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Law Library acquires Aboriginal texts

Located on traditional Anishnaabe and Haudenosaunee Territory, the Faculty of Law has been part of a campus-wide effort at Queen’s University to provide an opportunity for members of Indigenous communities to see representations of their cultures on campus, and also provide non-Indigenous people an opportunity to learn about Indigenous cultures and languages.

[Lederman Law Library Aboriginal Texts]
A recent donation enabled Lederman Library to expand its collection of books focused on Indigenous law. (University Communications)

One way Lederman Law Library is doing this is through a recent gift for the purchase of legal texts.

“An anonymous donor generously provided us with $5,000 for books for the Lederman Library. In the context of the recent findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, expanding our available works on Aboriginal law is a priority,” says Amy Kaufman, Head Law Librarian. “We focused particularly on works on Aboriginal law and aspects of law, as published by Aboriginal authors and publishing houses.”

The gift allows the Lederman Library to begin broadening and deepening its collection in this area.

“What we have now is not huge, but it’s important,” Ms. Kaufman says. “It’s a modest collection, but is composed of material that can give researchers a fuller understanding of Aboriginal law than books that have  often been written through a non-Indigenous lens. We have also held some of the donation in reserve, so we can keep looking and stay current.”

Further work to expand the collection will involve consultation outside the library, as well.

“Jason Mercredi, the Aboriginal Student Representative on the Law Students’ Society, has kindly agreed to help us with forward-looking research,” Ms. Kaufman adds.

As well as books that give wider, and particularly indigenous, perspectives on aboriginal law, Ms. Kaufman says that the new acquisitions have resonances that extend past strictly legal interests.

“We’re focusing on books that go beyond black letter law; that look at what Aboriginal people themselves say are important rules, customs and methodologies. We’re looking for ways to explore the Aboriginal context and formulation of Aboriginal law – to have a new openness to those customs and methods,” she explains.

The Lederman acquisitions represent one of the ways Queen’s University Library is supporting diversity and inclusion on campus. Another recent example includes the creation of 12 new study rooms at Stauffer Library with Indigenous names and artwork. 

Changes to senior academic leadership mandates

Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Benoit-Antoine Bacon has announced the expansion/refocusing or extension of four senior academic leadership mandates.

“The mandates of senior academic leadership must evolve in order to best meet the needs and aspirations of the university. Accordingly, the roles and responsibilities for both Teri Shearer and Martha Whitehead have been updated and enhanced to reflect the goals and aims of their positions,” says Dr. Bacon. “I am also pleased that both Dean Bill Flanagan and Dean David Saunders have agreed to extend their positions for one and two years respectively, and will continue to provide the leadership that Queen’s has come to rely upon.”

[Teri Shearer]To reflect the deputy provost’s new focus on, and accountability for, equity, diversity and inclusion on campus, Teri Shearer’s title has been modified to deputy provost (academic operations and inclusion). In this modified role, Dr. Shearer will champion equity, diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the university’s mission. She will oversee the Human Rights and Equity Offices, lead the university’s response to the crucial reports from the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity and Inclusion and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Taskforce, and oversee the establishment of the Aboriginal Initiatives Office.

The deputy provost’s key operational responsibilities in overseeing academic appointments and curriculum development as chair of the Senate Committee on Academic Development will also ensure there is direct oversight for enhancing equity, diversity and inclusion across the university’s academic operations. As the provost's second-in-command, the deputy provost (academic operations and inclusion) is uniquely positioned to lead broad institutional change through close working relationships with the deans, vice-provosts and vice-principals.

[Martha Whitehead]Martha Whitehead has been asked to play a more explicit role in the institutional coordination of the university’s various areas of digital strengths, and in further planning to meet Queen’s current and future digital needs. Accordingly, her title has been revised to vice-provost (digital planning) and university librarian. Working hand in hand with the chief information officer and associate vice-principal (information technology services), Ms. Whitehead will help to bring together all stakeholders and lead discussions towards laying the foundation of a digital strategy for Queen’s.

[Bill Flanagan]At Principal Daniel Woolf’s request, Bill Flanagan has agreed to remain in the position of dean, Faculty of Law for an additional year until June 30, 2019, following the conclusion of his third term on June 30, 2018. Mr. Flanagan was initially appointed dean of the Faculty of Law in 2005, and has since seen the faculty through a period of unprecedented growth and development. 

