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It's really all about peoeple

It's really all about peoeple

Raising half a billion dollars is no small challenge in these uncertain economic times. Vice-Principal (Advancement) Tom Harris believes Queen’s can do so, but as he explains, it will take some help from you and other alumni.

The Initiative Campaign, the most ambitious such fundraising venture in the University’s 172-year history, will unleash the full potential of Queen’s thinkers and doers. As Principal Daniel Woolf explains, “A spirit of initiative has come to characterize Queen’s and its people, and the Initiative Campaign will enable us to seize opportunities and maintain this University’s place as a leading institution of higher learning in Canada. We’ll position Queen’s to meet not only the evolving needs of Canada, but the broader challenges of the world in the first decades of the 21st century.”

To date, more than $330-million has been raised, feeding hopes that the Campaign will reach – and possibly even exceed – its goal by the 2016 end date. Given the high level of interest and the many questions that Review readers have been asking, Editor Ken Cuthbertson sat down with Vice-Principal (Advancement) Tom Harris, to learn more about the Initiative Campaign and to ask what alumni can do to get involved and to support their alma mater.

[Vice-Principal (Advancement) Tom Harris, Sc'75]Vice-Principal (Advancement) Tom Harris, Sc'75

Q. Why has Queen’s launched the Initiative Campaign?

A. There are two vital aspects to the Initiative Campaign. It has financial goals, but it also has a goal of raising the University’s profile, making sure that people across Canada – and, increasingly, around the world – are aware of the high-quality of the educational and student experiences available at Queen’s and of the important research that’s being done here.

Q. Why was the name “Initiative Campaign” chosen?

A. The Campaign taps into and promotes some important themes. When you take a look at how remarkable our students are, the interesting and important work that Queen’s faculty members are doing, and the accomplishments of our alumni and the contributions they’re making to society, you really begin to see what a ­special institution this is. There’s an incredible sense of initiative in the Queen’s family – among our students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

Q. Who set the campaign priorities, and what was the process?

A. Identification of priorities that are ­Faculty and School specific are the ­responsibility of the Deans. We have ­priorities that support university-wide initiatives, such as athletics and recreation, libraries and archives, student ­assistance, health and wellness. The Dean of Student Affairs is responsible for the projects that are aligned with her responsibilities, and the University ­Librarian has developed priorities for her portfolio. All of these priorities were approved by the Principal and the Provost/Vice-Principal (Academic).

The Office of Advancement has the job of raising the money that’s needed to implement the initiatives that are ­included on the final list of priorities. As the Vice-Principal of Advancement, this is where I come into the picture. ­Advancement doesn’t set any priorities of its own. We really only have one priority, and that is to do the work that the Principal and the Provost/Vice-Principal (Academic) say needs to be done.

Q. What are key priorities of the Initiative ­Campaign?

A. They’re organized into four thematic ­areas: i) Ensuring that Queen’s will be the destination for exceptional people, ii) Enhancing our students’ learning ­experiences, iii) Nurturing a supportive community, and, iv) Securing our global reputation in discovery and inquiry. These priorities support both the ­University’s ­recently approved Academic Plan and the Strategic Research Plan.

For Queen’s to thrive, we must continue to attract and retain outstanding students and faculty, and we must support them in many ways so that they can be successful. For faculty, this takes a ­variety of forms: chairs and professorships, teaching assistants and support for grad students. Support for students is wide-ranging and includes financial ­assistance and support for activities outside of the classroom that also help define the Queen’s experience. These include sports, clubs, competition teams, student conferences, student government, etc.

We know that physical and mental wellness are interconnected and essential for our students’ personal and academic success. We have a number of priorities directed towards strengthening supportive aspects of our community.

A question I’m often asked is “Can my $1,000, or even my $100, make a difference?” My answer is a resounding “Yes!”

The combination of talented students and committed faculty and the residential-learning community provides ideal conditions in which we can engage and challenge our students in teaching and discovery. A number of our priorities are focused on providing opportunities for students to learn in different ways and to use teaching spaces, teaching methods, and technology to improve student learning.

