Office of the Principal and Vice-Chancellor

[Principal and Vice Chancellor]
[Principal and Vice Chancellor]
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Daniel Woolf
Updated: 4 min 27 sec ago

After the vote

Wed, 02/14/2018 - 16:34

The Alma Mater Society (AMS) and Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) held a referendum on charging students a mandatory fee to help finance the redevelopment of the John Deutsch University Centre. The results came in late last night with 51.1% of the AMS students voting no, and 77.3% of the SGPS students voting yes.

The project was contingent on a financing commitment from both levels of student government as well as one by the University. With this split decision, the university cannot proceed as planned, at the present time, with the JDUC redevelopment project. However, the university remains supportive of enhancing student life on campus, and will continue to work with student leaders over the next few weeks to determine next steps, recognizing in particular the strong endorsement by graduate and professional students of a need for dedicated space.

I want to acknowledge the tremendous amount of work that went into this project by our student leaders and our administration and wish to thank them for their commitment to the quality of student life. I myself had hoped for a positive outcome, and know there are many of you who are disappointed in this result. However, please be assured that while the proposed development will not proceed this year, we will not stop working together to improve all aspects of student life, including increasing accessibility and access to club and study spaces.

Thank you for participating in this process.

Cast your vote for the future of the JDUC

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 13:00

On February 12 and 13, Queen’s students will face an important question. The AMS, along with the SPGS, is holding a referendum on implementing a new student fee to help fund the redevelopment of the John Deutsch University Centre (JDUC).

I am a strong supporter of the role of student government within the university. Consequently, I do not normally express opinions or intervene in matters within student leadership’s domain. However, the JDUC renovation is important to the university as well, and I want to work together with the AMS and SGPS to create a modern student life facility, which is important to the student experience on campus.

Plans for the revitalized JDUC include making the building completely accessible, creating new space for clubs and faculty societies, and developing collaborative study spaces. The annual non-reviewable fee would be implemented beginning in the 2019-2020 academic year and charged for the following 20 years. This is a standard funding model for student-led capital projects at campuses across the country.

There is a long history at Queen’s of student-led fundraising and support for campus buildings. In fact, one of our most iconic landmarks, Grant Hall, would not exist without the generous contributions of both students and alumni. The building was originally to be financed by the Frontenac County Council, but citizens rescinded the proposal in 1901 when shovels were already in the ground. Queen’s students and alumni rallied together to raise the funds needed to complete the building, one-third of which came from the students themselves.

More recently, the AMS and Queen’s students contributed more than $25 million to constructing the Queen’s Centre and within it the Athletic and Recreation Centre, a facility vastly superior to those previously available. Today, students use that facility thanks to the contributions of those who came before them. As a proud alumnus myself, I know that Queen’s students value the important role they play in shaping the university’s legacy and to the students that follow in our footsteps.  If you have benefitted from the philanthropy of your predecessors by using the Queen’s Centre, please consider paying that forward now.

Graduate students may well wonder why they should contribute, given that they are more closely tied to their specific departments and often have office space. I would encourage you, too, to vote in favour. Increased graduate space has been something that graduate student leadership has proposed at various times over the past decade, but until this year I have never seen the kind of alignment between AMS and SGPS leadership that has now brought the project to this important juncture.

The university believes in the importance of this project and is proud to help fund it. The university intends to make a substantial contribution to this project and philanthropic donations will play a part, as well. I sincerely hope we have the chance to work with the AMS and SGPS to build a student centre of which we can all be proud.

Of course, this decision is not up to me. It is you, the students, who must decide about the future of the JDUC. I encourage you to learn more about the JDUC plans, ask questions about the project to your student leaders and make your decision. On February 12 and 13, cast your electronic vote and let your voice be heard. The quality of student life for future generations of Queen’s students and alumni depends on your participation.

You are not alone

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 15:44

The following email was sent to all students from Principal Daniel Woolf on Monday, January 26, 2018

This time of year, when term is underway, daylight is short, and the weather is mostly cold and grey, can sometimes feel dreary following the holiday break.  As we face the intensity of the term, it’s not uncommon for students to feel the pressure of day-to-day life increasing. If you are feeling overwhelmed, lonely, or depressed, or even just slightly unhappy, but can’t put your finger on why, please know that this is not unusual, and is experienced by many of us at this time of year. But there are plenty of people who understand, and plenty more who feel the same way as you do even if you are not aware of them.

