Let me begin this blog post with a huge shout out to the University of Regina for the wonderful CSSE experience! The 2018 annual conference was my fourth as a graduate student. Once again, I returned home excited by all the learning, as well as by the many opportunities to connect and reconnect with Canadian colleagues. As Dr. Kathy Sanford (winner of the 2018 Herbert T. Coutts award) shared at the CSSE award ceremony, one of the key strengths of CSSE is that it brings Canadian researchers together in conversation and focuses on educational issues important to our context. Importantly, Dr. Sanford not only encouraged academics to champion and attend CSSE events and initiatives, but she also challenged them to bring their graduate students and help them to become a part of the CSSE community.
For graduate students, what makes CSSE so thrilling is that we not only have the opportunity to see, hear, and even meet some of our academic heroes, but we can also better understand how to build on their academic legacy through our own research projects. As such, having the financial support to attend the annual conference cannot be understated. I am so grateful to the University of Regina for the travel award that covered room and board for me this year. I truly appreciate all other supports offered, including CSSE’s partial travel reimbursement.
For me, the Regina conference was perfect. The venue size kept all the events localized and I loved being able run into CSSE folk frequently in the halls of the Education building, the social zone, and the food courts. I also appreciated the University’s thoughtful details, such as the live music and the ever-present guides who helped me get to where I needed to be.
Another key factor in my heightened experience was that I think my conferencing skills have improved over the years. During my first Congress, I pretty much stuck to presenting my work and attending the sessions of people I knew from my University. What I have begun to better understand is the importance of diversifying my conference approach. This year, I joined and submitted my work across a number of associations. During the conference, I attended as many different sessions as I could, targeting sessions focused on my research and practice interests, but also sessions and keynotes that are completely outside my research domain (I often used the spotlight sessions as a guide). This approach to session selection really stretched my thinking and research direction. What made my experience even stronger was connecting with the presenters in person afterwards or online to continue the discussion. Although it was intimidating to reach out to scholars whose work I love or that greatly influences my research, I found their generosity of spirit and willingness to help me grow to be very encouraging. It also helped to remember that they were students once, too.
Another helpful conference strategy is to attend the pre-conference events, which are often more intimate and can be useful to graduate students in terms of networking and building skills. This year, it was great to be a part of the CATE/TATE panel exploring (e)portfolios with Drs. Alec Couros (Regina), Kathy Sanford & Tim Hopper (Victoria), and Norm Vaughan (Mount Royal). I particularly enjoyed the breakout sessions, which were a chance to connect with others around some of the strengths and tensions we are experiencing. I also found the CASEA session on knowledge mobilization with Dr. Katina Pollock (Western) really helpful and it has already informed some of my research and publication decisions.
Finally, it has become clearer to me how valuable getting involved in CSSE and in the associations has been. During the past two conferences, I have made a real effort to attend my association’s AGM and social events. Not only is food often available at the AGMs (I am a student, after all), but these meetings give me a better sense of upcoming events, the role different members play, and how to get involved. At these meetings, I pushed myself to raise my hand for volunteer opportunities such as becoming a graduate student representative or helping organize the CATE student panel highlighting Drs. Leyton Schnellert, Mark Aquash & Tim Sibbald. These opportunities gave me the chance to grow my Canadian academic network and gain valuable mentors and advocates in the field. Building on this experience, this year I also made an effort to attend a number of the CSSE special events, including the plenaries [Dr. Marie Battiste’s presentation was off the charts inspiring!], keynotes, and panels. Highlights included the CATE panel organized by Drs. Leyton Schnellert (UBC Okanagan) & Caroline Riches (McGill) titled Reconciliation and Teacher Education: Sharing and Extending our Practice featuring Drs. Jan Hare (UBC), Dwayne Donald (Alberta), Mike Cappello (Regina), and Celia Haig-Brown (York)]. Receptions, association dinners, banquets, and award ceremonies (congrats Dr. Alesha Moffatt!) also featured heavily in my evening plans. Even if I arrived solo at these events, I would leave inspired, energized and often with a few new contacts and ideas for session selections the next day.
Clearly, I had a wonderful CSSE experience in Regina and I am already looking forward to next year. Hope to see you at UBC!
University of Ottawa