The Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences (formerly known as the Learneds) is the largest interdisciplinary academic gathering in Canada, and next year it will be held at Carleton University.
More than 8,000 Canadian and international delegates are expected to be on campus from May 23 to 31, 2009, to attend workshops, plenaries, a book fair and the annual meetings of their scholarly associations.
“I know that I could be panicked at this point by all the work that has to be done to host the congress, but I’m not,” laughs Linda Rossman, one of Carleton’s associate university librarians, and the academic convenor for the congress. “There is such great support from the university community already—it’s like everyone is on my planning committee—so I know that we will be ready by May 2009.”
Preparation for the congress actually began in 2004. At the invitation of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences (CFHSS), the university submitted a bid that year and was selected as the 2009 host 16 months later. The CFHSS has overall responsibility for the congress each year.
After the university and the CFHSS signed the contract, in 2006, to establish the responsibilities of both institutions, planning moved to the next stage.
Reporting directly to Feridun Hamdullahpur (the provost and vice-president [academic]), Rossman and the logistics convenor, Ed Kane (assistant vice president [university services]) have spent the last six months assembling their working groups and taking obvious “first steps”.
These include booking all available classrooms (165), residence accommodation (1,653 rooms) and large social spaces on campus.
They have also been identifying the technical needs (e.g., provision of audiovisual services and availability of equipment).
In addition, senate has approved the deferral of all classes during the week of the congress.
Ed Kane knows that providing logistical support for the congress is a huge challenge and, like Rossman, believes that the campus community will be ready.
“Those of us on the organizing committee are getting the necessary support from everyone we have met with or spoken to in order to allow Carleton to shine to academics, graduate students and speakers from all over Canada.
To ensure that the planning process is thorough, Rossman and members of the logistics committee went to the University of British Columbia in early March to meet with this year’s congress planning team. As Rossman explains, the last time Carleton hosted the congress was in 1993, so it was critical to talk to those who have been more recently involved. The Carleton team also plans to attend the 2008 congress in May because, as she says, “it is very important to see how things work just by experiencing it ourselves.” In addition, they will staff an exhibit booth, promoting Carleton as the host for 2009.
Next steps include determining logistics requirements for services, such as catering and dining, and working with an academic advisory committee to choose a congress theme.
While the congress represents a significant commitment of both financial and human resources, John Osborne, the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, is quite clear that the benefits of hosting this event far outweigh any costs that the university will incur.
“Apart from the fact that teaching and research are what we are about, and that research cannot thrive in a vacuum, there are clear benefits in terms of recruitment and retention of outstanding faculty, as well as the recruitment of excellent graduate students.” Readers interested in learning more about the congress can visit www.fedcan.ca/english/congress/about.