Gripped by the call around “Critical Geographies of Education: Imagining New Educational Futures” as a panel a part of the American Association of Geographers (AAG), I was thrilled by the prospect of engaging in a discussion about the spatiality of education. Drawn to that, and carried by the work of Sara Ahmed, I presented a paper titled, “Not Today Colonizer: Performative Antiracism is Racism.” I had examined the ways in which academic institutions and school boards engage performative antiracism through non-performative speech acts, the strategic act of speaking to racists, and the rhetoric of universal agreement. Specifically, I took up a statement by McGill University on “Truth and Reconciliation and the Residential School System,” the response by the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa in relation to Bill 21 in Québec, and the Toronto District School Board’s anti-Palestinian racism.
Most stunningly, it was the work of the other panelists that reached me in profound ways, providing me with a space of comradery and sustenance as a contemporary and emerging scholar. Their paper presentations were evocative, raw, and visceral and I was moved by the range of topics such as anti-Black racism at universities, carceral care work, racial disproportionality in schools, and the tutelage of African diplomats. I was impressed by how well our works converged and how this panel found its way towards a gathering place for generative possibilities and resistance, despite the many varied but shared marginalities that were discussed. I left feeling a sense of having pushed back against the borders, demarcations, and territorialization often placed on the cartography of education, and imagined, as the call intended to do, educational futures that invigorated me.
Leaving the panel informed by such critical and engaged work, the support from the Education Graduate Students’ Association (EGSA) has been instrumental for me. The EGSA remains a formidable and uplifting community for graduate students in the Faculty of Education, and all its programs and services, including the Academic Support Grant, are indicative of its aim to the make graduate journey accessible and communal.
Billie Jane Hermosura
Thanks to Facebook, I was reminded of the day I was “feeling excited”. It was March 6, 2020. I received confirmation that I had been selected to deliver an oral presentation at the 18th International Congress of Nutrition and Dietetics in Cape Town, South Africa to be held September 2020. With 200+ “likes” and 30+ comments on my Facebook post, I had my first international conference lined up as a PhD student. Shortly thereafter, the global pandemic reared its ugly head.
On September 1, 2021, a year after the original congress date, I had the opportunity to do a virtual presentation for this congress. The silver lining? I was able to present on even more analysis that I completed from 2020/21. The theme of the congress was: Improving nutrition; Unlocking potential; Accelerating change. My research directly addressed “unlocking” the leadership potential of emerging and practicing dietitians. Through my pre-recorded presentation and Q&A engagement in the conference portal, I was able to share my research insights with dietitians and other nutrition professionals in different countries.
Regardless of the change in format, the opportunity to participate in a professional research conference required me to thoughtfully organize my research findings and disseminate to a wider audience. @ClemoRj tweeted “Excellent day of learning at #ICD2021 My top 3 sessions of the day, ‘Leaders wanted’ @BillieJaneTweet… Already looking forward to tomorrow”. Despite missing the opportunity to explore the beauty Cape Town has to offer, the virtual conference provided an opportunity to listen to speakers from all around the world. I am grateful for the professional development and virtual networking opportunities that is much needed at this stage of my research career.
At times, the PhD journey can feel lonely and filled with self-doubt. Participating in an academic or a professional conference breaks the loneliness and provides some assurance that you are making a contribution. In addition, I am grateful to the Education Graduate Students’ Association for financially assisting me through their conference grant. I strongly recommend that all Faculty of Education students apply for this opportunity to help further their own learning and research goals.
This past October, I had the opportunity to attend and present my research at the University of Alberta Institute for Qualitative Methodology’s 25th Annual Qualitative Health Research Conference. Despite Vancouver’s rainy reputation, we were treated to gorgeous fall weather for the entirety of the event. I was grateful to spend my days exploring the depth and breadth of Qualitative research methods and my evenings soaking up the stunning sunsets over the Pacific. I was also grateful for the opportunity to meet so many graduate students, early career researchers, and prominent thought-leaders who have spent their careers defining and advancing qualitative methods in health research. I owe a lot of my own foundational and methodological knowledge to these academics.
I was a little bit nervous to present a portion of my doctoral project at an international conference. I needn’t have been though; everybody was incredibly friendly and supportive. I always get anxious that people will challenge my work with their questions but that wasn’t the case here. My presentation went well, and we were able to have a fascinating discussion about my methods and my findings through the questions posed to me. I was also able to connect with several researchers who have similar interests to mine. I often find it challenging to find a place where my work “fits”. I tend to straddle the border between health and education with a foot in both worlds, which can often feel like I belong to neither. Being able to network with others either working directly in my field or slightly adjacent to my field was a definite benefit of attending such a diverse health research conference.
I find conferences to be an often-needed source of inspiration that reminds me why I decided to pursue my Ph.D. in the first place. This conference was no different; I returned to Ottawa with a renewed excitement for my future in health professions education research. I am incredibly grateful to the Education Graduate Students’ Association for assisting me financially with this opportunity through their conference grant. I certainly recommend that all Faculty of Education students consider applying for this opportunity to help further their own learning and research goals.
A Glimpse into my Experience at Languages Without Borders 2019
On May 2 nd 2019, I had the pleasure of traveling to Fredericton, New Brunswick to attend Languages Without Borders 2019 – a national conference for second language educators. My travel day started off with a few flight delays but luckily, I was not alone. In fact, I was surrounded by several members of the University of Ottawa/second language education community – all of whom were on the same flight as me! This group consisted of deans, professors, and representatives from associations such as Canadian Parents for French and l’Association canadienne des professionnels de l’immersion. Not only was it fun interacting with these individuals on a social level, it simultaneously became an opportunity to network with key individuals in my field of interest.
Interestingly, this conference was my first time presenting with professors. Together, we presented on the Diplôme d’Études en Langue Française (DELF) Correcteur Training in French as a Second Language (FSL) teacher education: Perspectives and possibilities. The DELF is a diploma issued by the French Ministry for National Education and is meant to serve as a certification of language skills for those whose first language is not French. Given the increasing popularity of the DELF in Canada, being a certified corrector is a definite asset for candidates applying to FSL teaching positions. Hence, for the past two years, DELF corrector training has been offered to Year 2 FSL teacher candidates at the University of Ottawa. Initially, I felt a bit nervous at the thought of presenting with professors but I’m proud to say that I was able to hold my own and had no issues in conveying my points clearly and concisely: a grad student win! Following our presentation, we received some excellent comments and questions which will certainly help us in our publications.
In addition to presenting, my other goal in attending this conference was to learn from other researchers and to build relationships. One particular experience that stands out was attending a presentation and keynote by a renowned Canadian researcher in the field of multilingualism – Dr. Roma Chumak-Horbatsch. Following her presentation, I spoke with her and we took a photo together which I later emailed to her. She followed up with queries about my work and then proceeded to share a video about my research with a world-renowned researcher in the field of second language education – Dr. Jim Cummins! Oh, the power of networking!
Overall, I had a wonderful experience in Fredericton and am extremely grateful to the Education Graduate Students’ Association for the academic support grant. I would encourage all Faculty of Education graduate students to consider applying. Who knows what opportunities may come your way…