Canada's largest annual academic gathering an excellent venue for sharing ideas, building partnerships
Jennifer Robitaille, Communications Specialist, University of Calgary
Registration for the 2016 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences is officially open. From May 28 to June 3, the University of Calgary will host 70 academic associations that will each hold annual conferences during the week with a total of over 8,000 attendees.
UToday met with Bart Beaty, academic convenor for Congress 2016 and professor of English, who is a self-described “Congress geek.”
Beaty was a first-time Congress attendee as a student volunteer in 1993 and has a nearly perfect, two-decade Congress attendance record. He let us know what the 8,000 attendees can expect from Congress 2016 from what kind of energy it will take to host and attend the week-long event, from career-making moments and Congress connections to Star Wars.
Q: Why is Congress important for the university and the city?
A: I was talking with someone yesterday about Congress and Calgary. I picked up a copy of the Calgary Herald and I pointed out that every single story in the newspaper was a topic that is addressed by scholars in the humanities and social sciences. The integration of newly arriving refugees into our communities? We study that. Electoral reform? We study that. How the new Star Wars movie speaks to contemporary concerns? We’re on that too. What we study are really the human sciences — the broad forces and institutions that structure the way that we live in Calgary, in Alberta, and in Canada. Congress is a tremendous showcase for these ideas.
Tips for maximizing your Congress experience
Q: As someone who has attended Congress for many years, what are the benefits of attending?
A: I like to say that I owe my entire academic career to Congress, and I don’t think that’s too much of an overstatement. I was fortunate to present a well-received paper at the Film Studies Association of Canada meeting at Brock University as a graduate student. That opened the door to me being elected as the student rep for that organization, which led to a lot of networking opportunities. By the time I finished my degree and interviewed here at Calgary, I realized that I’d already met almost every person on my hiring committee.
I can’t stress enough how important it is for graduate students to get involved by presenting or attending. For our graduate students, it is vitally important to begin the process of building relationships with colleagues from outside of Calgary.
Q: Can you walk us through what a typical day is like for attendees at Congress?
A: For most of the delegates, Congress is really about their home association. What we’ve tried to do, however, is to build in a lot of opportunities for people to look beyond their home disciplines and invite the public to quite a few events too.
There will be six interdisciplinary symposia highlighting cutting-edge research across our faculties, the Big Thinking lectures every day at lunch, creative performances put on by the School for Creative and Performing Arts, and many more. Even if you never went to a single association-hosted panel, you could keep yourself busy for the entire day.
Events for everyone and high-profile speakers
Q: What are you looking most forward to at this year’s Congress?
A: I’m actually starting to get stressed out by the sheer volume of programming that I want to see! Margaret Atwood will be speaking on campus, and so will Chief Justice Beverly McLachlan. We are doing programming related to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I really want to go on the tour of Calgary facilities organized by the Faculty of Environmental Design.
For more information about Congress 2016 and to register, visit Congress2016.ca.