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From the principal: The water-conscious university

From the principal: The water-conscious university

[graphic for principal's column]

With the possible exception of air, it’s tough to think of anything more important to human existence than water. We’re largely made of it and drink it. We also play and bathe in it. Living things don’t grow without it. Many of our modern basic conveniences depend on its ready availability. Yet it is not equally available throughout our world, and many peoples struggle to obtain an adequate supply.

Plenty of things can go wrong with our water supply, ranging from sheer scarcity to contamination. And I’ll admit that, as my wife Julie and I prepare to move house this spring to a rural community outside Kingston (complete with a nearby river, a well, and a septic field), we’ve both started thinking about water quality and availability in different ways.

Queen’s researchers and students in a number of disciplines – from civil engineering to policy studies, from biology to law – are actively engaged in working with that humble little H20 molecule.

Our Beaty Water Research Centre, profiled in this issue, brings many of them together to tackle the big questions surrounding water – access, conservation, infrastructure, remediation – in innovative and cross-disciplinary ways. The centre’s new, expanded facilities in the Innovation and Wellness Centre, opening this spring, have been made possible by a generous donation from Ross J. Beaty to support collaborative research and education around freshwater resources. I’m excited to think about the transformational work that will come out of the Beaty Water Research Centre in the years to come.

Queen’s is water-conscious in other ways. Over recent years, we’ve taken measures to respect the planet’s water supply, from banning the sale of bottled water on campus, fixing up older water fountains, and making reusable water-bottle refill stations available, to updating plumbing fixtures and refrigeration and cooling systems to maximize water conservation.

As 2018 gets under way, we have a lot of good news to report, including our second Rhodes Scholar within two years, a number of faculty or alumni named to the Order of Canada, and faculty named as fellows of the Royal Society of Canada and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Finally, on a personal note, many of you will be aware that I will be stepping down from the principalship in June 2019 at the conclusion of my current, second five-year term, in keeping with recent tradition, and also reflecting my wish to return to life as a full-time history professor for a few years. This time a year from now, the identity of our 21st principal and vice-chancellor will be known. I’ll have plenty of time for further reflection on the past decade, and adieus, but for the next 17 months it’s still full steam ahead (and there’s another, metaphorical, use of water!).

[Daniel Woolf]The senior leadership of the university will be working hard to continue to enhance Queen’s reputation in research and teaching. I will be spending a good deal of my own time on a select number of initiatives that I’d like to see completed or well advanced by the time my successor arrives, including (to name just a few) further work on making the university a more inclusive and diverse community, mitigating the risks of excessive drinking (both to health and to town-gown relations), reinvigorating and renewing our presence in the realm of public policy debates, and hiring a record number of new professors.

Stay tuned, and Cha ghèill!

[cover graphic of Queen's Alumni Review, issue 1-2018]