I recorded this video this morning to speak to students, faculty and staff during this difficult time for the Queen’s community.
The entire campus community is reeling from the latest tragedy to afflict Queen’s in the course of a very difficult year. The loss of any member of our community is tragic and affects us all—students, faculty and staff. My message for students is look out for others, but also look out for yourself.
Mental health is a big issue on Canada’s campuses. One in four young Canadians of university or college age will experience stress, anxiety, depression or other symptoms. These are topics we must talk about on our campuses, and at Queen’s we’ve had a working group on mental health since 2007. Mental health as an issue has my full attention and that of my colleagues and our faculty and staff at Queen’s.
There are many resources available to you at the university, from the Alma Mater Society, or in the Kingston community at large. In extreme, some people might entertain thoughts of suicide. Life has its ups and downs; your parents have experienced them, your friends, your teachers, your professors—I have.
But there’s no shame in reaching out. Don’t cut off the future. Don’t give up.
If you need help, reach out and ask for it. Finally, we’re at exam time, a particularly stressful time of year. Don’t hesitate to get help if you are feeling anxious about things. Now is a time for the Queen’s community to come together and support one another. Please, once again, take care of your friends, and take care of yourself.
You can access support at:
Health, Counselling and Disability Services
AMS Peer Support Centre
613-533-6000 ext. 75111
Office of the Chaplain
Telephone Aid Line Kingston
Kids Help Phone
Print this 1-page resource on student mental health support services at Queen’s (PDF 103 KB)
A final note to students:
If you need academic accommodation, please talk to your instructors. They have been provided with information to support you.
This has been a week for reflection, at the tail end of a long and hard winter (by Kingston standards) and a rather difficult year for Queen’s.
This past week we lost another student, another member of our community, announced to the university in what these past several months has become an unfortunately familiar message.
Once again, our Emergency Response Team immediately assembled to begin handling the many issues flowing out of a student death—notification of next of kin, support for fellow students, organization of memorials, interaction with the police. It’s a longer list than that, and I wish I could say that our team had to work through a dusty and unfamiliar protocol. Regrettably, after a year that began last March 27, 2010 with the death of Jack Windeler, the team knows the routine by (heavy) heart. Yet familiarity hasn’t dampened their compassion or their attention to detail, so I would like to record here my profound appreciation of Dean John Pierce’s leadership and the work of his colleagues, in particular Chaplain Brian Yealland and Dr. Mike Condra, throughout the Student Affairs portfolio. I should also note the heroic efforts of Eric Windeler, father of Jack, who in the year since his son’s death has become an impassioned activist on behalf of mental health issues (a subject I will return to below) at Canada’s school and universities through The Jack Project.
On Tuesday night, we will gather to grieve for Andrew Lloyd, just as we have mourned Robert Nason and Jack Windeler, as well as Habib Khan and Cameron Bruce, the latter two who died as the result of falls last term. (In the past, we have sustained other losses of students, out of town, too, which are not forgotten.) In early May, we will open a fifth consecutive Board of Trustees meeting with a moment of silence and a report on this latest tragic event.
It isn’t death in itself, however, that is tragic, even if it is always sad. We are accustomed to announcing deaths on campus, as we say goodbye to long-serving faculty or staff members, mostly after full lives, and typically marked by as much joyous remembrance of their achievements and contributions to the world and their families as about regret at their passing. The Queen’s Alumni Review similarly records the ending of lives, shorter or longer, among our graduates, along with happier events like births and marriages.
But it is a different and much sharper sadness when it is our young who are being mourned. While we can and should focus on the positive aspects of our brief interactions with a young soul now prematurely departed from this world, we are also deeply aware of the promise unfulfilled, of all the good that they might have done in the world. My wife Julie and I have occasion to talk about this sense of loss personally, as she lost her older sister Lisa (who was only 19) many years ago in a way that was preventable (in Lisa’s case, a misdiagnosed illness that could have been cured easily if properly identified. She wanted to be a vet.) There is no getting around it: there is little more melancholic at a university, a place that normally glows with the incandescent energy of youth, than the early extinguishing of one of its thousands of candles.
And yet, it is at these moments that we come together as a community, and show ourselves at our best. If it has been a tough year in this and other respects, it has also been one for celebrating achievement, which we will do in a few weeks at spring Convocation. But this blog isn’t the place to highlight our many successes in research, teaching and learning, nor our superb varsity athletics performances, nor all the good news that comes out of the dozens of socially responsible actions that our students, staff and faculty take every day, at their own initiative and with no thought of reward apart from the satisfaction of having done good.
