      • Dinner
    • Saturday, 14 September
      • Breakfast
      • Lunch
      • Dinner
    • Sunday, 15 September
      • Breakfast
      • Lunch

 What does OSA NOT cover?

  • Air transportation outside of your home location and the conference location.
    • In rare circumstances we will allow you to travel back home from a different airport. Example: IONS Rochester was held following FiO in 2017. Some students elected to stay for this IONS and therefore flew back home from Rochester. Two conditions play into this scenario: 1) The cost of traveling to this other airport is the responsibility of the student and 2) Our travel agency will compare the cost of flying from this new airport with flying from an airport local to the conference and the student may be required to pay any recognized increase.
  • Ground transportation of any kind outside of the shuttle between the two conference facilities.
  • Accommodations outside of the National 4-H Conference Center and Washington Marriott. In addition, dates outside of those listed above will not be covered by OSA (unless arranged in conjunction with OSA staff)
  • Meals and beverages outside of what is listed above.                                                     

Why am I being asked to pay a $100 USD registration fee? Is this new? Do I have to do it?
This is a new feature implemented in 2018. Students choosing to take advantage of the additional three nights hotel and technical registration to FiO are assessed $100. If you feel you cannot pay this fee there may be support available. 
NOTE: If you are attending FiO please register through the Student Leadership Registration Process. Do NOT register through the FiO website or you will be charged the for a full student technical registration.

I am attending FiO and want to present a paper. How do I do that?
Unlike FiO registration, submitting a paper should be done through the FiO website. The paper submission process is completely separate from Student Leadership so you should forward any questions regarding this process to

Do I need to present at paper at FiO to qualify for Student Leadership?
If you want to only attend Student Leadership and FiO without submitting a paper that is completely fine. However, we do encourage students to apply for paper submission through FiO to make the most of your experience.
I can no longer attend. Can someone else from my chapter go in my stead?
It depends on how close we are to the event and if a VISA will be needed. Most of the time we can switch you out with another representative from your chapter. Just let us know and we will try to work with you. If ultimately no one from the chapter is able to attend do not worry as this will not impact your chapter (negatively) in any way.
Can multiple members from my chapter attend Student Leadership?
No. Only one member per chapter is eligible to attend. This is a logistical restriction so even if members are able to pay for themselves we are still unable to host them. However, as many people can attend FiO as the chapter would like (at the expense of those individuals, of course).
When can I travel in/out?
Some attendees like to come early or stay later than the conference to either enjoy Washington, DC or take part in a nearby conference. This is fine but our travel agency will compare the cost of flying from these new dates with those around Student Leadership/FiO and the student may be required to pay any recognized increase.
What airport should I travel into?
Our travel agents will take care of this for you so you don’t need to worry about any specific airports unless you have a particular reason you want to fly into one over the other.

How does the airfare and hotel booking work?
When you submit your registration our travel agency will contact you to secure your flight. A combination of the agency and OSA staff will work with you on the housing and pairing you with roommates of the same gender. This entire process can take a few weeks but if you are concerned please contact Terence Rooney at and he can provide you with updates.
OSA is paying for only a portion of hotel nights during FiO. What do I do when that benefit expires? 
Unfortunately we can only cover so many nights - but we feel like covering 5 total nights between Student Leadership and FiO is a pretty good deal. The last night we cover is Tuesday night, the 17th. If you want to stay past this you will be required to pay any additional hotel fees. We understand the hotel cost is pricey at the Washington Marriott ($240 for a double room per night) so once you've used the OSA benefit you can conclude your reservation at another hotel/AirBnB/etc. if you'd prefer. 

I heard that chapters are able to present a poster detailing their chapter activities. Can you tell me more about that?
Beginning in 2019, chapters will no longer be presenting posters on their activities.


A limited amount of funding is available for FiO registration support. This is reserved for cases where individuals are unable to provide the $100 registration fee. If you are interested, please send answers to these questions to

  • Why are you applying for assistance with the FiO registration fee? What challenges are keeping you from providing the fee?
  • Do you currently receive an income?
  • Have you sought support from other entities (advisor, university, etc.)?
  • Why do you want to attend FiO?

Responses will be reviewed and you will be contacted with information within 7 days.