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Conference encourages undergrads to link work with community activism

McGill and Concordia students hope to expand to include French universities

Frustrated by the lack of opportunities available to apply your undergraduate work off-campus? Well, now’s your chance: this April’s second-annual Study in Action conference aims to bridge the gap between academic research and activism.

Organized by students from McGill and Concordia in conjunction with the Concordia chapter of the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG), Study in Action combines presentations of student research with workshops hosted by community organizations. QPIRG-Concordia Coordinator Nathalie Cohen said the conference’s goal is to bring young academics into the community.

“The idea for the conference came from the coordinators’ feeling that there was a gap between what they were doing in school and their desire to have a greater impact on their community,” Cohen said.

The theme of this year’s conference is social and environmental justice.

“Our intent is to study and discuss how environmental degradation is disproportionately shouldered by marginalized communities,” said co-coordinator Emilie Connolly, a U3 McGill Cultural Studies student.

“Combining student presenters and community groups is unique because it lets you see the linkages between research and on-the-ground work,” she added.

The conference groups student presenters based on the themes of their research papers. They each present their papers, and then discuss the theme in a two-hour panel.

“So many times as an undergraduate, you feel like you’re in a bubble and no one reads what you write and you don’t read what other people write…. So it was nice to have some discourse on it,” said U3 McGill Arts student and Daily staffer Naomi Lightman, who presented a paper on aboriginal health on native reserves in Canada at the conference last year.

Community organizations will host workshops to complement the talks. Last year’s community organizations included Head and Hands, Solidarity Across Borders, and Colours of Resistance. This year’s organizations are not yet confirmed.

One of Study in Action’s long-term goals is to become fully bilingual, which will allow it to connect with all the Montreal universities. In the meantime, submissions are welcomed in both French and English.

About 100 participants attended the conference last year. Cohen hopes to have at least double the turn-out this year.

“April is a tricky time of year to run a conference,” Cohen said, pointing to students’ exam schedules. But by calling for submissions and advertising earlier in the semester, she hopes to hook students in before they get busy.

The deadline for submissions to is March 24. Study in Action runs from April 18 to 20 at Concordia.