Kelley’s Korner: The Joys of Student Conferences
By Kelley Ware, Finance Manager
Hello Readers! To begin this segment of Kelley’s Korner I want to apologize for missing the last issue of Over the Edge. I do have a good excuse though, I promise! I was in London, Ontario at the beautiful campus of the University of Western Ontario for the 18th annual Canadian Political Science Student Association Conference (CPSSA). The topic in question was Current Affairs in International Politics. It was two days of travelling with three and a half days of panels, discussions, keynotes, presentations, and social programming. I have been a delegate for three years now and can honestly say it is one of my favourite parts of January. Before CPSSA was NASH, the annual conference for Canadian University Press, which lasted two days longer and had sessions on writing, photography, business administration, and more.
After I returned from my jet set January, I realized that many university students do not realize that conferences such as these are open to them. I highly recommend attending student conferences for a multitude of reasons. Here is a chance to go outside of UNBC, often to a whole other city, and take part in important discussions. Oftentimes the speakers are other academics that you would not otherwise have had an opportunity to hear. Other times, the conferences could get big names people to speak. These are the people that you likely would not have a chance to hear outside of this setting. At NASH, Ezra Levant, a right-wing political pundit who got everyone’s blood boiling, spoke as well as the likes of Robin Doolittle, the Toronto Star reporter who was one of the first to break the Rob Ford crack story. Without NASH, I never would have had the chance to corner Levant off-stage and discuss the future of Canadian politics with him. CPSSA was the same way, with the keynote being Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. James Orbinski of Doctors Without Borders. Student conferences really are a great learning opportunity and, due to that fact, professors tend to be easy-going about missing class for them.
Student conferences also tend to have lively social programming. All of the ones I have gone to have a “Work Hard, Play Hard” mentality. Academics nine to five with parties planned right after. It is the perfect time to kick back and have some fun with new friends who have come from all over the province/region/country. I should warn you, from my experience a lot of drinking goes on at these things. However, I have also met some of the most non-judgemental people at conferences, so if that is not your style do not worry. People will accept whatever choice you make. Just know that acceptance goes both ways and there is a tendency to be wild at the events after the academic programming. I have woken up at one CPSSA to a semi-naked man on the couch outside the bedroom (I wish I was making that up).
The learning experiences and the friends you will gain make student conferences an amazing experience that most people do not get in university. It is also a great networking opportunity. The people you meet – both academics and other students – build connections that branch all over Canada. There may also be chances to present your own work in an academic setting amongst peers outside of your classes. Other opportunities also pop up. Many organizations that host conferences like this have Boards of Directors that are made up of students, just like you. As well, do not let the cost scare you away. The university has a lot of funding opportunities that are waiting for you if you look for them. If it is academic in nature, chances are you can get the conference partially or fully funded. There is nothing to lose and so much to gain by attending student conferences!