It’s hard to believe that we are already halfway through November – but here we are, with the last of the fall leaves clinging to the trees, and a wintry chill in the air. I’m sure you will all agree that this is a busy time of year. I feel as if the wheels that were put in motion at the beginning of the term are now spinning furiously and won’t slow down again until the holiday season (which will be upon us in no time!). I wanted to bring you a few updates about what has been keeping me busy, both on and off campus, in recent weeks.
On Wednesday, I had the great pleasure of hosting my annual Principal’s Community Breakfast. Held this year at the Ambassador Hotel and Conference Centre, the event is an opportunity for me to acknowledge and strengthen the bonds between Queen’s and the greater Kingston community. The event included a couple of excellent collaborative presentations built on the idea of the “community as classroom”.
The first was a presentation from Dr. Brian Frank, Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering, who told us about a course he teaches that includes a 12-week community service learning project. Taken by over 700 students ever year, the course sends them out into the community where they work with organizations like Martha’s Table, which provides low-cost meals to people in need. Ronda Candy, managing director at Martha’s Table, and Ramona Neferu, who is studying Engineering Chemistry, both shared their insights and experiences as well. Later, Dr. Anastasia Riehl, Director of the Strathy Language Unit and an adjunct professor in Linguistics, talked about a current project that sees her partnering with the Wolfe Island Historical Society to gather residents’ oral histories; she was followed by the organization’s treasurer and genealogy, Brian MacDonald.
It was an inspiring morning, to say the least. Experiential learning is one way that we can help our students develop skills that will set them up well for the working world. I am hopeful that the event will inspire more community partners to consider collaborating with us.
In other news, I’ve had to be off-campus quite a bit over the last few weeks on university business. In October, I had traveledto Hong Kong – my first trip there on Queen’s business. Consul-general (and Queen’s alumnus) Ian Burchett hosted a wonderful dinner in honour of my visit. I also met a number of key alumni in the area, and visited some regional high schools (including the Canadian International School, whose Head of School is also a Queen’s alumnus). It was a short but busy trip, allowing us to solidify our ties with the Greater China region – a part of the world that currently provides us with nearly 20 per cent of our international student body.
I was also fortunate, recently, to be able to participate in the installation ceremonies for the new leaders of McGill and the University of Toronto. McGill’s 17th Principal, Dr. Suzanne Fortier, is a former Queen’s faculty member in the Department of Chemistry who also served as both vice-principal (academic) and vice-principal (research). Dr. Meric S. Gertler, U of T’s 16th President, is a renowned urban geographer. Both bring a great deal of vision to their new positions. I look forward to working with them both over the next few years on matters of importance to postsecondary education and research in Canada.
Finally, I want to finish off with a few words about Homecoming, which we celebrated last month for the first time in five years. I heard directly from many alumni who told me that they were very happy to be back on campus in the fall. For the most part, I think the two-weekend model worked well. That said, things didn’t go off entirely without incident – particularly on the first Saturday night when too many people gathered in the streets in the near-campus area. We have been engaged in consultations with many community partners since the Homecoming weekends to gather feedback about the events, and those conversations are continuing. I would like to reiterate my thanks to everyone who helped plan and execute Homecoming, as well as to the Kingston Police, who offered invaluable support on both weekends.
I’m in Banff this weekend to celebrate the fact that a record seven Queen’s faculty members are being inducted into the Royal Society of Canada. The Society only admits eighty new fellows every year, so it’s quite an extraordinary feat for a university of our size to have so many inducted at once. It’s truly a testament to the quality of our faculty at Queen’s.
Enjoy the rest of the fall, and good luck to those of you who will soon be preparing for final exams!