Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Arts and Science

Bringing Queen’s economic rigour to the social sector

"Based at Innovation Park, the Limestone Analytics team includes, from left: Caroline Godin; Jay MacKinnon; Jordan Nanowski; Jenny Watt; Bahman Kashi; Alexandra Galvin; Aalisha Lakdawala, Christopher Cotton."
Based at Innovation Park, the Limestone Analytics team includes, from left: Caroline Godin; Jay MacKinnon; Jordan Nanowski; Jenny Watt; Bahman Kashi; Alexandra Galvin; Aalisha Lakdawala, Christopher Cotton. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)

The Innovators, Entrepreneurs, and Collaborators series profiles regional innovations, startups and collaborations that are flourishing and which engage Queen’s faculty, staff and/or students.

Bahman Kashi slides the mouse in his right hand back and forth on the table top, clicking on the long columns of numbers and graphics displayed on his computer. To the casual observer, seeing these long ranks of columns on a wall screen in a boardroom at Innovation Park, what he is working with looks like a long, complex, and not easily understandable spreadsheet; in fact, these numbers are part of a sophisticated analysis that his company, Limestone Analytics, is carrying out aimed at improving health outcomes in hospitals in Cameroon, specifically saving children’s lives. 

Important, interesting work. But what has earned Kashi and his firm a spot at Innovation Park, Queen’s University’s incubator for startups (usually of the high-tech variety), is what lies behind the numbers – what Kashi refers to as Limestone’s “methodology.”

“Economists love models,” says Kashi, himself a PhD in the field and an adjunct lecturer in the Department of Economics. With good reason. A mixture of data, assumptions and formulae, economic models are powerful tools, useful for determining the costs and benefits of business decisions, government policies or development programs such as the one that Kashi and his colleagues are working on. But the typical model is anything but user-friendly. Experts on a program or economic sector often build extensive models across a series of interconnected spreadsheets, making it nearly impossible for anyone else to update their analysis, let alone understand the details of the calculations being performed. Very much the idiosyncratic product of one mind, “it’s easier,” says Kashi, “for a second person to rebuild it from scratch than understand what had been done.” 

To cap it off, says Kashi, “Economists aren’t the best at communicating.”

Not surprisingly, given the somewhat artisanal fashion in which these models are constructed (they can take literally hundreds of hours), hiring an economic consultant is an expensive proposition. Kashi wondered if there might not be a more efficient and less expensive way to do it, one which would make modeling more accessible to a larger group of potential users. “An architect can draw a plan and pass it to a builder,” he says. Why not do something similar with modeling?

The result is what he is displaying on-screen. It looks like a spreadsheet because it is a spreadsheet. But baked into it, so to speak, are the economist’s assumptions and formulae – relating to costs and benefits, the social impacts, the stakeholders. Different people can work on different parts of the model – a health economist could create the model, essentially a series of equations; a programmer could then incorporate the equations into Excel; and a research assistant (who might be an undergraduate, not a PhD) could track down statistics and enter them in an Excel table that the programmer set up to feed data into the underlying model. Making changes can be done quickly, he says, in a “matter of hours, not a week,” as might be the case with a more conventional model.

Kashi was interested in bridging the gap between the social sector and the world of academic economics. He knew people in the social sector from teaching at Queen’s, where they would approach the department for help with their projects. Largely lacking in economic training, they didn’t have the right conceptual tools to evaluate a program or choose between two competing ones. 

Founded in 2016, Limestone Analytics specializes in economic modeling, as well as the design, monitoring and evaluation of international development and social sector projects. Working with Kashi and his firm gives NGOs (among them World Vision, one of the world’s largest), a sophisticated analysis of potential or ongoing projects. For their part, Limestone Analytics gets real, hands-on examples to help them hone their methodology further. Those real-world examples are key, says Kashi. “We would be making fools of ourselves if we just went into a room for a year and a half, and then came out and said, ‘Here’s the model.’” 

One of Limestone’s recent projects, focused on an analysis of the Haitian electrical sector, undertaken for the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a Danish think tank. Limestone’s project was chosen as the number one submission by an expert panel created by the Center to look at ways to help the Caribbean country climb out of poverty.

Most firms involved in consulting work similar to that done by Limestone Analytics tend to locate in Toronto or Ottawa, or even Washington. Limestone plans to stay in Kingston, at Innovation Park. 

There are, says Kashi, a number of reasons for this. 

“One is academic rigour. Very often these social-sector analyses are critiqued as poor quality, so we want to maintain our relationship with high-quality academic partners in the Queen’s Department of Economics.” 

Thanks to the university connection, they also receive funding from MITACS, which reduces the costs for them to hire graduate students. Other faculty members in the partners in the Queen’s Department of Economics are also regularly involved with Limestone’s projects, helping ensure that they adhere to the highest standards of academic quality.

“The other point is if we were in Washington, say, we’d be flooded with jobs. But you don’t want that if you are trying to change the very way things work. And we wouldn’t get the support we get here,” he says. Now up to eight people, Limestone Analytics has recently moved into a larger, more private footprint within the incubation space at Innovation Park, which continues to provide the company with access to numerous resources such as business advice from Launch Lab, and match-making services and intellectual property guidance from the Queen’s Office of Partnerships and Innovation. (Limestone Analytics can also draw on resources in Toronto and Ottawa.) One of the key proposals Limestone is working on now is a direct outcome of an international event that took place at Innovation Park in June. “Even getting into MaRS (Toronto’s startup incubator) for a desk you’d have to wait a year or two,” he laughs.

“We are not the first to have tried this,” says Kashi of the idea of creating a development-specific economic model. Both the United Nations and the World Bank have tried, but earlier attempts proved unsuccessful. “The problem is that earlier attempts have either tried to create a complex model to fit all situations, or restricted their assumptions to the degree that their work is no-longer useful. Our way is different. We are trying to develop a streamlined approach to the modeling process, while still allowing the models themselves to be flexible in their design and assumptions.” 

Ultimately, their goal is to refine their methodology and scale it up, which will give them a real product that they can sell to the World Bank, or other large and small organizations that deal with investments in infrastructure and social projects. 

“It’s a niche market,” says Kashi, “but there’s lots of demand for it."

Canadian research leaders elected to College

Early-career Queen’s researchers honoured by the Royal Society of Canada.

See also:
A Royal Honour
Royal Society of Canada recognizes three Queen’s University faculty members as RSC fellows. (September 7, 2016)

Two Queen’s University faculty members have been named to the Royal Society of Canada’s (RSC) College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists program. The Members of the College are research leaders who, at an early stage in their career, have demonstrated a high level of achievement these elections are indicative of the research excellence fostered at Queen’s.

Katherine McKittrick’s (Gender Studies) research focuses include black studies, gender studies, history and literature while Karen Yeates (Medicine) is focused on bringing healthcare expertise to impoverished areas of Africa including Tanzania.

The New College program recognizes an emerging generation of Canadian intellectual leadership and seeks to gather scholars, artists and scientists at a highly productive stage of their careers into a single collegium where new advances in understanding will emerge from the interaction of diverse intellectual, cultural and social perspectives.

Karen Yeates

“The College opens the doors of the RSC to early and mid-career scholars and researchers, and provides them an opportunity to contribute to the promotion of learning and research,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “The researchers elected as part of the 2017 Membership are great representatives of the diverse range of leading edge and innovative research being undertaken by our younger colleagues on campuses across Canada.”

Dr. Yeates’ implementation science research program brings healthcare expertise to Tanzania and other nations using mobile phone technology. She is recognized as a leader in the field of mobile health research, and she has been praised internationally for her contributions to disease screening and prevention.

“I thought my research program wouldn’t really fit the metric of the scientist but this honour gives me motivation to keep pushing forward,” says Dr. Yeates.

Katherine McKittrick

Dr. McKittrick’s scholarly work looks at the links between the theories of race, liberation and creative texts in relation to the fields of geography, cultural studies, black studies and gender studies where her work on interdisciplinary and anti-colonial intellectual thought is widely recognized.

“I’m still very early in my career so this award is a deep honour,” says Dr. McKittrick. “To have a scholar who works on questions of black liberation recognized by the RSC is very exciting.”

For more information on the New College visit the website.

New era of health research in Kingston

Dr. John Fisher, Vice-Principal (Research) at Queen’s University delivers speech at event opening ceremony.
John Fisher, Vice-Principal (Research), speaks during the opening of the W.J. Henderson Centre for Patient-Oriented Research on Monday, Sept. 11. (University Communications)

Home to one of the country’s top 40 research hospitals and a world-renowned university, Kingston has long been recognized as an important centre for health research in Canada.

That reputation is reaching new heights with the opening of the W.J. Henderson Centre for Patient-Oriented Research. The new centre positions Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC), Queen’s University and the KGH Research Institute (KGHRI) as international leaders in partnering with patients to improve health knowledge and outcomes.

The state-of-the-art centre brings together for the first time the facilities, equipment and research projects that require direct patient involvement into a single space. Located within KHSC’s Kingston General Hospital site and adjacent to the Queen’s University campus, the facility is situated to give clinician-scientists, researchers, and research volunteers a safe and accessible environment where patients can be consulted, assessed and monitored as they take part in research studies.

“This centre is the realization of our commitment to patient-oriented research,” says Dr. Roger Deeley, Vice-President of Health Sciences Research at KHSC and Vice-Dean of Research, Faculty of Health Sciences, Queen’s University. “It expands opportunities for patients to take part in the discovery process, and it provides a stimulating environment for collaboration. This will lead to innovation, better treatments and improved outcomes for patients and their families. It also provides the ideal environment for multi-disciplinary approaches to research and a solid training ground for future clinician-scientists and researchers.”

At 10,000 square feet, the centre increases research space at the KGH site by 25 per cent. Facilities include shared research labs and work spaces, patient examination and procedure rooms, comfortable waiting areas for patients and their families, a biohazard Level 2 preparation area, as well as the capability to conduct early stage clinical trials, crucial steps in the development of new drug and device treatments and therapies.

“Research has become an increasingly collaborative pursuit that not only requires clinician-scientists from partner institutions to work more closely together, but also for researchers and patients to become more deeply involved in the discovery process,” says Dr. John Fisher, Vice-Principal (Research) at Queen’s University. “This new centre will strengthen the collective efforts of Kingston’s world-class scientific community and ultimately provide patients with improved healthcare and quality of life.”

"This represents a significant milestone in health research at KHSC. The centre will become a major hub for clinical research as we further integrate research between Queen's and our academic hospital partners,” says Dr. Richard Reznick, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Queen’s University. “Ultimately, the work of the centre will translate into improved patient outcomes in our community and will help us to both educate future scientists and recruit leading researchers from around the world.”

Constructed at a cost of $4.2 million, the centre’s creation was made possible through generous gifts from more than 150 donors, including $1 million from the W.J. Henderson Foundation and $1.2 million in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, awarded to Dr. Stephen Vanner, (Gastrointestinal Diseases Research Unit) and Dr. Douglas Munoz (Centre for Neuroscience Studies).

“This facility reflects a significant commitment by individuals and organizations, including the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Ontario Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science, clinician-scientists and researchers, and donors including the W.J. Henderson Foundation. Their support made this centre possible, and we are profoundly grateful to them,” says Dr. Deeley.

For more information on the W.J. Henderson Centre for Patient Oriented Research, visit www.kgh.on.ca/research.

Queen’s researcher recognized for work on toxic algae blooms

The Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences (CJFAS) has selected a paper lead by Queen’s National Scholar and researcher Diane Orihel as Editor’s Choice for 2017, an honour that highlights articles of particularly high caliber and topical importance, in recognition of her team’s national study of nutrients that feed algal blooms in Canadian lakes. Algal blooms – the blue-green scums visible on nutrient-polluted lakes – negatively affect not only recreational activities like swimming and fishing, but can put drinking water, property values, wildlife, and human health at risk.

Researcher and Queen’s National Scholar Diane Orihel takes samples of lake water. The Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences has selected a paper lead by Dr. Orihel as Editor’s Choice for 2017. (Supplied Photo) 

“We looked at all of the national data on phosphorous release from sediments of Canadian freshwater ecosystems and saw how important paying attention to the bigger picture can be,” says Dr. Orihel (Environmental Studies, Biology). “I think our research will help us better manage our lakes and wetlands so all Canadians can feel safe to enjoy them.”

Dr. Orihel’s team investigated a process in Canada’s aquatic ecosystems: the recycling of phosphorus between sediments at the bottom of lakes and overlying water. Algae thrives on phosphorous so as it is released from lakebeds harmful accumulations of algae, called blooms, are more likely to form. Across the country tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars are invested every year to manage nutrient pollution – but in some lakes – legacy effects from nutrients deposited years ago can linger and delay recovery.

“Our main goal was to better understand where, when, and why this process occurs so that we can make improvements to how algal blooms are managed and develop realistic goals for lake restoration,” explained Dr. Orihel. “We found that phosphorus release from sediments was a common phenomenon in Canadian fresh waters, but that rates of this process varied dramatically from lake to lake.”

Major case studies featured in the article include Lake Simcoe, Lake Winnipeg, Lake of the Woods, Lake Erie, Lake Champlain, Cootes Paradise, and Lake Diefenbaker.

Prairie lakes in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta were shown to have the highest rates of phosphorous release, while the lowest rates were found in northern Ontario and the Maritimes.

“We found that oxygen levels, pH balance, nutrient status all affected the rate of phosphorus release from sediments,” Dr. Orihel says. “Following this study, it will be important to examine how human impacts, such as climate change and fish farming, affect this process so we can better tailor our efforts to improve water quality.”

The take-home message for the public, according to Dr. Orihel is “we need to stop dumping phosphorus into our lakes, because it’s not only causing problems right now, but in many lakes, it continues to deteriorate water quality for our children and grandchildren”.

The article was published online today in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences (dx.doi.org/10.1139/cjfas-2016-0500).

Collaborators on the project included Helen Baulch (University of Saskatchewan), Nora Casson (University of Winnipeg), Rebecca North (University of Missouri), Chris Parsons (University of Waterloo), Dalila Seckar (Queen’s University), and Jason Venkiteswaran (Wilfrid Laurier University)

A Royal honour

Three Queen’s University professors were granted the honour today of being elected to the Royal Society of Canada (RSC), one of the highest honours for Canadian academics in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.

The three fellows, Richard Bathurst, Anne Croy and Robert Morrison, have a wide range of research interests including civil engineering, reproductive sciences and literature, which demonstrative of the range of research expertise and excellence found across campus.

“The three newly elected fellows have made important contributions to their respective fields and represent a diverse mix of areas of study,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “Having the RSC recognize these three scholars is an honour and I join the university community in congratulating them.”

Richard Bathurst

Richard Bathurst (Civil Engineering) – Professor Bathurst has made contributions to the advancement and understanding of modern civil engineering geosynthetic reinforced earth retaining structures and slopes. Cross-appointed to the Royal Military College of Canada, his work demonstrates a multi-disciplinary approach to the design, analysis and sustainability of these structures.

“We don’t work for awards so this is a true honour,” says Professor Bathurst. “It’s really a recognition for a lifetime of work in my field. I’m humbled.”

Anne Croy

Anne Croy (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) – Dr. Croy is a world-leader in reproductive sciences and has made seminal contributions with her descriptions of uterine Natural Killer (uNK) cells recruited to the uterus in early pregnancy. Most complications of human pregnancy are linked with incomplete remodeling of vessels called spiral arteries – a process initiated by the uNK cell.

“Only the very best get recognized and I was truly shocked to be nominated,” says Dr. Croy. “This type of award is the crown jewel for my career.”

Robert Morrison

 

Robert Morrison (English) – Dr. Morrison is a leading scholar of British Romantic literature, and the world’s foremost authority on the nineteenth-century English essayist and opium addict Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859).

“I was really gobsmacked to win this award,” says Dr. Morrison. “It’s really a type of validation for my work. I’ve won awards for teaching in the past but this is for research. Being named a Fellow gives me confidence to keep forging ahead.”

The Royal Society of Canada is the senior and most prestigious academic society in Canada. Members represent a wide range of academic fields, including the arts, social and natural sciences and humanities. Candidates can be nominated by existing members, seconded by at least two others, or by one of the society's member institutions. Existing members of the society then vote to elect the next cohort of fellows. Election to the society is considered one of the highest honours in Canadian academia.

For more information visit the RSC’s website.

Queen's remembers Kurt Kyser

T. Kurt Kyser, a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering at Queen’s University, died Tuesday, Aug. 29 while teaching in Bermuda.

"T. Kurt Kyser"
T. Kurt Kyser, a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering at Queen’s University, died Tuesday, Aug. 29 while teaching in Bermuda. (Supplied Photo)

A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and pioneering geochemist, Dr. Kyser arrived at Queen’s in 1995 and would soon create and direct one of the leading geochemistry laboratories in North America, the Queen’s Facility for Isotope Research. Dr. Kyser was a world-renowned researcher whose creativity and gift for solving scientific problems produced more than 500 peer-reviewed papers, books, book chapters, and technical reports. 

Over his career Dr. Kyser received numerous awards and was a Queen’s Research Chair, a Queen’s National Scholar, a Killam Research Fellow, a Fellow of the Mineralogical Society of America, and recipient of the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship. He also was the past president of the Mineralogical Association of Canada and was active in numerous organizations and societies.

Dr. Kyser completed his bachelor’s at the University of California, San Diego, and earned his master’s and PhD from the University of California, Berkley. Throughout his career he collaborated with colleagues worldwide and believed strongly that field geology is fundamental to geochemical research. 

Dr. Kyser is survived by his wife and partner in science and life, April Vuletich.

Information regarding a funeral or memorial service will be announced when available.

Anyone in need of support is encouraged to contact Student Wellness Services at 613-533-6000 ext. 78264 and/or University Chaplain Kate Johnson at 613-533-2186. Students who require support can also contact Good2Talk, a confidential and anonymous post-secondary student helpline that offers services in both French and English. Visit the Good2Talk website  or call 1-866-925-5454.

Staff and faculty can contact the Queen’s Employee Family and Assistance Program (EFAP) at 1-800-663-1142 or online at homewoodhumansolutions.com.

Eric Hiatt (University of Wisconsin –Oshkosh) and Peir Pufahl (Acadia University) contributed to this article. Both completed post-doctoral fellowships at Queen’s.

Innovative research project at the BISC combines art and science

Herstmonceux Castle is more than just a campus – it is a living piece of history. The campus, which Queen’s operates as the Bader International Study Centre (BISC), is a Bronze Age castle which has been continuously inhabited for over 600 years. This history provides a unique opportunity for Queen’s University and University of Waterloo researchers to study the way people lived hundreds of years ago – yet, up until a few years ago, the site had only received sporadic research attention.

The Herstmonceux Project is an archaeological effort which aims to increase our understanding of climate change by examining how changes in temperature and weather conditions have impacted the castle’s site since its founding.

“Since we received our initial Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant, we have spent four years digging up the past and, along the way, this has provided excellent opportunities for students to work hands-on with a unique archaeological site,” says Steven Bednarski, University of Waterloo professor and medieval scholar. “There have been dozens of research trips to the site which have helped these students practice their research skills and will hopefully one day enable them to contribute to future climate change solutions.”

Queen’s has made a number of contributions to the project, including the assistance of two Queen’s Undergraduate Summer Student Research Fellowship recipients each year. This fellowship provides an opportunity for any continuing undergraduate students at Queen’s to develop their research skills under the guidance of a faculty researcher. Up to two of the fellowships offered each year take place at the BISC. This year, Abby Berry (Artsci’18) did ‘double duty’ while working for the Herstmonceux Project, says Dr. Bednarski. Part of Ms. Berry’s role this summer has been to digitize and catalogue the project’s archives – a task that aligned with her Queen’s education and personal interests.

Queen's University study Abby Berry leads a project presentation at the Bader International Study Centre. (Supplied photo)

“In my first two years at Queen's, I constantly found myself searching for intersections between my major in art history and my minor in mathematics,” says Ms. Berry. “It wasn't until my third year that I learned that there was a discipline called digital humanities that merges both science and art. I was interested in the Herstmonceux Project because it allowed me to explore both sides of my degree. There is an endless amount of research that can be performed when you ask yourself what computer programming can do for the arts and what the arts can do for computer programming.”

The opportunity to work on the research project has been a positive experience for Ms. Berry and she says, after graduation, she plans on continuing her research in the digital humanities.

“I'm really interested in how my computer programming background can be used to enhance our understanding of medieval art and architecture,” she adds. “I want to continue working on research projects that allow art to be accessible, not only to the top one percent, but to the general public – this can be achieved through 3D printing, high-resolution images, or computer models.”

Some of uWaterloo Professor Steven Bednarski's students work on a dig site at the Bader International Study Centre. (Supplied photo)

In addition to the undergraduate student researchers, the Herstmonceux Project researchers are provided access to the campus grounds, they stay at the BISC during their visits, and the archaeological finds are physically stored and digitally catalogued at the castle. Queen’s graduate researchers, at the masters and doctoral levels, have also worked at Herstmonceux to oversee undergraduate students, and to conduct their own original research. Meanwhile, in Kingston, project collaborators in Queen’s Art History and Art Conservation department, including faculty member Amandina Anastassiades and now-retired faculty member Krysia Spirydowicz, worked with their own master's candidates to preserve and study the most fragile artifacts. These MA candidates produced reports and studies on the materials recovered at the castle, and several of them delivered a scholarly paper at an October 2016 conference in Waterloo.

The years of research work at the BISC recently led to a major award for Dr. Bednarski. He received a 2017 D2L Innovation in Teaching and Learning Award from the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, in part because of the Herstmonceux Project and for a digital research lab he has established at the University of Waterloo connected to the project. Dr. Bednarski credits the support of his research team and the project partners – including Queen’s University, the BISC, the University of Waterloo, and St. Jerome’s University (which is federated within University of Waterloo), and SSHRC – for the success of The Herstmonceux Project, and says he accepted the award on behalf of all involved.

