The Importance of Conferences in the Humanities

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Hi everyone!

My name is Bethan and I graduated from Bishop’s University in December 2013 with an Honours in English Literature and a minor is Psychology. In 2012 and 2013 I was a senior organizer, delegate, and editor of the QUEUC conference proceedings. As QUEUC’s 10-year anniversary approaches, I find myself reflecting on the importance of humanities in an increasingly unpredictable world.

After nearly 5 years with a humanities degree, I’ve heard all the jokes. There seems to be this absurd misunderstanding that the humanities are a lesser field of study than the sciences. Sure, there can be more than one “correct” answer to a prompt but that only makes the discipline more obscure, and certainly no easier to learn. That is not to say that there is no place for science. Science is the backbone of humanity, the fundamental drives that keep us evolving as a species. If science is the HEART that keeps us alive, then the humanities are the SOULS that inform our lives and behaviours. Science gives information and humanity interprets it. The sciences and the humanities are inextricably linked – each continuously influencing and informing the other in perpetuity.

Traditionally, academia was something that was reserved for lifelong academics who sat in dusty archives or offices piled high with papers scratching away their thoughts and opinions in solitude. However, in the 21stcentury, thanks to operations like HEART and SOULS, academia is being brought into the light and thrust into the hands of the young and the eager. QUEUC, and now H&S, are exceptional examples of how undergraduate research and conferences can shape the way we think, behave, and live.

H&S attracts a wide variety of personalities, opinions, and perspectives from all over the world that are shared and debated in an open environment that fosters collaboration with a mutual love of learning and a never-ending quest for knowledge. These intellectually nurturing environments are increasingly important as the political, environmental, and sociological climates of our world change. Through these conferences, we learn to listen and respect others’ viewpoints, we do our utmost to see things from the speaker’s perspective, and, when we disagree, we do so respectfully, armed with evidence. The eagerness for knowledge and discussion, rather than the necessity of being right, is paramount. It is conferences like H&S that will engender and empower generations to respect, discuss, and take calculated, responsible action. When we fuse science and humanity we produce minds that are conscious of their actions, mindful of their impact, and courageous in their pursuit of harmony.

Student-lead conferences, like HEART & SOULS, endeavor to teach us to learn relentlessly, wholeheartedly without bias or trepidation, to coexist harmoniously, and disagree with humility. Let us strive for understanding but be humble in face of our ignorance. Happy Birthday QUEUC, may this year, and all the years that follow, be filled with as much inspiration, collaboration, and fun as ever!

- Bethan Chalke, Conference Alumna