[David Saunders]At the principal's request, David Saunders has agreed to serve for two additional years, until June 30, 2020, as dean of the Smith School of Business. Under Dr. Saunders’ strategic leadership, the business school has experienced dramatic growth and surge in reputation, and has expanded its footprint in both Kingston and Toronto. In 2015, the school received a $50 million donation from Canadian entrepreneur Stephen Smith – the largest gift to a business school in Canada – and in recognition, was named the Stephen J.R. Smith School of Business.

 

Law student encourages deeper understanding of treaty histories

On March 21, the Queen’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force presented its final report with recommendations to the university community. The historical milestone was marked with an event that day at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. The Gazette is featuring profiles of Indigenous members of the TRC Task Force. Today, the focus is on Jason Mercredi (Law’18), a member of Queen’s Senate and the Aboriginal representative on the Queen’s Law Students’ Society.

Prospective students will often ask what a university or college will offer them. Jason Mercredi flipped that question when he was considering his post-secondary options a few years ago.

“I understood that Queen’s wasn’t well known for its Aboriginal content, but that the law school wanted to improve its Aboriginal profile,” says Mr. Mercredi (Law’18). “With my experience working with Aboriginal communities to develop programs, I felt I could offer something to Queen’s in the same way the university is offering me a degree.”

[Jason Mercredi]
Jason Mercredi (Law'18) says he found it rewarding serving on Queen's Truth and Reconciliation Task Force. He is hopeful the recommendations put forth by the task force will help Indigenous Peoples feel more comfortable attending Queen's. (University Communications) 

Mr. Mercredi, a Mushkegowuk Cree, was born in Winnipeg. Before applying to Queen’s, he worked with several organizations dedicated to advancing Aboriginal rights, including Treaty 1-11. As part of his involvement with that organization, Mr. Mercredi developed a deep understanding of the treaty histories, which influenced his decision to study law.

“Understanding the history of the treaties is really missing from the education system, and even in law school, we don’t really learn about the treaties,” he says. “People don’t have a full understanding of the nation-to-nation relationship. My goal is to reinvigorate those treaties, and being at a law school, I know what changes I want to make to have those rights recognized.”

Soon after arriving at the university, Mr. Mercredi began working to make Queen’s law students more aware of Aboriginal treaty and inherent rights. He established the Aboriginal Law Students’ Alliance, a group designed to help all Queen’s law students appreciate and participate in Aboriginal legal matters with greater understanding.

In 2016, he and fellow law students changed the Law Students’ Society’s constitution to include a longstanding Indigenous student representative position. Due to the small body of Indigenous students at Queen’s Law, he was subsequently elected to serve as the Indigenous student representative. That same year, Mr. Mercredi was elected as the law students’ representative on Queen’s Senate.

Offering wide knowledge to TRC Task Force

When the Queen’s TRC Task Force was announced in early 2016, Mr. Mercredi felt compelled to serve given his knowledge of treaties and his work experience. As an Aboriginal student liaison with Mothercraft College in Toronto, he worked to ensure the success of Indigenous students enrolled in the early childhood education program, and he also gave guest presentations on Indigenous history. While with Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, he assessed the social needs of the urban Indigenous population and helped create programs to address those needs.

“For a period of time, it was quite depressing, because I had to look at what was wrong, and there is so much wrong,” he says. “But that’s what elevated me to come here. That background, understanding, and knowledge is what I wanted to bring to the TRC Task Force.”

Mr. Mercredi says he enjoyed serving on the task force. He found the experience rewarding, with respectful dialogue around the table. “There was a lot of genuine interest in creating equity, which is a healthier approach than creating equality, because with equality you are just absorbed into everything else. You don’t have your real identity.”

As Queen’s now moves to implement the task force’s recommendations, Mr. Mercredi is looking forward to Indigenous identities growing and flourishing across the university in the coming years. 

“I would hope that Indigenous Peoples – First Nations, Métis, and Inuit – can just come to Queen’s and be themselves. I would hope they are able to come to Queen’s and have their own identity without having to promote it or explain it constantly. I would like to see it as a wholesome part of the entire school culture.”