Rather, I want to close with a pair of inspirational initiatives taken by our students in response to the most recent tragedy (Doubtless there are others, but these are the two that have come to my attention in recent days). Third year arts and science student Kevin Imrie has initiated “Queen’s Loves U” for Thursday, April 7, the end of classes. We are all encouraged to speak with our peers, friends and colleagues and wear the external symbols of our little commonwealth of learning, whether it be tricolour clothing, a Queen’s pin, a tam etc. Various events have been suggested to go along with this. If you have ideas, you can email email@example.com or post to the Queen’s loves U Facebook page. The day should be an occasion, as Kevin suggests, not only for providing mutual solace, but for reminding ourselves of all the good things that we have collectively and individually done. Above all, it’s a day for reaching out. To quote the novelist E.M. Forster’s words, ending his A Passage to India: ‘Only connect’.
The second inspirational act comes from a moving Facebook entry by incoming AMS Academic Affairs commissioner Mira Dineen, drawing attention to the issue of mental health which has been made topical this year by some of our unhappy episodes, and which is rapidly emerging across all campuses in Canada as a major challenge. Mira’s remarks note the necessity for openness on the many issues pertaining to mental health and well-being, too long hidden in the shadows. I will write a bit more about that subject in a later blog, as it deserves attention in its own right, but Mira, like Kevin, encourages us to support one another.
Let me close by wishing all our students success in their exams—a time of anxiety as noted in last week’s Journal. But I also want to encourage you to do as Kevin and Mira have suggested: watch out for each other, and if you yourself are having difficulties, don’t hesitate to talk to someone. Queen’s does love you; our faculty and staff, as well as your friends, are here to listen and help.
Those following my twitter stream will know that I spent a good chunk of federal budget day, March 22, right in the heart of the action, the Centre Block of Parliament. I was one of about 100 people invited to participate in the ‘lock-up’, an interesting ritual that I had heard about but not experienced. I was already going to Ottawa for the evening to have dinner with the Speaker of the House (and Kingston MP) Peter Milliken, some MPs, and several Kingston industry reps including KEDCO CEO Jeff Garrah. So, extending the trip to attend the lockup was relatively easy though both invitations sadly caused me to have to reschedule a long-scheduled lunch with one of my own undergraduate professors, and to miss an annual Queen’s event that I really like, the annual dinner at Benidickson House for student senators.
I had been warned by a colleague that a lockup is a ‘crashing bore’. Was it? Not at all, even if not razor-sharp, edge-of-seat excitement. Here’s what happens:
Arriving at Centre Block, I went down through the first floor security entrance, lining up with officials and reps from various organizations collectively called “the stakeholders” (there was a separate media lockup which began earlier). I was affiliated for the day with the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) and sat with its CEO Paul Davidson, V-P Christine Taussig Ford and members of their team.
Once through security (I had to give up a pair of scissors that were in my briefcase and claim them back on the way out), I joined another line to collect a visitor’s badge as my name was ticked off the list of invitees. I signed an undertaking re confidentiality (agreeing to the rules of the lockup—no phones, tweets, blackberries etc). Then, in small groups, we were herded over to the front of the lockup room, where I duly surrendered my blackberry and Ipod.
Once in the lockup, you can’t leave until the budget is tabled. After a quick hello to a few people (including a former colleague from the University of Alberta), I chatted with other stakeholders and with a couple of Ministry of Finance staff. I was in my seat by 2:30 p.m., and just before 3:00, we were welcomed by Ministry of Finance staff, who had been floating around the room, and who handed out copies of the full budget document, a pamphlet with an executive summary, and the Finance Minister’s impending speech, due to start at 4:00.
At that point, the room got silent. The idea of the lockup is that the people in it get the first public look at the budget, which is embargoed (that is, not for public comment or communication) until the instant Minister Flaherty stands up in the house to begin his speech.
During the intervening hour, I pored over the documents with the AUCC team, identifying things that would be good (or not) for universities. Although fully cognizant of the fact that the budget had little chance of passing a confidence motion (and we learned soon thereafter that the Opposition Leaders would not be supporting it), we were pleased to see a number of key agenda items for universities in the document. Highlights include significant base increases to all three granting councils (and an especially good increase for SSHRCC relative to its usual share of such increases), an expansion of the Canada Excellence in Research Chairs program, tax breaks for part-time students, an expansion of the Canada Student Loans program, and various initiatives to support both student mobility outside Canada and bringing international students into Canada. For Queen’s, there are potential additional benefits in the establishment of a Brain Research Fund (we have a great Neuroscience group), and significant multi-year funding for climate-related research. If there was an area of disappointment, it was that there was very little new on the Aboriginal file, a key priority for both Queen’s and the AUCC.
