UNBSJ English students travel to PEI conference

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The time came once again for the members of the discipline that goes against every parental and societal expectation to meet for their annual celebration of subversion. From March 3rd-5th, the University of Prince Edward Island hosted the 35th Annual Atlantic Undergraduate English Conference on their campus.

A conference dedicated to English and Arts students, chosen representatives from Atlantic universities had the opportunity to present their creative and academic work to their peers.

Several universities participate in the conference each year, including Mount Allison, UNB Fredericton, Saint Mary’s, UPEI, and, of course, UNB Saint John. A two-day event, AAUEC follows a tight schedule of presentations, with four blocks of three panels each on Saturday. The panels “represent fields from rhetoric and critical theory to gender and magic”, according to UPEI’s website.

Each panel consists of about 3-4 presenters. Students can choose from their interests which panels to attend outside of their assigned presentation. AAUEC provides students with the opportunity to present a fifteen-minute presentation, and their peers are then invited to ask questions afterward. AAUEC advertises itself as “a wonderful opportunity for students to experience a conference setting—which is especially useful for students who plan to pursue higher education beyond their undergrad degrees.”

Ryan Harley, an academic representative of UNBSJ at the conference, feels that “[he was] fortunate to have been able to present [his] research at this time-honoured conference and engage with my Atlantic colleagues. It is inspiring to be reminded that you are part of a larger academic community doing important and relevant work.” He felt that the conference was endlessly beneficial.

Rachel Friars reads from her short stories.

Beyond academic pursuits, AAUEC recognizes the contribution of creative writers to the English and Arts programs, encouraging universities to send creative writing presenters along with their academic writers. This year, UNBSJ sent three academic presenters and one creative writer to UPEI.

However, it isn’t all essay-reading and academia. This year, UPEI organized an evening of creative writing on Friday night in which poets from multiple universities read their collections alongside one short play. Saturday night was dedicated to the celebratory banquet, gathering all the students together at the end of the weekend.

Jennifer McDevitt attended the conference this year and appreciated all the work that UPEI has done.

“They definitely did a great job organizing the events and making us all feel welcome – it’s not an easy feat when you’ve got rooms full of mostly-quiet English majors, so extra kudos to them for making it fun,” she stated.

By providing an open space for students to share their ideas in a way that invites discussion, AAUEC breaks down the borders between universities.

“Being able to talk to and hear the ideas of various talented English students was definitely rewarding,” McDevitt says.

Harley agrees, saying that “having the opportunity to watch [his] classmates present their compelling research and creative writing to faculty and peers from across the region was a special experience, which is a testament to the strength of our English programs at UNBSJ.”

There is no word yet on what university will be hosting the conference next year, but for more information on this year’s conference and previous year’s, visit AAUEC’s official website and upei.ca.