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QUAA President's Message: It’s all about connections

QUAA President's Message: It’s all about connections

The QUAA has a bold new plan of action that aims to re-engage alumni in the life and work of the University and to forge new ties between them and their fellow alumni.
Heather BlackToronto resident Heather Black, Sc’80, the 2009-2011
President of the QUAA, is a Vice-President in the International
Banking division of Scotiabank.
Photo by Greg Black, University Photographer

Greetings fellow alumni. As I write this column, my term as President of the Queen’s Alumni Association (QUAA) has just begun. I feel privileged to be able to serve Queen’s in this way and I’m excited about the opportunity to make a difference to the University and to you, my fellow alumni.

I’ve served on the QUAA Board for the past four years, and I understand how it works, how it interacts with the University, the Branches, and with alumni at large. I’ve made lifelong friends along the way.

I see the QUAA Board, and the connections within it, as a microcosm of our widespread and diverse alumni – young and old, city and rural dwellers, from a variety of professions and experiences.

It has been a pleasure and a gift to work with outgoing president Sarah Renaud, Artsci’96; she has left a legacy from which we will all benefit, and I know that we will retain the strong connection and friendship we’ve formed over the past few years.

My parents both went to McGill – there’s no Queen’s history in my family – but when the time came to choose a university, a good friend of mine came home from Queen’s on Thanksgiving weekend in his first year and told me all about his first weeks in Kingston with such passion and excitement that he convinced me I’d love it. And so I mustered my courage, filled out my application and waited anxiously to hear if Queen’s wanted me as much as I wanted Queen’s. Good news – it was a match!

In the 33 years since I first arrived in Kingston as an eager, somewhat anxious first-year student, I’ve marveled at the impact “the Queen’s experience” has had on me. On two other learning occasions, I’ve watched Queen’s work its magic, as I’ve been fortunate to have attended both the Queen’s Executive Program and the Queen’s Leadership Program. The profs had an uncanny ability to connect with the adult students and the Queen’s staff ensured that each of us felt part of the overall environment. I have wondered often how we can recreate the magic of the total Queen’s experience, as alumni, when our lives are physically separate from the campus and from each other.

How many times have you been in a crowded room, meeting new people, when one turns out to be another Queen’s grad? How many of you have friends who went to Queen’s, often people you’ve met since graduating? We crave and cherish that connection to a shared experience across the full set of linkages – from grad to grad, to the QUAA, to the University, the current students, the profs, and even the ivy-clad limestone buildings on campus.

Queen’s is, and has been for some time, at a crossroads. The battle to retain the intimate, contained campus with a mid-size student body is raged every day at the provincial funding table. The infrastructure needs upgrading, and yet there’s a popular desire to keep intact the exteriors of the buildings that are so much a part of the campus environment that created the experience for all of us as alumni and that continue to do so for each incoming class of first-year students.

Unfortunately, many alumni have lost touch with the University – and perhaps with the full experiential feeling that came from being at Queen’s. To help in develop some stronger links, the QUAA Board has chosen a theme for the coming year – “Connecting with Alumni Where They Are”.

We want to find ways to connect with you, to connect you with other alumni, and to connect all of us back to the University. We want to connect with you where you work, where you live, and play. We want to explore and expand the use of many different communication channels to find the connection that works for each of you. And we hope that in figuring out how to connect and in opening up additional lines of communication, we will strengthen existing connections and forge new ones. We hope that we will help you find your way back to campus and to not just remember what Queen’s was to you, but what Queen’s means to the students who are there now, how important Queen’s is to our country, and the University’s place in the world.

I look forward to making this journey with all of you because Queen’s is not only about education, it is about connections.

[Queen's Alumni Review 2009-4 cover]