Re-Imagined Call for Proposals (RI-CFP)

Traditions Re-Imagined:
Learning, Unlearning, and Relearning Teaching

Listen to an oral reading of our RI-CFP (Re-Imagined Call for Proposals) by CTL’s Executive Director, Dr. Tommy Mayberry.

RI-CFP Oral Reading Thick Description Transcripts, with Notes and Links:

[The visuals for this oral reading is a poster-like image on the CTL YouTube that, on the left hand side, has the University of Alberta green and gold colours together with white that says, “Re-Imagined Call for Proposals” - and in parentheses are the letters “RI, hyphen, CFP.” And then it says, “Festival of Teaching and Learning” in gold near the middle and “Dr. Tommy Mayberry” at the bottom in white. It also includes the visuals of the sound wave pattern in gold that moves as Tommy is talking. Then, on the right hand side of the poster-like cover image, is a picture of Tommy taken at her PhD Defense. She defended her PhD in drag, and for that day, she was wearing a red wig with a black- and red-striped top with a little black bolero jacket. Tommy is sitting, and she is looking at one of her Examiners, and she is wearing a mask because that day, the University of Waterloo (where Tommy did their PhD) re-implemented a mask mandate across all campus-wide activity the same day as Tommy’s Defense. Tommy is squinting her eyes in the picture as she looks at and talks with her Examiner, and you can't quite tell (because of the mask) but Tommy is smiling, hence her squinted eyes here.]

          “Hey Google,” Tommy says out loud facing the laptop screen of their U of A-issued laptop, backlit as it always is with fifty-kabillion tabs and windows open and music playing from…somewhere. “Please open a new Google doc.”
          Tommy sits there as Google snaps open a brand new window eclipsing the rest, and they bite lip to the left side of their mouth as they stare at that Blinking Cursor of Doom staring back at them and right down there into their soul. It pulses flashingly, and the gray-scaled shadow words “Type @ to insert” don’t help them in the least with knowing where or how to start. Their eyes flick up to the left-hand corner of the screen where a similarly gray-scaled, shadowed phrase unitalicized sits looming, too: “Untitled document.”
          That could be an easy start, Tommy thinks to themself, and changes “Untitled document” to “Re-Imagined Call for Proposal (RI-CFP)” and then continues to sit there. Just sittin’, starin’.
“Humpf!” Tommy exhales, and sits up straighter at their laptop, fingers dancing in the air above the keyboard, and starts typing:

          Have you been thinking about participating in U of A’s annual Festival of Teaching and Learning (FoTL) but don't know how to start, where to start, why to start, what to even start with? Do you ever think of FoTL and think that perhaps you need not have nor want a formal paper? [Tommy’s tone and pitch increase here almost confusedly] (And what even is a “formal paper” anyways? …and do you even know of FoTL and/or think of FoTL, in any case?) [Tommy’s voice returns to their habitual tone and pitch] But maybe you still want to engage, right? Meaningfully, authentically, robustly, and bravely? Maybe you know the topic of conversation you really, really want to engage in in this year’s hybrid Festival, but you don’t have the time, the capacity, the sheer will nor strength to even just do the thang…but you still want to be a part of this conversation at this moment with this Festival? [Tommy’s tone, pitch, and pace increase here] (…and why is it even called a “festival” anyway and not a “conference”?) And, perhaps most importantly (or, most auspiciously), you sometimes feel (I know I do, Tommy thinks) intimidated by CFPs and their haughty prose and seemingly impenetrable restrictions, timelines, word counts, etc.? [Slight pause, then Tommy’s tone sharpens ironically] (Inauspicious? Unauspicious? I’m supposed to be good with words, Tommy thinks, but none are coming to me powerfully right now…)

          “None may be coming to me,” Tommy says, lifting their fingers from the keyboard. “But our FoTL Steering Committee certainly had them.” 