Research is an integral part of the Queen’s mission. There’s some amazing research underway here. Through the Initiative Campaign we want to reinforce areas in which have national and international strength.

That’s just a quick snapshot of the thematic areas of the Initiative Campaign. Our priorities are designed to support the activities and well-being of our ­students and faculty so that we can fulfill the mission and vision of Queen’s. A comprehensive view of the priorities and how they are interconnected can be found on our campaign web site.

Q. What do you say to those people out there who ask, “Does the University really need my support?”

A. What I tell them is that Queen’s does need alumni support. It’s crucial. All Ontario universities receive the same level of funding from the provincial government. If Queen’s wants to continue providing students with a superior education and a high-quality ­student experience, then we need the resources to do that. That’s why we appeal to our grads for their support. When they do so, they’re not really supporting the University per se. They’re supporting our students, our faculty, and our society.

The University is a conduit that channels support to our students so they can learn and then go out into the world to do good things. And the University supports its faculty in their research, their teaching, and their efforts to help our students achieve their goals. Support for Queen’s is really support for society.

A question I’m often asked is “Can my $1,000, or even my $100, make a ­difference?” My answer is a resounding “Yes!” The vast majority of alumni don’t have the capacity to make multi-million dollars gifts, but many of them support Queen’s and other worthwhile causes in their own communities. Collectively, the donations the University receives from thousands – and even tens of thousands – of alumni add up and are vitally important. That money allows us to support student awards, supplement ­library resources, ­support student teams and conferences, and much more. Alumni support is not only appreciated, it’s essential and has a huge positive impact on Queen’s.

Q. If I support Queen’s, can I say what my money will be used for?

A. Certainly! Money that you give to Queen’s can be directed. All of our priorities are posted on the Initiative Campaign home page [please see the URL at the end of this article]. We have a large number of initiatives and areas to which alumni can direct their dollars, and I can assure you that your support will go where you want it to go.

Q.Tom, you’re a teacher as well as an administrator. How important is the success of the Initiative Campaign to the work you do in the classroom?

A. It’s vital. I can say with certainty because I’ve seen the fruits of previous campaigns. For example, our last campaign – The Campaign for Queen’s [1996-2003] – resulted in some really positive developments. For one, there was a dramatic ­increase in the number of student awards. As a Chemical Engineering professor, I know how these awards can change a student’s life. That really does happen.

Another outcome of our last campaign was that we had the money to construct some badly needed new facilities on campus. I often assure benefactors, “We’re not in the business of building buildings. We’re in the business of ­educating students, and advancing knowledge through research, and we need proper facilities to do that.”

So the answer to your question is that the success of the Initiative Campaign is all-important to Queen’s. It will allow us to continue our pursuit of excellence and to do things that we otherwise will not be able to do.

Q. OK, but there are many worthwhile causes out there, and all are asking for my support. Why should I give to Queen’s?

A. Philanthropy really does have a transformational effect, individually and collectively. Giving to Queen’s is about helping to ensure that our students have the kind of educational opportunities that will help prepare them for their lives in an increasingly complex and interconnected world; it is about investing in faculty so they can be successful in their teaching and research. ­Giving is about investing in our young people, in hope for the future, and in the world in which our children and grandchildren will live.

We try to make a strong case for all grads to support their alma mater, but if you choose not to do so, I hope you’ll support some other worthwhile cause.

Q. How confident are you that the Initiative Campaign will reach its goal?

A. I’m under no illusions. I know we’ve set a challenging target, but we’re confident that it’s reachable. We’ve got a superb ­volunteer leadership team helping us. Campaign chair Gord Nixon [Com’79, LLD’03] and the Campaign cabinet are doing wonderful work. The Principal and Deans are committed and are working hard, and alumni have been responding enthusiastically to our appeals. You ask if I’m confident that the Initiative ­Campaign will reach its goal. My answer is yes, and my hope is that we’ll exceed it.

For more information on the Initiative Campaign, or to view the Case for Support, visit www.queensu.ca/initiative

[Queen's Alumni Review 2013-1 cover]