All Posts Tagged With: "conference"
Conference at Ryerson draws large numbers, raises important issues
Some time ago I wrote a series of posts concerning mature students, starting with this one. It became an interesting discussion on the various resources that are available (or not available) for mature students. And it was at least part of the motivation for a mature students’ conference that just occurred at Ryerson University, a year later, and where I recently had the pleasure of speaking along with other very interesting panelists.
Big kudos to the Mature Students’ Association at Ryerson (MSAR) for organizing the first-time event. Hopefully it won’t be the last. Certainly the response would justify a regular conference. Of the 130+ attendees most were from the GTA, but a small contingent came down from Guelph and a single intrepid soul ventured down from Lakehead. Additionally, a group of students skyped in from Mount Allison. Isn’t technology wonderful? In any event, the response was enthusiastic, to say the least.
I won’t attempt to summarize the entire content of the conference but a few impressions seem particularly significant. First, just about everyone who doesn’t come from York was deeply envious of the very significant support that mature and part-time students enjoy at York, through the Atkinson Centre. Clearly York has set the standard to follow — and indeed the ability to reference such a benchmark will likely do a lot of good for mature students at other institutions. Good ideas may be emulated elsewhere. And as mature students are a growing demographic, no institution wants to be left behind on this one.
Of course we talked about future employment and the job market. I believe as much as anyone in learning for the love of it, but mature students have even less margin to ignore the financial realities than other students do. Jeremy O’Krafka from RECSOLU spoke on that topic, which is an area where the needs and concerns of mature students diverge especially from those of “traditional” students. His anecdote about younger students showing up with parents to speak with prospective employers struck a particular chord, but that’s probably a topic for another article.
As for myself, I contributed the observation that however much an institution may support mature students, the vast majority of campus resources and opportunities will still remain general to all students. So finding a way to access those opportunities and networks, while perhaps more difficult for mature students, is nevertheless critical. But as so often occurs, I was partially preaching to the already converted. The students who organized and showed up for this conference clearly know how to access the resources available to them. Some even accessed funding from their unions to attend.
Participants referred, on several occasions, to recent stories about how mature students are “competing” with younger school applicants. I agree that coverage of this sort is symptomatic of an unhelpful attitude that suggests mature students are somehow less legitimate as students. But a better observation on this topic is simply that it’s the new market reality. We keep hearing about how we’ll all have several careers, right? Well, for some, that necessarily suggests retraining. There’s no sense resenting older students for being where a lot of us will be in the future — there’s only a question of how the post-secondary system needs to adapt in response.
As a final observation, I sincerely hope that this growing interest among mature students in their shared identity and experiences forms the basis of a lasting association. The more mature students take an interest in their institutions and their education the happier I’ll be. Not only is it in their obvious self-interest to do so, but I also find that mature students exert a positive and productive influence on every student organization they become involved with. They are deeply motivated to be constructive — even while pursuing their criticisms — and a little more of that attitude would do a world of good for the student cause.
Questions are welcome at email@example.com. Even the ones I don’t post will still receive answers, and where I do use them here I’ll remove identifying information.
UBC hosts panel of young leaders at its second annual TEDxTerry Talks
On Oct 3, UBC hosted more than 250 students and alumni to the second annual TEDxTerry Talks 2009, a UBC student conference that provides a platform for its young leaders to share innovative ideas and discuss personal projects they are passionate about. This year, the speakers were seven undergraduate students, one graduate student and a young alumnus.
TEDx, where the x = independently organized TED event, is a program initiated by the group widely known for their Ideas Worth Spreading Series of annual conferences and inspirational videos of invited speakers. TEDx is designed to provide an opportunity for anyone to self-organise and host an event that will bring people together to share in a TED-like experience.
TEDxTerry Talks (tag: TEDxTt) emerged out of the Terry Project, a collaborative initiative between the UBC Faculties of Arts and Science. Its key purpose is to educate primary undergraduate students about current global issues such as malaria, H1N1, and poverty through organising events and fostering conversations using social media such as Twitter, Facebook and their blogs.
