The Queen’s community has always been an adaptable bunch. During the First World War, Queen's repurposed Grant Hall into a military hospital. At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Queen’s researchers designed and built a ventilator in only 14 days. Throughout my years volunteering for Queen’s, I’ve seen adaptation firsthand, including the early questions on whether we should dip our toes into social media, which seems far-fetched now. For the last two years, we’ve adapted in all areas of our lives – balancing remote work with personal and family commitments, connecting with family and friends virtually, all while constantly assessing the health risks around us. What does adaptation for our alumni community look like?
We have an opportunity to adapt to a new reality, which is a chance to engage with more alumni wherever in the world they reside or whatever means they possess. For example, on June 9, 2022, the Queen’s University Alumni Association Awards Gala returned to an in-person format in Toronto for the first time since 2019. This is one of the hallmark events of the annual alumni calendar – an evening to mark the important and measurable contributions alumni make in their local and global communities. This year we celebrated a phenomenal group of recipients who, in their personal and professional lives, serve as reminders of the impactful change Queen’s alumni make around the world.
But this year was different than years past – it was our first opportunity to adapt to the new normal. The gala was a fully immersive hybrid event designed to increase the accessibility and inclusivity of this awards ceremony. This is particularly important for engaging alumni who may have physical disabilities that can be a barrier to participation. Whether you were in Hong Kong, London, or Kingston, you could tune in and actively participate in this celebration.
Homecoming 2022 will be the next test. While, for many alumni, travelling to Kingston can be prohibitive or simply not feasible for their busy lives, that shouldn’t exclude them from celebrating and reconnecting with classmates and old friends. There will be more to come on this in the months ahead, but Queen’s is working to build hybrid options for Homecoming that go beyond the standard virtual event.
The QUAA mission statement commits us to “serve the alumni community in all its diversity.” By adapting to a new model of alumni engagement, we can better foster a lifelong connection to Queen’s in a more inclusive manner. Finding the silver linings from the pandemic will be key in the months and years ahead.