TRC report brings communities together to change course

  • Janice Hill, Director of Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, speaks with lecturer Nathan Brinklow during Tuesday's event marking the release of the Queen's Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force’s final report. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
    Janice Hill, Director of Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, speaks with lecturer Nathan Brinklow during Tuesday's event marking the release of the Queen's Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force’s final report. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
  • Principal Daniel Woolf holds up a copy of the Queen's Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force’s final report during Tuesday's event at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
    Principal Daniel Woolf holds up a copy of the Queen's Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force’s final report during Tuesday's event at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
  • Marlene Brant Castellano, Co-Chair of the Aboriginal Council at Queen's University, and Queen's Native Student Association President Lauren Winkler comment on the release of the Queen's Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force’s final report. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
    Marlene Brant Castellano, Co-Chair of the Aboriginal Council at Queen's University, and Queen's Native Student Association President Lauren Winkler comment on the release of the Queen's Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force’s final report. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
  • Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force Co-Chairs Jill Scott, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning), and Mark Green, Professor (Civil Engineering), welcome guests to the event held at Agnes Etherington Art Centre. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
    Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force Co-Chairs Jill Scott, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning), and Mark Green, Professor (Civil Engineering), welcome guests to the event held at Agnes Etherington Art Centre. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
  • Members of the Queen's community take part in a Haudenosaunee round dance at the event marking the release of the Queen's Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force’s final report. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
    Members of the Queen's community take part in a Haudenosaunee round dance at the event marking the release of the Queen's Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force’s final report. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
  • Members of the Queen's community take part in a Haudenosaunee round dance at the event marking the release of the Queen's Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force’s final report. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
    Members of the Queen's community take part in a Haudenosaunee round dance at the event marking the release of the Queen's Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force’s final report. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
  • Members of the Four Directions Women Singers – from left, Laura Maracle, Vanessa McCourt, and Melanie Howard – sing an Anishinaabe honour song during Tuesday's event. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
    Members of the Four Directions Women Singers – from left, Laura Maracle, Vanessa McCourt, and Melanie Howard – sing an Anishinaabe honour song during Tuesday's event. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
  • Laura Maracle, Aboriginal Cultural Safety Coordinator at Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, speaks with Laurel Claus-Johnson of the Katarokwi Grandmothers Council during Tuesday's event. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
    Laura Maracle, Aboriginal Cultural Safety Coordinator at Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, speaks with Laurel Claus-Johnson of the Katarokwi Grandmothers Council during Tuesday's event. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)

At a special reception Tuesday night to mark the unveiling of the Queen’s Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) Task Force final report and recommendations, Principal Daniel Woolf told the crowd of students, staff, faculty, alumni, and local Indigenous community members that, “Today, our communities come together to change course.”

“By taking steps to ensure that Indigenous histories are shared, by recognizing that we can all benefit from Indigenous knowledge, and by creating culturally validating learning environments, we can begin to reduce barriers to education and create a more welcoming, inclusive, and diverse university,” said Principal Woolf.

The special event, held at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, and the TRC report represent a significant milestone for Queen’s and the local Indigenous communities, signalling a broad and sustained effort to build and improve relations, and to effect meaningful institutional change. The recommendations in the report span everything from hiring practices and programming, to research, community outreach, and the creation of Indigenous cultural spaces on campus. (More detailed list of recommendations below.)

Principal Woolf reiterated his commitment to fulfilling the recommendations in the task force’s final report, and to illustrate that commitment, he announced that the university will be creating an Office of Indigenous Initiatives in the coming months – an announcement met by a loud round of applause from the audience.

“This is just one of the task force’s many recommendations that I am committed to implementing across campus, and because I believe that we are stronger together, I welcome the rest of the Queen’s community to join me in that commitment,” he said.

Principal Woolf also stated his commitment to the TRC recommendations in a special Senate meeting on March 7, where he acknowledged “Queen’s own history as an institution that participated in a colonial tradition that caused great harm to Indigenous People.”

‘We are making history’

Bringing together Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members, Tuesday’s event was hosted by TRC Task Force co-chairs Mark Green and Jill Scott and showcased the importance of ceremony – with a traditional Mohawk opening presented by lecturer Nathan Brinklow, presentations by Elder Marlene Brant Castellano and student Lauren Winkler, an Anishinaabe Honour Song performed by the Four Directions Women Singers, and to end the evening, a Haudenosaunee Round Dance, led by performers from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, that brought guests together in a huge circle, hands linked.

“Ceremony reminds us that what we do today is important, impacting the relationships and responsibilities that we carry forward, and woven into our memory as a community,” said Dr. Brant Castellano, a member of the task force, Queen’s alumna, and pioneer and champion of Indigenous rights and education.

