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.
How do your priorities advance the university’s mission and build the Queen’s of the future that you have envisioned and spoken about?
We are collectively building the Queen’s of the future every day. It’s a place of great traditions, and many of those traditions still survive from my time as a student. Yet no institution survives by staying in the same place. We need to adapt and change. We have made huge progress in the last few years, and I think our trajectory is simply going to continue upward.
My first priority as Principal was to put our financial and governance house in order, develop a culture of planning, and introduce a new budget model – which has been done thanks to the hard work of the Deans and our former Provost. The last few years have been focused on putting in place the conditions for future success, including drafting documents such as the Strategic Framework and the Comprehensive International Plan, ensuring sustainable enrolment growth, improving town-gown relations, and working on our talent management.
My current goals are based on a three-year rolling plan, which includes short-term and long-term priorities. The 2017-18 underlying themes are primarily: catalyzing change, which relates to faculty renewal and research prominence; respecting our community, which includes diversity and inclusion as well as encouraging safe and respectful behavior; and an infrastructure strategy, which will look at the question of how we eliminate $300 million worth of deferred maintenance in the next ten to twelve years and, of course, how we will pay for it.
The faculty renewal effort underpins many of these priorities. It will support our commitment to equity and inclusion, enhance our teaching and learning by ensuring students receive mentorship from faculty with diverse backgrounds and experience, and will help us attract promising early- and mid-career faculty who demonstrate exceptional promise as researchers.
Achieving these goals will put us in a position to reach for much greater success in research and innovation. This should lead us, five to ten years down the road, to an enhanced reputation as one of the most distinctive universities in the country in terms of the quality of its teaching, the quality of its students and faculty, the quality of its research, and its ability to innovate.
Looking ahead to the fifth year of our planned faculty renewal efforts, what difference will we see in the Queen’s of 2021-2022?
You will see nearly a quarter of the entire faculty complement turn over between new hires, retirements, and other departures. We will have a number of younger faculty out of recent PhD programs with somewhat different approaches to pedagogy, community relations, and interdisciplinarity. You will also be seeing some mid-career and senior appointments in designated fields to firm up areas of established excellence and promising emerging subjects. Hiring these 200 new faculty is a strategic investment that will lead us into the future.
These new faculty will want to come here because we will be one of Canada’s leading research intensive and teaching universities. They will want to be here because we are a place that recognizes innovation. They will be drawn by the good quality of life, the vibrant culture, and the affordability of living in Kingston. And they will have the chance to teach outstanding students in an environment where there is a great care for health and wellbeing, and in a place where we have made some thoughtful and strategic choices in terms of our research excellence.
The two primary lenses we are using to guide our hiring decisions are research excellence – the few areas at Queen’s that have the capacity to be really world-leading – and diversity and equity, where we know that we have some work to do.
We cannot aspire to be a world leader in every single subject and every single discipline. We have the capacity to make some choices to pursue areas – particle physics is an obvious one, but not the only one – where we can rank in the top 100 or higher. Making such choices does not disadvantage or diminish other areas. A rising tide lifts all boats.
The Provost and I will be taking advice from the Deans and the incoming Vice-Principal (Research and Innovation) in terms of what are the most promising areas. I say ‘areas’ rather than necessarily ‘departments’ or ‘disciplines’ since some will be multidisciplinary. We will also be appealing to our alumni, who recognize the importance of hiring and retaining the best and brightest, for support for endowed chairs and professorships to support our hiring plans.
Why are our research reputation and graduate student experience so important?
For Queen’s to be where we need to be five to ten years from now, we need to raise our game on research and graduate education.
We have an outstanding reputation as an undergraduate institution. We are one of the lead providers of a baccalaureate education, inside and outside the classroom. But it is important, if we are to be a truly balanced academy, that we are equally recognized for our research. It is not just an add-on – it is as big a part as the teaching and support for our faculty members.
Student engagement scores are solid on the undergraduate side. We have a little work to do on graduate engagement scores, and the Deans are looking closely at how we can improve those. It’s something we need to see some movement on in the next few years.
The graduate piece is really important because graduate students contribute enormously to the university. On the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) side of the house, they work on research projects that are very much connected with supervisor’s research programme. They are a big part of the engine that drives research. On the non-STEM side, where that model occurs sometimes but is less common, they contribute to the intellectual life of the humanities and social sciences departments. Even in my current job I still supervise one or two graduate students. They keep me on my toes intellectually. And graduate students also enhance our teaching as TAs and Teaching Fellows.
What do you hope to achieve by implementing the international strategy, and what impact will this have on Queen’s reputation?
Our international recognition has begun to improve through the great success our admissions and international teams have had in bringing people in. If you tell the world about us, they will actually come. Students who come here and return home build our reputation further.
