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Last updated: Jan 23, 2018 5:52 am

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Student Learning Experience

A sea of learning opportunities

By Andrew Stokes, Communications Officer

Following in the footsteps of her mother, aunt and cousin, Rebecca Isaak (Artsci’15) spent a term sailing around the world. Enrolled in the University of Virginia’s Semester at Sea (SAS) exchange program, Ms. Isaak earned course credits while travelling to places like China, India and Burma during the winter term of her third year.

Rebecca Isaak visited the Great Wall of China while with Semester at Sea. (Photo provided)

Semester at Sea is a multiple country study abroad program open to students from all disciplines. The program emphasizes hands-on field experiences and engagement in the global community. Instructors often tailor course content to take advantage of the locations visited during the trip.

Because of her religions of the world class, Ms. Isaak was particularly excited about visiting India. “Before we arrived in India I was studying the Hindu deities. Getting to travel to Varanasi, one of the holiest places for Hindus, was just incredible,” she says. “The application of learning was what really made the courses come alive.”

SAS courses range from anthropology to environmental science to Shakespeare, and all courses are taught by doctorate-level educators. For each voyage, a completely new faculty is appointed. Learning isn’t restricted to the classrooms aboard the ship; faculty members typically schedule off-board educational trips to supplement content covered in class.

Holly Fortier (Com’14), who travelled with SAS in 2013, enjoyed these faculty-led trips. When the ship was headed to Hong Kong, her international business class focused on a case study about Hong Kong Disneyland. Upon arrival, the professor arranged for the students to meet with Disneyland’s park managers. They discussed park operations and the implementation of the business strategy the class had been studying.

Semester at Sea courses are similar to those offered on a traditional campus complete with essays and examinations. However, Ms. Fortier says she was blown away by what happened outside the classroom. “The amount of information I learned outside of the classroom far surpassed what I learned inside of it,” she says. “It is such a unique experience that I really believe to be a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

The program goes much deeper than just giving students a chance to see the world. “At the heart of SAS is a desire for students to have an understanding of their global citizenship and responsibilities. It provides a fantastic chance to be surrounded by a community that seeks worldly education like no other,” she says.

More information about the program can be found on the Semester at Sea website.

Once a 'scheme,' the Ban Righ dream lives on

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

The Ban Righ Foundation is celebrating 40 years of supporting the continuing education of women, a milestone the organization could not have reached without significant support, according to Ban Righ Centre Director Carole Morrison.

Shirley Brooks-Purkis, former Ban Righ Centre board member, Anne Maxwell, a Ban Righ Centre volunteer, and Katherine Leverette, former chair of the Ban Righ Centre board of directors, were just a few of the people who attended the 40th anniversary celebration on May 3.

“The success of the Ban Righ Foundation and Centre is the result, first and foremost, of collaborating with the local community and the university,” says Ms. Morrison. “More than 500 women from the community have served on the board or given their time, energy and financial resources in many cases.

“The Ban Righ Centre has worked together with the university and it has been a really productive relationship,” she adds. “The university has granted the foundation a certain degree of independence and autonomy that has allowed the Ban Righ Centre to support mature women students in an organic, grassroots way.”

The formation of the Ban Righ Foundation in 1974 required a good dose of initiative and it makes story compelling four decades later. The roots of the story stretch back to the early 1920s when volunteers from the Alumnae Association, the association of female Queen’s graduates, started planning and raising funds for a women’s residence. Their hard work and determination resulted in the opening of Ban Righ Hall in 1925.

The association continued to administer and supervise Ban Righ Hall until the late 1960s when the university decided it wanted to merge the management of male and female residences. Discussions were held over several years and the Alumnae Association fought to keep control of the surplus it had built over the years.

A group of women including Gladys Heinz (Arts’37, M.A.’38), Helen Anderson (Arts’46) and Bonnie Judge (Arts’49) “hatched a scheme,” in the words of Helen Mathers, the founding director of the Ban Righ Foundation, to use the money to support women’s education. Articulate and determined women made their case and it resulted in the formation of the Ban Righ Foundation in 1974.

The Ban Righ Centre at 32 Bader Lane is a welcoming home away from home for many women, especially mature women returning to Queen's.

That commitment to the cause lives on today through the many volunteers and staff members associated with the Ban Righ Foundation and Centre. Ms. Morrison says the Ban Righ Centre has remained true to its original mandate while adapting to the changing times.

“There has been a shift in demographics. There are far more women attending university, and a growth in women seeking professional and graduate degrees. Sometimes those women have families at that point in their lives,” she says. “We still provide student advising and financial assistance and invite speakers to the centre. We just do more of it.”

Mary Ballantyne (Arts'54) is a long-time supporter of the centre. She believes the centre is especially relevant given the university’s increased focus on the health and well-being of its students.

“I read the Principal’s Commission on Mental Health report, and the Ban Righ Centre is already doing a lot of the recommendations. It’s a home with people who care. It’s a place where mature women students can come and have someone listen to them and get help,” she says.

Ms. Ballantyne’s words were included in an audio history of the Ban Righ Centre that was played at the anniversary celebration on May 3. Ms. Morrison aims to post portions of the audio recordings on the Ban Righ Centre website in the near future.

A need for speed

By Rosie Hales, Communications Officer

The Queen’s Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (QFSAE) team hits the road starting this week to compete in three international events.

[Queen's Formula SAE team]Members of the Queen's Formula Society of Automotive Engineers spent 15,000 man-hours creating their open wheeled race car.

QFSAE has been building open wheel race cars – similar to the machines in Formula One racing – and testing them at international competitions for more than two decades. This year’s team of 30 people includes members from various faculties across campus.

“Everyone, no matter their background, has something valuable to bring to the table and will almost certainly get something valuable out of this experience,” says Joseph Liu (Sci’15), General Manager of QFSAE. “Anyone who’s a Formula One enthusiast, car lover or intrigued by the project can join.”

In April, the QFSAE team unveiled their 2014 race car – a product of 15,000 man-hours – at the Integrated Learning Centre in Beamish-Munro Hall. The team hopes that the new and improved aerodynamic package and undertray of the car will help them speed across finish lines in record time.

“The new undertray we’ve installed acts like inverted wings to keep the car in good contact with the ground, especially helping with tight corners,” says Mr. Liu (Sci ’15). “The aerodynamic package as a whole would also allow us to drive the car at 100 km/h upside down, if we wanted to, but not that we should!”

After being involved in the QFSAE team for the last three years, Mr. Liu’s favourite part is attending competitions and facing off against 80-120 international teams. In 2010, the QFSAE team placed first out of all Canadian teams at a competition in Michigan.

“The teams that compete are top notch,” says Mr. Liu. “It would be fantastic to be in the top 15 this year.”

This week’s competition lasts until May 17. The team will also be competing in Barrie, Ont., from May 22-25 and in Nebraska in June.

To follow the progress of Queen’s Formula SAE, follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook, or check out their website.

The art of war

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

As Canada commemorates the end of the military mission in Afghanistan, a new exhibition at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (AEAC) explores issues around international conflict and the Canadian Forces’ involvement on the world stage.

Curator Christine Conley leads a tour of Terms of Engagement during the spring launch of exhibitions at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre on April 26.

Terms of Engagement displays works by three artists who participated in the Canadian Forces Artists Program (CFAP). Adrian Stimson, Dick Averns and nichola feldman-kiss deployed to Afghanistan, Sinai and Sudan with the United Nations mission, respectively, from 2009-2011. Unlike previous war art programs that date back to the First World War, the CFAP does not exhibit, purchase or otherwise support artists once their deployment is over.

“Although the exhibition doesn’t directly address the National Day of Honour, works such as Adrian Stimson’s Afghanistan video series can help viewers better understand and contemplate international conflicts,” says Sarah Smith, Curator of Contemporary Art, AEAC. “I believe his work has a critical edge that offers viewers the opportunity to go beyond memorializing and ask questions of Canada’s military involvement in Afghanistan.”

[Dick Averns]Dick Averns, "MFO Canadian Contingent (Corporal Jeremy Duff)," 2009, colour digital print

Christine Conley, a professor at the University of Ottawa, curated the exhibition that was organized by the AEAC in partnership with the Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery in Halifax and the Esker Foundation in Calgary. Ms. Conley says the independence of the artists allows them to explore the politics of military intervention.

At the same time, the artists relied on the Canadian Forces’ hospitality, protection and social networks in order to access the war zones. The result is ambivalence in the works, according to Ms. Smith, most notably in pieces by Dick Averns, who was hosted by the Multinational Force and Observers (North Base, Sinai), an international peacekeeping force.

“In the 20 photographs that make up the 2009 work “Canadian MFO Contingent,” you can see Mr. Averns really engaged the soldiers who are sitting for those portraits,” Ms. Smith says. “The exhibition offers, I believe, an important duality of both honouring the troops but also reflecting on the recent history of Canadian military engagement abroad.”

The exhibition continues until Aug. 10. The Terms of Engagement website also contains videos of the artists speaking about their work and their CFAP experience. The AEAC has two tablets that patrons can use to view the videos when they are walking through the exhibition. Ms. Smith will lead a free tour of the exhibition on May 29 from 12:15-1 pm. There will also be a public discussion on peacekeeping and Canada’s military at the gallery on June 8 from 2-3:15 pm. This event will feature Major Brent Beardsley in conversation with Jamie Swift.

Sticking it to stigma

Now that Mental Health Awareness Week is well underway, researchers and activists across the country are collaborating on projects in the hopes of eliminating stigma and raising awareness of mental health issues.

One such project is Overcoming Stigma in Mood and Anxiety Disorders – a joint initiative between Queen’s and Providence Care to tackle the self-stigma felt by many people with mood or anxiety disorders.

As the next round of these workshops begin, Caroline Petznick , Overcoming Stigma’s program facilitator and a master's student at Queen’s, hopes to see as much success as she has with participants in previous workshops.

Rosie Hales, Communications Officer, sat down with Ms. Petznick to discuss stigma and how people like her are working to eliminate it.

Rosie Hales: Stigma is a term we hear used a lot, but what does it actually mean? And what does it mean to self-stigmatize?

Caroline Petznick: Stigma is a prejudice mostly caused by fear of the unknown. Mental illnesses are, for the most part, invisible. Due to this invisibility, there seems to be even more mystery around these mental health challenges and this tends to intensify the stigma.

Stigma – whether self or social – develops when people identify their mental illness as something they believe will hinder them in their lives and accepts that idea. In the Overcoming Stigma workshops, we ask people to separate the symptoms of a mental health disorder from the effects of stigma. For example, depression can lead to a lack of energy, but the sense of giving up that comes from self-stigmatizing can also drain a person’s energy.

RH: How do these workshops help participants let go of their self-stigma?

CP: The facilitators in these workshops are all people who have been through an Overcoming Stigma workshop before and have then been trained to run the programs. These courses are so meaningful because they are made up of small groups of people at different stages of their mental health challenge: some have just been diagnosed and others have been working through a mental illness for over 30 years.

The first couple of workshops are a chance to build trust in the group, talk about stigma and different mood or anxiety disorders. We then talk about recovery as a journey. Identifying self-stigma is a real “aha!” moment for many of our participants.

RH: Is there anything you’re especially looking forward to in this next step of the pilot project?

I love being able to see the impact these workshops are having on the participants. One of the ways we’ve seen the impact is through the offshoot groups that have started. Overcoming Stigma participants have come to the end of their workshops and decided to continue meeting each week to continue to support one another and help each other through their different experiences.

RH: What’s the most important thing participants can take away from the program?

So many participants join the workshops feeling the guilt and shame that can come from having a mental health disorder. The most important thing we emphasize is that it’s not their fault. Mental illnesses are equal opportunity illnesses.

We know that at least 1 in 5 Canadians has a mental health issue – in Kingston that means about 25,000 people are affected. That said, 5 in 5 Canadians has mental health, meaning that mental heath impacts us all. There are some great wide-scale projects happening right now to reduce stigma, but we have to make sure that, as individuals, we are looking out for one another too.

For more information on Overcoming Stigma, or to sign up for a workshop, please contact Caroline Petznick at 613-328-7472 or overcomestigma@live.ca.

Funding for Overcoming Stigma is being provided by Bell Canada Mental Health and the Anti-Stigma Research Chair mental health initiative.

SGPS president set to advocate for grad students

By Hollie Knapp-Fisher, Communications Intern

After winning a gruelling, tightly contested election, Kevin Wiener (Law’15) is happy to move on and focus on his duties and responsibilities as president of Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS).

