The 2013 Higher Education Summit brings together colleges from across the province. It’s both an educational experience for participants and a celebration of the many ways college graduates help shape the future of Ontario, Canada and beyond.

Many of the Phelps partners and consultant attended the 2013 Higher Education Summit held in Toronto at the historic Fairmont Royal York Hotel, and this blog post, we invited them to tell us what the highlight of the conference was for them.

Premier’s Awards: Winners contributing to all

While the conference speakers were outstanding, the presentation of  student graduate nominees for Premier’s Awards was my favourite part of the conference. Award winners, to a person, in addition to achieving personal success in their fields, all are seriously contributing to the well-being of others.

– Frank Sorochinsky, Phelps Senior Consultant

Alan Alda: Master of communication

A highlight of the conference was the brilliant presentation by Alan Alda.  For some of us Alan Alda is still Hawkeye Pierce from M*A*S*H.  For others, his role on West Wing comes to mind.  But what Alan shared with us on Monday was very contemporary – the elements of effective communication.

Alan Alda

Alan Alda

For many years Alan Alda has been an advocate for improving scientific communication in the U.S. and the world.  He hosted the PBS show Scientific American Frontiers for many years and helped create the Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.

In his talk, Alan spoke about the strategic importance, and his personal  passion, for effective scientific communication. He spent much of the hour showing us the elements of meaningful communication.  With wit and anecdote he showed us how to make knowledge transfer a personal and emotional  experience and how to make the most banal event into an engaging experience for the audience.  He showed us how he helps scientists develop the skills to put themselves in the minds of lay people, to connect with them emotionally, and to convey a story about the subject they are working on.  And he told the story of his near-death experience in Chile and how the doctor who saved his life explained the problem and the solution in the most graphic and simple terms.  He even invited a couple of audience members to come on stage to carry out examples of how easy it is to make information engaging and memorable.

– Michael Dewson, Phelps Senior Consultant

Chantal Hebert: Scandals are the opposite of engagement!”

As a faithful reader of her column, I knew that Chantal Hebert writes brilliantly on the political issues of the day and that she is the go-to source for timely and cogent observations on the federal  scene in particular. I was delighted to discover that she is as good a speaker as she is a writer. Her relaxed and invitational presentation at the 2013 Higher Education Summit was riveting as she scanned the country commenting on leaders’ follies, fantasies, political fortunes and potential legacies.  Her remarks were punctuated with subtle humour that entertained while delivering her message with precision. Speaking obliquely of our current national embarrassment embodied in Toronto Mayor Rob Ford by commenting on the recent musical mayoralty chairs in Montreal, she said, Scandals are the opposite of engagement, but in Montreal, they resign!

Chantal asserted that the economy, pipelines and trade deals will absorb a somewhat fatigued federal government hoping to enter its second decade in power and that there was no point in this audience of educators hoping for more education transfers when and if the budget is balanced. Any surplus will be spent on tax cuts so think of that money like a well of water in Saudi Arabia!

Chantal’s commentary on the Canada Job Grant Program was enlightening as she pointed out there would be no real resolution, in her view, until the next provincial  elections are held in Ontario and Quebec. She is right that the final negotiations will have to be done province by province, given the feds can’t really do labour training on their own despite their tendency to believe their own press.

Chantal\’s speech at this conference reinforced my commitment to never miss her column!

– Joan Green, Phelps Senior Consultant


It was a great conference, enlightening, inspiring and informative, and I strongly suggest you consider attending next year.

Thanks for reading,