To learn more about the project, visit www.medieval-environment.com

New dean to focus on equity, research, and student experience

Barbara Crow was hired in July to become the Dean, Arts and Science. Dr. Crow joins Queen’s from York University in Toronto where she was most recently the Dean, Graduate Studies. The Gazette caught up with Dean Crow to find out how the first few months have been, and learn more about this new member of the Queen’s community.

Barbara Crow, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, arrives at Queen's from York University where she most recently held the position of Dean, Graduate Studies. (University Communications)

How has the transition been for you?

"One of the wonderful things about starting at this time of year is that it is a bit quieter. So, while faculty are doing their research and the students are working, I have been able to meet the senior leaders and the department heads. Everybody has been very welcoming and has come to the table with their ideas and concerns about how to strengthen and reinforce the values of the Faculty of Arts & Science. It has been great to get access to their perspective. I value working with people who tell me what they think.

I also met with the Arts & Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) and the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) and have been incredibly impressed with their commitment to the student experience. I look forward to continuing a positive working relationship with ASUS and SGPS.

The campus is beautiful, and I have been trying every day to walk through a new building. I have a sense of the different kind of community here, one I am looking forward to working with.

I am also really enjoying the change to my quality of life here. I am walking to work and I have, literally, twice skipped home because I am so thrilled to be there in 10 minutes."

 

What attracted you to Queen’s University?

"It has such a fantastic student reputation – bar none. Our undergraduates benefit from excellent undergraduate teaching and we have many services. I said during my hiring I am not going to be able to help you with retention – you have got that all figured out – but I can make contributions to help strengthen research and graduate education.

I am also really excited that Queen’s is taking a leadership role in wellness through the creation of the new Innovation and Wellness Centre – this is an important initiative for students, for staff, and for faculty."

 

What do you uniquely bring to the role of Dean of Arts and Science?

"I love my work. I love universities. I believe publicly funded postsecondary institutions can be fundamental part of strong communities, vibrant cultures, through the important analytic and critical thinking skills we teach. When you look at the data around people who have been to university, you see that on average, they have higher incomes, they are healthier, they are happier, and they contribute more to citizenship issues. We need to remind ourselves of this – we have to remember many of the other elements we get from a university education."

 

For those who haven’t met you yet, what should they know about you?

"I am a really firm believer in professional development and giving colleagues – students, staff, and faculty – tools to make informed decisions about what we want to achieve in the coming years. I am compelled by evidence supported with data. I try to make decisions based on what the research tells us and I think that is important for us as a university.

On a more personal note, I have a son attending Concordia University. My partner and I met on Canada World Youth and is a faculty member in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design at York University. I have been a vegetarian for over 30 years. I also began taking piano lessons as an adult, and I do this to remind myself of what it is like to be a student. It is a humbling experience to remember what it’s like not to understand things and to be reminded how much work it takes to do something well."

 

What are your priorities for the year ahead?

"I would like the graduate student experience to have the same reputation as the undergraduate student experience. We have a fantastic Dean of Graduate Studies here who has been a leader in Canada and I look forward to working with her supporting the graduate student experience.

In light of the exciting Nobel news in Physics, I am really keen to support our research strengths and to provide infrastructure for all of our colleagues to do well in research across the Arts and Science.

I have come from one of the most diverse universities in Canada, and I think it will be important to take up issues in equity and diversity. I also think the Truth and Reconciliation Task Force report has called for some important changes to the way we do things that will enhance indigeneity at Queen’s.

Those are all really important to me and will drive many of the decisions we will make."

Ahead by a century: The Hip imagines a better future

"The Tragically Hip in concert"
A still from the documentary, Long Time Running, premiering at TIFF next month, captures frontman of The Tragically Hip, Gord Downie, as he leads the band through a concert in Vancouver last summer. Robert Morrison (English Language and Literature) attended The Tragically Hip’s final tour stop in Kingston. (Courtesy of TIFF)

This column was originally written for and published by The Conversation Canada, which provides news and views from the academic and research community. Queen’s University is a founding partner. Queen's researchers, faculty, and students are regular contributors.

Good poetry is explosive. It makes us re-examine what we thought we knew, and in some instances it urges us to start again with a different, usually broader, viewpoint. Good songs — as Bob Dylan’s Nobel Laureate reminds us — have a similar impact.

