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The last word: Contributing to a momentous year

The last word: Contributing to a momentous year

[Mike Blair]

After the years of planning, I thought I knew what to expect when I returned to campus this September for my fourth year at Queen’s, but the vibrancy of the campus, punctuated with the sharp relief of tricolour banners and flowers throughout, could only be fully appreciated in person.

175 years is an impressive milestone for any institution. For Queen’s, it serves as an opportunity to reflect on the lessons of the past and to focus on working together to ensure a bright future. Throughout my three years as student coordinator of the 175th anniversary, I experienced first-hand the diversity of interests and people that are Queen’s University.

Along with David Walker and Celia Russell, I spent the last three years trying to inspire people to make the 175th their own in some special way. The ultimate goal was to catalyze what would become, in retrospect, a tapestry of events and initiatives in which every member of the Queen’s community could see themselves.

I also coordinated the first phases of the Queen’s Moments project. Through much consultation and many iterations, the Moments project aims to be an honest portrayal of both the important successes and the challenges of Queen’s past, shared online in text, photos, and videos. Take a look: queensu.ca/175.

Additionally, I had a specific interest in working with student government administrations in the years leading up to and during the anniversary. The Alma Mater Society has launched initiatives that focus on the future of student engagement in the Kingston community in honour of the 175th. A particularly exciting project is their Queen’s 175 Years of Community Service Challenge, the goal of which is to record 175 years (1.53 million hours) of Queen’s students volunteering during this anniversary year.

Looking back on it all, it’s difficult to believe just how much my role in the 175th has shaped my Queen’s experience.

Near the end of my first year in engineering, I was made aware of the position by Rico Garcia (Artsci’13), my predecessor on the project, over coffee in the Queen’s Centre. Rico billed the job as a unique opportunity for a student to get involved with an important institutional project. I was intrigued.

Not long after, I was sitting before Dr. Walker and Chris Berga from the principal’s office, making my case for why I should be Rico’s successor. I told them I wanted to make a meaningful contribution to Queen’s and that if they selected me, I’d see it through right to the end.

With that, I started what I suspect has been the longest campus tour ever taken by a Queen’s student. Together with Dr. Walker and Ms. Russell, I met with more than 140 stakeholders, internal and external to Queen’s, and had the privilege of learning how each one played a unique role in the roader Queen’s community. Wherever I went, it was mutually felt that this place is exciting and unique in a strangely unobvious way.

When the 175th draws to a close in May 2017, I hope that my relatively small contribution to this momentous year has made it a little more obvious.

Mike Blair is in his fourth year of civil engineering at Queen's.

[cover graphic of Queen's Alumni Review, issue 4-2016]