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Engineering an early start

[Queen's Summer Engineering Academy]
Students work on an experiment during last year's Queen's Summer Engineering Academy. For 2017, the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science has introduced a junior program for students entering grades 8 and 9. (Supplied photo)

The Queen’s Summer Engineering Academy (QSEA) is getting bigger and better.

Building on the success of its inaugural camps last year, the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science is offering an expanded program to expose students currently in grades 7 to 12 to the array of possibilities engineering at Queen’s has to offer.

New this year is QSEA Jr., which provides introductory programing for students going into grades 8 and 9 in the fall of 2017. The focus of QSEA Jr. is to introduce students to the basics of engineering design, robotics, and innovation as well as the opportunities available in makerspaces.

Queen’s already has a makerspace in SparQ Studio and more are planned. Makerspaces provide use of equipment and technology that users might otherwise be unable to access such as 3D printers, laser cutters and wide range of electronics, says Scott Compeau, Engineering Outreach Coordinator.

“Through QSEA Course D and QSEA Jr. we are planning to teach students how to use these tools and then apply it in a context where they can solve a problem that is related to something that they have an interest in,” he says. “These are 21st century competencies and skills which are becoming an important topic of discussion in education.”

Mr. Compeau, who has a Master’s degree specializing in Engineering Education with a thesis on high school students’ perception of engineering, adds that the QSEA Jr. program hopefully will act as a feeder or introductory step for the senior QSEA program, which offers a more in-depth and specialized engineering experience.

The QSEA program has also been expanded with two courses running simultaneously during each of the four weeks. Last year’s single course drew a maximum of 24 students each week, however, this year each course is capped at 16 students, allowing for a better student-teacher ratio, Mr. Compeau points out.

Also, each of the courses will explore different disciplines of engineering, such as electrical and computer, mechanical and biomedical engineering, chemical engineering and engineering chemistry, to geological, mining and civil engineering. One course (Course D) will also explore the intersection between engineering, innovation, and entrepreneurship which will be modelled after the successful Queen’s Innovation Connector Summer Initiative (QICSI) program.

QSEA 2016 provided a solid foundation for the programming and this year organizers are looking to build on those successes.

“Among the successes that we heard about through student feedback was that they became a lot more aware and a lot more knowledgeable about various disciplines within engineering and what engineering might be like,” Mr. Compeau says. “Some of the students said they had no idea about the breadth of engineering disciplines and they really enjoyed learning about that. A lot of them, in terms of the hands-on opportunities, really enjoyed doing the practical aspects of engineering in the labs on campus and doing all the experiments. This was an amazing opportunity to showcase the facilities that Queen’s University can offer”

Registration is currently open for both the senior and junior programs.

QSEA is available for four weeks (July 17-21, July 24-28, July 31-Aug. 4, Aug 14-Aug. 18). QSEA Jr. is being hosted for the first three weeks.

Again this year there are commuter and residence options available.

For more information including registration, schedules, and to view videos about the academy, visit the QSEA webpage.

Delivering on the pitch

The Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC) recently handed out a total of $28,000 to six companies that participated in its first-ever regional pitch competition.

“The support of the Dunin and Deshpande Foundations makes it possible to provide this type of financial support to QyourVenture and to support ventures in southeastern Ontario,” says Greg Bavington, Executive Director, Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre.

[Greg Bavington with members of TimberWolf]
TimberWolf Cycles representatives David Timan (Sc'13) and Caitlin Willis (Com'09) receive feedback from Greg Bavington, Executive Director, Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre, during the recent regional pitch competition. (Submitted photo)

DDQIC hosted the regional pitch competition with the goal of supporting early-stage companies based at Queen’s and the surrounding area.

The pitch competition was open to anyone with a business idea who has not already received more than $5,000 in support from DDQIC. The field included several companies from QyourVenutre, an acceleration program which supports Queen’s students who want to take their idea to the next level. QyourVenture accepts companies on a regular basis throughout the school year, giving them access to space and training for their business venture.

The pitch competition was judged by members of the DDQIC Global Network in London, England, who connected via videoconference, along with the DDQIC executive team. Chaired by Heather Christie (Artsci’09), the London branch is supported by 13 Queen’s alumni who come from a variety of different professional and education backgrounds. This branch offers support to DDQIC ventures that want to expand into the UK and the rest of Europe.

