conference update

Well, we survived. The conference has come and gone and KIAS is no worse for the wear. I am sure that while it was going on, the end seemed very far away but it was all worth it.

“Tomorrow’s Ideas, Now” (TIN) was a tremendous success for KIAS and for the UAlberta. We had 40 students accepted to attend in August, and 100% registration take-up. We did have a couple of no-shows for the actual days of, but the students that made it were ready for presentations, idea exchanges, and socializing with new peers. Four continents were represented and a variety of backgrounds were showcased. We had a conference blog that followed the panels and social events daily, which can be viewed here: http://tomorrowsideasnow.blogspot.com/.

The conference opened with a welcome reception at the University of Alberta’s Faculty Club, located on the beautiful River Valley. Students who had travel from far, wide, and from down the street, showed up to meet one another and hear remarks from the KIAS Founding Director, Jerry Varsava. Conference panel chairs, KIAS governance bodies and of course, the KIAS staff members (all two of us) were in attendance to meet and greet the next great minds of research.

Days One and Two were filled with keynote addresses and presentations from the students, as well as walking tours of the UAlberta campus and graduate study discussions. At every turn, students could be found in deep conversation with one another; usually it was about research and their ideas and BIG questions…sometimes it was about the differences between Canada and (it seems) the rest of the world. Particularly, the beer. The mix was perfect for great conversations.

TIN featured an opening keynote address from Dr. Sean Gouglas, the newly minted Director for the Office of Interdisciplinary Studies (OIS), professor in History & Classics, and KIAS Research Cluster Grant winner. It focused on the use of game play throughout history, and specifically moved into play for teaching. “The Power of Play” was a perfect start to the conference proceedings, as the students were genuinely interested in the new ideas stemming from the digital humanities.

The second keynote was from Mr. Kei Narita, an Education student at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan. Mr. Narita was kind enough to bring us his thoughts as a survivor and volunteer of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March 2011. The students were shown photos from Mr. Narita, on the scene as a volunteer. The shock of the devastation to the country served as an important reminder of the uncertainty in the world, and how much belonging matters.

The conference closed with a BBQ at the University of Alberta’s Alumni House. Students were able to have drinks and chat with UAlberta administration, such as Vice-Provost Colleen Skidmore and Dean of Arts Lesley Cormack. As well, the founding benefactors for KIAS, Drs. Peter and Doris Kule, were in attendance. They were delighted to meet the students who benefitted from their philanthropy and vision; the students did KIAS proud by showing how intelligent, mature, and thoughtful they can be. KIAS was lucky to have the Stringbeans Quartet, kindly donated by Edmonton Festival City, play some modern songs on string instruments – endless appreciation to Jenifer Christenson and Chris Foster for this. UAlberta Press also donated two door prizes to the event, which were given as a draw, made by Dr. Doris Kule, to two lucky students. Jerry Varsava presented the Kules with the congratulatory greetings sent by the Office of the Premier, Ed Stelmach.

The conference came to a close with an impromptu outpouring of gratitude from the students, who lined up when the Kules were leaving the event, in order to thank them for their generosity and to introduce themselves to our donors. It was a moving moment, which KIAS is proud to have been a part of.

We cannot wait for the next cohort of TIN students next year, but the first generation will hold a special place for us in the years to come.

For more information on TIN and KIAS, visit http://www.kias.ualberta.ca.

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