The Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) and the Athabasca University Graduate Students’ Association (AUGSA) held the annual Graduate Student Research Conference (GSRC) in Leduc from October 25-27, 2019. This 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 year’s conference proved to be another energizing and inspiring event. Close to 90 graduate students, faculty members, guest speakers, and volunteers came together in-person or virtually. Over sixty people from all over Canada attended in-person and some virtual guests joined in from as far away as Los Angeles and Baton Rouge.
This year’s theme was “One AU”. As stated in the Athabasca University strategic plan, Imagine, “We are one university. We achieve more together.” We embrace collaboration and connectivity among our diverse individual community members. We are a vibrant and inclusive community that welcomes and celebrates the success of our learners. We provide accessibility to education for everyone to achieve their individual learning goals and to reach their highest potential. Our learners are part of our community, and in turn can enrich their communities.
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, and countless other volunteers and sponsors. This conference would not have been a success without your spirit and generosity.
Dr. Dietmar Kennepohl kicked off the conference on Friday evening as the guests arrived for the meet n’ greet session. Dr. Kennepohl provided a light and lively evening speech on the topic, The Importance of Being Earnest.
Dr. Shawn Fraser, Interim Dean FGS, opened the conference on Saturday, shared remarks sent by the Minister of Advanced Education, the Honorable Demetrios Nicolaides, and introduced Athabasca University President, Dr. Neil Fassina. President Fassina connected with the students by emphasizing the importance of graduate education in society and by sharing some of his own experiences as a graduate student.
Provost and Vice President Academic, Dr. Matt Prineas opened the second day of the conference and provided thoughtful remarks about graduate education. He also presented the awards to the winners of the three best abstracts to Tara Diakow (1st place winner), Shelby Hopland Guidi (2nd place winner), and Claire Granson (3rd place winner).
The GSRC hosted four excellent keynote speakers, all from AU and each representing a different faculty. Dr. Dietmar Kennepohl, a Professor of Chemistry from the Faculty of Science and Technology, emphasized the importance of being earnest in creating connections and forming networks.
Dr. Janelle Baker, an Assistant Professor from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and a recent Canadian Graduate Studies Association Dissertation of the Year award winner, shared her meaningful research on wild-food sovereignty on Indigenous communities. Dustin Purnell, a graduate of the Master of Counselling Program from the Faculty of Health Disciplines, and the AU winner of the 2018 3MT competition, captivated attendees describing his jump-rope therapy, which has transformed the lives of youth. Peggy Flannigan, a current student in the Doctor of Business Administration program in the Faculty of Business, enlightened students and staff with her research on strengthening distributed communities.
An incredible thank you to our keynote speakers for their valuable insights. We received many comments from students indicating that they found all of the talks extremely inspiring and informative.
The conference also included a panel on mental health that highlighted experiences, research, strategies, and resources. The panel was successful in creating a safe space for attendees and making the issue very relatable. Thank you very much to Camille McRae, Dr. Tracy Orr, Dr. Shauna Reckseidler-Zenteno, and Karen Thompson for their compassionate and informative presentations.
The conference involved many exciting talks from AU graduate students from across all disciplines. Dr. Shauna Reckseidler-Zenteno, Vice Dean Operations, FGS, was extremely impressed with the research and the high quality of the student presentations. Many other attendees noted the high calibre of the talks and our AU students. Congratulations!
AU is extremely proud of our students. In FGS we are continuing to accept nominations for student stories to be featured on the Hub and for volunteers to participate in our student research seminar series. Please contact FGS. You can find this in our FGS weekly announcements!
The commitment of our students to their educational journey is always impressive. Students stated that the Graduate Student Research Conference increased the value of their AU education. We received many positive comments from our students:
“I had a great experience at this year’s conference. It was really well organized and a great opportunity to meet with people from my own faculty and others as well. Also, it is such a supportive environment and was a pleasure to present.”
“This year’s conference provided so many wonderful opportunities for connection and community building. Being able to participate in such an electric atmosphere will stay with me for years to come.”
“I began the conference a stranger and left a colleague.”
“To feel the passion, and enthusiasm of fellow students through face‐to‐face dialogue, including meeting those I have interacted with online in person for the first time, has created a whole new dimension of learning value for me.”
We will be holding this conference again in 2020 and information will be available in the spring, so we hope that faculty and students are able to join us again. We look forward to seeing you next year!