The winning ventures at the pitch competition included:

TimberWolf Cycles ($5,000) – The company, founded by David Timan (Sc’13), produces high-performance road bikes made from wood. Using a variety of woods, Mr. Timan has designed a bike that softens road vibration while efficiently delivering power to the road through an exceptionally lightweight frame.

Capteur ($5,000) – A QyourVenture company, Capteur enables building operators and maintenance companies to ensure facilities are always clean and operating according to sustainable environmental practices. Cole MacDonald (Sci’19) and Nathan Mah (MEI’17) founded the cloud-based technology start-up.

Robot Missions ($5,000 plus time in SparQ Studios) – Robot Missions, founded by Erin Kennedy, has developed a 3D-printed robot that collects harmful tiny trash debris from shorelines. The company’s robot workshops enhance STEM education for elementary students by applying robotics to the environment.

Your Mobility Innovations ($4,000) – Founded by Loyalist College students Dylan Houlden and Brett Lyons, the company designs and produces products to improve the lives of people with physical disabilities and the elderly. Mr. Lyon, who was born with cerebral palsy and confined to a wheelchair, had the idea for an adjustable grab bar when he was eight-years-old. The founders are trying to turn that idea into a reality, working with several partners including Queen’s Biomedical Innovations Team, PARTEQ, and Queen’s Business Law Clinic.

Pronura ($4,000) – Pronura plans to commercialize a non-invasive, inexpensive method for testing for multiple neurological diseases at the same time – all with accuracy unseen in any current tests. The test, developed by Dr. Douglas P. Munoz of the Queen’s Eye Movement Laboratory, uses an eye-tracker to detect unique biomarkers associated with multiple neurological diseases. Founders Matthew De Sanctis and Adam Palter met in the Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation program offered by Smith School of Business.

SŌ Seeds ($3,000 plus in-kind donations from the Department of Chemical Engineering) – The venture aims to disrupt the tree-planting industry by replacing saplings with coated super-seeds. SŌ Seeds was founded by five chemical engineering students as part of their innovation and entrepreneurship course under the mentorship of Jim McLellan, Professor and Academic Director, DDQIC.

SWFT ($2,000) – The start-up focuses on developing portable and wireless charging solutions for festivals, stadiums, transit systems, theme parks, and other venues. The service allows patrons to charge their phones without being tethered to charging stations. Friends Greg Fedele (Com’17) and Anish Sharma (Sc’17) founded the company.

Through a variety of programs, services, and resources, the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre encourages, enables, and supports the innovation activities of students, professors, entrepreneurs, and Canadian companies. More information about the centre is available online.

Up against the clock

Graduate students shine in final round of Queen’s 3MT competition.

The pressure was on as 11 graduate students took to the stage in the Dupuis Hall Auditorium to compete in the final round of the Queen’s Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition on Thursday, March 30.

Using only one static slide and no props, the students had to present their research to a panel of non-specialist judges.

Neuroscience master's candidate Victoria Donovan delivered a presentation on how the brain responds to trauma. Ms. Donovan won the overall and People's Choice awards and will move on to represent Queen's at the Ontario 3MT.

“Queen’s 3MT is a much-anticipated annual event on campus,” says Brenda Brouwer, Vice-Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies. “Our students put in hours of preparation for their three minutes in front of the judges. The competition helps students hone communication skills – such as making their research accessible and it’s a great way to celebrate the innovative and thought-provoking research our graduate students are conducting across campus.”

A panel of judges, consisting of Principal Daniel Woolf, Chancellor Jim Leech, communications consultant Robert A Wood, CBC reporter JC Kenny, and Denise Cumming, CEO of the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation, graded the competitors on clarity, audience engagement and presentation skills. A long-time supporter of the 3MT competition, CKWS Television host Bill Welychka served as the emcee for the event.

“I have promoted the event on CKWS-TV the past two years and it seems like the coolest thing ever,” said Mr. Welychka. “I love that 3MT combines distilling a complicated subject down to a three minute verbal presentation with dramatic elements, public speaking and engaging the audience. Not an easy undertaking to say the least.”