Just before 4:00 pm, the visitor badges were collected and those of us who wanted them were given media room badges. At that point, the deathly hush of a library turned into something out of the old movie “The Front Page” as we all queued up like sprinters ready to exit the lockup the second the doors opened. We streamed out, got our blackberries, and dispersed. I went to the media room where Dr. Davidson and I provided comments on the budget to a number of reporters (the reporters did dozens of interviews so I was not at all surprised when these didn’t show up in print).
After that, Dr. Davidson and I retreated to the Speaker’s Office where the staff kindly allowed us to use a room to participate in the post-Budget AUCC teleconference. Then, I had only a few feet to walk to the dining room and a very nice supper courtesy of the Speaker, who will now have a very busy post-Budget week! Guests included Toronto MP Carolyn Bennett, Kedco’s Jeff Garrah and a number of local industry leaders including David Yake from Dupont. As one may imagine, the Budget and its aftermath were the main topics of conversation.
After that, it was back in the car about 8 o’clock for the drive home.
All in all, it was an interesting experience of an annual event in the political process.
March 16, 2011
There has been ongoing discussion about Rector Nick Day’s recent letter to the federal liberal party leader. For some, there may be remaining questions about my perspective.
Freedom of expression is a fundamental principle at universities and Mr. Day chose to exercise that right.
He and I have a difference of opinion regarding the appropriateness of the use of the office of Rector to put forth personal views beyond the confines of the institution.
I met with Mr. Day last week to share my perspective. As Queen’s principal, I am continually thinking about the overall direction and well-being of the university and the complex interaction among its constituent parts.
In this capacity, my institutional responsibility necessitated that I convey my concern to the Rector. I felt it was important to air my view and share with him my own belief that leaders must consider the broad spectrum of opinion within their constituencies before taking a stand on their constituents’ behalf.
Mr. Day’s choice would not have been mine, but his choice must be respected. Ultimately, he is answerable only to those who elected him.
There are processes underway to respond to the Rector’s actions by both the AMS and the SGPS. This is as it should be – students debating and discussing the role of their elected representative.
As always, as Principal, my interests and passions remain focused on fostering an environment here at Queen’s that promotes open and vigorous discourse. I expect that at all times this discourse is respectful and productive. I request that all those involved in the current discussions maintain these standards. Individuals should feel safe participating and engaging in dialogue. This again, is what universities are all about.
March 10, 2011
This afternoon, I met with Rector Nick Day to express my concerns about an open letter he wrote earlier this week to the federal Liberal party leader. He wrote the letter as Rector, and not as an individual citizen.
The University’s position is that this was inappropriate.
The views in the letter are not the issue – agree or disagree, he is entitled to them – it’s the context in which he communicated his personal opinion.
Mr. Day’s views do not and should not be seen as being representative of those of the University or Queen’s students.
The university has been contacted by students, alumni, and others, who believe Mr. Day should no longer have the privilege of holding this office.
As a student-elected representative, the Rector is answerable to Queen’s student body. The issue is being discussed tonight at AMS Assembly.
I take this situation very seriously and I will be monitoring developments. In our conversation, I asked Rector Day to consider the impact of his actions and take steps to separate his personal views from the university position he currently holds. I am hopeful he will do so immediately.
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
As is not uncommon some days of the week, yesterday (March 8 2011) I had different types of meetings right through the day beginning with breakfast and ending with dinner, and including lunch.
Breakfast saw me down at the Holiday Inn addressing the annual meeting of the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce. A repeat performance of my earlier Community Breakfast back in November, my talk focused on building Kingston’s economy and particularly working with local businesses to develop career opportunities for our grads and our students so that more of them will remain in the city after graduation. Even though the head table featured a number of Queen’s grads, including current Chamber president Megan Coughlin (Arts 01)
and Mark Siemons (Artsci 89) president of Altair Electronics, a very small number of students remain in Kingston after graduation. They would like to–Kingston is a great place to live–but don’t often see long term career opportunities. It is widely agreed that we need to change that situation for Kingston really to develop economically in the way it ought.
