ISSBD conference aligned with U of A goals

(Edmonton) The University of Alberta is playing host to the 2012 meeting of the International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development, a biennial interdisciplinary conference being held at the Shaw Conference Centre.

The event, only the fifth time the conference has been hosted in North America since 1971, has drawn over 900 participants from more than 50 countries for four days of symposiums and presentations.

As a welcome to the university, a message from U of A President Indira Samarasekera noted that the organization and the institution have similar goals and encouraged the collaborative exploration that will take place over five days.

“The mission of ISSBD is strongly aligned with the University of Alberta's commitment to link diverse and interdisciplinary groups of scholars from around the world to engage in discovery, the generation and dissemination of new knowledge, and the application of integrative research,” she wrote. “Our campus is highly supportive of the goals of ISSBD. We always warmly welcome students and researchers to join our community on an adventurous course for the betterment of the global society.”

Lisa Strohschein, conference co-chair and U of A sociologist, says the full spectrum of human development is covered by the presentations at this conference. Representation from areas including rehabilitation medicine, human ecology, sociology and psychology speaks to the interdisciplinary nature of the research that this conference represents.

Beyond the representation of U of A research, one of the distinct aspects of this conference is the significant presence of early-career scholars. About 45 per cent of the attendees are within their first seven years of their doctoral careers. Strohschein is proud that the committee was able to secure funding to help some of them attend and participate in the conference.

“We are a global community and we’re bringing people from around the world to hear leading ideas; to exchange ideas with one another; and to grow, collaborate and push the field forward. I’m really excited about our ability to do that,” she said. “The University of Alberta is trying to attract the very best from around the world. And this has been just a great week to showcase what the U of A and Edmonton are about.”

The conference is also an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students alike to partake in such a research-intensive event. More than 100 students have volunteered to be part of the event. Strohschein notes that many of them have already spoken to her about the impact that socializing and listening to the renowned international scholars in attendance, or discovering personal eureka moments in keynote presentations, has had on them. In many ways, she says, the spark of knowledge and discovery has been ignited through their participation—and that is the ultimate goal of the professor as educator.

“The people that they’re reading about in textbooks are here giving talks and they’re interacting with them, so this is really special for them,” she said. “After [keynote speaker] Michael Meaney’s talk, I was speaking with a bunch of graduate students, and they were so excited about his talk, saying, ‘I can see how this applies to my own research.’

“Having those ‘a-ha’ moments is really what we’re all about as professors, as educators—trying to bring across those moments so that someone else can take the torch forward and say, ‘I have this idea, I want to do something with it.’”