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Committed to Senate committees

Senate committees discuss issues of broad interest to the academic community and make recommendations on policy and practice that are essential to the university’s governance and evolution. Committee membership includes senators as well as members of the broader university community. With a recent call inviting faculty, staff and students to apply for membership on Senate committees, the Gazette spoke with several current committee members to find out more about their experience.

Chelsea Elliott, Director of the Nanoengineered Coating Facility (Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy), was elected to Senate in 2014 and, soon after, joined the Senate Governance and Nominating Committee. With a background in project management and complex problem solving, Ms. Elliott believed her skills would be valued by the committee responsible for advising Senate on the efficiency and effectiveness of its governance structures.

[Chelsea Elliott]
Chelsea Elliott enjoys connecting with colleagues across campus as a member of the Senate Governance and Nominating Committee.

“It has been an excellent opportunity to learn how Senate is run, how processes are developed and decisions are made across the university,” she says.

Ms. Elliott, who’s also an adjunct lecturer in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, has enjoyed connecting with colleagues across the university. In fact, Ms. Elliott decided to volunteer with Science Rendezvous after connecting with Lynda Colgan (Education), who was chair of the committee in 2015.

“I have a great appreciation for the calibre of work and the enthusiasm of the people who work at Queen’s,” she says “The staff, administrators, students and faculty truly care about Queen’s and work hard to bring meaningful improvement.”

With such a positive experience so far, Ms. Elliott regrets not joining a Senate committee earlier in her career.

“Just do it; the experience will help you learn and grow,” she says. “Request a visitor’s pass to a Senate meeting and see how it works. That way it will be less intimidating when you eventually decide to get involved and apply to join a committee.”

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Michael Blennerhassett (Medicine) no longer serves as an elected member of Senate, but he continues to chair the Senate Educational Equity Committee (SEEC).  Currently in his second term with SEEC, Dr. Blennerhassett says the committee work has changed his perspective on students.

[Michael Blennerhest]
Michael Blennerhassett says serving on the Senate Educational Equity Committee has offered him a new perspective on the students he teaches.

“I have learned that students can have many dimensions, and that these may not always be apparent.” he says. “Our students might come together for the common reason of being taught by us, but they are very different people who think and learn in a variety of ways. This needs to be part of how we teach, evaluate and interact.”

Dr. Blennerhassett has served on several different committees over the past six years. In addition to SEEC, he currently sits on the Senate Governance and Nominating Committee.

“I have enjoyed the chance to participate and influence the course of Queen’s progress more broadly,” he says. “As faculty members, we all administer various things, but the chance to actually participate in what Queen’s does as a university is really important.”

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Students also play an influential role, through Senate committees, in shaping the future of the institution, according to Peter Smolej, a member of the Senate Cyclical Program Review Committee

[Peter Smolej]
Peter Smolej believes serving on the Senate Cyclical Program Review Committee helped him develop the skills necessary to succeed in his summer employment. 

“Serving on a Senate committee gives students a real chance to shape their experience at Queen’s,” says Mr. Smolej (Artsci’16). “When else are you going to have the opportunity as a student to participate in these conversations and be treated as an equal, alongside deans, faculty members and staff?”

Mr. Smolej, who served as an elected senator from 2013-15, became interested in Senate as a way to get involved and voice his opinion on issues. Additionally, serving on Senate committees gave him a unique experiential learning opportunity.

“I learned skills I wouldn’t have in the classroom. In Senate committees, we have challenging and contentious discussions. From that, I learned how to assert myself in a diplomatic way. I really honed my professionalism skills.”

Apply Now
Want to serve on a Senate committee? Go online to view the committee vacancies and access the application forms.
Applications are due Feb. 10

Mr. Smolej drew on his Senate experience in his summer job last year with the Ontario Treasury Board Secretariat. As an analyst, he participated in mandate reviews of government agencies. The work was similar to what he does on the Cyclical Program Review Committee, which involves reviewing and evaluating assessment reports as well as recommending ongoing improvements for academic programs.

“Senate provided invaluable experience and I was able to succeed at the Treasury Board because of that experience,” he says.

Visit the University Secretariat and Legal Counsel website to learn more about all of the Senate committees.