Lunch was a little more intimate: every term I have a one on one check in with the faculty deans; yesterday it was Dean Reznick of Health Sciences, who is just back after a short leave of absence. We had a great chat about everything from transplantation programs to internationalization. Like me, he is very excited about the forthcoming opening of the new Medical Building in a few months.
Dinner changed it up again–I was at Ban Righ in the private dining room with Leggett 1E, for a floor high table. I do two or three of these a year (we aren’t able to accept or schedule all requests, so apologies in advance if we can’t make yours work–last night’s was scheduled as far back as August!). I spoke with the students, one of whom was having a birthday, about volunteerism and community (a theme for their floor this year) and offered the opinion that the type and level of initiative shown by Queen’s students in this regard is a real differentiator of Queen’s from other institutions; I also think that while we have a long standing tradition of it, the current generation of students has really raised the bar from my era in the 1970s when such activities certainly occurred but I think were much less common a part of the overall student experience.
And speaking of my era, I got a few inevitable questions about my life in residence back in the day. It’s always fun to reminisce in this regard, even though some of the memories are getting a little bit foggy….It was a very nice evening, and the students as always for these events were very smartly turned out!
After that it was home to catch up on some paper and get ready for my trip to Ottawa a bit later today (March 9).
Four times a year a good deal of activity occurs in my office and in the offices of the Provost and the Vice-Principals, which we call “Board Week.”
If you are a student, staff or faculty member you are probably well aware that Queen’s has a Board of Trustees, and that it is one of three governing bodies at the university (the other two are the Senate and University Council). But you may have no real idea what it does or what goes on at a meeting.
As I write this, I am embarking on my 7th Board weekend (it is a full two days of meetings, starting with the first Committee meeting on Thursday nights and wrapping up on Saturdays about lunch time), and I thought it might be useful to try to de-mystify the process.
Board-related activity is constant, but it significantly ramps up a week or so before its quarterly meetings (March, May, September/October and December).
Boards vary in size and composition across Canada. In Alberta, where I used to work, the government had a very direct role in university governance, and it not only named most Boards of Governors (as they are called out there) to the universities, but also the respective Board Chairs. In Ontario, we have much more institutional autonomy, partly due to the much greater number of PSE institutions than in most other provinces, and partly due to their differing histories and origins.
Our Board is currently on the large side, at 44 members including the Principal (who, under our 1841 charter and its revisions, is the only person at Queen’s who is both on Board and Senate). It is a pretty widely held view that this is too big, and we currently have a Charter amendment request before Parliament to reduce the Board to about 25. Many other University Boards are smaller still.
The Principal is an ex-officio member, as is the Chancellor (David Dodge) and the Rector (Nick Day.)
The Chair of the Board is alumnus Bill Young (B.Sc.(Hons.) (Chem Eng.)’77), who is Managing Partner of Monitor Clipper Equity Partners in Cambridge, MA.
Biographies of all Board members can be found at queensu.ca/secretariat/trustees/bios.pdf.
What does the Board do?
As I mentioned above, the Board meets four times a year in person, and there will often be two or three phone call meetings a year, typically for one or two specific items — for instance approving my annual goals and reviewing my performance in the previous year. The Board weekends are set well in advance (the logistics of getting over 40 people into and out of Kingston four times a year are not insignificant). It is the responsibility of the University Secretariat — the same body that organizes Senate and Council meetings — to keep the machinery running smoothly, the records and minutes kept, and the documents circulating in a timely fashion (all electronically, by the way — the Board has been largely paperless for months.)
A significant part of the Board’s role is fiduciary — they are volunteers, typically with a connection to Queen’s (often, but not always, alumni) and include faculty, staff and student representation (in the case of students there is an undergraduate and a graduate trustee, each serving two year terms; the Rector, like the Principal and the Chancellor, is an ex-officio member).
By fiduciary I mean it is the responsibility of Trustees to act for the good of the institution to ensure that it is being properly managed, that it is in compliance with external regulations, and that things are running generally smoothly. The Board does not get involved in the day-to-day operations of the University, which is the role of the senior administration and the deans. It does not involve itself in academic matters which are the jurisdiction of Senate (though it does consider academically-related matters that have budget implications — for instance, the construction of a new academic building). It approves tuition increases. It appoints the Principal (on the recommendation of a joint Senate-Board committee), the Provost and Vice-Principals (on a recommendation from the Principal, following the counsel of an Advisory Selection Committee). I work closely with the Board Chair on developing the agenda for particular meetings, and the Provost and Vice-Principals similarly are in touch with the chairs of the various committees (see below).
