StFX Economics Department Scores Major Coup in Attracting National Conference to Campus

In an almost unheard-of coup, StFX has been awarded the opportunity to host a major national economics conference, a conference typically hosted in major Canadian cities such as Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

In June 2017, the StFX Department of Economics will host over 800 economists from across the country and around the world for the 51st annual meeting of the Canadian Economics Association (CEA).

Over four days, CEA participants will present latest research and attend state-of-the-art lectures from prominent practitioners, which have previously included Nobel Prize recipients and senior economic policy-makers.

Affiliated organizations such as the Canadian Development Economics Study Group, the Progressive Economics Forum, and the Canadian Women Economists Network often choose to hold their meetings with the CEA.

“The CEA traditionally holds its conference in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, with occasional stops in “smaller” cities such as Calgary or Ottawa, so coming to a primarily undergraduate university such as StFX, and to a legitimate small town like Antigonish, is unprecedented for this association,” says StFX economics professor and local organizer, Dr. Greg Tkacz.

Dr. Tkacz also serves on the Executive Council of the CEA.

The conference is attended by Canadian and international academic economists, economists working in policy institutions and government, and some graduate students, he says. Attendance has been as high as 1,200 participants in the past.

“Organizing such a large conference is very labour-intensive for both faculty and students, and so it is normally hosted by economics departments in larger universities, where you might have over 30 faculty and a small army of graduate students available to volunteer,” he says.

“The StFX economics department only has six faculty members, so we can expect members to be quite busy as the date of the event approaches. However, what we lack in numbers we'll make-up in terms of enthusiasm.”

StFX has some fantastic conference facilities, such as the Keating Centre, the Schwartz School, and the new residences, and Dr. Tkacz says these were among the attributes he focused on during his presentation to the CEA Executive Council in Toronto in December.

“I also stressed the advantages of having conference participants stay onsite, which will promote exchanges among participants after the end of the formal sessions. In recent years, this conference has typically been held in cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver where, although appealing in some respects, a sense of cohesion is absent as participants scatter after each day's final session.

“Given that the conference will be held during lobster season also helped, as offering the participants the opportunity to attend a lobster banquet was greeted with enthusiasm.” 

Dr. Tkacz says apart from the positive publicity and financial gains in the short run, in the long run he’s hoping the event will serve as a catalyst to lure additional large scale academic conferences to the university. “The participants attending will be influential in their own areas of expertise, so if they have a good experience here I expect they will recommend StFX as a conference destination for other academic societies.”

The StFX economics department will also have its reputation enhanced, which he says will make it easier to help the department place its best students in the world's top graduate programs. “Our students attending the conference will be exposed to some of the leaders in the field, and that can definitely serve as a source of inspiration to them.”

Finally, he says the Town of Antigonish and the surrounding areas should also benefit. “Many participants will be first-time visitors to the area, and we hope we can entice some of them to extend their stays beyond the conference itself.”