Dr. Jennifer Gardy, an alumnus speaker at the event, is co-leading the new genome research lab at the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC). She is also known as “Nerd Girl” from her Globe and Mail blog of the same name. In her talk, Gardy shared how advances in technology have provided increased collaboration on scientific research and scholarly publications — what she labelled as public health 2.0.
For example, she showed how one publication had 36 authors. After leading the audience through the origins of H1N1, she stated how it only took five days from the sequencing of the virus to the first open-source paper. Gardy ended her talk emphasizing how students should be willing to explore the benefits of Open Access publications, collaborative research, and emerging technologies.
Via email, Maclean’s OnCampus asked Gardy, along with other speakers, about her pet project:
Q: What is the value of open-access (OA) publications? Are these types of publications being supported by scientists?
Gardy: OA publications have value because they remove access barriers to knowledge. To access anything more than an abstract of a scientific paper in the pre-OA days, someone who was interested in the paper either had to a) be affiliated with an institution that had a subscription to that journal (and then be able to access that subscription either online or by traveling to the library to see the print copy) or b) willing to pay the per-article charge, generally $30-$50, to be able to download or access that article.
This excluded all sorts of groups from being able to access information: researchers whose institutes don’t have enough money to pay for a subscription (e.g pretty much all of the developing world) and people who are interested in a topic but don’t have an institutional affiliation (e.g. a patient trying to do research into a rare disorder they have) are two of the most obvious groups, but there are others you wouldn’t think of it….OA removes all these headaches and barriers and lets anybody see a paper, taking knowledge out of the domain of just the ivory tower and giving back to the people.
Q:What was the role of open-access publications in the discovery of H1N1?
Gardy: As far as H1N1 goes, virtually all of the big, early papers on the virus were published in non-OA journals but the authors chose to pay the extra costs and make the articles freely available. Many other important papers were published in weekly online OA journals like Eurosurveillance and MMWR. Thus ANYBODY could access the most up-to-date knowledge and contribute to the investigation into the virus.
Also, the outbreak catalyzed the creation of PLoS Currents, an online OA “pre-journal” where authors can submit works in progress that are vetted a by a small team of experts but nor formally peer-reviewed, and which can then be published later once they are more developed. The first PLoS Currents site (there will be one site each for a range of topics) is on influenza research, and launched a few months back at www.ploscurrents.org/influenza. It’s a neat new model for scientific publishing.
A great opportunity from a fabulous grassroots organization
I was recently approached by the Spanish Speaking Education Network to participate in their annual conference as a keynote speaker. I’d like to advertise the opportunity to attend to everyone who happens to be in the Toronto area or who could come in for the day. This is really a fabulous grassroots organization that I’m pleased to support now that I’ve learned more about it. The conference (or congress, as they call it) is free to attend for students, prospective students, their families, and other interested parties such as educators and community workers. Free busing is provided from the local subway, and breakfast and lunch is free as well. There’s even free childcare available. The point is to reach out to the Spanish community and to make information about post-secondary education more accessible to them.
If you’d like to learn more about the conference you can do that here. You can also register online. The conference isn’t until October 3rd but of course a little advance notice never hurt anyone. I’d be glad to hear from folks who follow this site so if you do make it in please let me know. I’ll be there all day, along with other speakers and presenters.
Former militant, current education professor was last turned away in January
The Ottawa Citizen is reporting that William Ayers, the Chicago-based education professor who was denied entry into Canada last January, has been barred from coming to Ottawa to speak at a major academic conference.
He was set to speak today at a humanities and social sciences conference hosted by the Canadian Society for the Study of Education.
Although Ayers was a co-founder of the radical group Weather Underground in the 1960s, he has since made a name for himself in the field of education. He was set to prepare a lecture entitled “Bridges and Borders: Democratic Education in a Time of Crisis.”
The talk was expected to draw a crowd at the conference, which was expected to attract around 8,000 academics to Carleton University.
However, according to the Citizen, Ayers called conference organizers a few days ago and said he couldn’t get an entry visa.
A conference organizer says Ayers will still deliver his Monday lecture by video conference.
“We’re disappointed,” she said. “We were happy to have him come and speak. And so were our members.”
For more on this story, click here.