“We are making history,” Dr. Brant continued. “In creating the task force, Queen’s has stepped up to ask of itself: What can we do to advance reconciliation? … The task force has brought together voices from the Queen’s community saying: We can do this. We have a responsibility to do this. The report is presented to the principal, who speaks on behalf of the university. In this ceremony, all who are present become witnesses to Queen’s acknowledgement of past errors and commitment to walk together with Indigenous Peoples and others of good mind to restore and maintain a relationship of peace, friendship, and respect.”

“I would like to thank you all here today because by being here, you are showing me that you acknowledge the truths of our past, that you stand in support of these recommendations, and that you will make a commitment to seeing the recommendations through"
​~ Lauren Winkler

Lauren Winkler, student and president of the Queen’s Native Student Association, as well as deputy commissioner of Indigenous affairs for the Alma Mater Society and member of the TRC Task Force, spoke about the experiences of Indigenous students and the challenges and racist encounters they face on Queen’s campus.

"Our education system has failed and is failing to educate our students at the cost of Indigenous students. The university recognizes this – it’s one of the truths in our truth and reconciliation process," said Ms. Winkler, who went on to thank Principal Woolf for his acknowledgements of the history of mistreatment of the Indigenous community and Queen’s role in perpetuating the mistreatment.

"I would like to thank you all here today because by being here, you are showing me that you acknowledge the truths of our past, that you stand in support of these recommendations, and that you will make a commitment to seeing the recommendations through," said Ms. Winkler.

The TRC Task Force’s final report, which includes reproductions of artwork included in the Indigenous art collection at the Agnes, outlines recommendations and timelines for implementation – in particular, the formation of an implementation team that will work with faculties, schools, and shared service units to expedite recommendations. The task force asks for five-year plans from the faculties, schools, and other units to be completed by fall 2017.


A boost for Queen's Elder Law Clinic

[United Way Queen's Law Clinic
QELC Director Christian Hurley and Review Counsel Blair Hicks receive a $25,000 cheque from Wendy Stuckart, Volunteer Panel Chair, Community Investment Fund Grant – United Way and City of Kingston, at the Queen’s Law Clinics in downtown Kingston. (Photo by Derek Cannon)

One of the only clinics of its kind in Canada, the Queen’s Elder Law Clinic (QELC), has received a $25,000 grant from the United Way.

The funding will enable the clinic to provide help to a greater number of Kingston-area seniors while also providing students more experiential learning opportunities.  

“The clinic has grown substantially, to the point that it now requires a full-time director,” says Christian Hurley, the director of QELC and the Queen’s Business Law Clinic (QBLC). 

Blair Hicks joined QELC last May on a part-time basis as review counsel. Thanks to the charity’s funding, she will assume the role of director in April. This will enable Hurley to focus his full-time efforts on QBLC, which is also rapidly expanding. 

“I’ll be able to pass the torch to her,” Hurley says. “It’s going to enable the Elder Law Clinic to grow at a quicker pace and pursue other avenues available to us.”

It also means the clinic, which dealt with 102 separate matters for 69 clients in 2016, can bring on more students and increase its visibility. 

Hicks runs her own estate planning practice in Kingston and works with issues related to elder law every day.

“I come from an education background so I enjoy working with students and seeing the progress people make when they are learning a new skill,” she says. “It was an easy fit.” 

The clinic deals with a wide range of issues affecting seniors and regularly assists their clients to prepare wills, powers of attorney and guardianship applications. QELC students are often asked to help their clients understand their legal rights and obligations in a number of different contexts.

“It’s not boxed in, per se. It’s a broad area of law,” Hurley says. “We also give presentations to stakeholders in the community.”

These include care workers, doctors, nurses, social workers and the Kingston Police. 

QELC is also teaming up with the Queen’s Prison Law Clinic to provide legal assistance to older inmates, which Hurley chalks up as a product of the collaborative workspace at Queen’s Law Clinics.

“While inmates are incarcerated, they often need someone to help with their outside affairs. Preparing a power of attorney can address this issue; however, many inmates do not have the means necessary to retain a lawyer to do this sort of work,” Hurley says.

Hurley applied for the grant in October, and pitched QELC’s case to the United Way in November. He was advised that the application was approved just before the holidays. 

“It’s a very popular clinic. Last year we received applications from 54 students seeking one of the eight available caseworker positions,” he says.

Thanks to the grant from the United Way, QELC is now in a position to expand its enrolment, which will help it to meet the growing demand.

