This was the first time for me to attend the CSSE conference at Congress, and the experience was incredible in every way. On top of it all, as a graduate student, the conference provided invaluable opportunities to boost my academic growth. I presented my paper on lifelong learning of diasporic Chinese scholars through transnational community of practice at a roundtable session of the Canadian Committee for Graduate Students in Education (CCGSE/CCÉDÉ), where a roundtable of ten conference attendees discussed my paper and the paper of another graduate student. It was a privilege for me to be accompanied by professors, scholars, and more experienced graduate students, who came for our presentations, made notes about what we put forth, shared their insights and personal experiences, and kindly provided comments and feedbacks. It was a precious opportunity for me to see how my research was received by researchers beyond my university and beyond my own research area.
I also presented my research in a multi-paper session for the Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education (CASAE), whose annual conference was also held at Congress in collaboration with CSSE. This, I believe, was a huge benefit for attending CSSE at Congress, as you can reach out to multiple associations, special interest groups both within CSSE and beyond, at the same time, on one campus, not to mention the perks of free attendance at the CASAE and Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education (CSSHE) conferences.
Apart from presenting in a CASAE session, I also had the opportunity to attend several multi-paper sessions and panel discussions hosted by Comparative and International Education Society of Canada (CIESC) as well as a spotlight session hosted by Canadian Association for Teacher Education (CATE). These presentations touched upon important issues on education, including transnational migration and inter/cross-cultural teaching and learning, internationalization of higher education, issues of race, gender, and ethnicity, indigenous knowledge, and education for refugee children in Canada. I was awed by the breadth and depth of critical reflections on contemporary educational issues demonstrated in the presentations and post-presentation discussions, and I also gained inspiration for my own research.
I found that the CSSE conference app for mobile phones is a powerful and convenient tool for conference attendees to navigate through the multitude of sessions each day. The app allows users to create a personalized conference agenda, which was invaluable during the busy days and evenings.
What I also liked about CSSE conference was the sense of community that added meaning to my research and to my identity as a budding researcher. Community is not just a repertoire of knowledge. Rather, it is the very existence of knowledge. Being present at association conferences, I got to see and know the people behind the printed names. I got to know that our research matters, not only to our own inquisitive mind, but also to others who shared our doubts and concerns. I got to feel that together we could uphold the standards of excellence in our academic community, and together we could make an impact. I attended the CSSE reception on May 28, where a number of awards were presented in recognition of outstanding individual services to the CSSE community. Of particular note was the presentation of the CCGSE mentorship award to Dr. Bonny Norton, for remarkable mentorship of her graduate students. Such spotlight moments delivered the message that graduate students are valued and supported in our community, and that there are role models for community members to follow.
There were many receptions to attend, each featuring inviting local food and food for thought in the casual conversations that continued from discussions begun during the day’s sessions. Talking to peers over food and drink, the conversations covered our own research and then moved on to explore how we navigate our academic life and future careers. We shared information on scholarships, funding opportunities, and career options, all of which helped inform me about life as a PhD student in Canada.
In general, I really appreciate all the considerate planning and smooth operation of this year’s conference, and I will definitely attend next year’s conference in Vancouver. I now have friends and scholars whom I anticipate meeting and greeting. The four-day CSSE conference in Regina was intensive, honestly speaking, but more importantly, it was a rewarding learning experience, for I realized that in the embrace of a supportive community, my scholarly pursuit will not be a solo endeavour.
MA student in Adult Learning
University of Calgary