The Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) and the Athabasca University Graduate Students’ Association (AUGSA) held another successful Graduate Student Research Conference (GSRC) in Edmonton from October 12-14, 2018. The conference provides the opportunity for AU graduate students to present their impressive research, connect with the AU community, and engage in informative presentations and discussions.
This conference was no exception, and it proved to be another energizing and inspiring conference for everyone. The GSRC was well attended by AU graduate students, faculty members, AUGSA, FGS, and numerous volunteers. Over 80 people came together in-person and virtually. Fifty people from all over Canada attended in-person and virtual participants were from Greece, Spain, the USA, and Trinidad.
It takes a lot of commitment and organization to run this conference each year and FGS would like to thank AUGSA, Vikki Bellerose, Krystal Zahara, Kelcey Carlisle, Jonathan Smith, all of the volunteers, and our sponsors. This conference would not have been a success without your spirit and generosity.
This year’s theme Imagine: Transforming Lives, Transforming Communities was based on the themes of the Athabasca University Strategic Plan, Imagine as well as those of the FGS Strategic Plan. Keynote speeches and presentations highlighted some of the important goals of Imagine such as diversity and inclusion, Indigenous education and research, the potential for technology to drive innovation, and strengthening community in research and education. Bringing the AU community together to celebrate student success, foster networking, and provide an opportunity for students to share their research and refine their skills reinforced the strategic themes of FGS, which are collaboration, quality, and service.
The Interim Dean, FGS, Dr. Shawn Fraser opened the first day of the conference. Dr. Fraser welcomed all attendees and shared the generous remarks sent by the Minister of Advanced Education, the Honorable Marlin Schmidt, who would have loved to be able to attend in person. Dr. Fraser introduced our President, Dr. Neil Fassina who provided inspiring comments on the importance of graduate education and the commitment to continued student success through the Imagine plan. We are grateful that Dr. Fassina was able to join us in person. He was very energized to see the room full of graduate students and faculty. Our Provost and Vice President Academic, Dr. Matt Prineas opened the second day of the conference and provided thoughtful remarks about graduate education and the role of graduate students in the Learning Framework and the future of AU.
Dr. Prineas was kind enough to stick around for a bit longer and host a Q&A with our graduate students, which they thoroughly appreciated. It was such a hit that we are considering adding this to our program at the next conference.
The GSRC hosted three excellent keynote speakers. Dr. Schaffer, a Professor of Computing from the University of Alberta, shared a historical overview of his research group’s role in the development of Artificial Intelligence and enlightened the crowd with his insights into the exciting future of AI. His checkers-playing program Chinook was the first computer to win a human world championship (1994), a feat recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records. Dr. Stephanie Ruel, an Assistant Professor of Business at Concordia University and a graduate of the Doctor of Business Administration program at AU, shared her research into gender equity in STEM and her experience working with the Canadian Space Agency. Activist, therapist, and writer Mateo Huezo, a former Master of Counselling student at AU, presented his graduate research around sharing the wisdom of trans gender individuals to promote well-being in communities. Mateo has disseminated his work across the country, and continues to work with The Human Rights Commission and the Pride Centre of Edmonton. An incredible thank you to our keynote speakers for their valuable insights. Stay tuned for next year’s conference as the keynote speakers are a real highlight for students and staff.
The rest of the conference involved many exciting talks from AU graduate students from across all disciplines. These learning opportunities for students and the audience were truly invaluable. Everyone shared in the pride these students demonstrated for their work. In addition to the hard work these students put in to their research and presentations, they are often juggling full-time jobs and family. There was even a son only a few months old that came to support his mom!
AU is extremely proud of our students and so we decided in FGS to begin a couple of initiatives to promote our students and increase their connection to the AU community. We have started a student seminar series in which a student can present their work and discuss research with students and faculty in their discipline. We also decided to take information about students in order to promote their excellent work on a regular basis through FGS communications. You can find this in our FGS weekly announcements!
Throughout the conference we were impressed by the commitment of our students to their education and making a difference in their research. We noted that students felt that the opportunity to present their work and connect with AU and other students was extremely motivating and valuable. We received many positive comments from our students:
“The conference has been a powerful experience. It has removed my fear of being more assertive and passionate about my research and presenting my work.”
“I was able to meet other students in my program and I found this to be very valuable.”
“The conference provided me with the opportunity to connect with the Athabasca University community.”
We will be holding this conference again in 2019 and information will be available in the spring so we hope that faculty and students are able to join us again. For now, please enjoy the photos from the 2018 conference here. We look forward to seeing you again soon.