Standing and fighting

Queen’s law students are supporting refugees in the wake of the United States travel ban.

President Donald Trump’s recent ban on refugees has prompted action from the Queen’s Law Refugee Support Program (QLRSP). As part of the Write for Refugees program, the group has collected over 100 signed letters asking Minister of Immigration Ahmed Hussen to suspend the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement as legal challenges to these executive orders continue to come forward.

Despite a less than positive initial reaction from Minister Hussen, the students are undaunted.

Queen's law students Alyssa Moses (l, Law'18), Stephanie Bishop (Law'17) and Yamen Fadel (Law'18) are fighting for the rights of refugees.

“We have to make a stand,” says Yamen Fadel (Law’18). Born in Syria, Mr. Fadel is a dual citizen who, at this time, is unaffected by the ban. “What about the people that don’t have my status? What is going to happen to them? Our response to the minister is we will never stop doing what we are doing. We have to continue to fight.”

The letter includes a call to denounce the executive order as discriminatory and contrary to Canadian values. It also calls on the government to remove the designation of the United States as a safe third country and to take immediate steps to offer protection to refugees caught in the middle.

“The reaction from the minister is disappointing but not unexpected,” says Alyssa Moses (Law’18). “It shouldn’t take our focus away from our goals. We have to let him know Canadian people care and want to help. I’m heartened by the reaction of the Queen’s students.”

Along with the letter campaign, the QLRSP is undertaking a number of other initiatives to support refugees. They are joining 21 other Canadian law schools for a “research-a-thon,” a 12-hour effort to compile as much research as they can to challenge the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement. The research will be used by the Canadian Council of Refugees.

The group has also started a Tilt campaign to bring a Syrian refugee family to Canada. Last year, Queen’s Law contributed to the sponsorship of Syrian refugee Pierre Rahebeh, whose family escaped from Aleppo to Lebanon after their home was destroyed. This time, the QLRSP is working to bring his family to Kingston. For more information, visit the Tilt campaign website.

For more information on QLRSP, visit the Facebook page.

Opportunities for international collaboration

Queen's in the World

Applications are open for the International Visitors Program of the Principal’s Development Fund, a program that helps connect Queen’s with academics and institutions around the world by sponsoring visits by international scholars. The program also works to foster connections between Queen’s and its partners within the Matariki Network of Universities.

“This program provides a tremendous opportunity for collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas between the Queen’s community and scholars and universities around the globe,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “I am very pleased to offer this funding as part of our ongoing support for international partnerships and, in particular, alliances with the Matariki Network.”

Last year, Professor Karol Miller from the University of Western Australia visited Queen's through the International Visitors Program of the Principal's Development Fund.

The International Visitors Program includes three application categories, each of which offers grants of up to $3,000. Category one is the open program, which helps to cover the costs of bringing an international scholar to Queen’s for a period of at least three days. 

The other two application categories focus on leveraging Queen’s membership in the Matariki Network of Universities. One of these is an extension of the visiting scholars program, specifically aimed at bringing visitors to Queen’s from the other Matariki universities, which include the University of Western Australia (UWA), Tübingen University, Uppsala University, Dartmouth College, University of Otago, and Durham University. Last year, Professor Karol Miller from UWA visited Queen’s through the program and gave a talk about his research into computational biomechanics at the School of Computing Distinguished Speaker Seminar.

The third application category provides funding to assist Queen’s faculty and staff to travel to Matariki partner institutions to build new collaborations. This seed funding may be used to initiate new academic, research, or administrative initiatives.

Applications for these categories are due to the relevant dean’s office by April 21, 2017. For more information, including program details and application forms, visit the Principal’s website.

Questions about the Principal’s Development Fund may be directed to Csilla Volford, Coordinator, International Projects and Events, in the Office of the Associate Vice-Principal (International).

 

Simulating real-world challenges

A grant from the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) will help Queen’s University and Toronto tech firm Ametros Learning develop an intelligent, web-based simulation platform for students in law, medicine, engineering and business.

The $250,000 in funding through the OCE’s Advancing Education program will enable the Queen’s Law-Ametros partnership to develop a simulation authoring environment that any instructor can use to create intelligent, highly-interactive simulations, explains Dirk Rodenburg, Director, Undergraduate and Professional Programs at the Faculty of Law.

Utilizing IBM Watson’s cognitive computing platform, the focus is on case-based teaching through simulations of real-world challenges. This allows students to develop the problem-solving and decision-making skills needed when they enter the workforce.