One year ago, on Aug. 20, The Tragically Hip played the final gig of their 2016 summer farewell tour. Their lead singer, Gord Downie, had recently been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, and many thought it might be the last time they were together on stage. If you missed their shows, the documentary, Long Time Running, premiering next month at the Toronto International Film Festival, chronicles those exhilarating and emotional performances. I watched the final show on the big screen in Kingston’s Market Square. I wanted the Hip to play several songs, but none more so than “Ahead by a Century.” It is, I think, their greatest hit, and it was wonderful to hear them perform it as the last song of the show.

Why is it such a fitting way to finish? What about it is explosive? What does it mean to be “ahead by a century?” The song is so rich that there are a variety of good interpretations, but here is one way of thinking about it.

At its most basic level, “Ahead by a Century” is a song with a broad sweep, as it weaves together past, present and future. It is about time, memory, loss, disappointment and desire. But it is also about Canada’s identity and the politics of hope. It is a song in which the Hip asks us to shed what holds us back, and to imagine a future that sets us free.

Childhood’s golden years

Ahead by a Century
First we’d climb a tree and maybe then we’d talk
Or sit silently and listen to our thoughts
With illusions of someday casting a golden light
No dress rehearsal, this is our life
That’s when the hornet stung me and I had a feverish dream
With revenge and doubt, tonight we smoke them out
You are ahead by a century
Stare in the morning shroud and then the day began
I tilted your cloud, you tilted my hand
Rain falls in real time and rain fell through the night
No dress rehearsal, this is our life
That’s when the hornet stung me and I had a serious dream
With revenge and doubt tonight, we smoked them out
You are ahead by a century
But this is our life and disappointing you getting me down
Songwriters: Gordon Downie / Johnny Fay / Joseph Paul Langlois / Robert Baker / Robert Gordon Sinclair
Ahead by a Century lyrics © Peermusic Publishing

The opening verse recalls childhood. It begins with the words “First thing,” which immediately captures the excitement children feel when they recount their day. The singer and his friend have played together many times: “First thing we’d climb a tree / And maybe then we’d talk / Or sit silently / And listen to our thoughts.”

Among other things, the two discuss what they will do when they get older, or what they think their future will be like. They have “illusions of someday” that as children cast “a golden light.” But as the rest of the song reveals, their ideas of the future are “illusions.” It will not be as they planned or hoped. Having been back to childhood, and then forward to “someday,” the verse closes with the present and an insistence on living as fully and genuinely as possible: “No dress rehearsal / This is our life.”

In the bridge, the “illusions” of childhood are inevitably and almost accidentally punctured. The voice of the child is again captured when he explains — perhaps to a parent — “that’s where the hornet stung me.” This unexpected and unpleasant experience marks the end of childhood’s “golden light,” and brings on the “feverish dream” of adulthood, where we are all addled by emotions such as “revenge and doubt.”

The final line of the bridge — like the final line of the verse — returns us to the present: “Tonight we smoke them out.” Literally, of course, the “them” in this line refers to the hornets, but it also refers to “revenge and doubt.” The singer plans to use smoke to drive the hornets from their nest, in the same way that he hopes to drive revenge and doubt from himself, in an attempt to return to an earlier time when he lived free of these emotions.

Political agitators were ahead by a century

The chorus is six words – “You are ahead by a century” – repeated three times. The singer is addressing his partner, who is perhaps the same person he climbed trees with as a child. Yet the two are now far apart. He is thinking of the past and struggling in the present. She is living 100 years into the future. She has broken free of at least some of what thwarts and binds us now.

She is already thinking and behaving in ways that will eventually gain broad political and cultural acceptance, but that are currently deemed unacceptable.

For example, in Britain in the 1810s, tens of thousands of women and men gathered in open-air protests to demand the right to vote, but it was 1918 before there was universal male suffrage and 1928 before there was universal female suffrage.

Those early 19th century demonstrators were ahead by a century (and more). They recognized a blatant social injustice and started campaigning against it, but it took one hundred years for the rest of society to catch up.

In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. — another Nobel Laureate — spoke powerfully of his “dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Since then, 53 years have passed, and we are nowhere near living up to these words, as the recent bigotry in Charlottesville, Va., makes shatteringly clear. Will we live up to them by 2064, or will we discover — sadly and shamefully — that King was ahead by much more than a century?