Victoria Donovan, a master's candidate in neuroscience was named winner and people's choice for her presentation, Lie low, stay alive. Her research is looking at the evolutionary response to traumatic brain injury. Early results provide evidence that high brain shutdown is an evolved reply to trauma – providing clues as to future treatments.

“I've been at Queen's for six and a half years now and have enjoyed every minute of it,” she says. “I’m thrilled to have the chance to represent the university at the provincial championship.”

Ms. Donovan will move on to represent Queen’s at the Ontario 3MT finals on April 12 in Waterloo. The national 3MT winner will be decided through an online vote on videos of the regional champions, conducted on the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies website.

“Competing in the 3MT was one of the highlights of my Masters studies,” says Anastasia Savrova, MSc’17, winner of the 2016 Queen’s 3MT competition. “It was encouraging to hear people were so excited about my research, and this experience has really pushed me to pursue more opportunities where I can get the public more involved in academic research.”

For more information on the Queen’s 3MT competition, or to see video of the finalists' presentations, please visit the website.

All eyes on the Prize

Prize for Excellence in Research recipients to share knowledge with the community.

Grant Hall will play host to some of Queen’s most exciting and innovative researchers as the recipients of the 2016 Prize for Excellence in Research (PER) deliver a series of keynote addresses on Monday, April 3 from 4:30-6:30 p.m in Grant Hall.

The free, public lecture event will see each of the prize recipients present an engaging 10-minute overview of their work. The lectures – delivered with a non-specialist audience in mind – will focus on a wide array of topics, from art history to evolution.

From Top Left, Clockwise: Stephen Vanner (Medicine), Janet Hiebert (Political Studies), James R. Cordy (School of Computing), Myra Hird (School of Environmental Studies), Gauvin Bailey (Art History and Art Conservation), and Virginia Walker (Biology).

“The Prize for Excellence in Research public lectures give members of the Queen’s and Kingston communities the opportunity to learn from researchers who have made unique contributions in a variety of diverse and exciting fields,” says Dr. John Fisher, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “The six speakers taking part in this year’s lectures are at the leading edge of their respective fields and reflect the strength, depth and breadth of our faculty. I offer my sincerest congratulations to all of this year’s speakers.”

This year’s lecturers are Gauvin Bailey (Art History and Art Conservation), James R. Cordy (School of Computing), Janet Hiebert (Political Studies), Stephen Vanner (Medicine) and Virginia Walker (Biology). In addition, 2015 recipient Myra Hird (School of Environmental Studies) will deliver her lecture along with the 2016 cohort.

The Alfred and Isabel Bader Chair in Southern Baroque Art, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a world-renowned expert in the arts and architecture of early Modern Europe, Latin America and colonial Asia, Dr. Gauvin Bailey’s research examines the art of different regions using multidisciplinary methodologies to pursue the viewpoint of non‐European cultures. He will deliver a presentation titled A Baroque Palace in the Haitian Rainforest.

Dr. James Cordy’s research has led to the development of methods and tools that make the management of today’s large software code bases possible. His work has been used to safely make systematic modifications to large code bases – notably used by Canadian banks to solve the Year 2000 (Y2K) problem – and for identifying trouble spots in other complex programs, such as those behind the development of autonomous vehicles. In his lecture This Means That: Programming by Transformation, Dr. Cordy will dive deeper into the development and management of complex computer programs.

An internationally-celebrated scholar of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Dr. Janet Hiebert is the foremost authority on how bills of rights influence Westminster parliamentary democracy. Her expertise has led to invitations to provide briefs, advice, and expert testimony for governments in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the International Bar Association. Dr. Hiebert will examine the innermost workings of our parliamentary system in her lecture, Can Parliament Protect Rights?

Recognized for his innovative research into the causes of, and treatments for, the pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome, Dr. Stephen Vanner has made a tremendous impact on his field. In his lecture, Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Light and the End of the Tunnel, he will discuss the current state of research in this field, including the work taking place in the Queen’s Gastrointestinal Diseases Research Unit (GIDRU).

