Congress 2018 grad student travel awards have changed the face of annual academic gathering

By Katherine Cormack Posted: June 1, 2018 12:45 p.m.

Grad student attendees at Congress 2018 added a fresh perspective to the week-long gathering of academics within the humanities and social sciences.
Grad student attendees at Congress 2018 added a fresh perspective to the week-long gathering of academics within the humanities and social sciences. Photo: External Relations

Again and again, we hear how important young scholars are to the future of our civil society. That’s why it’s crucial to bring academic conferences within financial reach for graduate students.

The decision to continue studies after receiving an undergraduate degree is usually influenced by your degree of passion/curiosity for the subject matter, other plans you may have for your future, and your finances.

As a graduate student, by the time you factor in rent, utilities, groceries, and transportation, very little is usually left for things like academic conferences. But it’s at academic conferences that grad students have the opportunity to connect with peers, as well as senior researchers within their own fields of study. Canada’s annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences is just such a place.

“Graduate students are the lifeblood of universities. Their energy and creativity help research programs thrive – so it’s vital students seize upon opportunities to publicly present their research,” says André Magnan, Academic Convenor, Congress 2018.

“In 2003, I attended my first Congress in Halifax as a PhD student studying sociology…[it] was my first big conference presentation and was unlike anything I’d ever experienced; I met peers from across Canada, presented my research to respected scholars, received valuable feedback about my work, and explored a new city. For the first time, I saw myself as an academic,” Magnan shares.

It’s no surprise then, when the University of Regina won the bid to host Congress 2018, funding student travel awards was seen as a priority and the decision to fund 600 student travel awards was made early on.

The funding includes a subsidy for on-campus accommodation, a meal card for on-campus meals, and a credit to the campus bookstore – all to help make it easier for students to experience Canada’s largest gathering of scholars. One hundred of the travel awards were set aside for recent grads of a PhD program who have yet to obtain work, helping people caught between grad school and a secure job.

“It’s amazing what the travel awards have done for my association meetings at Congress this year,” says Andrea Sterzuk, acting dean, Faculty of Education at the University of Regina and 2016-2018 President of the Canadian Association of Applied Linguistics.

“I mean they have literally changed the face of it - we have a diversity of gender, race and age this year that I’ve not seen to this degree before. I’d say it’s imperative for the vibrant future of academic research in Canada that student travel awards become a regular feature of all future Congresses,” says Sterzuk.

In the end, based on a financial commitment of $285,000 from the President’s Planning Committee, 602 graduate student travel awards were given out, making Congress 2018 accessible to more young researchers-cum-future leaders.

Watch these videos to hear what graduate students have to say about the benefits of attending Congress 2018:
First Congress   
Go out there and take risks 
Being at Congress 2018