Congress 2021 goes virtual, poised to make academic history

The University of Alberta is scheduled to host Congress 2021 (C21) from Thursday, May 27 — Friday, June 4, 2021.

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Michael O’Driscoll, Convenor, Congress 2021

The University of Alberta is scheduled to host Congress 2021 (C21) from Thursday, May 27 — Friday, June 4, 2021. An initiative six years in the making, planning for this major event has been a long journey for the local Congress team and that adventure has become only more exciting over recent months.

Traditionally, Congress unites more than 8,000 academics, representing over 70 scholarly associations, to the host campus. The role of partner with the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences affords the University of Alberta the opportunity to showcase our people, spaces, and research excellence to the Canadian academy. Congress provides our students, instructors, and researchers extraordinary access to research dissemination, network building, and professional training, while providing the University an opportunity to build stronger relations with the communities we serve.

Since March 2020, we have all had to make major adjustments to our personal and professional lives due to COVID-19. The pandemic has also had an enormous impact on the planning for C21. With the safety and well-being of our community and guests foremost in mind, in-person gathering on this scale is out of the question, but a shift to a virtual environment presents a number of key advantages.

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The 90th annual Congress offers the University of Alberta an historic opportunity to stage Canada’s largest ever virtual, academic conference. We believe that the University of Alberta is one of the best positioned universities in Canada to contribute to this partnership due to our robust IT infrastructure, outstanding technical expertise, and deep bench strength in virtual conferencing experience.

C21 promises to set new standards for sustainable and affordable conferencing by harnessing digital technology while increasing levels of public engagement and global reach. As a leading research organization, the University of Alberta, along with its partner the Federation, has the opportunity to establish a legacy for future Congress events and academic conferencing in Canada and around the world.

The C21 team is ready to work with the Federation to help associations and their members adopt best practices for virtual conferencing, ensure accessibility and security for all participants, and encourage an innovative repertoire of programming that creates community, provides opportunities for networking, mitigates the physical strain of virtual engagement, and allows for virtual socializing.

The full suite of Congress activities will be included in the virtual platform, including academic exchange, featured scholarly and creative programming, training and professional development, mentorship opportunities, executive and membership meetings, awards ceremonies, trade and publisher activities, book launches, informal discussion spaces, and social gatherings. The partners are also looking at programming options to promote Edmonton’s vibrant cultural community and include online wellness opportunities.

The theme for C21 — Northern Relations — will prominently highlight Indigenous scholarship and perspectives and lead the conversation on combating anti-Black racism. Through our collaborative programming process and virtual best practices, C21 will also provide opportunities for an enhanced focus on equity, diversity, inclusion, and decolonization.

Watch for opportunities to get involved as we look ahead to Congress 2021. This is our chance to make history and showcase our University to the world.

For more on what lies ahead, check out the Federation’s official statement to its association membership.

Michael O’Driscoll, Convenor, Congress 2021, Professor, Faculty of Arts
Al Chapman, Project Manager, Congress 2021