A prolific researcher with an international reputation, Dr. Virginia Walker has contributed more than 150 publications to top science journals in her nearly 40-year academic career. With special expertise in understanding the mechanisms of stress resistance, her research includes the full range of biology from cell and molecular biology, physiology, ecology and evolution, and she has worked on mammals, plants, insects and most recently fish. She will deliver a lecture titled Piecing Together a Cold Quilt.

A Queen's National Scholar and Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Dr. Myra Hird is a distinguished interdisciplinary scholar with an international reputation for her multifaceted, collaborative investigations into a variety of research areas, including human influence on the environment. Her lecture, Canada’s Waste Flow and our Global Legacy, examines Canada’s place in the global discussions around waste management, conservation and environmental protection.

The event begins at 4:30 pm. It is free and all are welcome to attend. For more information on the Prize for Excellence in Research Public Lectures, please visit the website.

A taste of Canadian history

New exhibit examining unique cookbooks explores Canadian history.

Queen’s University history professor Steven Maynard has cooked up a unique exhibit that examines the social history of Canada. Using cookbooks found in the Jordan Rare Books and Special Collections in Douglas Library, a group of Professor Maynard’s students brought history to life using the rare tomes.

From vintage Jello cookbooks popular in the 1920s to Jewish and Mennonite recipe books from the mid-20th century to the oldest cookbook in Canada published in Kingston in 1831, The Taste of the Library is a new exhibit researched and curated by students.

Learning about Canadian history in this unique project are (l to r): Ashley Anderson, Jack Wilson and Jessie Cook.

“The collection at Queen’s is very extensive,” says Jack Wilson (ArtSci’18). “It made doing the research necessary very easy.”

The idea behind the project was to explore interesting themes in regards to food and what stories cookbooks tell.  Themes include cooking on a budget, preparing meals before there were grocery stores and food trends through the decades.

“We looked at local cookbooks published by community groups, to books that were widely published, to books published by large companies. We looked at one cookbook that had an advertisement on every other page,” says Ashley Anderson (ArtSci’19).

Mr. Wilson added it was also interesting to learn about rationing during the wars as the cookbooks during that time were very basic. Studying a cookbook from 1899, he adds the focus of that book was sustaining the family - nothing more exotic than that.

“We also got to see other ways that recipes changes, including how they were written,” says Jessie Cooke (ArtSci’19). “Early books told more of a story without listing specific ingredients as they took for granted women already knew how to cook. Later cookbooks really focused on exact measurements and making the food perfect.”

Another student in the class loaned to the exhibit her grandmother’s Mennonite cookbook. Those recipes showed more of the cultural history of Canada, as did a number of Indigenous cookbooks contained in the collection.

“These books explained a lot about Canada’s history and also how the Canadian family has changed since the mid-1800s,” says Professor Maynard. “My approach to teaching is giving history a public face and I think this year’s projects achieved that and more. Now students can bring their work to the public so others can also learn something new.

The exhibit opens Thursday, March 30 at 3 pm and is located on the second floor of Douglas Library.

Three minutes, one slide, zero time to waste

Queen’s graduate students to take part in 3MT Finals.

Graduate students will be on the hot seat as they compete for the Queen’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) title. With only one slide and no props, the finalists will have just three minutes to present their research to a generalist audience and a panel of non-specialist judges.

Students competing in the Queen’s 3MT Final

The graduate student presenters will represent diverse research interests and different graduate programs at Queen’s:

Claire Boteler (Mathematics and Statistics)
Rosanna Brown (Art History)
Louise de Lannoy (Kinesiology & Health Studies)
Victoria Donovan (Neuroscience)
Brianne Gascho (Art History)
Amani Ibrahim (Computing)
Stephen MacGregor (Education)
Eric Rapos (Computing)
Caroline Wallace (Neuroscience)
Deyu Xing (Education)
Kassandra Yun (Environmental Studies)
Graduate Student Stephanie Gauvin (Psychology) presents during the semi-final round of the Queen's 3MT competition. The winner of the final round will represent Queen's at the Ontario 3MT competition April 12 in Waterloo. (School of Graduate Studies).

