One of the greatest perks of attending a conference is the opportunity it provides to stay awhile, explore the surrounding area and meet the folks who call it home. This year’s conference of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) – pronounced “stell-ee” with affection – was held on Cape Breton Island. Cape Breton University (CBU) provided a beautiful setting for this year’s theme, “learning to live, learning for life”. Though my visit was brief, the island and it’s people left a lasting impression on me.
Starting with the ‘community’ cab ride from the airport (no single fares from Sydney airport that night!) through to the open and friendly banter of the conference organizers, hoteliers and restauranteurs, the generous nature of the people of the island became clear. I soon learned that Cape Bretoners are very much at ease sharing their views, be they landscapes, seascapes or tales of lore.
The sharing of stories was evident throughout the conference as well, with Dr. Richard Gerver opening his keynote address with “I would like to share with you some of my thoughts on teaching and learning…” He spoke frankly about his life experiences, many included in his new book, “Change”. I think I will make it one of my summer reads. Another wonderful plenary ‘conversation’ was hosted by the 3M National Student Fellows. They spoke eloquently and honestly about how we can all get caught up in the ‘cult of busyness’ and how important it is to take time to pause, to listen, learn and reflect. some other engaging sessions I attended covered topics such as the Sustainable Happiness project, (Dr. Catherine O’Brien., CBU), as well as research on the current state of SoTL in Canada (Dr. Brad Wutherick, University of Saskatchewan).
As we dug in to our amazing feast, the banquet evoked a different kind of sharing, with pieces of lobster flying across tables! The incredible musicians shared lyrical stories steeped in the folkore of the island and we danced and celebrated the night away with great enjoyment. The final great privilege of my journey was a fabulous roadtrip, driving the Cabot Trail with two colleagues. Our shared journey included lunch, lively conversation about the beauty of the place, and shared stories of life long learning. The experience of attending this year’s conference will not be soon forgotten, I will cherish this most memorable trip.