January 19, 2007
By Colleen MacPherson
It’s barely the middle of January but Lea Pennock and Rick Bunt are already thinking about the flowerbeds in the bowl.
They are also thinking about classrooms, and hors d’oeuvers, and concerts, and the weather, and all the myriad details that go into organizing Canada’s largest academic conference which comes to the U of S campus May 26-June 2. Pennock, the University secretary, and Bunt, associate vice-president of information and communications technology, are executive co-sponsors of Congress 2007, an event they know will require a lot of help from a lot of people on campus to ensure its success.
“Now that we’ve turned the calendar to 2007, things are really starting to gear up,” said Bunt.
Over 5,000 delegates will, at various times over the eight days, attend meetings of some 70 scholarly societies, all taking place under the banner of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences. Congress is held annually at different Canadian universities. The U of S last played host in 1979 and views Congress 2007 as a major event in this centennial year, said Bunt.
The impact of the conference is enormous,” Pennock said. All classes have been cancelled for its duration, and the date of spring convocation has been moved into early June. “Our facilities are their facilities for those eight days.”
Staging Congress requires “a tremendous effort on the part of many, many people” who have already spent months on planning, she said. They include members of an advisory committee from upper levels of administration, plus a core planning group – conference chair Hans Michelmann, vice-chair Paul Bidwell, Lynn Guina who oversees finance and logistics, sponsorship director Joan Tilk, and Kathryn Warden handling communications. Sub-committees have been set up to assist with all aspects of the event including cultural activities and sponsorships.
Pennock explained the role of executive co-sponsors is to oversee planning, but always with an eye to ensuring Congress meets the University’s interests. As an example, Bunt said the University is exploring ways to capitalize on the unique opportunities Congress offers to attract potential students, faculty and even administrators (see related story below).
Overseeing the budget and making sure “the University receives good value for its substantial investment in this initiative” is also the responsibility of the co-sponsors, said Bunt. The University’s portion of the total $1.8 million event budget is about $600,000, and the approach the co-sponsors are taking is one they describe as prudent extravagance.
“We want the Bowl to look wonderful,” Bunt said. “We want planters in the buildings. We want to do a great job on the food. We want to show off what we can do with technology. Nobody at the University is going to make any money on Congress because the Federation gets the registration fees, so our central goal is to showcase our University.”
Bunt and Pennock agree Congress, the largest conference ever held in Saskatoon, will have an immediate economic benefit to the city but there are significant gains to be made in terms of the University’s reputation. The key is to not view Congress as an ‘extra’ event because, according to Bunt, preparations “will translate into day-to-day work for many people on campus.”
More information about Congress 2007: Bridging Communities, can be found at www.fedcan.ca/congress2007