“Distilling one’s research into just three minutes is a real challenge,” says Brenda Brouwer, Vice-Provost and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. “That being said, the skills these participants develop – coherently summarizing months or years of work, making tough decisions about what information to include and communicating complex ideas in a way that’s engaging and understandable – are highly sought after competencies. This competition gives the students the chance to hone these skills, while giving the Queen’s and Kingston community a sneak-peek at the exciting research our graduate students are involved in.”

A total of 23 graduate students competed in three semi-final heats between March 20-22 to determine the finalists. In the finals, the students will present in front of a panel of judges consisting of Queen’s Principal Daniel Woolf, Chancellor Jim Leech, president and chief executive officer of 8020Info Robert A Wood, media professional and coach JC Kenny, and Denise Cumming, CEO of the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation. CKWS Television host and local celebrity Bill Welychka will serve as the emcee for the event.

The 3MT is a communications competition for graduate students. Developed in Australia by the University of Queensland in 2008, it has expanded to a series of competitions held at universities around the globe. In 2012, Queen’s held the first 3MT competition in Ontario and since then, Queen’s students have consistently excelled at both provincial and national competitions, winning the National People’s Choice award in 2015 and finishing third in Ontario in 2016.

The competition takes place Thursday, March 30 in the Dupuis Hall Auditorium starting at 4:30. The winner will represent Queen's at the Ontario 3MT on April 12 in Waterloo and appear on the CKWS Morning Show in the coming weeks.

Smith School of Business new home for IBM Watson in Canada

[IBM Canada | Smith Cognitive Computing Centre]
Smith staff interact with IBM Watson in the new IBM Canada | Smith Cognitive Computing Centre at Smith’s downtown Toronto campus. (Submitted photo)

Smith School of Business unveiled a new cognitive computing centre at its downtown Toronto campus today.

The new IBM Canada | Smith Cognitive Computing Centre, the first of its kind at a business school in Canada, is a collaborative space that will provide an exclusive artificial intelligence demonstration experience for IBM clients and enhanced access to cognitive computing solutions for Smith students and faculty.

“Integrating the latest in artificial intelligence and cognitive computing into our curriculum further enhances the learning experience for Smith students,” says David Saunders, Dean, Smith School of Business. “Access to the centre will also give our students a competitive edge in the work force and in developing new venture concepts.”

The centre consists of seven interactive wall screens for users to work directly with IBM Watson technologies in a multi-media environment. Under this five-year collaboration, IBM will offer a number of annual internships to Smith students, providing opportunities to work with IBM Watson technologies in a business setting.

Visit Smith’s Facebook page to see more photos of the centre and launch event.


Prepared to premiere

[Kento Stratford]
Kento Stratford’s choir and piano arrangement of a hymn originally created by former professor Bill Barnes for Queen’s sesquicentennial in 1991, will premiere Friday at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. (University Communications)

This Friday night, Kento Stratford, a second-year music student, will see a major project performed for the first time on the stage of the concert hall at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts.

As the opening number of the Dan School of Drama and Music’s year-end choir and orchestra concert, Mr. Stratford’s choir and piano arrangement of a hymn that was originally created by former professor Bill Barnes for Queen’s sesquicentennial in 1991 will be premiered.

The piece has five verses and will be performed by a 120-person choir. It was a massive undertaking, says Mr. Stratford. But now, after five months of hard, detailed work, he’s ready to see his creation come to life.

“Hearing it in the Isabel recital hall… the acoustics are so good,” Mr. Stratford says. “Just having my piece played, it’s something I’ve dreamt about, actually. I’m definitely excited to hear it in person.”

The opportunity arose from a meeting with music professor and award-winning composer John Burge to discuss one of Mr. Stratford’s composition assignments. At the end of the meeting Dr. Burge asked Mr. Stratford if he was interested in arranging the sesquicentennial piece as part of the continuing celebrations of Queen’s 175th anniversary.

“It was a ‘in the right place at the right time’ sort of thing,” Mr. Stratford explains. “I said yes, it’s such a great opportunity. Where else would you get that opportunity?”

Through the work Mr. Stratford has gained valuable compositional experience, which will help him as he continues his studies and into his future career.