[Kevin Wiener, SGPS president]As SGPS president, one of Kevin Wiener's goals is to work with Senate to develop a policy addressing the academic harassment of graduate students.

“This was a very different SGPS election than the past. Usually they are very low key but this year was a big event,” he says. “Now I am really looking forward to working alongside my new team.”

Even before officially taking over from Iain Reeve on May 1, Mr. Wiener had started doing a lot of work. “I needed to make sure I was up to date with all that had gone on in the past so I could properly proceed into the future.”

Mr. Wiener plans to focus on some key issues during his term as president. First, he aims to develop an online municipal voter registration system for Queen’s students. That effort is in line with his work last year challenging Kingston city council’s decision to adopt new electoral boundaries that did not count the postsecondary student population. Mr. Wiener and his co-appellants, the Alma Mater Society and the Sydenham District Association, won the Ontario Municipal Board appeal and city council’s decision was nullified.

Additionally, he wants to work with Senate to develop a policy addressing the academic harassment of graduate students.

“These are both issues I am passionate about because I believe they meet the needs of our students,” says Mr. Wiener. “My door and inbox are always open to talk about the important issues happening around campus. I want next year to be the absolute best it can be for the SGPS.”

Although his studies and his new position demands a lot of his time, Mr. Wiener remains active in both the Queen’s and Kingston community volunteering his time to a number of different organizations. When he finds a spare moment, he enjoys engaging with peers on social media as well as the occasional video game.


New rector ready for the challenge

By Hollie Knapp-Fisher, Communications Intern

New Rector Mike Young (ConEd’15) faces the daunting task of not only representing the interests of all undergraduate and graduate students but also following in the footsteps of his popular and well-respected predecessor, Nick Francis (Artsci’14). Even though it will be a challenge, Mr. Young sees a wonderful opportunity to build on Mr. Francis’ initiatives while implementing some of his own ideas.

[Rector Mike Young]Rector Mike Young wants to support the innovative spirit within the Queen's student population.

“The role of the rector is to be the voice of the students and a liaison to the university, but being a confidential support system for students is a role that is often underutilized,” he says. “I want the students to know that I am here for them and they can stop in and see me in my office at any time.”

Introducing himself to the broader Queen’s community during the election period presented some challenges for the unassuming gender studies student.

“It was so strange seeing my face plastered all around campus and on social media. I’ve never experienced anything like that before,” he says. “Luckily I had people like Nick, Sarah Kucharczuk (Artsci’14) and my family to support me, and the end result was worth it. It’s an honour to be chosen to take on this role.”

During his time at Queen’s, Mr. Young has developed a strong desire to raise awareness of mental health issues and equity on campus. As rector, he wants to support students as they pursue their own passions.

“I really want to keep alive the innovative spirit that Queen’s has to offer. It’s amazing to watch students who see a gap in the community and have the drive not only to fill that gap but to take on the responsibility that it holds.”

Mr. Young has a passion for music and can often be found performing around town. His dream is to one day become a primary school teacher.

Follow Mr. Young on Twitter @QueensuRector


Programming problem solvers

Last Saturday the Queen's School of Computing hosted the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario's (ECOO) annual East Regional Programming Contest for eastern Ontario high school students. 

Thirteen teams from high schools in Ottawa, Brockville, Kingston, and Belleville competed to find working solutions to four programming problems. Congratulations to Team 1 from Bell High School in Ottawa who placed first.

Photos courtesy of Dave Dove.

Singing a song of inclusivity

By Meredith Dault, Senior Communications Officer

Francine Young (R) joins Natasha Tan (L) at the piano (photo: University Communications) 

Francine Young stands behind a large wooden xylophone clasping a mallet. She’s smiling but focused, her eyes darting down to the keys before her, and then up again to watch her professor, Ben Bolden, as he prepares a group of about 30 music students in the concurrent education program to play a short, end-of-term concert in ”student street,” the main corridor at the Faculty of Education’s Duncan McArthur Hall, to show off everything they’ve learned this term.

