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By Russ Cooper
It’s official: Concordia hosted the largest Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in the conference’s 79-year history.
From May 28 to June 4, 8 880 delegates from 70 academic associations descended upon the university.
This year’s total attendance edged out the previous record holder, the 2008 Congress at UBC, which welcomed 8 840 delegates. Last year’s Congress at Carleton University attracted 8 693 delegates.
While impossible to measure statistically, by all accounts, Congress at Concordia was among the most successful as well.
“We’re collecting feedback from delegates who were blown away by the volunteers, the quality of the facilities, the extra programming,” said Congress 2010 Academic Convenor Ronald Rudin, who now returns to his duties as History Professor. “I think that everyone feels it was an incredible experience on so many levels.”
Noreen Golfman, President of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences (CFHSS), agrees. “Congress this year has shown us the true value of partnership. Concordia put on a great show for delegates, creating an event that was not only academically engaging, but also great fun.
“A world-class Big Thinking lecture series, insightful and relevant association programming, a vibrant urban environment and a cutting-edge university culture combined to create a truly memorable Congress experience,” said Golfman.
Throughout the eight-day event and even into the following weekend, more than a thousand articles detailing Congress’ events and presentations appeared in various local, national and international media. Notable among which was Studio Arts Professor Barbara Layne’s Wearable Absence project, displayed in the FOFA Gallery York Corridor vitrines throughout Congress, which gathered hundreds of mentions, including the BBC, NBC and the Times of India.
Congress also garnered buzz on social media sites. On Twitter, the #Congress10 hashtag trended (ranking among the most active conversations in the entire twittersphere) for the afternoon talks from Gerri Sinclair on May 31 and Donna Brazile on June 2.
“I believe our success was in great part because we chose a theme that was actually acted on. We saw the opportunities to make it real,” Rudin said of the numerous events woven together with the Connected Understanding / Le savoir branché thread. “Beyond that, I think people came away with a real sense of what Concordia is, and the kind of imagination and creativity that exists here. The fact that we provided value added with a parallel package of Branché programming, that we worked hard to bring in speakers that were top calibre… people now have a sense of what we stand for,” he said.
One of the most significant legacies of Congress, according to Rudin, will be the Concordia’s establishment as a leader in Open Access. In April, Concordia became the first major Canadian university to pass a Senate resolution with the support of faculty to make peer-reviewed research and creative output universally available via the internet.
“If we’ve taken a leadership role in making knowledge more accessible, we may have found an issue for which we’re able to advocate. We’ll run with it,” he said.
Internally, the effort has also reinforced the enthusiasm for connectivity; more than 100 staff, faculty and community members have been working together for more than two years to make the event such an overwhelming success. “There aren’t many times when people from so many corners of a university get a chance to work together,” he said.
Rudin thanks and acknowledges any and all involved, but extends a special thanks to Marie-Josée Allard, who served as Congress Manager, whom he calls, “the lynchpin for the entire event.”