Conference Highlights

Driven to Learn

The Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) and the Athabasca University Graduate Students’ Association (AUGSA) held the 12th annual multi-disciplinary Graduate Student Research Conference (GSRC) in-person, in Edmonton, AB from Oct. 13-15, 2023 where graduate and undergraduate students at Athabasca University (AU) had an opportunity to network and share research findings and insights.

More than 70 people attended the three-day conference, which featured 30 paper and poster presentations. AU’s signature student research event included participants from across AU. This year’s conference theme, “Driven to Learn,” celebrated the dedication, resiliency, and commitment AU students have to lifelong learning in an ever-changing world.

In his opening speech on Saturday, Dr. Shawn Fraser, dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, spoke about how AU students bring new perspectives, visions, and approaches to research problems. “As professors, we are challenged by students, we learn from them, and they help us grow,” he said. “Our vibrant and dedicated students increase the productivity of professors and the institution.” The theme reflects AU’s values and mission as an inclusive institution where all students feel they are in the right place at the right time in their lives to expand their skills but also create and share impactful knowledge when it is needed most.

Dr. Matthew Prineas, Provost, and VP Academic followed Dr. Shawn Fraser with some inspiring words.

On Sunday, Dr. Alex Clark, Athabasca University President, delivered a warm welcome and greetings to all those in attendance.

Driver Series: 4 pillars of learning at AU

Spread throughout the conference, the Driver Series speakers touched on four pivotal drivers of learning at AU: research dissemination, access to awards and bursaries, finding happiness and balance within academics, and making change with innovative student research. Each speaker brought their unique perspectives on research, emphasizing how integral and important a vibrant research community is to Athabasca University. 

Friday evening, Dr. Andrew Perrin, associate vice-president of research, kicked off the series with his self-titled “un-lecture,” “Driven to Discover: Research as Part of Lifelong Learning.” 

Saturday, Heather Purchase, AU’s strategic initiatives and awards transition manager, presented virtually on graduate funding at AU—what funding types are available, where to find them, who to talk to, and what students can do to ensure they submit a competitive application.

AU President Dr. Alex Clark and Bailey Sousa, associate vice-president of quality, planning, and assessment, delivered a presentation on Sunday called, “Driven for success? The (not so obvious) skills you need.”

Closing the conference on Sunday, Skyler Todd, the graduate student speaker, presented “What are you having? The Lived Experiences of Gender Creative Parents.” 

Congratulations to the top three abstract winners.

The top three abstract winners (sponsored by FGS) were announced at the conference on Saturday morning. They were chosen based on approach, methodology, research findings, and importance. Congratulations to:

First place - Kelly DeCoste, Master of Nursing student for her abstract titled: “Supporting Maternal Mental Health in Nova Scotia:?The Experiences of Registered Nurse Lactation?Consultants.”? 

Second place - Danielle White Eagle Sanford, Master of Counselling for her abstract titled: “Culture is Medicine: Examining a Métis Woman’s?Healing Journey Through Cultural Reconnection.”

Third place winner - Hilary Schmidt, Master of Education in Open, Digital, and Distance Education, for her abstract titled: “Survivors of Complex Trauma as Adult Online Learners: ?A Case Study.”

Conference attendees also voted in real-time on Sunday for the People’s Choice Award. Master of Education in Open, Digital, and Distance Education student Ivy Shawl-Song won the award for her presentation, “A Social Semiotic Analysis of Racialized Digital Images Representing Canada’s Residential School System (a study in progress).

We received many comments from student indicating they found all the presentation inspiring and informative. A few quotes from the post conference survey are below:

“The presentations were very well done, and the students were passionate about their work.”

“It is a great opportunity to connect with others at AU, gain research presentation experience and network.”

“It’s a great community building event.

“The GSRC provides an excellent networking opportunity and allows student presenters to gain valuable experience disseminating research findings.

“Sessions provided a tone of feedback for ongoing/future research.”

“It was a great conference, very well organized, it stayed on time, and the program was great.”

“The conference did a really good job connecting students, professors, and AU staff. I really felt a strong bond in the AU community.”

Register today for the 2024 GSRC!