All trustees are required to declare any conflict of interest, but beyond that, are expected to act with the interests of the university as a whole in mind; in short, though they come from particular sectors (some elected by graduates, some by constituency groups such as students, faculty and staff, some recruited by the Board), they are not there to advocate for those groups per se, but rather to ensure that those groups have a voice in the financial and fiduciary side of the governance of the university. Historically, student trustees (including the Rector) have exercised a powerful influence in Board discussions, as have faculty and staff trustees.
Committee meetings are held Thursday evenings and all day Fridays. The open session of Board — typically held on the Friday evening — will include various observers such as the AMS and SGPS presidents, representatives of the various employee groups, and several members of the administration. They are “open” in the sense that others may apply to the Secretary in advance to have guest or visitor status, not in the sense that one may just “show up”. Space is usually quite tight in the meeting room, and showing up without an advance request does not guarantee admission.
Every Board meeting begins with a ‘Consent Agenda’, which includes relatively routine matters that can be brought on to the main agenda if a trustee requests, but are otherwise deemed approved or received for information; this permits more discussion time for issues of greater complexity. A typical meeting, often but not always including an in-camera (private) session, will run about 3 hours. Saturday morning is typically devoted to longer-range issues and strategic updates — for instance, a presentation by a Vice-Principal or Associate V-P on a particular issue.
A great deal of work is done before the Board meeting proper, in the standing committees. Each committee is composed of several trustees, including student, faculty or staff trustees; members are often picked for their particular expertise (for instance, there are accountants on the Audit Committee).
Here’s a quick overview of the Board standing committees and what they do.
Responsible for ensuring that the university is adhering to best practices and to external regulations on everything from health and safety to accounting principles; it oversees routine internal audits of individual units that occur on a rotating basis; it assesses the progress of current projects, for instance, the ongoing implementation of QUASR; it appoints the external auditors and recommends approval of the annual audited financial statements; it also has oversight for enterprise-wide risk management.
Responsible for ensuring that Board governance runs smoothly and that vacancies are filled according to the Board’s bylaws and consistent with the Charter, with due attention both to getting a broad and inclusive membership as well as providing the necessary skill sets.
Campus Planning and Development Committee (CPDC):
A little unusual in that it has members who are elected by the Senate. Like other committees, it also has members who are not Trustees, but provide a particular expertise. CPDC helps develop the campus plan, approves the selection of architects and the design of new buildings and is responsible for ensuring that the campus remains an aesthetically pleasing — and sustainable – environment for all. It cannot approve the construction of a building or even preliminary work towards that, which is the decision of the full Board, on recommendation of the Finance Committee (see below).
Environmental Health and Safety Committee:
Somewhat like CPDC except this committee is focused on the existing built environment and looks at issues of accessibility and sustainability; it?s also similar to Audit committee with respect to regulatory compliance in areas of environmental and occupational health and safety; it receives reports from the administration on related issues — for instance, pandemic planning.
Consists of representatives from the Board, senior administration and the employee groups, it ensures that the funds in the pension plan are being managed appropriately and that they are being paid out in accordance with the Plan and with collective agreements. The committee also develops and reviews the investment policies and practices for the pension fund.
Develops and reviews the investment policies and practices for the Queen’s Pooled Investment Fund and Pooled Endowment Fund; reviews the performance of particular funds and fund managers against return.
Reviews the budget and financial position of the university, and approves any new expenditure on capital or any new contract above a particular threshold. Members of the committee will typically have variable expertise in areas like investments, risk management, accounting, asset management, capital projects, and real estate. Again, there is always either a faculty or a staff or a student trustee on this committee.
Acts as a reference group for the V-P (Advancement) and the Principal on major fund-raising initiatives and reviews the progress of Advancement (including Alumni Relations) on its annual goals. It provides strategic advice not only on fund-raising but also on broader ‘advancement’ issues, for instance the current brand exercise that is taking place, and considers areas of reputational risk for the university.
Human Resources Committee: Reviews the performance of the Principal annually and, in conjunction with the Principal, that of the Provost and Vice-Principals. Provides a mandate for the administration in negotiations with employee groups around collective agreements.
I hope this sheds some light on an important aspect of university governance. I?ll be tweeting from the various meetings over the next few days and there will be a story on the Queen?s News Centre next week on highlights from the open session. For Board agendas, minutes, meeting dates and more information, visit queensu.ca/secretariat/trustees
There have been a couple of travel days and evening events since we checked out of our Melbourne hotel on Tuesday morning, but also a lot of activity, which I’ve saved for this post.