Reputation is important. Apart from attracting fantastic students, it also has an impact on our ability to form international partnerships and secure international research funding. There is an awful lot of research money available in Europe and Asia, for example, which we could be accessing if we had more collaborative partnerships. We want to build on strategic partnerships with institutions we see as equal or better, opening up exchanges for students, creating opportunities for our faculty to have overseas sabbaticals and for faculty to come here on their sabbatical, and build more international research collaborations.
At the same time, there is also funding to be had in industry partnerships. That, in turn, helps the city and our country. All of this is part of a virtuous circle which will further enhance our reputation.
As I suggested above, interdisciplinarity is important. To solve the problems of the world, physicists have to work with chemists, biologists have to work with environmental engineers and, frankly, all of them need the advice of the social sciences, arts, and humanities. Looking ahead in the next few years, I would like to see us move in a bolder direction to organize interdisciplinary entities that bring together people from different departments and faculties.
What do employees need to know and be aware of as far as Queen’s financial competitiveness?
We have come a long way. We would not be hiring 200 faculty over the next five years if we had not got our financial house in order, and achieving this has very much been a collective effort.
On the staff side, Physical Plant Services has been managing our energy costs, saving us a good deal of money over the years. Advancement has been remarkably successful in getting donors to invest and I want to thank them for their hard work. Every dollar into the endowment produces 3.5 cents for particular things we need each year. When you have a large endowment, as we now do, that’s a significant chunk of money.
We have staff in research services and the faculties who work with faculty members and students generating scholarships and operating grants, and those who develop new programs which have brought in additional revenue to the university. Senate has been exceptionally busy in recent years overseeing the development of new programs and exercising its academic oversight of their quality.
And we have a very engaged board of trustees and committees with a lot of financial acuity and experience, and they have helped manage risk and given us a sound financial strategy.
There is still some work to do. We are getting close to resolving some of our long-standing pension issues, which remain a major financial threat. We have significant deferred maintenance challenges to address in the next few years, and it is not only our oldest buildings which need work. We are making progress, as you can see with the number of cranes, trucks, and workers around. Our Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration) is developing a strategic asset management plan so we can identify which buildings are the most urgent for refresh or outright replacement. We have also benefitted from strong returns on our investments and a continued increase in student enrolment, though we must remain cautious and continue to address some of our financial risks.
What are the growth areas for Queen’s reputation, and how do we get there?
Interim Vice-Principal (Research) John Fisher is leading our strategic research plan renewal process, and Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion) Teri Shearer is leading the academic plan renewal. Both of these processes should be resolved later this year, pending approval by Senate, and those, in turn, will inform our next iteration of the strategic framework in 2019.
We need to develop a more pan-university approach to some of the things we do. As I suggested above, it’s essential that we bring social sciences, humanities, and arts into some of our more well-known areas of strength. Among other things, they are going to be enormously important in our future digital strategy.
There remain some health and wellness challenges, especially around alcohol consumption, where student leaders have been working with us, and with community members, to encourage safe drinking. University Council has a number of Special Purpose committees looking into matters of importance such as alcohol consumption on and off campus. And we need to remain vigilant on the issue of sexual violence, which is often related to abuse of alcohol.
Finally, we must consider what we can do to become a leader in policy innovation once again. I am expecting, in the next month or so, a report on the future of public policy at Queen’s. I think it will give us some very interesting guidance on directions we might take, and the larger issue of Queen’s in the Canadian and larger international public policy sphere. This obviously involves the School of Policy Studies but I think it can involve so many more of our faculty and students around the university.
An early rendering of what the revitalized Richardson Stadium could look like.
This weekend the Queen’s Board of Trustees made the important decision to approve the plan to revitalize Richardson Stadium. If everything goes as planned, construction will begin after the Gaels’ 2015 football season, and be completed in time to kick off the 2016 season in a facility better suited to the needs of 21st century athletes.
That said, football won’t be the only sport to benefit from the new facility: Richardson Stadium will be used by several sports, including soccer, lacrosse and field hockey, as well as clubs and community groups. When it is completed, it will be among the top facilities of its kind in Ontario, boasting artificial turf, a state-of-the-art scoreboard and bowl-style seating. It is truly an exciting time for sports at Queen’s, and for the Fields & Stadium Campaign, which has supported the construction of Tindall, Nixon and Miklas-McCarney fields.
What’s also exciting about this project is the fact that most of the $20.27 million cost will be funded through philanthropy. We are incredibly thankful to the lead donors who are supporting this project, including Stu and Kim Lang, and the Richardson Family Foundation, as well as all those who have contributed to the project in other ways. While Queen’s will be contributing roughly $3 million to the cost of the project, that money will mainly be used to fund necessary infrastructure improvements at the site.
At the moment, the plan is for temporary stands to be installed at the north end of the stadium, pending additional fundraising for a pavilion that will complete the bowl design. The revitalized stadium will be in the same location as the current stadium, and have a similar capacity of approximately 9000.
