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The Conference You Wish Existed – A DIY Approach

I’ve been involved in conference planning before but this time is the first that I’ve actually come up with a conference that I wanted to make happen. It required me to take a chance on believing that “if you build it, they will come,” and lo and behold, it was true.

This might be a strange analogy, but at some point recently, I understood with sudden clarity why certain ideas want to be expressed as songs and why certain things make sense as poems and so on. I think this is the concept of exploiting a medium for what it can uniquely do. And I had the same flash of understanding this year with respect to conferences. In short, I no longer saw them as an obligatory formal variation of academic life, but rather as a modality I could leverage to bring together a group of thinkers that I wanted to talk to – and who would want to talk to me.

Designed by Alex Ferko

Designed by Alex Ferko

My research is on boredom and so, with a colleague (Cultural Studies’ Ian Alexander Cuthbertson) who had just come back from a particularly well designed conference, we dreamed up Engaging Boredom: A One Day Symposium for the Theory and Practice of Resisting, Embracing, and Understanding Boredom. (It’s on April 26 at Wallace Hall – you should come). We wound up with proposals from military personnel who wanted to talk about boredom and war from their experience in tours of duty in Afghanistan, filmmakers who had done experimental long takes or used found footage of political scenes to critique boredom as the opiate of the people, a local politician who intended to talk about boredom and political apathy, psychologists who wanted to talk about boredom and self-control, musicians who wanted to play a piece written with ennui in mind, and so on.

In order to make it happen, we sought a lot of help from various Queen’s sources. We’re grateful to have received Here are some ideas for you to consider if you intend to plan your own conference on campus:

  • The Student Initiative Fund
  • The AMS Special Projects Fund
  • The SGPS Grants Program
  • Approaching individual programs and departments (they will likely have some monies budgeted for supporting student scholarly initiatives, and if you catch them before they’re overburdened and make a case for why it might matter to their faculty and students, you may be met with some generosity – and if not, at least with an encouraging word.)
  • The Book Store (if you get a signed letter noting that your initiative is sponsored by a campus program or department, they will offer some small swag – pens, folders, tote bags)
  • The SGPS (can offer some promotional mugs)
  • The Belvedere Hotel has a special Queen’s rate
  • VIA Rail also offers certain university and military discounts, which you might consider depending on who you’re bringing in from where

My colleague, had a contact who was a freelance writer and was able to drum up interest from a national magazine. You might consider getting in touch with local media or some specialized outlet for your event.

If you know of other sources of support, comment below and share.

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