“Kento has produced a marvelous piece that added greatly to the original words and music,” says Dr. Burge. “Kento possesses a very clear understanding of harmony and counterpoint and this experience has given him a firm foundation upon which to build as he develops his own compositional craft and creativity. Full credit and thanks also goes to Darrell Bryan, conductor of the Queen’s Choral Ensemble, for his support in bringing everything together.”

The Queen's Symphony Orchestra and Choral Ensemble’s year-end concert, featuring Carl Jenkins' The Armed Man, is being held at the Isabel on Friday, March 24 at 7:30 pm. Tickets$15 adults; $7 students/seniors – are available online, by phone at 613-533-2424, or at the door.

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.”

Addressing challenges and creating community

PhD-Community Initiative a win-win for Kingston and Queen’s.

  • The PhD Community Initiative gave Queen's graduate students the opportunity to partner with community groups to solve real-world problems and apply their skills in new settings.
    The PhD Community Initiative gave Queen's graduate students the opportunity to partner with community groups to solve real-world problems and apply their skills in new settings.
  • Team Systema Kingston discuss their experience working to improve volunteer recruitment.
    Team Systema Kingston discuss their experience working to improve volunteer recruitment.
  • The PREVNet team present their report, which focused on anti-bullying knowledge mobilization in local schools.
    The PREVNet team present their report, which focused on anti-bullying knowledge mobilization in local schools.
  • Improving public outreach and use of the Queen's University Biological Station, the team focused efforts on new Canadians - offering a taste of Canadiana.
    Improving public outreach and use of the Queen's University Biological Station, the team focused efforts on new Canadians - offering a taste of Canadiana.
  • The Sustainable Engineering in Remote Areas (SERA) team focused their efforts on recruiting students in non-engineering disciplines - who shared a focus on Indigenous/remote community issues - to expand the reach of the NSERC-supported project.
    The Sustainable Engineering in Remote Areas (SERA) team focused their efforts on recruiting students in non-engineering disciplines - who shared a focus on Indigenous/remote community issues - to expand the reach of the NSERC-supported project.

Teams of graduate students participating in the Queen’s PhD-Community Initiative delivered reports on the outcomes of their projects with local community groups during a special event on March 22. The reports mark the culmination of nearly five months of teamwork which gave the students an opportunity to apply the skills acquired in their graduate training to address real-world problems.

“The initiative offered our graduate students hands-on experience in applying the skills acquired in their academic programs as well as the opportunity to expand their network of colleagues and community contacts,” says Brenda Brouwer, Vice-Provost and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. “It’s incredibly gratifying to see how they’ve leveraged their complementary strengths and worked so effectively as teams. Each team has accomplished a lot in a short time and their efforts have had meaningful impacts on the partner organizations.  It is truly a win-win situation.”

For the past five months, interdisciplinary teams of Queen’s PhD students have partnered with local community organizations to address specific issues or challenges. By applying their knowledge and skills and offering a fresh, analytical approach, the students have gained valuable experience in solving problems as a team and the partner benefits from their creative solutions and insights helping them to move forward. As an added benefit, the partnerships offered a way to strengthen ties between Queen’s and the community.

“Working with a non-profit organization encouraged me to reach outside my comfort zone,” explains Mavis Kusi, a second-year doctoral candidate in neuroscience.

Seventeen graduate students formed interdisciplinary teams of three to four students and were matched with five organizations that had identified a particular challenge or issue that could benefit from a fresh, outside perspective. The organizations included Sustainable Energy in Remote Areas (SERA), Queen’s University Biological Station (QUBS) Community Outreach Expansion, Sistema Kingston after-school program, Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network (PREVNet), and Kingston Economic Development Corporation’s (KEDCO) night economy project.

Since mid-fall, the teams worked closely with their partners under the guidance of an alumnus or retiree mentor to identify the scope of the project, develop and implement a plan of action, and present deliverables.

 “I learned a lot about project management and communications from working with our community partners and stakeholders,” says Hasan Kettaneh, a first-year doctoral candidate in education. “It was challenging in the beginning, but we established communications processes and trust and that was key to the success of our project.”

For more information about the initiative, visit the School of Graduate Studies website.


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