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What Congress 2013 Meant to Me: The Final Edition

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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Team Media passing those long, long hours. I assure you it was a lot more work than it looks.

Its been a month since Congress ended and I don't know where to begin this long overdue post. Initially, I confess, I was at a loss for words when it came to this particular blog entry, but now, as the energy has died down and I've had some time to think, I can better summarize my experience. At a glance, Congress 2013 was Canada's largest gathering of academics, scholars, and researchers in the humanities and social sciences with 68 academic associations and some seven-thousand odd delegates. Over eight days the University of Victoria hosted, in most cases simultaneously, keynote lectures, panel presentations, meetings with policymakers, SSHRC funding workshops, and even live entertainment! So, forgive me, for being overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the event and my inability to express those sentiments in words. The statistics aside, which any news report covering the event will happily regurgitate, what really does Congress mean to me, to you, to us...?

I started this "Congress" journey last month with a mild ambition to have a conversation with you on all things academic, be it writing funding proposals or reviewing lectures by best-selling authors - from the profound to the trivial. What followed was an intense ride with engaged readers and elaborate reviews, many coming from own colleagues - Andrina, Maryse, and Vanessa - leading to the most fulfilling conversation I could have ever imagined.

As a graduate student, the Congress presented me with the opportunity to present my own research and a venue to attend the best and latest academic contributions in my area and beyond. On the one hand, I attended keynote lectures by leading theorists and scholars, on the other, I heard graduate students presenting their ideas for the very first time, not unlike myself. It was these ideas, to put it very simply, that made Congress 2013 a memorable event for me. It gave me the confidence to pursue my own research at the doctoral level, a thought that I had been toying around with but hadn't really committed to. Being surrounded by such academic rigour reminded me of my time as undergraduate student at the University of Toronto (St. Michael's College) burning the midnight oil to stay ahead of the readings, which only got longer as the semester progressed! It was for me, and I'm certain many other graduate students in the humanities, a confidence booster that even in these troubled times research is the key to innovation and advancement.

Our amazing supervisors: Melanie and Laura and intern Andrew. For the curious ones the casual clothing signifies the last day of work.

As if the sheer variety of events coupled with my own presentation wasn't enough, I was one of the lucky four selected as a Media Correspondent for Congress 2013. My indecision at what lectures to attend was only quadrupled after my selection, and no, it wasn't an easy task deciding! Along with furthering my academic credentials, Congress gave me "real-world" experience with stringent deadlines, tons of researching, and a excellent team to work with. The Media Room will forever be etched in my memory with the smell of copious amounts of coffee at odd hours of the day with my colleagues discussing everything from grammar and punctuation to the exceptionally sunny weather. Our work was made easier by our amazing supervisors - Melanie and Laura -  who were open to new ways of presenting information, and more importantly, always there to help. As is evident from the variety of blog posts there was no dearth of bright ideas. After all, it is ideas that we celebrate at Congress whether this year or the next or even a decade from now. Ideas, though, would remain just that if it wasn't for the conversations surrounding them. The number of people I heard talking and sharing their points of view was the most compelling aspect of Congress. In a day and age where censorship reigns supreme, the ability to freely express one's thoughts is indeed a comforting feeling.

Thankfully Team Media didn't have to do the orange t-shirt.

What I also realized was that this was never our conversation but rather it was yours. Although I can say with some pride and great joy that we have had some small part in the construction of this important conversation, it was made vibrant and vital only because of your participation. We hope this past month has only contributed positively to the ongoing debates in your respective fields. For me, Congress will be everything I wrote and then some, an experience not wholly describable in words. It is now time to move on but I promise I have no intentions of tuning out. Good byes, they say, should never be long, but this is not a "Good Bye" post - it is, in fact, a "Thank You" post. Until we meet again, take care.

Randip


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Congress of the Humanities and Social SciencesCongress 2013