By Meredith Dault
September 6, 2011
Though she has worked as a nurse for 17 years, Vandeven-Dantes is back at university to earn a Master’s of Science in her field. “It’s a little nerve wracking,” she admits with a smile about the decision to return to school full-time, “and a little overwhelming.” Having just finished her undergraduate degree by correspondence, Vandeven-Dantes, a mother of three who lives in Kingston (“I just got my son off to college!” she laughs), is keen to immerse herself in campus life. The School of Graduate Studies orientation event was an obvious first place to start. “I’m so glad they’re having this!” she said with a grateful smile.
Raynold W. Alorse, who recently arrived at Queen’s to pursue a Master’s in public administration after earning an undergraduate degree in political science and business, agrees. “It’s been a great experience so far,” he says, eyeing the tables set-up nearby. “I’ve met three people in my program already...and I think people are really excited. Everyone is really helpful and friendly.”
Alorse, who hopes to work for government upon graduation says he came to Queen’s because of it’s solid reputation. John Rose, who is about to embark on a PhD in human geography, says he was drawn by the fact that Queen’s is an older, more established institution, in contrast to York and Trent, where he pursued his first two degrees. “The program looked fantastic,” he explains, “and Kingston seems like a fun town, with great pubs and shops.”
Though Lindsay Robertson, John Stuart and Brandon Williams all know one another from studying in Waterloo, they are keen to learn about what kinds of services were available to new students on campus. “This is my second time on campus,” says Robertson with a smile, “and I really don’t know a lot yet.” She says that as a new resident, she is happy to have the opportunity to speak with city representatives dolling out information on waste management. Holding up a card marked with pink and blue stamps he earned from visiting a requisite number of tables, Stuart jokes that “they like it if you talk to people.” Williams, a Kingston-native, says it is fun exploring his hometown from a university perspective. “I’ve lived in Kingston 11 years, and this is my second time on campus,” he adds with a laugh.
Twin sisters Beth and Becky Pero, also Kingston natives, were enjoying attending the orientation event in their respective capacities: Beth Pero as a new student in the Master’s of Education program, and Becky Pero as the International Student Affairs Commissioner with the SGPS (though she will also be beginning a PhD in Human Geography). “It’s a chance to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise,” she says of the orientation event. “It’s really about connecting with people.” Her sister, Beth, agrees, explaining that the event is also an opportunity to explore new opportunities on campus. “I just signed up for a cultural skills conversation group,” she laughs, “and I wouldn’t have done that if I wasn’t here!”
About halfway through the two hour event, Brenda Brouwer, Dean of the School of Graduate Studies steps to the podium to make opening remarks, telling students that the graduate student body was “3600 strong: an awful lot of life experience and knowledge to share.” Brouwer is followed by Principal Woolf, who welcomes students and thanks them for choosing Queen’s as the place to continue their education. “Graduate students,” he reminds them, “have a unique role to play in the university - as students, researchers and teachers.” Though he admits they can be challenging years, he reminds those in attendance that they can also be “among the most rewarding times in your life.” Ann Tierney, the new Dean of Student Affairs, follows his remarks with wise advice to take advantage of the university’s many services.
Jillian Burford-Grinnell, President of the Society for Graduate and Professional Students, then steps to the podium to make introductory remarks and to introduce the SGPS’s Graduate Support Award, along with the inaugural winners (who are nominated by graduate students): Professor Samantha King (School of Kinesiology & Health Sciences) and Terri Easter-Sheen (graduate assistant, Department of Gender Studies).
(L-R) Principal Woolf with Dean Brouwer, SGPS President with winners Terrie Easter-Sheen & Samantha King, Dean of Student Affairs, Ann Tierney
Then the crowd disperses and focuses their attention back to the tables -- and the huge number of services and opportunities available to graduate students on campus. Sipping on a cup of complimentary tea, Beth Pero looks around and smiles: “this is like the hottest meet and greet in Kingston!”