By Jim Hynes
You’ve seen the big, white tent erected on Lower Field, heard the speeches and music coming from inside it, and literally smelled the coffee from the little truck parked out front. But do you know what it’s all about?
McGill is playing host this week to the annual conference of CACUSS, the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services. (See About CACUSS below to learn more). The conference brings together approximately 750 Student Affairs and Services employees of Canadian post-secondary institutions (and some American and even Aussie colleagues, too) for four days filled to the brim with more than 1,000 sessions, keynotes, meetings, and yes…some good times.
“We tried to make this year’s Conference reflective of Montreal as well as the work that we do, and the theme was ‘Passion’ this year, so we were really trying to make it fun,” says Jana Luker, Executive Director of Student Services at McGill, a member of the CACUSS Board of Director and one of the Co-Chairs of the 2013 Conference’s Organizing Committee. “It probably has a lot to do with the city.”
Luker and fellow McGill organizing committee members, including Co-chair Cindy Mancuso (Career Development Advisor, Student Services), and bolstered this week by some 150 volunteers and over the course of the year by support from CACUSS itself, have been working on the Conference for over a year. The result is a massive event, with individual sessions taking place in the tent, the Arts Building, Burnside Hall, the Brown Building, Leacock and in various downtown Montreal locations as well.
And fun aside, the ultimate goal of the conference organizers is to help the attendees go back to their colleges and universities and provide better services to their clients – the students.
“And that’s what we’re all about,” Luker says. “People come for different reasons, but to do professional development is incredibly important in our field because we have to stay on top of things. Right now mental health issues are huge and the students have other evolving needs, and that’s what we respond to with different technology and that kind of thing. But a lot of it is support too… from other professional colleagues across the country, and networking… There are so many different reasons to come to a large conference with like-minded people. “
The Conference’s keynote address was delivered this afternoon (Wednesday) by Canadian Paralympics legend Chantal Petitclerc. After another full day tomorrow, it will wrap up with a closing banquet at the Palais des Congrès.
McGill last hosted the CACUSS Annual Conference in 2001. The 2014 edition will take place June 8-11 at the World Trade Centre in Halifax, N.S.
Learn more about CACUSS here.
The Canadian Association of College and University Student Services (CACUSS) is a comprehensive organization consisting of six main divisions:
• The Canadian Association of Disability Service Providers in Post Secondary Education (CADSPPE)
CADSPPE is a national group of professionals who assist university and college students who have a disability.
• The Student Conduct and Academic Integrity Association (SCAIA)
Student Conduct and Academic Integrity Association (SCAIA) welcomes all college and university professionals who are involved in issues of student discipline, both academic and nonacademic.
• The Canadian Organization of University and College Health (COUCH)
COUCH is a professional organization representing the interests of persons who work in health services in Canadian post-secondary educational institutions.
• The Canadian University and College Counselling Association (CUCCA)
CUCCA is a national group of counsellors and counselling psychologists in post-secondary institutions, counselling educators and graduate students in counselling-related programs.
• The National Aboriginal Student Services Association (NASSA)
NASSA’s mission is to empower institutions of higher learning to become welcoming environments where Aboriginal Peoples can successfully pursue educational goals while maintaining their cultural identities.
• The Student Affairs and Services Association (SASA).
SASA welcomes its members from a broad range of student services professions. This diversity of membership offers an important opportunity for the sharing of information and experience in many fields