          Tommy closes their eyes for a moment and thinks back to their high-energy, high-impact FoTL Steering Committee meetings and tries to conjure up what the group of them were so wonderfully saying in brainstorming how to move toward decolonizing a Call for Proposals and how to re-imagine what a Call for Proposals even is and even could look like, sound like, reach-out-powerfully-into-our-community like. 
Something about intentional conversations and how we're wanting to foster and push toward intentional conversations in our U of A teaching and learning community, as our U of A teaching and community, and, yes, with our U of A teaching and learning community. Kind of like a meta- approach to it, almost: if we want relational work - and relational networking - at this year’s Festival and in future Festivals to come, how do we create or at least shift the tradition of the CFP itself? How do we shift power, too, so that it can be dynamic and also relational? Conversations to build that relational capacity. Real conversations, not just or not only pre-formed, prepared papers and panels that leave our peers in the “hot seat” (so to speak) for unidirectional Q+A instead of equal, equitable discussion that lasts and lasts. 
What the Steering Committee is wanting to experiment with is a shift from the traditional understanding of sharing expert paper-y kind of stuff, so that also we are hoping that the intentional conversations can remove the spotlight from presenters after they present their paper, and then maybe we can have a Steering Committee member, or a CTL team member, or even a community member, kind of, you know, facilitate a conversation on the content rather than the experts standing sage-on-the-stage-y kind of thing. I don’t know, Tommy thinks, does this even make sense? Part of this idea would be, you know, openly saying, like transparently telling the U of A teaching and learning community at the level of the CFP that we want this year’s Festival to incorporate, to embody, opportunities to decolonize (to re-imagine the tradition of, yes!) the hot seat and get out of that hot seat.
Would this kind of approach to re-imagining a traditional CFP maybe push folks to be a bit braver and take those risks, Tommy thinks, take those risk to say to CTL and to the Steering Committee in proposing something that, “I didn't write a paper, I don’t want to write a paper, and I don't have the answers but I'm bringing the questions” or “I’m bringing a celebration from my classroom, or a risk I took where I fabulously failed and fell on my face in front of my students but we ALL learned something.” We all learned, unlearned, and relearned something, as Dr. Frankie might say, Tommy thinks.1 It's not the academic performative kind of conversation we mean when we say intentional conversations, but it’s actually just human bodies showing up and engaging meaningfully. (And human bodies are vulnerable bodies, so showing up and engaging vulnerably, too.) [slight pause] And it’s ongoing work, too, right? Tommy thinks after a slight pause. What was it that kokum wrote with her powerful Indigenous women collaborators at the U of A again? quote “[R]econciliation is not an immediate goal…it must be an ongoing process that helps to achieve decolonization and the disruption of settler colonialism.”2 endquote Yes. This.
Could someone propose, then, “nothing” but just express their interest and their dedication to being a kind of “conversation leader” or “conversation facilitator” at this year’s Festival? You know, leaders for the discussions. And so their role is leading a discussion rather than presenting, right? Yeah: absolutely. If we’re saying that you literally don't have to and shouldn’t have to do anything other than show up and engage, why can’t that be clocked in a Call for Proposals as a true, honest, and authentic proposal in itself? A proposal to engage; a proposal to lead; a proposal to show up. Again, yeah…absolutely.
Because participants are important to this, and at the level of the Call for Proposals we should not be focusing solely on the people who are bringing ideas because we know, we know, that participants and Festival-goers, too, can and do bring ideas. Participating is doing just as presenting is doing: we need BOTH engagements to move forward in a good way3 since doing, of course, is part of our individual and collective learning, unlearning, and relearning of teaching here at the U of A. There is never just one monolithic way to participate and engage powerfully and make this Festival work: Propose something traditionally, by all means, yes! But don’t let tradition foreclose on your active engagement in this year’s Festival. You literally don't have to do anything except show up. Show up hybridly: click into that Zoom, or go to that room and log-in for increased social presence. Just show up.

          “Well,” Tommy says, opening their eyes and once again lifting their fingers from the keyboard and scrolling back up to look at the mess of the Google doc they just typed into existence. “I wonder if this will be helpful.”
Tommy bites their lip again to the left one more time and thinks, I need my folks on the Steering Committee with me on this: I can’t do it alone

          Tommy moves their mouse cursor to the top right-hand corner of the screen now and clicks the blue “Share” button. They add each of the 2023 FoTL Steering Committee members to the Google doc as Editors and click “Done.” 
But it’s not done, Tommy thinks, and smirks. 

All submissions are due by 11:59pm MST on Friday, February 24th, 2023 and will go through a peer review process.

And if all this re-imagining of the tradition of CFPs as a genre is not your style, not helpful, and/or not guiding enough, no worries at all! Check out the FoTL 2023 Traditional Call for Proposals (T-CFP) for that genre with its language, goals, and processes. There’s never just one method, nor just one genre, toward whole person engagement in academia.


1. Frankie Condon, I Hope I Join the Band: Narrative, Affiliation, and Antiracist Rhetoric. Utah State UP, 2012, p.163.

2. Jennifer Ward, Cindy Gaudet, and Tricia McGuire-Adams, “The Privilege of Not Walking Away: Indigenous Women’s Perspectives of Reconciliation in the Academy.” aboriginal policy studies, 9.2 (2021): 3-24; p. 6.

3. ”The phrase “in a good way” is adopted and adapted from the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit traditional knowledge principle of ᑐᙵᓇᕐᓂᖅ Tunnganarniq, which means “Fostering good spirit by being open, welcoming and inclusive.” (“Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit,” Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB).