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Focused on students

Corinna Fitzgerald arrived at Queen's as Assistant Dean (Student Life and Learning) in the Division of Student Affairs at the end of August. (University Communications)

When Corinna Fitzgerald started working at Queen’s in late August, she couldn’t help feeling like one of the thousands of first-year students who would arrive on campus a few weeks later.

But that was a good thing.

Ms. Fitzgerald is the Assistant Dean (Student Life and Learning) in the Division of Student Affairs and a focus of her portfolio is fostering an engaged, inclusive and vibrant community for undergraduate and graduate students.

While she didn’t have much time to settle in before students  arrived, she feels it was a great learning opportunity and a chance to connect with students experiencing the same things she was.

“I actually am really grateful for starting at the time that I did because I did get to experience campus a little bit differently than I have at other places,” Ms. Fitzgerald says. “I went to a 1lot of orientation week events so I could see it somewhat from a student perspective. That’s been really good.”

Having previously worked in similar positions at institutions such as St. Francis Xavier University, McMaster University and, most recently, Humber College, Ms. Fitzgerald says the one thing that has stood out since arriving here is the feeling of being welcomed by the Queen’s community.

“I really felt welcomed when I came here. I’ve said that it is the best transition that I’ve had at any of the institutions that I’ve been at,” she says. “Maybe it’s because of the timing and the fact that the whole campus was welcoming the incoming students but I also think it’s because there’s such a community-student engagement feel here.” 

On campus, Ms. Fitzgerald has set out to meet as many groups as she can in order to get the background she needs to conduct her work. That has meant speaking with colleagues across Student Affairs and in faculties and schools, as well as with students.

She has been impressed by what she has seen and heard. Collaboration, she says, is a key to moving forward. 

“I have been at campuses where the student voice is strong, then at other campuses where it’s less so, and I think a strong student voice makes the campus better,” she says. “In Student Affairs, in particular, students are at the core and the centre of everything that we do, and to be able to do that in collaboration with students, I think, is really important too.” 

As Assistant Dean (Student Life and Learning), Ms. Fitzgerald is involved in a number of significant projects and areas across campus, including as a member of the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Working Group (SAPRWG). That group is currently updating the university’s sexual violence policy in response to provincial legislation and regulations. 

Continuing to build on the great work that’s been done, Ms. Fitzgerald will focus primarily on building collaborations among Student Life and Learning units  including the Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC), the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, Student Academic Success Services (SASS), the Student Experience Office (SEO) and Residence Life, as well as with other areas of campus to ease student transition and to enhance student leadership development. 

Looking ahead, at least in the short term, Ms. Fitzgerald believes her experience as a new arrival at Queen’s will help her in at least one area of her work.

“When I arrived at Queen’s I felt so welcomed and appreciated already for the things I will be able to contribute and for me that has made the transition easier,” Ms. Fitzgerald says. “My hope is that new students will feel the same way because they all bring things that will contribute to our campus community. It may take a little while to find your footing but I hope they feel empowered to bring their skills, experiences, ideas and thoughts to the campus so that we do make Queen’s, the community, amazing and that they have a great experience while they are here.”

Ms. Fitzgerald can be contacted at (613) 533-6000 ext. 36944 or at corinna.fitzgerald@queensu.ca.