"The Tragically Hip receive their honorary degrees"
Members of The Tragically Hip, from left, Johnny Fay, Paul Langlois, Gord Sinclair, and Rob Baker, received honorary degrees from Queen's during the 2016 Spring Convocation. (Photo by Bernard Clark)

A vision of Canada beset with tragedy and injustice

In the second verse, the singer continues to draw together the despair of adulthood (“Stare in the morning shroud”) with the exuberance of childhood (“I tilted your cloud”), before anchoring himself in the present (“Rain falls in real time”), and insisting again on the importance of using our time meaningfully: “No dress rehearsal / This is our life.”

The second bridge runs revealing variations on the first, and deepens the themes already in place: This time it is not “where” but “when the hornet stung me,” and the dream is not “feverish” but “serious.” Then, as the band and the singer build toward the close, the chorus is repeated twice, emphasizing with more and more urgency the distance between the singer and his partner.

The song might have ended with the repetition of the chorus, but the singer has one final thing to say: “And disappointing you is getting me down.” It is his acknowledgement that he wishes he was as far ahead as she is, and perhaps too it hints at her disappointment that he is unable to close the ground between them.

But thinking and feeling as he does, regarding the past as he does, misspending his time as he does, seeing a “morning shroud” instead of a morning sun as he does, he seems trapped while she moves into a far more expansive future.

More broadly, the Hip themselves in many ways invoke the dynamics that are at work within this song. They write about Canadian history, language, peoples, landscapes, and towns, and their sense of who we are, where we’ve been, what we’ve done, and where we need to go is at the crux of their music.

Their vision of Canada is beset by tragedy and injustice, but also lifted by beauty, humour, and courage. Most of all, at their finest, they urge us to rethink the present, and to imagine a more generous and accepting future that should not be ahead of us by a century.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Collaboration on sustainability and development continues to grow

  • Participants in the 3rd Sino-Canada Workshop for Environmental Sustainability and Development, including a delegation of faculty and graduate students from Tongji University, gather for a group photo in the Biosciences Complex at Queen's. (Supplied Photo)
    Participants in the 3rd Sino-Canada Workshop for Environmental Sustainability and Development, including a delegation of faculty and graduate students from Tongji University, gather for a group photo in the Biosciences Complex at Queen's. (Supplied Photo)
  • Stephen Lougheed (Biology), Director of the Queen's University Biological Station (QUBS) provides a tour of the facility for a delegation from Tongji University. (Supplied Photo)
    Stephen Lougheed (Biology), Director of the Queen's University Biological Station (QUBS) provides a tour of the facility for a delegation from Tongji University. (Supplied Photo)
  • Tongji University master's student Liu Jinling presents her research as part of the 3rd Sino-Canada Workshop for Environmental Sustainability and Development. (Supplied Photo)
    Tongji University master's student Liu Jinling presents her research as part of the 3rd Sino-Canada Workshop for Environmental Sustainability and Development. (Supplied Photo)
  • Interim Vice-Principal (Research) John Fisher welcomes Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson during the opening of the 3rd Sino-Canada Workshop for Environmental Sustainability and Development. (Supplied Photo)
    Interim Vice-Principal (Research) John Fisher welcomes Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson during the opening of the 3rd Sino-Canada Workshop for Environmental Sustainability and Development. (Supplied Photo)

A delegation of faculty and graduate students from Tongji University visited Queen’s on July 13-15 for the 3rd annual Sino-Canada Workshop on Environmental Sustainability and Development.

[Tri-Colour Globe]
Queen's in the World

The event, an initiative by the Department of Biology and School of Environmental Studies with their Chinese counterparts, featured presentations on current research projects and discussions for future collaboration opportunities. Also attending the workshop were government and industry representatives from China. Kingston Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO), Innovation Park and Queen’s Industry Partnerships hosted a very informative session at Innovation Park which showcased some of the water technologies that exist in the local economy.

Queen’s and Tongji have collaborated on various projects in recent years including the 2+2 Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science, a long-standing Joint Biology Field Course that occurs in China and the Queen’s in alternating years, and the Sino-Canada Network for Environment and Sustainable Development.

Internationalization in one of the four pillars of the Queen’s University Strategic Framework 2014–2019. The Comprehensive International Plan was launched in August 2015 to help the university build on its international strengths and direct future internationalization efforts. The plan’s goals include strengthening Queen’s international research engagement and creating more opportunities for student mobility through academic exchange and study-abroad programs. The plan also aims to attract high-quality international students to Queen’s and to increase international educational opportunities on Queen’s campus. China is a region of focus within the plan. For more information on the Queen’s-China Connection and Queen’s international program overall, visit the International website.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Arts and Science