Janice Hill, Ed’99, says the idea of a Queen’s Aboriginal Alumni Chapter came from graduating students who were anticipating some separation anxiety from their close Queen’s community. “They didn’t want to lose the connection with other Aboriginal students after graduation,” says Janice, the director of the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre.
She knows the feeling. She’s always wondered what happened to her classmates in the close-knit Queen’s Aboriginal Education class of 1999.
On exploring the idea further with students, Janice realized that they also wanted to make connections with Aboriginal alumni, who could give them advice as they entered the work world. And this is something Janice wants to encourage. “I’ve told students that when you have a Queen’s education, you can go anywhere in the world. Your education isn’t just your diploma, it’s your network. And you don’t necessarily realize that when you’re young.”
Janice tested the idea with Aboriginal alumni in her own network, and 33 of them have already signed up to be part of a new Aboriginal Alumni Chapter, connecting Aboriginal Queen’s grads and students in communities across North America. The aim is for 70 more alumni to sign up this spring. Online networking and mentoring will be key components of the Chapter, with a few face-to-face events. Janice hopes to announce a Chapter launch event in Kingston later this year.
While she sees professional networking and career advice to be a major driver to connect students past and present, Janice doesn’t want the Chapter to be limited to job advice. She wants to involve alumni who can share their stories about their experiences as Queen’s students, which could help shape programming for Aboriginal students in future. She also wants the Chapter to introduce students to alumni who may have taken detours in their career paths. Janice herself never practised teaching after getting her B.Ed from Queen’s, but she still found her studies at MacArthur Hall to be invaluable in her career. Her advice to students? “Don’t limit yourself. You’re learning lessons you may not even be aware of until you have the opportunity to draw upon your knowledge…Be open to any opportunity, because you never know what’s around the next corner.”
If you want to join the Queen’s Aboriginal Alumni Chapter, contact Janice at Janice.firstname.lastname@example.org