We arrived in Canberra on Tuesday evening.
I was domiciled at University House, a residence especially for visiting scholars and their families on the grounds of the Australian National University. The grounds are quite lovely, as is most of the ANU campus though there was a fair bit of construction occurring here and there.
Wednesday, our only full day in Canberra was very busy indeed. I began it by having breakfast with Prof Anthony Reid, one of the world’s foremost authorities on Southeast Asian history. Tony had helped out as an advisory editor on one of my historiographic projects in the 90s but we’d never met before. As it turned out, he has been to Kingston several times as his cousin is Prof Emeritus of Mathematics Malcolm Griffin. Small world. Academically it was definitely a Southeast Asian day, as my lunch was spent with one of his colleagues, Prof Ann Kumar, who is also an Indonesia specialist, and a current contributor to the Oxford History of Historical Writing project based at Queen’s.
Much of the rest of the day was taken up with visits with several ANU administrators including Darren Brown, the chief international officer,
and outgoing Vice-chancellor Ian Chubb who in fact leaves his position next week. We had especially useful chats with Mandy Thomas, the Pro- VC for graduate education and research, and with Lawrence Cram, the DVP (= our provost). Lawrence and I swapped views on the relationship between teaching and research, and I heard a good deal about how ANU works, and about the funding model in particular.
ANU is unusual in that it is federally legislated. All Australian universities as noted in earlier blogs are funded by the national government, but report to a state government on their activities and financials. ANU, located in Canberra (which isn’t in a state but in the ‘Australian Capital Territory’ or ACT) actually answers to no state, and moreover gets a block grant from the national government not unlike an endowment. This has facilitated much of its enormous success and reputation in research. Prof Cram is an astronomer, so I also got some handy tips on what to look for in a new set of binoculars!
In the afternoon we had a meeting with Canada’s High Commissioner to Australia, Michael Small, and his staff, including Deputy HC David Mackinnon, a Queen’s MBA grad. (David joined us in Sydney the following night for the alumni reception on which more a bit further down). The discussion mainly concerned how Canada in general can raise its profile as a brand internationally–my November trip to India was used as an example of a concerted effort in this regard by Canadian executive heads. The similarities between Canada and Australia constitutionally and culturally were also discussed, with a particular reference to public policy issues.
Our last campus meeting of the day was at the ANU’s Centre for Mental Health Research. We met with Prof Helen Christensen, the Director, and her associate Prof Kathy Griffiths (an undergraduate chum of my colleague and travel companion this week Dr Sally Rigden). I informed them about mental health initiatives on our campus, about our work over the past year raising mental health awareness and introducing the Mental Health First Aid program, which was developed initially at ANU, and then exported to Canada. Queen’s imported it last year from the province of Alberta, where my wife Julie was able to use her connections with her former colleagues at the Alberta Mental Health Board to connect our Student Affairs Team with the First Aid program. So it was very nice to close the circle by visiting the unit that began this important program.
The evening was a pleasant, relaxed one at a Thai restaurant with a recent Queen’s grad Mike Roger (now starting a Masters at ANU–Mike’s two younger brothers are currently at Queen’s), with history MA alumnus David Akers (till recently exec officer to VC Ian Chubb at ANU) who had been at Queen’s in the history department during my postdoctoral stint there, and with Jack and Judy Jeswiet. Judy is a retired nurse and Jack is a Queen’s Professor of Mechanical Engineering, in Canberra on sabbatical. I’ve known them for a VERY long time–they were the wardens (as head dons were then called) of Gordon House when I was a resident of Gordon-Brockington in 76-77!
After this at was back to the residence to sleep for a few hours before a very early trip to Sydney where we arrived at 930 on Thursday morning. We had two sets of meetings, one at the University of New South Wales (where we met among others Queen’s alumnus David Cohen, a scientist in charge of UNSW’s equivalent of our Bio Sci department–David joined us for the alumni reception later that day). UNSW is our largest exchange partner, with about 150 students from each partner having gone back and forth over the years. In the afternoon we wrestled with Sydney traffic
and visited the campus of the rapidly expanding MacQuarie University just outside Sydney. It is like a small town, with its own train station, and will be expanding to about 50,000 students in the next couple of years. Talks at both schools involved increasing our level of faculty and graduate exchange activity.
