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Queen's helps make Kingston more welcoming to newcomers

By Wanda Praamsma, Communications Officer

Queen's in the World

Monica Stewart and Stephanie Simpson are both well-acquainted with the challenges that come with settling into a new city and a new country.

Many years ago, Ms. Stewart, now the coordinator of faculty recruitment and support programs at Queen’s, moved from Germany to Kingston to study at Queen’s. She ended up staying and marrying a Canadian, and eventually found work in the human services sector with the Social Planning Council.

Ms. Simpson, an advisor in the Human Rights Office, is the daughter of Jamaican parents, who both struggled to find work in their fields in Canada. They persevered and finally landed good positions – her father in printing/publishing and her mother in nursing.

“I have a lot of empathy for newcomers to Kingston. I’ve felt what many of them have felt – I know how incredibly hard it can be to find work and settle into a new place,” says Ms. Stewart.

Queen's staff members Monica Stewart and Stephanie Simpson have been longtime players in developing support services for newcomers in Kingston.

Since settling in Kingston themselves, both Ms. Stewart and Ms. Simpson have been integral community players in developing support services for newcomers, particularly through the KEYS Community Employment Centre where they have both served as chairs in the past. Now, the pair is continuing to share their knowledge, and personal experience and professional expertise, to serve both Queen’s and the greater community as members of the council for the Kingston Immigration Partnership (KIP).

KIP launched in 2009 as a joint initiative between Kingston Community Health Centres (KCHC), KEYS, and the Kingston Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO) with the goal of starting a conversation in the community around immigration and how to better welcome and serve the needs of newcomers.

Queen’s has been involved in the partnership since day one through Ms. Stewart, who served on the initial steering committee for KIP. Earlier this year, however, the university renewed its dedication to the partnership, committing to positions on the KIP Council (Ms. Stewart and Ms. Simpson) and to reporting annually on institutional activities related to KIP’s Strategic Plan, which includes areas such as employment; education, training and language; settlement; health and wellness; and housing, transportation and family services.

“Being the largest employer in the community, Queen’s plays an important role in this partnership and I am so pleased that we have Ms. Stewart and Ms. Simpson providing guidance and expertise on how we can better serve newcomers’ needs,” says Principal Daniel Woolf.

Ms. Simpson says from a human rights and equity standpoint, involvement in KIP allows the university to continue ensuring there aren’t barriers for newcomers looking to work at the university. Through the KIP network, Queen’s becomes more aware of what people are experiencing in the community and what can be done differently.

“Queen’s has always been interested in attracting and retaining the best, staying competitive. At the same time, we want it to be a diverse and welcoming place, aware of the needs and challenges newcomers face,” says Ms. Simpson.

Since its inception, KIP has been busy creating various initiatives to support immigrants, including job fairs, mentorship programs, an employer advisory group, an annual multicultural arts festival, and education sessions on women’s health and mental health.

“If you’re new to the city, you often don’t have the contacts and network that help you settle into your new life more smoothly,” says Michael Harris, Chair of KIP. “With KIP, we want to create a far-reaching dialogue with partners across the city so we can provide the services newcomers need to succeed and thrive in the community. Queen’s plays a critical role in our efforts and we’re fortunate to have the university’s active participation.”

More on KIP

 

MiniU storms the Castle

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

Queen’s MiniU is heading overseas for the first time.

“We are excited to offer this academically rich program at the Bader International Study Centre (BISC),” says Melanie McEwen, Manager, Alumni Education and Travel. “This weekend offers alumni and friends who might have heard about the ‘Castle’ to finally experience it firsthand.”

MiniU is an educational program for Queen’s alumni and friends that started on campus in 2008. The event gives participants the chance to interact with Queen’s world-class faculty and researchers in an experiential learning environment.

“Faculty are also looking forward to highlighting the many ways the Castle’s history and proximity to major cultural centres in Europe enhance the student learning experience.”

– Melanie McEwen, Manager, Alumni Education and Travel

Alumni Relations extended MiniU off campus this year with upcoming sessions at the BISC in Sussex, England, and in Toronto. BISC faculty will share with alumni their areas of research and teaching throughout the weekend.

Highlights of the preliminary BSC itinerary include:

Christian Lloyd, a consultant on the new Jimi Hendrix Museum in London, England, talking about researching the everyday life of the rock legend
Shelley Katz, the BISC’s musician in residence, giving a private concert
Scott McLean, history lecturer at the BISC, revealing the archaeological significance of the Herstmonceux Castle Estate
Peter Lowe, associate professor of English literature at the BISC, speaking about English travel writing in the 1930s

In addition to education sessions, some of the other activities planned include small group tours of the Castle battlements and archery lessons.

“MiniU at the Castle gives BISC faculty members the chance to showcase the field schools they run in the summer,” says Ms. McEwen. “Faculty are also looking forward to highlighting the many ways the Castle’s history and proximity to major cultural centres in Europe enhance the student learning experience.”

Plans are underway for the return of the Queen’s MiniU campus weekend as well as other regional events. Alumni Relations will announce the details on the MiniU website as they become available.

Queen’s MiniU at the Castle takes place April 11-13. More information is available on the Alumni Relations website.

[Bader International Study Centre]

Homestay hosts form lasting bonds with international students

Homestay program information session

Wednesday, March 26, 7 pm

Duncan McArthur Hall (511 Union Street), Room A236

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

For Belinda Scilley, a self-professed “people person,” there’s nothing better than hosting international students enrolled in Queen’s School of English (QSoE) programs.

“The students are so enthusiastic and I really feed off of that. It keeps me young,” says Ms. Scilley, who has participated in the QSoE’s Homestay program for the past seven years. “I get to learn about a lot of different cultures and travel to places around the world to visit the students after they leave Kingston.”

There’s a real buzz around Ms. Scilley’s house with up to six international students living with her at a time. She always has a big pot of food on the stove and baked goods in the oven. And more and more, the dishes have an international flavour as she learns to cook the cuisine of her guests in order to make them feel at home.

Homestay host Belinda Scilley having fun around the house with two international students who are taking programs at the Queen's School of English.

Ms. Scilley’s motherly demeanour has helped her form strong and enduring bonds with many of the students. She has travelled to Turkey twice to visit a former Homestay participant and his family. His three sisters welcomed her into the family and one invited Ms. Scilley to her wedding.

“That’s the kind of reward that comes from treating the students as your own kids. It’s why I have chosen to participate in the program. It’s been an amazing opportunity for me,” she says.

Mary-Lou Nolte, one of the co-ordinators of the program, has heard countless stories of hosts and students keeping in touch. She said life-long bonds can form in just a few short weeks.

As much as the hosts’ lives are enriched by the program, the students benefit equally by the opportunity to experience Canadian culture and to practise speaking English in an immersive environment.

“And the support they receive from the Homestay hosts really helps them adjust to an unfamiliar environment,” she says.

Current Homestay hosts will share their experiences at a Homestay information session on March 26 at Duncan McArthur Hall, Room A236, beginning at 7 pm. Anyone interested in becoming a Homestay host is welcome to attend.

More information about the program is available on the Queen’s School of English website.

 

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