I understand from a couple of recent conversations with students that some of the mental health-related support services that Queen’s provides may not be as well known as they should be.

I’d like to take this opportunity  to remind you of some resources available to you, both on Queen’s campus and in the wider community.  I have included links, in a list below this email, that you can follow if you need help or guidance.  In addition to our counsellors at Student Wellness Services in the Lasalle building on Stuart St., I draw your attention to the ‘embedded’ counsellors located at various points around main campus and at west campus.

Please remember to access these supports if you are in need of help or just a friendly listening ear, and don’t feel alone, because you are not.

You can access a range of campus-based supports including:

 Student Wellness Services: 

    • Appointments with physicians, nurses including a mental health nurse, as well as psychiatrists (by referral) and drop-in service from an Occupational Therapist for matching to the appropriate program/service, all at Student Health Services in the Lasalle Building

There are many after hours and community-based supports available to you, including:

More community services and supports here and here

A checkup on CBME

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 11:27

2017 has been another year filled with accomplishments for Queen’s. From the strong performance of our students, to the groundbreaking discoveries of our researchers, we have enjoyed great success and built a strong foundation for 2018. 


One of the most innovative projects from the past year has been our national leadership on a new project that is revolutionizing the way we train doctors in Canada. I have asked Dr. Richard Reznick, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, to contribute a guest column to update us on competency-based medical education (CBME) at Queen’s. 


Queen’s residents hone their skills in a simulation lab.

At the beginning of the summer, Queen’s took a bold step and introduced a new approach to educating specialty residents called competency-based medical education (CBME). With several months of experience in the new system now complete, it is a good time to take the pulse of the project and update the community on our work.

In a CBME approach, the focus is on ensuring residents are evaluated more regularly and consistently, using the reviews to shape their learning over the course of their residency, and allowing the residents to closely monitor their own progress and performance to ensure they learn the skills they need.

In addition, the expectations of the competencies expected to be developed in the program are clearly laid out through the delineation of what are referred to as “entrustable professional activities” or EPAs. These spell out exactly how and when residents are ready to independently take care of aspects of the many aspects of patient care in a given specialty.

The approach in place at most medical schools today assumes if residents spend enough time on a certain skill or discipline and receive regular feedback from their teachers, they will eventually master their required skills and be ready for their exams and the working world.

Today at Queen’s, written reviews are stored digitally on a resident dashboard. Once filed, a resident has a clear and up-to-date picture of their progress and their next steps. Faculty members have a detailed and comprehensive record to refer back to when evaluating their residents, and the whole system is more accountable for all involved.

Though we had previously implemented competency-based learning in our Family Medicine department, implementing CBME across the board at Queen’s has been achieved years ahead of other medical schools. While others are deploying CBME one program at a time over five years, it was my belief that the best way to deliver this new style of learning was to work as 29 united medical residency programs coordinated by a central team of educators.

This initiative has required a mammoth effort by an incredibly dedicated team of leaders, program directors, educational consultants, and residents, who collectively have used a systems-based approach to effect dramatic change.

It has been a busy fall for me personally, as medical schools and professionals the world over turned to us to learn how we made the transition. In recent months I delivered seven presentations across Canada, the US, and Asia as other schools seek to learn more about how Queen’s made the switch to CBME.

Additionally, dozens of medical leaders attended our November conference on campus and many more are expected at our upcoming CBME webinars.

Our faculty and residents have been equally busy in the ‘classroom’, with over 3,134 resident assessments (and counting) completed by our faculty. This represents a dramatic increase in the amount of feedback these residents would have typically received by this point in their residency. And it is not just the quantity of feedback which makes this important – it is the quality.

There are still several months to go before this year’s cohort of residents completes their first year. Even so, we have been actively seeking ways to continuously improve this system – from refining the review forms to analyzing the assessment results and trends.

Feedback on the CBME program continues to be positive from residents and faculty, and for more on their experience I invite you to read more about CBME in the most recent edition of the Queen’s Alumni Review magazine.

