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Students should take advantage of available conference funding

By Kent Wong, May 7 2018 —

As a University of Calgary student, you’re eligible to receive funding to attend academic conferences. Initiatives to fund students’ attendance include programs like the Schulich Activity Fund. Similar opportunities are available in the Faculties of Arts and Science. This funding doesn’t necessarily have to go towards travel — it can be used to pay for other expenses such as research equipment. Regardless, neglecting to apply for these programs that can supplement degrees can cause students to miss out on valuable opportunities.

Applications for faculty-specific funding are usually found on the respective faculties’ websites. The U of C and the Students’ Union also provide funding for undergraduates, with applications on their websites as well. These applications usually involve a short form and a written component about why a student deserves the funding and how the opportunity will enhance their studies.

Gaining industry experience during your degree is an important pursuit that many students miss out on. Students enrolled in anything from communications to math have their perceptions of the outside world shaped only by their professors, who may have worked in academia. At most conferences, there is a networking portion where employers and sponsors have booths similar to career fairs. Students can attend technical workshops and learn about relevant skills in their field. If you’ve ever complained about a lack hands-on learning in favour of theory overload in classrooms, then an industry conference can demonstrate practical applications of your degree.

By attending such an event, you can also meet like-minded peers in your field. You can also listen to speeches that would make others in your faculty envious. Melinda Gates of the Gates Foundation and Dr. Fei Fei Li, the director of Stanford AI Lab and chief scientist at Google Cloud were among the speakers at Grace Hopper 2017, a conference dedicated to bringing research and career opportunities to women. More important than those onstage are the people you get to meet. From those at hiring fairs, vendors and fellow conference-goers, there’s bound to be someone you connect with.

Funding flexibility is also extremely valuable. Recent Innovation Development and Experiential Activities in Science (IDEAS) fund participants received funding to acquire equipment for research on water quality in Calgary. Others went to Australia and Guatemala or launched the Calgary Hacks hackathon. Thinking of grad school? Making use of available funds and having a cool undergrad research project would definitely help your application stand out above the crowd.

Conference funding at the U of C will become more competitive as more become aware of the opportunities available. Research is vital to the student experience and students should be encouraged to apply. It’s a wonderful opportunity to expand your degree that shouldn’t be ignored.

Articles published in the Gauntlet‘s opinion section do not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

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