Queen's University

QUAA President's Column

Heather Black, Sc'80QUAA President Heather Black, Sc'80

In the spirit of seasonal renewal and rejuvenation, the QUAA Board met in Toronto in early April for our Spring Forward. Board members and Alumni Relations staff got together to review our progress of late and to set our course for the coming year. I always find these weekend planning sessions so energizing and well worth the time commitment. It is a privilege to be connected with so many bright minds, sharing a love of Queen’s.

With no shortage of good ideas going forward, we highlighted our priorities, and refined our action plan before presenting it to attendees at the University Council’s meeting on May 7. Stay tuned for more news on key projects – in particular look for exciting news about our Alumni Card.

As I reflected on the theme of this issue – women in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science – I reflected on my own student experiences, which began in the fall of 1976. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Engineering, nor did I know how well suited I would be to it. So I applied to the Faculty of Arts and Science.

It wasn’t until I met my first Engineer in frosh week that I realized I was probably in the wrong faculty. Although I tried to switch, the then-Assistant Dean did his best to discourage me from even applying to transfer into Applied Science by telling me that it might take many weeks before I knew if I was accepted; anyway, there’d probably be no room for me because all the first-year courses were full.

Not two weeks later I learned of how many students had actually transferred out of Applied Science, even as early as the end of frosh week. This left room for would-be students who wanted to move the other way. Since then, I’ve often wondered if the tenor of my conversation with the Assistant Dean had been dictated by his fatherly concern for a 18-year-old young woman away from home for the first time or a disbelief that a female would really want to be an Engineer.

Regardless, in second year I was able to transfer into my preferred faculty, and throughout my career to date I’ve benefited from the education I received at Queen’s. Entering Sc’ 80, I was one of 50 women in a class of 450 students. In the discipline of Metallurgy we actually had four women in a class of 15 – more than ever before.

Throughout my time in Metallurgy and Applied Science, I always felt I was just another one of the class and that my professors were fully supportive of our entire class choosing Engineering as a learning path and as a possible career. That level of acceptance from both faculty and classmates provided an excellent environment for me and for other female Engineering students. I believe that tradition continues at Queen’s, and if anything it is even stronger today.

About 25 per cent of the first-year class in Engineering and Applied Science – and a third of the graduate students – are women. What’s more, Dean Kim Woodhouse serves as a strong role model for all students. As they say, we’ve come a long way baby!

My Engineering degree has opened doors for me over the years and the training continues to assist me daily in all facets of my life.

I’m not working these days as a metallurgical engineer. However, I find that I use my engineering training, especially my problem-solving skills, frequently in my work as a technology professional. Furthermore, I believe that my education has provided me with a strong foundation for my career. The solid, overall grounding that I received at Queen’s has helped me overcome some of the challenges that I have faced in developing my career along a complimentary path to my degree discipline. It is not always easy to be a woman in a male-dominated environment. My Engineering degree has opened doors for me over the years and the training continues to assist me daily in all facets of my life.

I look forward to celebrating all that is Queen’s at our upcoming Spring Reunion and MiniU Weekend, May 27-29. This will be my fourth – and I’m certainly looking forward to a full weekend of lectures, re-convocation, and social events. I hope to see –and to meet – many of you there, too. It will be fun! Cha Gheill!

Heather Black is always eager to hear from alumni. Please email your comments, suggestions, and questions to her at quaa.president@queensu.ca.

Queen's Alumni Review, 2011 Issue #2Queen's Alumni Review
2011 Issue #2
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