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This is us...Monica Stewart

This is us...Monica Stewart

[photo of Monica Stewart at Kingston's Springer Market Square]
Bernard Clark

Monica Stewart at Springer Market Square

Monica Stewart, Artsci'79, MA'81
Coordinator, Faculty Recruitment and Support, Faculty Relations Office
Volunteer, Kingston Immigration Partnership

Monica Stewart has worked at Queen’s for 16 years, helping new faculty and their families settle in Kingston.

“It still feels like a new job every day. Every new faculty member, every family is different. It’s always another opportunity to help someone settle at Queen’s, and settle in the community.

“I see most of the candidates who are on the short-list and being interviewed for faculty positions. Many are from outside Ontario, or outside Canada. This year, for instance, we’ve had a lot of people applying from the United States, many of whom were from other countries to begin with, but are now looking to come to Canada.”

Ms. Stewart helps new faculty members navigate the big issues – like the immigration system – as well as small ones.

“Housing is one of the biggest questions, understanding the local housing market. Helping people understand the school system for their children. I have community connections who can help them figure things out. ‘How do I bring my dog across the border?’ ‘Where can I find a hairdresser or a dentist?’ Sometimes it’s the small things, like ‘How do I start looking at cell phone plans?’”

Many of her clients have questions about resources for their kids, but at least one needed help for her aging parents, who were relocating with her.

“So I helped them learn about the seniors’ centre and the library. And they just love Kingston. It was just so much easier for the faculty member to really get into her work because she knew her parents had learned something about the community and had made some connections."

Since 2009, Ms. Stewart has volunteered with the Kingston Immigration Partnership (KIP). KIP is a collaborative organization that provides leadership to the Kingston community in its efforts to attract, welcome, include, and integrate immigrants. “It helps me to do my job better,” she says of her volunteer work. “It helps me to connect people better. I don’t see it as something that takes up time; it is something that gives me better ways to help people.”

She and Stephanie Simpson, Executive Director of the Equity and Human Rights Offices, both sit on KIP’s council as Queen’s representatives. “Queen’s is one of the reasons that people from many different countries enter this community so I think it’s important that we’re involved,” says Ms. Stewart.

One of the KIP initiatives is its “Say Hello” campaign. “The campaign came out of some issues in the community where people of colour were being harassed by other people. It came to a head: Kingston City Council and others in the community became aware of it and said, ‘This cannot go on. We need to do better.’”

Through a variety of media, the initiative both draws attention to acts of racism in the community and highlights ways in which individuals can counter discrimination. One of the campaign’s components is a conversation centre at Kingston’s Springer Market Square, unveiled in July. “Their umbrellas say ‘Welcome’ and ‘Hello’ in 11 different languages. Hopefully this will encourage people to sit and chat, and share, which is so important. That’s how you get to know people. And when you know people, it’s easier to include them in things in the community. Really, when it comes down to it, if we can’t be an inclusive community, we’re going to be a dying community,” says Ms. Stewart.

If we can't be an inclusive community, we're going to be a dying community.

“I came to Queen’s as an immigrant, from Germany. I was not obviously a visible minority, but even when you’re not, you’re still not included many times, because you don’t understand how things work. Things as easy as understanding signs to get to a building, or needing people to slow down a little when they explain things to you, these things are so important. So, I really appreciate the KIP campaigns for that as well. And I see it very much as a cool thing, as someone who came here with a suitcase and an acceptance letter for Queen’s, that I’ve been able to participate in something like this, that makes more people feel welcome and included. And I’m not saying I did not feel welcome or included at the time but it took a lot of effort, and I think it always will for people, for a number of reasons. But we can make it a little easier. By just reaching out.”

[cover graphic of Queen's Alumni Review, issue 3-2018]