President’s Conference to explore the source of desire 

By Karen Herland

You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.

Knowing what you want is one thing. Understanding why is another.

Uncovering what drives people’s desires, physiologically, psychologically, culturally and socially: This is the theme of the first President’s Conference, slated for April 6.

Understanding Desire will bring eight of our researchers, exploring the concept from multiple angles, together in a series of panel discussions. Each panel will be directed at a different audience under a different theme.

This is the first of a planned two conferences per year coordinated by Vice-Provost Teaching and Learning Ollivier Dyens. The idea developed while working on the showcase event that was held alongside President Judith Woodsworth’s installation.

“The event was intended to feature Concordia and show the internal and external communities all of our achievements in research and creation," he says. "The more we found out, the more ambitious the event became.”

And the less likely it was that everything could be presented in a single event. Showcase planning occurred while Vice-President Research and Graduate Studies Louise Dandurand was identifying key research areas for the university. The plan developed into a series of conferences that would allow our researchers to demonstrate their expertise across disciplines.

The first session of the day will feature Shimon Amir, Uri Shalev and Jane Stewart, three psychology professors involved in the Centre for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology. Each will present aspects of their research intended to demonstrate their understanding of the physiological impulses controlling appetite and addiction. Beginning at 10 a.m. in the De Sève Cinema, the session is open to all members of the Concordia community.

“It’s an opportunity to find out about the quality of research that is being done at Concordia,” Dyens says.

In the afternoon, sociologist Bart Simon from the Technoculture, Arts and Game (TAG) project and the Centre for Research on Human Development’s psychologist Bill Bukowski will address the addictive aspect of the internet in youth culture. The discussion will begin at 1 p.m. in the D.B. Clarke Theatre and students from a number of local high schools and CEGEPs will be invited.

Finally, the evening session will focus on Self, Sexuality and Desire. Open to the public, panelists include Jim Pfaus of the Centre for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology who will discuss his research into sexual desire. Newly hired sociology professor Marc LaFrance will present his research on identity and Concordia University Research Chair Viviane Namaste will discuss her work on HIV/AIDS.

Dyens wants the series to contribute to the broader public debate on these issues and allow both panelists and audience to learn from each other.

In the future, the conferences may feature the work of students and staff, as well as professors.

The next conference, slated for the 2009 homecoming weekend will likely address human development and commerce, again from a variety of perspectives and for multiple audiences.

To keep up to date on conference plans, see the site:


Concordia University