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networking in the nest
June 20, 2019
3 mins read

An insider’s account of Congress 2019

There was a palpable energy on campus leading up to Congress. Organizers hustled around getting everything in order and bright signs began popping up. It felt like something big was about to happen.

Then, the guests began to arrive and Congress 2019 officially began!

It’s difficult to sum up an event as massive and diverse as Congress. Essentially, it’s an annual conference where Canadian academic associations in the field of the Humanities gather to hold meetings and public lectures. As someone who dreams of a life and career in academics, I was thrilled by the opportunity to discover what a gathering of scholars would entail.

This is the 5th time UBC has hosted the event, the first time being way back in 1948 and the most recent in 2008. Now, almost 90 years after it first began, Congress is the largest scholarly conference in Canada with some 10,000 participants!

This year’s theme was “Circles of Conversation,” which sought to foster connections between universities and the broader community. In line with this message, many events were opened up to individuals outside the academic community.

Keynote speakers in the Big Thinking series included novelist Esi Edugyan, activist David Suzuki, and artist Stan Douglas.

I was lucky to attend several sessions. Most of them were fantastic, but I can’t really evaluate the one that turned out to be 90% in German…

My personal highlight was a lecture by renowned Film Studies professor Mary Ann Doane, who came all the way from Berkeley, California. She delivered a fascinating lecture on the effects of portable, small-screen devices on cinema that ended with insightful questions and spirited debate.

Throughout the week, I watched session attendees furiously take notes, saw whole auditoriums erupt into laughter during a particularly humorous lecture, and, above all, I experienced learning and academia in dynamic, lively action.

While there is something of a stereotype of the solitary academic researching behind a closed door, this event was everything the opposite. Eager groups of scholars chatted in classrooms, debated on patios, and danced to live music in the Social Zone set up outside the Nest.

My fellow Student Life Writers and I also experienced the event from the volunteering side of things. We each took a shift as wayfinders, helping all the attendees find their way around campus.

We also got some major swag—a slick tote bag and a swanky t-shirt—and the opportunity to connect with attendees. Plus, the abundant tables of free coffee and snacks were a treat I wouldn’t mind for the upcoming term.

It was also really pleasant to watch guests marvel at the beauty of campus. After 4 years here, I’ve become acclimatized to the ocean views and mountain peaks, but their enthusiasm inspired me to stop and realize just how remarkable our setting is.

While the event has concluded—the tents at Social Zone taken down and the Congress signs scattered across campus tucked away—the spirit of the event lives on in the academic inspiration and personal connections gained throughout the week!

Looking forward

If you’re getting some major FOMO, I don’t blame you. Luckily, UBC has a constant stream of interesting events. For example, TEDxUBC takes place each year in the spring, and the UBC Connects series brings a host of brilliant lectures by notable speakers to campus.

There are so many ways to get involved on campus. Or, if you happen to be at Western University next June, check out Congress 2020!

University life is about so much more than just lectures and libraries—it’s about connecting, engaging, and dialoguing with a remarkable network of topics and thinkers. Make that a part of your time at UBC!