“One of the major reasons for using an intelligent simulation is to bridge the gap between theory and practice, using the notion of ‘thick authenticity’ to provide the student with true role-based, real-world scenarios,” Mr. Rodenburg says. “Closing that gap has been identified as a key objective for educators within many professional schools, and we’ve seen a significant move to include techniques such as problem-based learning, standardized patients and clients, and real-time role play as ways to address the issue. But these methods are expensive and not easily scalable. The beauty of this type of platform is that you can achieve a high level of realism in a distributed, easily accessible and very cost-effective manner.”

In the Queen’s Law-Ametros Learning platform, students will interact with artificially-intelligent characters in scenarios they will typically face as professionals. However, instructors are able to maintain direct oversight of the scenario and provide feedback when needed, which is critical when students are presented with complex challenges.

“The instructor has visibility over every message between students and the AI engine,” said Dr. Robert Clapperton, Head of Development at Ametros Learning. “So an instructor can look at a message a student has sent to the system and say ‘You know what? At this point in time, that is not the right question to ask.’ The instructor can then send it back to the student with the request to rephrase the question. Or they can choose to let it pass through and have the student deal with the consequences. They can also modify any response the AI generates. The instructor serves as mentor to the student.”

“This project fits in perfectly with our strategic commitment to innovation in teaching and learning. We are moving quickly to bring new techniques and technologies into the faculty to support both online and blended courses, and intelligent simulation is certainly on the forefront of approaches to legal pedagogy. The ability to engage students in meaningful, authentic, real world scenarios will, we believe, have a significant and positive impact on their understanding of legal issues and practice.”

– Bill Flanagan, Dean of the Faculty of Law

The platform, which is currently used to teach communication skills, was created by Dr. Clapperton, who is also an assistant professor at Ryerson’s School of Professional Communication. The Faculty of Law has reached out to the School of Medicine, the Smith School of Business and the Faculty of Engineering to explore, incorporate and expand intelligent simulation within cross-disciplinary pedagogical strategies. Queen’s Law and Ametros Learning are also partnering with a consortium of international law schools to bring the platform to Hong Kong, the U.K. and Australia. The OCE Advancing Education grant is aimed at augmenting the existing platform so that instructional teams can create scenarios and characters independent of technical skills.

“This project fits in perfectly with our strategic commitment to innovation in teaching and learning,” said Bill Flanagan, Dean of the Faculty of Law.  “We are moving quickly to bring new techniques and technologies into the faculty to support both online and blended courses, and intelligent simulation is certainly on the forefront of approaches to legal pedagogy. The ability to engage students in meaningful, authentic, real world scenarios will, we believe, have a significant and positive impact on their understanding of legal issues and practice.”

For more information on the Queen's Law-Ametros Learning simulation partnership project, visit simlaw.queenslaw.ca.

Viewpoint: BISC's cycle of experiential learning

During International Education Week – Nov. 14-18 – the Gazette is featuring several stories that highlight activities and initiatives helping to advance Queen’s international priorities. For this piece, the Gazette asked Christian Lloyd, Academic Director at the Bader International Study Centre (BISC), to write a feature story on one facet of teaching and learning at the BISC. This article highlights the BISC's "signature pedagogy": experiential learning.

Queen's in the World

Anyone fortunate enough to have visited the British Museum – or any of Europe’s other great cultural institutions – knows that they will have to fight their way through laggard groups of students who are bored and uncomprehending, or frozen to the spot in wonder by what they are seeing, but unable to process it. At its worst, undergraduate experiential learning may be nothing more than a remnant of the 19th-century Grand Tour: a box-ticking exercise in confirming one's status as a "cultured" person with no deep critical engagement implied. “Exit via the gift shop,” as Banksy put it.

But these hazards of learning beyond the classroom are not inevitable. In fact, they may simply be the product of miscalibrated teaching created by a deficit in specific support for instructors. Unless instructors are trained in the theory and practice of teaching experientially, they are unlikely to maximize their classes' learning on these occasions. Unless students are made self-conscious about the process and outcomes of learning experientially, then instructors cannot blame them for their difficulties. 