This change has been driven by our goal of preparing doctors for the future of medicine. In order to achieve this, we must ensure each new group of residents is receiving the best possible education. We believe this new delivery method will ensure improved patient care and better outcomes for residents and society as a whole by emphasizing skills first rather than time on the job.

This is the evolution of medical education, and it is happening right here at Queen’s.

The future is interdisciplinary

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 13:49

(This was originally published in The Hill Times on November 3, 2017 and carried by Universities Canada)

Given the complexity of social, political, environmental, economic and technological challenges facing the world, interdisciplinary research is very quickly becoming something no country can do without.

In the past 20 years, interdisciplinary research—studies involving researchers from multiple academic disciplines—has gone from ‘nice to have’ to ‘need to have.’ Today, given the complexity of social, political, environmental, economic and technological challenges facing the world, it is very quickly becoming something no country can do without.

Canada has the skills, talent and capacity to be an international leader in research and innovation. Seizing that opportunity will require concerted effort and unequivocal government support for interdisciplinary as well as traditional discipline-based research. This was recognized by last spring’s federally commissioned Fundamental Science Review, which included a clear call for greater support for research across disciplines. The authors of that document acknowledged research councils have made efforts in this area, but that more must be done to encourage multidisciplinary research.

Why, exactly? Because it exposes specialists in one area to other perspectives and ways of thinking, challenging received truths and spurring creativity and innovation. In many ways, academic disciplines are like houses, and with disciplinary research nearly everything happens “at home.” I personally like to get out of my own house from time to time, talk to other people, and encounter new perspectives.

In research, this “getting out of the house” has become essential because the problems to be confronted spill across borders, cultural divides and fields of knowledge. Take climate change. It’s not just an environmental issue: it has enormous economic and social implications. How can we possibly take on the challenge of modulating climate change without dealing with the impact of environmental change on local communities and Indigenous peoples?

Technology is another case in point. The rise of the ‘Internet of Things’ and advancement of artificial intelligence both present questions we’ve never had to ask before—questions that are not just of a technical nature but also ethical, legal and sociological.

In all these cases, “interdisciplinary” means not just across the hard sciences but the social sciences as well. To focus only on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is to leave a huge amount of intellectual capacity on the table. This is something that someone like Steve Jobs, for example, understood intuitively. It was the combination of engineering excellence and insight into how people interact that made Apple the company it is today.

The value of social science research is not always easy to quantify, though its absence is keenly felt. This was the case with the rollout of the HPV vaccine a few years ago. Some social science research to understand how the public might perceive the vaccine before it was unveiled could have strengthened communications around the launch—and prevented resistance from parents based on unfounded concerns that it would promote teenage promiscuity.

Some areas of research already employ an interdisciplinary approach regularly. It’s easy to find health science labs with biochemists, biologists, pharmacologists and other specialists working shoulder to shoulder. This needs to be broadened.

Interdisciplinary research is something we prioritize at Queen’s, from our degree program in neuroscience to our centres and institutes that bring together faculty from across departments. Our Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC), which forms teams of young entrepreneurs from diverse disciplines, is testament to the strength of cross-disciplinary research. It was the incubator for Spectra Plasmonics, an entrepreneurial student project that won first prize at an international pitch competition in Singapore this year, beating 35 international teams.

So what needs to happen for Canada to see and support more interdisciplinary research? First, governments at all levels need to fund it. The bodies that administer that funding need to make sure they don’t impose conditions that serve as impediments to interdisciplinary research, effectively administering people back into the corners of their departments, or allow research projects to fall between the gaps.

Within academia, we have an opportunity to think about ways of forging new connections among disciplines, creating the structures to do this kind of work.

We are at the point today where we have to decide how we want to tackle the future. Greg Bavington, the executive director of DDQIC, often asks, “What kind of hockey team would you have if you had all the best goalies in the world—and no one else?” It takes a well-rounded team to achieve a common goal.

The future will be full of challenge and opportunity—most of which we cannot now predict. Rapid technological advances, geo-political challenges and climate change will test our ability to react and navigate. It is through interdisciplinary research teams that we will be best able to respond to these changes, to innovate, seize new opportunities and improve quality of life—both at home and abroad.