Without the revitalization project, the university would still have had to commit significant resources to repairing the existing structure that, at more than 40 years old, continues to deteriorate. Sections of the bleachers at the stadium failed an engineer’s inspection two summers ago and were replaced by temporary stands.
We need a stadium that provides the best possible experience for spectators and athletes alike – one that will also help us to promote health and wellness, provide a high quality for student and community use, and support the city’s sports tourism goals by helping to attract high-quality sporting events and tournaments. I am confident that we can get there.
Now that we have board approval, the university can begin engaging the Queen’s and Kingston communities in discussions around the stadium project. A website dedicated to the project will be launched in early January, and public meetings will be held to solicit feedback. I hope you will weigh in.
In 2016, we will be celebrating the university’s 175th anniversary. I can think of no more appropriate way to mark it than with a newly revitalized stadium fit to meet the needs of our student-athletes, and the greater Kingston community. With the approval of this project last weekend, and the generous support of our donors, we are now well on our way.
The Canada First Research Excellence Fund will invest $1.5 billion over 10 years into research excellence.
Budget day is always an interesting one when you work as a university administrator. Sometimes we have a sense of what to expect. At other times, however, we get some surprises. Budget 2014 brought some very good news, not all of it anticipated, regarding research funding for the post-secondary sector.
The increases to the granting council budgets, and an increase in the Indirect Costs of Research program, and support for ‘Big Science’ initiatives such as TRIUMF, of which Queen’s is a participant are certainly welcome and important investments. The new Canada First Research Excellence Fund that will invest $1.5 billion over 10 years into research excellence really moves the yard stick and is key to our global leadership. Universities will see the first installment of $50 million in 2015-16, growing to $200 million in 2018-19 and beyond. The investment acknowledges the important role our faculty, students and staff play in advancing knowledge and contributing to the kinds of groundbreaking discoveries that benefit all Canadians.
As a research-intensive university, this news is important. It sends a strong message that the government recognizes the vital role that post-secondary institutions – and particularly our people – must play in the future prosperity and economic wellness of this country.
As my colleague (and former Queen’s faculty member) David Barnard, the Chair of the Association of Universities of Colleges of Canada, said in a statement issued last night, “this is a pivotal moment for research excellence and innovation in Canada.” I couldn’t agree more. Universities such as Queen’s are incubators for the kinds of valuable ideas that have the power to change the world. Expanding our research capacity will also enable us to diversify and intensify our international partnerships, enhancing our international reputation for excellence.
And there is no time like the present to embrace research. It is worth noting that graduate enrolment at Canadian universities has increased by almost 90 per cent since 2000. With that kind of growth comes an astounding amount of possibility. Budget 2014 also includes $15 million per year to both the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and $7 million per year to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, important sources of support for both our researchers and students (graduate and undergraduate) alike.
The complete Budget 2014 document outlines the numbers in more detail, but suffice it so say, I’m pleased with yesterday’s announcement. While we still don’t know how the Canada First Research Excellence funding will be allocated, we do know that it will be both competitive and peer reviewed. I extend my appreciation to my colleagues and the hardworking staff at both AUCC and U15 for their work behind the scenes advocating on behalf of universities and academic research. And I commend the government for investing seriously, in a time of fiscal restraint, in the potential of university-generated research and scholarship to contribute to Canada’s, and the world’s, well-being.
On Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo made a very promising announcement regarding a new plan to transform First Nations education. This landmark agreement should lead to significant investments in First Nations education for students in kindergarten through to grade 12.
I was heartened to hear the news. The unequal access to resources is a pressing issue for this country’s First Nations people, and is one that by association impacts all Canadians.
Author and professor Irshad Manji succinctly describes education as “the unleashing of the permission to ask questions.” Recognizing the value of education – and vowing to make a flawed system better – is one of the most effective things we can do to improve lives. Forgive the cliché, but education really does open up a world of possibility. It allows individuals and communities alike to rewrite the future with a different rulebook. It tears down barriers and levels the playing field.
Knowing that young people in First Nations communities will be getting improved access to education is an important step for this country to be taking. It publicly acknowledges the inequality that has kept too many from graduating from high school or carrying on to post-secondary education.
Certainly, by enhancing education in the primary, middle and high school years, the great hope is that more Aboriginal young people step forward to take their rightful places in our universities and colleges. Community outreach and mentorship activities will help reinforce the pleasures of learning.
Too many First Nations communities are struggling with food security, access to education and training, and a lack of employment opportunities. These same communities also grapple with an unfair share of poverty, addictions and mental health issues.
I hope very much that Friday’s announcement will not only help today’s students achieve their potential, but also generations of young people to come. As we create our vision for Canada’s future, it is absolutely crucial that their voices be heard. Queen’s is committed to doing what it can to help make this so.