Why Does IJAS Offer Free Bus Tours During Each Conference?
IJAS delegates on bus after touring the Salvador Dalí Museum.
In an era of globalization and multicultural sensitivity, study abroad programs are mushrooming all over the academic world. They would grow even further if academics had more time and resources to visit worldwide destinations to prepare future study abroad programs for their students. Our conferences offer the perfect opportunity to blend in presentations with organized visits to locations that would make excellent venues for study abroad programs. Andy Warhol's traditional fifteen minutes of fame -- on the podium -- stretch into days of academic interaction and discovery.
It defies logic to treat conference venues as isolated academic silos when they may also double up as potential venues for study abroad programs. As a result, we promote each conference as inseparable from its geographical location, history and culture. We work hard to find sponsors in each conference's geographical area that offer generous hospitality and tourism packages in parallel with our conference presentations. We make our attendees' potential clear to our sponsors. Many graduate students and professors who attend academic conferences have a lifelong career in academia in front of them. As a result, each attendee has the potential to multiply the number of future visitors to a conference's wider geographical area. "We have memories so that we might have roses in December," wrote Scottish novelist James Barrie.
Trying to promote international education without fully immersing the faculty in foreign cultures is like trying to train scuba divers without fully immersing them in water.
IJAS in Germany
It is unrealistic to expect most professors to congregate within the four walls of a conference hall for three or four consecutive days. This is why conferences in non-tourist venues draw very few academics. Academics want an excellent conference plus something more and non-tourist venues lack this "something more." We provide the "something more" through our sponsored bus tours which bring academics together as our motorcoaches expose them to the majestic scenery outside. Within the confined bus space the academics talk. They have to since they can't stare forever. They talk about their teaching, their research, and what concerns them in academia. These tours are more conducive to the sharing of professional research than the on-site conferences themselves. The more attendees get to know each other in the informal setting of the bus tours, the more they seek to listen to each other's thoughts and ideas on and off the conference premises. The more they realize they are birds of a feather -- thanks to informal communication in relaxed settings -- the more they flock together and share what binds them together, including their thirst for collaborative research. Social psychologists tell us that when strangers congregate they seek to talk about some common thread. The common thread at IJAS' conferences is academia.
Two photos from the same non-IJAS conference at the University of Salzburg (2006) speak a thousand words. In the absence of educational tours and organized cultural programs, the faculty opted for the surrounding pubs instead, at one point leaving behind a conference audience of just one delegate in the university theater. The organizers did everything proper in hosting this philosophical conference but forgot that trying to herd faculty into consecutive days of endless presentations is like trying to herd cats.
Things got worse shortly after at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), best known for its journal Science, where a professor summed up the dreariness and boredom of a litany of scientific papers in a conference devoid of celebration and human spirit, by taking a swipe at the whole experience. The fact that his paper made it through the review process reflected the reviewers' tacit agreement that their conference needed to evolve and lighten up.
In today's age, it's increasingly difficult for a conference to justify having academics fly in from all over the world if all it can offer them is one paper after another, which papers could have been retrieved over the internet. If a conference can't offer more meaningful events than what the internet can, it's an outdated practice.
Without the opportunity to interact and share one's research and ideas, what is the point of attending an academic conference? There is no shortage of academic papers on the internet and at the libraries within our universities. One doesn't need a conference to access academic research. Printed academic papers allow the reader to digest carefully instead of chasing a speaker racing against the clock.
To understand what a modern conference should be like, we invite you to attend an IJAS conference and experience for yourself this burgeoning phenomenon in the American conference circuit. IJAS is about doing more, not less, during conference week.
Many department heads have long organized recruitment interviews during conference presentations. There is more to a conference than just research presentations. The IJAS experience is about maximizing what one could achieve during an international conference.
Poster sessions allow delegates to move around the room and discuss their research. In this Las Vegas photo, IJAS delegates discuss an innovative way of how to teach economics.
I'd love to attend the Germany conference again... I am interested as at IJAS I tend to meet people from universities and locales around the world. While there, I got two invitations to speak... in New Zealand and... Turkey.
Professor Shehla Burney Queens University, Canada
At the same time, not every faculty member is interested in an educational tour and this is why we leave our delegates with a free choice about what to do, whether to stay on the conference premises or join a bus tour at some point. We even give a choice to our delegates to attend and register for one day only. Academia consists of various segments and we seek to offer different packages for different segments. Back in 2004, Malcolm Gladwell (see adjacent video) gave a famous speech in Monterey, California, entitled What We Can Learn From Spaghetti Sauce. In it he debunked the search for the perfect product or service, demonstrating how different segments prefer different types of products or services.
Speaking from the same podium in Monterey two years later, Sir Ken Robinson asked Do Schools Kill Creativity? Learners have various interests. They have emotions too. We shouldn't rank quantitative skills as being superior to other academic skills. Rating one discipline against another misses the complexity of modern scholarship. Education is about treating the person as a whole rather just one side of the brain. In this spirit, IJAS seeks to attend to the complete scholar in its conferences.
We strive to treat our participants in a holistic, dignified manner.
For conference delegates, location matters. The moral of the above Spaghetti Sauce speech is that there is no best location for a conference. Different academics prefer different geographical locations. Instead of pursuing economies of scale and hosting an annual mega-conference in a mega-city, IJAS hosts smaller conferences in different geographical locations. The academic from a small, sleepy town may yearn for a visit to 24-hour Las Vegas; the one from a landlocked state or country may aspire for coastal Malta; and the one from a major city may wonder what life is like in a tiny German village. Life is a thousand journeys sustained by curiosity. As an educational institution that promotes study abroad programs, our global vision is not about reducing the world into one geographical location but about offering a richly arrayed menu of far-flung neighborhoods, cultures and customs to sophisticated, international academics.
We still welcome those who would attend our conferences only to deliver or listen to research presentations. Our sponsors offer a menu of services but the final choice of what to participate in, and to what extent, depends on each delegate. We include here an account in Spanish of how a professor from the Phillipines, Aliza D. Racelis, weaved together a fascinating international experience through our Boston conference in 2009.
Dr. Racelis (in red) during her session at the Boston conference.