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Welcome to Congress 2019 at UBC!

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Thursday, February 7, 2019

Guest blog by Laura Moss, Academic Convenor, Congress 2019

I remember my first Congress so clearly: it took place at the University of Calgary in 1994. I was a new PhD student and I was terrified to be presenting my first conference paper. I remember the flight of butterflies I had in my stomach before giving my paper on magic realism in The Moor’s Last Sigh. If I close my eyes, I can still see the room I presented in. What I remember most clearly, however, are the encouraging smiles from my fellow students and senior faculty alike. It was the first time I really felt like I could actually belong in academia.

Over the past 25 years, I have been to 16 more Congresses. Some of my memories are academic, some are social. Some are wonderful, some are not. Each Congress has had a personality that has reflected the time and place. I loved the sense of community that I felt as soon as I got off the plane last year at Congress in Regina. I remember mind-blowing keynotes at Concordia, Brock, and UQAM. I enjoyed the grassy lawn at the University of Victoria, the lobster at the University of New Brunswick, and the social street at Ryerson. And over the years, I taught my butterflies to fly in formation before presenting my papers. Congress has been the most important annual event in my academic calendar over the course of my career.

When I was asked to be the Academic Convenor for Congress 2019, it seemed like a good way for me to give back to the scholarly communities I value so highly. I didn’t quite realize what a big job I was taking on. Congress is a giant jigsaw puzzle that works well because of all the combined pieces I’d never seen as a delegate.The job of the Academic Convenor is multifaceted: creating host-institution programming, leading the cultural and social programming that sits beyond association events, collaborating with the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences on Career Corner and Big Thinking events, and working with the logistics teams both here at UBC (led by the extraordinary Carolina Cerna, my co-convenor) and the Federation. Although I’ve drawn from my past Congress experiences, I’ve also added a few things.

My own research on Canadian and African literatures is fundamentally interdisciplinary, bridging historical periods, literary genres, and national boundaries. For Congress 2019, we wanted to highlight multidisciplinary approaches to the intersections of art and politics. This Congress will emphasize the arts and creative conversations around contemporary issues in the humanities and social sciences. This means that we will have an overflowing menu of art exhibitions, films, plays, poetry readings, archival exhibitions, and musical performances on campus all week. 

When it comes to Congress on the ground, as an attendee, I have often wanted more space and time dedicated to talking about the intricacies of teaching and classroom dynamics with colleagues. Over the past few years, there has been much important work on the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) that I haven’t had a chance to read. Here’s a chance to catch up! For Congress 2019 we’ve created the Pedagogy Hub — a zone dedicated to interdisciplinary discussions of teaching and learning. There will be talks on the latest SoTL, sessions on Ed Tech, and strategic sessions on topics like how to deal with risk in the classroom and changing classroom climates. We will also have a drop-in Conversation Room in the Congress Hub for people to sit down, have a coffee, and talk about pedagogy and teaching. It will be open all day, every day.    

When my children were younger, I also wished for more nearby activities and facilities for them and my partner. For Congress 2019, we’ve created a whole suite of programming for families and companions. There will be a designated family space with couches, a kitchen, and play space. We’ll be offering day care, day camps, and daily expeditions to local natural and cultural attractions. Families and companions can enjoy access to UBC facilities, such as the new aquatic centre, the Belkin Art Gallery, the Museum of Anthropology, and more. We have also created a lovely lounge for Professors Emeriti. Stay tuned for more details in a future Congress blog.

It’s been a busy few months, and Congress 2019 is fast approaching. While I realized how important Congress is when I first accepted the role of Academic Convenor, I didn’t realize how gratifying organizing an event like this would be, especially when working with the amazing team of professionals from the Federation and from UBC. There are many women and men who put a lot of labour and time into making Congress a success, and I am grateful to them all. We are all working our hardest to make Congress 2019 at UBC accessible, fun, and full of thought-provoking moments. We hope that it will be a space for people to engage the difficult questions that we tackle in our research and professional lives, productively, safely, and comfortably. 

For everyone coming to Vancouver in June, I hope that Congress 2019 is memorable for all the right reasons.

See you soon!

Laura Moss, PhD.
Academic Convenor Congress 2019
Professor, Department of English Languages and Literature, UBC

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