Trent University’s Canadian Studies Department hosted the symposium “Continuing the Conversations” on May 13 and 14 at Bagnani Hall at Traill College. The symposium celebrated ten years of joint doctoral studies with Carleton University and represented a successful meeting of experts – both new and established – in the interdisciplinary field of Canadian Studies.
“This is an opportunity to reflect on the accomplishments of this joint program and to explore new directions for this field to take,” said Dr. Julia Harrison, director of the Frost Centre for Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies. It is an opportunity to meet and share ideas with colleagues in an intimate and communicative setting. And it is an opportunity to showcase student work and the new voices in Canadian Studies.”
“One of the highlights of my weekend was getting the opportunity to present at this conference,” said Trent Ph.D. candidate, Adam Guzkowski. “In this room you have not only fellow students and peers, but recent graduates, interested community members, and a host of impressive academics. It’s the opportunity to present to people that you have read, cited in your own academic work, and looked up to through years of study. It is an honour.”
Guzkowski was hardly alone in his excitement. With ten different Ph.D. students taking part in presentations and discussions, the morning session on Saturday May 14 was abuzz with enthusiasm, beginning with “New Voices in Canadian Studies: Research Presentations by Canadian Studies Ph.D. Graduates and Students”.
The afternoon sessions focused on the future of Canadian Studies: its role in academia and its challenge to remain relevant. Moderated panels offered presentations and discourse from Canadian Studies faculty from across Canada.
A common theme in the discussion was a continued need for collaboration and diversity.
Jeff Ruhl of Carleton stressed that “Canadian Studies is a collaborative enterprise. We need to strive for more connections, a greater involvement of experts outside the traditional field of Canadian Studies.”
A good deal of conversation also revolved around the need for Canadian Studies to take an active role in current society and debate.
“Canadian Studies without social criticism is irrelevant,” stated York University professor, Dr. Pat Armstrong. “We have to be prepared to take risk and move towards change that is progressive.”
The conference wrapped up on Saturday evening with a celebratory dinner and a presentation on the “Icons of Canada.”
“In academics, it is essential for people to talk to one another,” said Dr. John Wadland, retired Trent University professor of Canadian Studies. “And events like this allow you a comfortable opportunity to approach people you might not ordinarily get to – and to talk to them, and open meaningful dialogue.
Professor Wadland, a pioneer of Canadian Studies at Trent, also saw the need for a continued emphasis on the field. “Canadians have important things to say on the world stage,” he explained. “And as analysts of our nation, we have a responsibility to foster this conversation.”
If the weekend symposium was any indication, that conversation will continue, loudly and vitally.
Posted on Friday, May 20, 2011.