But unlike her classmates who hope to carry on to careers as music teachers, Ms. Young has been participating in the class in a different capacity. A student at Kingston’s H’art Centre, a local non-profit, charitable organization serving people with intellectual disabilities, Ms. Young has been taking classes at Queen’s for the last five years as part of a unique partnership with the Faculty of Education. This week, she will see her hard work rewarded with a Certificate of Learning as part of the Inclusive Post-Secondary Education Initiative (IPSE) at the Faculty of Education.

“I feel really proud of myself,” she says happily about her accomplishment. “My first year when I started, I was kind of scared, but now I’m used to coming to Queen’s. I’m not so nervous. This was also my first time playing the piano and the drums and all that," she adds with a smile. 

But as well as expanding her own educational horizons, Ms. Young’s presence in class has helped her fellow students learn more about the joys and challenges of teaching differently-abled learners. While Dr. Bolden’s class instructed them on the basics of teaching music, they put those teachings into practice working with students like Ms. Young.

 Francine Young and her classmates perform an end-of-term concert in 'student street' at Duncan McArthur Hall (photo: University Communications)

“Having them in the class has helped us learn more about what to do when your students aren’t trained musicians,” says Natasha Tan, a fifth-year student in the concurrent music program who hopes to teach music or pursue work in education policy. “So we taught rhythm exercises, and things like bucket drumming…it really gives you experience in differentiating your lessons.”

Ms. Young says she has felt supported by both faculty and students in every class she has taken at Queen’s. She’s also had the support of a buddy through the student-run Social Transition Education Program (STEP). Ms. Young’s teacher at H’art, as well as their program director, Toni Thornton, says the students take Queen’s classes through a voluntary arrangement with faculty members.

“We don’t expect the professors to provide special accommodations, but we do help them get to know the IPSE student and help them to understand their disabilities,” she explains. “Some students may simply sit in on lectures, while others may be able to do some of the readings and assignments. In some cases, professors have gone so far as to write alternate exams for our students so that they can be assessed. There is a real range.”

 Natasha Tan and Francine Young play a bucket drum, while Dr. Ben Bolden looks on. (photo: University Communications)

Ms. Young says she liked that she could turn to her classmates for help when she needed it. “I always felt welcome,” she says of her experience. “They understood that if there was something that I needed, I would ask them. But I liked brainstorming and contributing my ideas. That was something I did a lot.”

Smiling from the audience as she watched Ms. Young’s performance on the xylophone, piano and bucket drums, Ms. Thornton says she was thrilled to see one of her own students performing alongside Queen’s students.

“This program lets our students be included in environments with their typically developing peers,” she says. “Francine was meaningfully included in this class. That’s an experience that a lot of people with intellectual difficulties will never get.”



Student's online game soars to success

Flappy48 combines the popular games Flappy Bird and 2048.

By Rosie Hales, Communications Officer

The idea was “nothing special,” Queen’s computing student Dan Moran says of a video game he created that drew over 100,000 visitors to the website in the first few hours.

Flappy48 combines two popular games that can be played on mobile devices: 2048 and Flappy Bird. Flappy Bird was discontinued in February, but 2048 is still available for download.

“I often do these competitions called ‘game jams’ where people challenge themselves and others to create a game in short periods of time, say 24 or 48 hours. I figured I’d just quickly whip up this idea for Flappy Bird and 2048 blended together,” says Mr. Moran, Artsci’14. “One time I did a game jam and I was through the roof when my game got 1,000 views. When Flappy48 quickly broke 100,000views my head was spinning.”

Since the game went online Monday, Flappy48 has had more than 900,000 views. He has also produced a mobile version of the game that users can download for free through Google Play and the Amazon App store. Mr. Moran says the iOS version of the game should hit the Apple App Store in the next few days.

“When you see such a huge positive reaction to something you’ve made and something you’re passionate about doing, it’s just a great feeling,” says Mr. Moran. “I hope I can try and channel some of this buzz into my other projects so I can really get involved in the mobile game scene.”

Mr. Moran is graduating from the game development option of the School of Computing’s Software Design Program.

“The success of this game is a testament to Dan’s ingenuity and skill,” says Selim Akl, Director of the School of Computing. “It also illustrates the importance of logical and algorithmic thinking, creativity, and problem solving ability, all fundamental features of the excellent education Queen’s computing students receive."

Flappy48 is now available in the Google Play store.


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