The business part of the trip concluded Thursday night at the offices of the Consul-General of Canada in Sydney, Tom McDonald. Tom is another Queen’s History grad, class of 1972, and has been in his current post for 3 years. The view from his rooftop terrace is stunning. Apart from Tom and his wife Susan, an early resident of Victoria Hall, several of his staff are Queen’s grads, including Sharon Pinney and Elaine Callagan.
This was a terrific event during which I met most of the nearly 100 alumni and guests who turned up, about a quarter of all the alumni in Sydney. After some remarks by Tom and by me, and a door prize draw, we conducted what may well have been the first ever mass Oil Thigh on a Sydney rooftop. Attending the reception among others was Prof. Harold Messel, Queen’s 1948, one of Australia’s most distinguished nuclear scientists, who came in all the way from his home in Tasmania for the function. Prof Missel is 88 and still going strong. Other guests with whom I chatted included a PhD grad from the 70s who had lived in a Science 44 co-op house on Earl St. Within a few minutes we realized that the house he was talking about was one that became a private residence in the 1980s–and which Julie and I currently live in!
I was especially pleased at the reception that we were joined by four current Queen’s students here on exchange at various Australian universities. Chaz Legge, Courtney de Cosimo, Lindsay Fisher and Steffi Regpala mixed with our alumni and helped reinforce my message to them that Queen’s welcomes and needs their continued support.
The reception was to end at 730, but at 830, when I left, there were still people in attendance. It was a great way to end the trip. There is no organized alumni branch in Sydney, but as the evening went on, several different people indicated that they would be very interested in rectifying that.
As I write this, it is Friday morning in Sydney. I fly home tomorrow after a busy but very productive week with lots learned about higher education in a country very similar to Canada, and some very useful contacts either made or strengthened. Back home late Saturday night to the Kingston winter!
It was a short day today owing to the travel in the afternoon to Canberra, where I am now sitting in the University House residence at the Australian National University. This is my 2nd trip to Canberra, but first to ANU. More on the visit here in the next day or so.
Still in Melbourne this morning, we went a slight distance out of town to the Clayton campus of Monash University. Monash is Australia’s largest university, and has multiple campuses both in Australia and abroad. It was an early pioneer of the international campus idea and has campuses in Kuala Lumpur, Johannesburg and elsewhere. We spent some time with the Vice-Chancellor, neuroscientist Ed Byrne, who gave us a great deal of information about the pros and cons of Monash’s offshore experiments. Apart from being an accomplished scientist and administrator, Prof Byrne is a published poet who kindly presented us with a copy of his verse.
Two of the other meetings were with old friends. One, Ian Copland, is a historian of colonial India with whom I have had some collaboration in the past and occasional contact over the years, though this is the first time we have met in person. He has a Queen’s connection insofar as his partner, a law professor, has spent a a couple of months in our Law School on a visiting lectureship.
The second of these, at lunch, was with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Adam Shoemaker. Roughly the equivalent of our provost, Adam is a very old acquaintance. We recalled that we first met in September 1976 when he was 2nd year student and I was a frosh newly elected as treasurer of the Arts ’80 year society; it was he who gave the new executive a sense of what it was we were supposed to do. Adam went off to Australia on exchange in 3rd year, returned to Queen’s and graduated with a medial degree in History and English. Australia obviously suited him, because after some time in Ottawa he returned there for a PhD and, while he has been elsewhere during the intervening time, has spent much of his career here, having become DVC at Monash 3 years ago. It was great to catch up on the various people we knew in common.
Among other things, Adam told us about the Monash Passport, a co-curricular initiative which he has steadfastly promoted here and which I think may well be worth looking into at Queen’s.
After that, it was off to the airport, and Canberra, but more on that in the next day or so.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
After a 3 hour plane ride on Friday and a quiet weekend in Melbourne mainly working on some history work I had brought with me, it was down to business again today, with a visit to the University of Melbourne. I’ve been joined over the weekend by Dr Sally Rigden from the Principal’s Office, who is an Australian herself (from Perth via Canberra). We took the tram down Swanston street the 15 minutes to the University. One of my favourite things in any new city is to try out the local transport and the trams are great.