During the first weekend of the term, students at the BISC take a walking tour of London and learn about the city's social and architectural highlights. (Chantal Valkenborg photo)

Experiential learning is the Bader International Study Centre's signature pedagogy, and our active learning approach in the field aims both to get our students thinking critically about core course content and to create transferable skills that will serve them in the long term. Ruth Cereceda, who heads our Experiential Learning program, has offered professional development sessions for our instructors to help them understand how to teach in the different modes required for such activities and to set appropriate learning objectives. She has also talked with students to help them take on board the cycle of experience > reflection > abstract conceptualization > active use of learning in assignments and skills development. Surveying of students and faculty, and analysis of the resulting data, is used to assess and refine future activities.

All of this careful preparation has produced striking results. For instance, the students on our core first-year course, BISC 100, have undertaken primary research at the Mass Observation Archive at the University of Sussex looking at what Britons understood to be their core values during the Second World War. Students had to engage critically with original documents in projects that compelled them to go beyond the thrill of having history in their hands.

Other experiential opportunities teach things that will be useful for life, such as the ability to use skills beyond their usual application. A great example of this was the math trip to “The Amazing World of M.C. Escher” exhibition, which guided students to deploy mathematical techniques to analyze the production of this artist’s unusual images. Indeed, much BISC field work centres on developing students’ ability to interpret images: a key skill for the digital age. 

All of these experiential opportunities for students are, in students’ own estimation, highly motivational and memorable academic moments. One participant in our 2016 Law and Politics field school noted that after the careful preparation he had in class for their visit to Auschwitz concentration camp, “physically standing in the space meant that any distance between the topic of study and the present day instantly disappeared.” This visit produced memorable written work that went beyond standard views of this subject and spoke decisively to why the BISC experiential learning program will be at the heart of our future programming.

 

 

Embracing the unexpected

Queen’s is reserving its honorary degrees in 2016 for alumni in celebration of the university’s 175th anniversary. Throughout fall convocation, the Gazette will profile the four honorary degree recipients and explore how Queen’s has impacted their life and career.

Raised in Kingston, the daughter of two Queen’s professors, luminary playwright Judith Thompson’s (Artsci’77) return to campus brought back a slew of memories of her time as an undergraduate theatre student. On Nov. 17, she accepted an honorary Doctor of Laws – the latest honour in a highly-lauded career in the dramatic arts.

Judith Thompson (Artsci'77) received an honorary Doctor of Laws at the Nov. 17 convocation ceremony - the latest honour in a distinguished career in the dramatic arts. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)

“It’s a huge honour, obviously,” Dr. Thompson said of receiving the honorary degree from her alma mater. “I’m humbled and amazed and delighted.  Going to meet (Dan School of Drama and Music Director) Craig (Walker) in Theological Hall, I was suddenly 18 again – going in that front door in my first year in Theatre Studies. That’s where my mother taught for about six years.”

Dr. Thompson’s first play, The Crackwalker, was inspired by time spent working with a social worker amongst some of Kingston’s most disadvantaged residents. In the nearly 26 years since it premiered, she has written numerous works for the stage, screen and radio – many of which explore darker and lesser discussed elements of society and humanity as a whole. She has been awarded the Governor General's Award for drama twice, has been invested in the Order of Canada and has received countless other award including the Dora Mavor Moore Award, the Chalmers Award for Creativity and Excellence in the Arts, and the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award.

In her speech to the graduating class, Dr. Thompson again touched on a number of topics not traditionally heard in a convocation address. Touching on her experiences of being bullied as a child and the untimely passing of a loved one, as well as the birth of her children and the success she has experienced in her career, Dr. Thompson implored the graduates to address the unexpected and the impossible. She reminded the graduates that both positive and negative events can impact our present, but that we have the capacity to utilize the lessons of those events to shape the present and the future.

“The past is always with us, and the future is not something that happens to us but something we make happen by acting now,” she says. “We are all creating our futures now, at this moment, and each of us will play a role in the future of the world. You even more than me, for it is your world now.”

Dr. Thompson reiterated that, regardless of the tools at one’s disposal, we all have an obligation to act to make the world a better place in our own lives and the lives of others. Regardless of the goal, it is the action we take that makes the difference.

“At first you might feel like I felt in that doctor’s office,” she said, recounting the feeling she had before the birth of her first child.  “‘No, not me, it is impossible that I could have that beautiful baby, make this card, write this letter, start a foundation, tutor this child, write a book, make graffiti like Banksy. I can’t do this.’ But you can. It’s the doing that counts and then the doing again and again. The privilege of doing. Because the impossibly terrible either has happened or will happen to you, as well as the impossibly wonderful. Learn to expect the unexpected.”

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