Stand Up for Edmonton: University of Alberta and City of Edmonton Conference

 “Edmonton’s next mayor must be prepared stand up for the city and the post-secondary sector which plays a critical role in the economy of the metro area” – Day, Goss, Skoreyko, and Cumming, Edmonton Journal, May 28, 2013
The trials and tribulations faced by post-secondary institutions, especially in Alberta, are not new issues. But, thanks to Emerson Csorba, there is a new initiative in Edmonton to change the way that students and locals address the issues facing the University of Alberta: Stand Up for Edmonton, a conference looking to engage members of both the university and community, taking place on Saturday, June 22, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Stanley Milner Library.
The University of Alberta is facing challenges — financially and socially —  after the provincial post-secondary budget was cut by 7%. Its programming, and resources are being questioned, and the future of many departments and programs is uncertain.
“At the same time,” Csorba says, “Edmonton is transforming rapidly as a city. The U of A plays a major role in Edmonton, but it can do more. A lot more. [Stand Up for Edmonton] is a much-needed follow-up to Mandel’s comments in the State-of-the-City address. It is a conference where the usual suspects – the movers and shakers – from Edmonton’s student, faculty, non-profit, media, government and business sectors come together in the same room.”

The Stand Up for Edmonton conference is more than just another opportunity to vent and complain about the provincial budget cuts. It aims to provide practical, applicable information that will give students and community leaders the tools they need — names of projects, people, and accessible resources – to engage with each other and connect the work being done in academia to the work being done in Edmonton, whether it’s at the level of government, business, or local community. 

“We want the attendees to return to their respective areas with ideas about how the U of A can be leveraged to enhance their work” Csorba attests. This issue sparked a lot of discussion and debate after the initial budget cuts were announced, but discussions and practical approaches have been slight since then. This conference, Csorba notes, will “[bring] people into the same venue with an all-star cast of speakers. It gets the juices flowing in a way that hasn’t really happened over the last two months.”
The brains behind Stand Up for Edmonton is the wonderfully inspiring Emerson Csorba, who is also the editor-in-chief and co-founder of The Wanderer, a political science student at University of Alberta Campus Saint-Jean, a member of our own Good 100 Experiment, and a participant/leader/creator of approximately one million other local projects (leading me to believe he is also an inventor of a time turner).
Over the last month I have been meeting with Csorba to plan and discuss the conference, and asked if he’d be up for doing an interview with me about his project. Of course, he found the time to do so, and I’d love to share his insights and vision with you. And, I hope to see you at the conference on Saturday, June 22, 9 am – 4 pm, at the Stanley Milner Library. Registration is FREE, but tickets are required due to venue capacity. Visit the website for full conference details including a list of speakers and registration details.
1. What’s the story of how this conference came about? What was the need you saw in the community that it emerged from?
The conference was an idea brewing in my head since Mayor Mandel’s State-of-the-City Address, where he spoke to the value of post-secondary education in Edmonton. Following the budget cuts, a magazine called The Wanderer organized a public panel about the aims of higher education, but the city really needs something that brings a diverse group of Edmontonians together. We need a conference. Edmonton is evolving so quickly right now, and the U of A plays an important role in this. A public conversation about the U of A’s contributions to Edmonton and its potential for additional contributions can maintain this wonderful momentum we have in Edmonton. 
2. What sort of outcomes would you like to see as a result of the conference? What sorts of projects/opportunities do you hope emerge?
I want to see the conference participants — business leaders, non-profits, students, professors, city planners, and so on — emerge with ideas that they can take back into their practices. For instance, community league participants might learn that they can recruit talented young students to their league boards, rather than leave those positions vacant. Some community leagues are doing this, but the vast majority are not. The U of A is home to over 30,000 students, many of which are interested in contributing to their communities, becoming social entrepreneurs, etc. Edmonton needs to capitalize on this opportunity. 
What I really want, though, is to build a foundation for future conversations about the U of A’s contributions in Edmonton. We need to build on Mayor Mandel’s comments from April.  Conference participants should return to their work and volunteer endeavours with renewed energy and a handful of ideas. 
3. What’s the response been so far?
The response has been very positive. Mayor Mandel is confirmed as the keynote speaker, and he will close the event. We have so many great people on the panels, from Brad Ferguson of the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation to Pilar Martinez of Edmonton Public Libraries. We have outstanding students from a wide range of disciplines, professors in leadership roles both within the U of A and their respective communities, and an impressive contingent of Edmonton start-up entrepreneurs. The panelists are from all over the city, and they agree that we need to build a public conversation about the U of A’s relationship with Edmonton. 
4. How is this project important to Edmonton/how does it address a specific need you saw in Edmonton?

The Make Something Edmonton movement across the city is empowering so many Edmontonians. I’m proud to be an Edmontonian, and am grateful to be living in this city at this point in my life. We’ve made tremendous progress over the last years, but we have a lot of work in front of us. Edmonton businesses and non-profits stand to benefit from greater use of the University of Alberta’s talent, particularly from the student population. The way in which Edmonton makes use of the U of A’s abundance of energy will shape our city in the decade to come. 
5. Anything else you’d like to add?
When participants purchase an Eventbrite ticket, it’s important that they attend with a purpose. The conference features several dozen panelists,  but we care about making this an interactive event, one where participants meet others and share  ideas in an engaging environment. If someone arrives with several ideas in mind, they will enjoy a fantastic experience. 
Visit for more information.