Melbourne is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Australia, regularly placing at or near the top of research rankings, including quite a spectacular recent climb up the Shangai Jiao Tong rankings. There are, apparently, very few week departments and 52 of them scored perfect ’5s’ on the national research assessment exercise (ERA). It is twice the size or more that of Queen’s, at about 47,000 studentsWe were met at the International Centre, right out on Swanston St by the tram stops, by a staff member who squired us to our first meeting, with the university’s provost (roughly equivalent to our provost), John Dewar. I was particularly keen to find out about the famous ‘Melbourne model’ which over the past few years has quite considerably changed the curriculum structure, making formerly undergraduate professional programs into graduate or 2nd entry programs. We have done some of these things ourselves at Queen’s, for instance the conversion of the LLB into a JD, but the process has been much more extensive at Melbourne and much more of a radical departure from the ‘direct entry’ approach (borrowed from Britain) whereby students can get into medicine, law etc direct from high school.
Melbourne has taken an interestingly interdisciplinary approach to research, with much of it clustered around Institutes with a problem-focus, such as ‘Sustainable Communities’ or ‘Broadband Enabled Society’. Its annual consolidated budget is about 1.5 million $AU.
The campus is an interesting mix of old and new.
On one side, the buildings are very old, but have in many cases been redeveloped or repurposed. On the other side, it is almost all new or recent, including a very interesting Business school building known as ‘The Spot’.
Our second meeting was a rapid tour through some of the university’s innovative teaching spots. With a new teaching building being planned at Queen’s, I was particularly curious to see what they had done here. Our guide, Prof Peter Jamieson, is an Education specialist who was hired here specifically to reform the teaching spaces. He is an ‘Energizer Bunny’ of an enthusiast who whipped us around campus in less than an hour to some of the most interesting teaching spaces I have seen for a long while.
We saw the social spaces in the library, including restaurant-like circular booths where students gather, often working individually on different projects but much more likely to sit together than at conventional long tables. At least a couple of the classrooms had school-like tables for 4 or 5 students, with space for the instructor in the centre of the room rather than at the front. Instead of blackboards or whiteboards, many of the rooms have glassboards, often brightly coloured.
In the library, where much of the book stock has been out-housed to make room for student learning commons, we were quite struck by a set of old wooden tables. These appeared NOT to be wired for computers. This as Peter explained was quite deliberate—so many places ARE wired that he wanted a spot for students to sit for no longer than their batteries would allow, and to do other things than compute. There was only one lone laptop on the table we looked at.
Elsewhere, there was a quiet room, formerly a faculty lounge but now a student lounge. Soothing music at a low volume was piped in. The room was clearly a space for quiet contemplation. (We called it the Zen Lounge.)
After this rapid tour, which also included two brand new ‘pavilions’ or gathering spots, one indoors and one outdoors, it was time for lunch.
We went to the University House, a club or restaurant where we met Douglas Proctor, from the U’s International Relations office (Douglas, a French and linguistics grad, was in Kingston last November for a day, so knows our campus), our host,Susan Elliott, a Prof of Gastroenterology and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Global Engagement), and Lesleyanne Hawthorne, Associate Dean in the Dentistry and Health Sciences Faculty. Lesleyanne also knows Queen’s and does work with Prof Keith Banting of our School of Policy Studies and Dept of Political Science. I had read a couple of articles by her last year on the Australian experience in internationalization as compared with Canada and other jurisdictions, so was very glad to be able to put a face to the email address!
During the lunch, in which we compared notes on internationalization initiatives, we were surprised by one statistic, which is that Canada is the single biggest supplier of international students to Australian medical and dental schools–a function of the excess of highly qualified students over places at Canadian medical and dental schools.
Following lunch we had one last meeting, at the university’s advancement office. Here, we had a fascinating discussion with several central and faculty advancement team members. Philanthropy is relatively new to Australia, as like Britain it has moved rather sharply from a fully-state supported system to one in which private support and tuition are increasingly filling the gap. Melbourne is embarking on its first full campaign in 70 years (by comparison there have been 3 or 4 at Queen’s since I was a student, and we are in the run-up to another right now). We were able to swap some good experiences and lessons learned. My parting gift from our hosts at this meeting was a history of the University coauthored by one of its most distinguishd historians, Prof Stuart Macintyre. By coincidence, I am dining with Stuart this evening, whom I first met on my last trip when we were both deans of arts; since then he has been a major collaborator in the Oxford History of Historical Writing (OHHW) project of which I am general editor. (I mentioned above that I had spent lots of the weekend working on ‘history’ stuff–it was in fact mainly on his volume in the OHHW which is now moving through the press process.
We had a pleasant dinner with Stuart and another historian involved in the Oxford History, Bain Attwood, from Monash University, where I am headed for meetings tomorrow.
Some more pix of today’s meetings below: