With ten days to go and with registration at more than 7,000 attendees, Brock is busily preparing to host Congress 2014 – the largest academic gathering of its kind in Canada.
“In the lead-up to and during Congress, our campus will be completely transformed and reconfigured to accommodate the burst of creative energy that this event will bring to Niagara,” says Brad Clarke, Brock’s project manager for the event.
“It’s kind of like when a sports organization switches over a playing field from a hockey rink to a basketball court, or vice versa. It’s a completely different game.”
“Though we welcome thousands of conference guests to Brock each year,” adds Clarke, “this is the single largest conference our University has hosted since the last time Congress, then The Learneds, came to campus in 1996.”
The annual Congress of the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences brings together 70 learned societies and associations to share findings, refine ideas and build partnerships that will help shape the Canada of tomorrow.
From large associations with more than 500 members, like the Canadian Sociological Association and Canadian Society for the Study of Education, to smaller groups with a couple dozen or so members, like the Canadian Peace Research Association, these groups will come together at Brock from May 24 to 30 under the guise of Congress.
“The way Congress is organized, it’s like 70 different-sized conferences all happening at the same time,” Clarke says. “So all of the little details required to pull off an event of this size and complexity add up to some big numbers for our logistics teams.”
The University is co-ordinating more than 2,500 requests for meeting spaces during Congress. This includes converting more than 60 residence lounges, labs and studios into functional spaces for academic meetings. Administrators are also reconfiguring Brock’s seminar-style classrooms to accommodate theatre-style seating with presenter tables and all of the necessary audio/video requirements.
In order to accommodate all of these substantial changes, the University has sourced, both from on and off campus, more than 2,000 extra chairs, 300 six-foot tables, 100 digital projectors, 100 laptops, and 20 A/V carts.
Hospitality-wise, there’s been more than 900 catering orders placed, which could be anything from a coffee break to a banquet for 600 people, to a lunch reception or book launch event.
Thirty venues are also being licensed for more than 70 special events and receptions, and two new venues are being created just for Congress – Knowledge on Tap, a giant beer garden; and the Corks and Forks wine bar. Both of these venues will showcase food and drink sourced from our own backyard, including 25 kegs of beer from local microbreweries and 100 cases of Niagara wine.
Key community partners for Congress include the St. Catharines Transit Commission that will operate daily shuttle routes to and from campus to the five St. Catharines and 10 Niagara Falls hotels where guests will be staying.
Niagara Airbus will also be helping out with transportation services during the gathering and Rainbow Tours will be running optional excursions for conference guests.
On-campus, the Rosalind Blauer Child Care Centre and Youth University will be providing on-site child minding services for attendees. Other campus partners helping to set the stage at Brock for Congress include Campus Security, Recreation Services, Facilities Management, Student Services, BUSU, IT Services, Parking Services, the Campus Store, and more.
Congress 2014 at Brock at a glance
- Runs for seven days from Saturday, May 24 to Friday, May 30
- Potential to generate $10 million dollars in spinoffs for host communities
- Attendees, on average, spend about three days at the weeklong gathering
- Guests have booked 3,000 room-nights at five St. Catharines and 10 Niagara Falls hotels
- 1,500 guests every night of the conference in residences on Brock’s campus
- 110 paid contractor positions for Brock students and alumni, and community members
- Recruiting 400 volunteers – to volunteer contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Brock’s “Congress Plus” program includes 30 events (theatre, art, concerts, lectures) that are free and open to the public
- The Big Thinking lecture series at Congress featuring eight notable scholars is free and open to everyone
- CongreLicious menu with more than a dozen downtown restaurants, in partnership with the St. Catharines Downtown Association