Graduate students use their skills to help local organizations

Local impact

Graduate students use their skills to help local organizations

The PhD-Community Initiative is setting up graduate students to solve problems in the Kingston community.

By Communications Staff

May 9, 2024


PhD Community Initiative capstone event

Members of the Queen's and Kingston communities gathered in Kingston City Hall recently for the capstone event of the PhD-Community Initiative. (Amanda Nugara/City of Kingston)

Graduate students at Queen’s University are experts in the making, poised to create positive change in their academic fields and within diverse career paths. They are also invaluable members of the Kingston community thanks in part to the PhD-Community Initiative.

The program, now in its eighth year, is organized by Queen’s School of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs and brings together interdisciplinary teams of graduate students to help address issues facing local organizations. Each team works under the guidance of a mentor and takes full responsibility for working with the partner, creating a project plan, identifying deliverables, and ultimately making recommendations to their community partner to resolve their challenge and help them move forward in a positive way.

The six teams involved in the 2023-24 PhD-Community Initiative recently wrapped up their projects and presented their work at a capstone event held at Kingston City Hall attended by people from the Queen’s and Kingston communities, including Mayor Bryan Paterson, Provost and Vice-Principal Matthew Evans, and Vice-Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs Fahim Quadir.

“Graduate students at Queen’s have so much to offer our local community, and the PhD-Community Initiative serves as a bridge to bring their talents off campus and out into the community,” says Vice-Provost and Dean Quadir. “This initiative not only fosters community engagement but also instills in students the assurance that their graduate training equips them to address real-world challenges. We deeply appreciate the support from our local partners and take pride in the dedication and effort our students invest in the community.”

This program was recently recognized by the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies through their Award for Excellence in Enhancing the Graduate Student Experience. This flagship program connects the university with the local community, showcasing the meaningful change that comes about through partnership and collaboration. At the same time, students explore how to apply their graduate training to a challenge outside academia and learn new professional skills along the way, helping to set them up for success beyond their degrees.

The teams worked with a wide range of local organizations, including KFL&A Public Health, Kingston Economic Development Corporation, and the City of Kingston.

The projects this year were:

Developing a Community Food System Report Card for the City of Kingston
Partner: City of Kingston

This team of students researched the food ecosystem in Kingston and explored promising practices in other communities to support the development of a Community Food System Report Card. This report card will help the City of Kingston better understand the challenges and opportunities surrounding food in the community. With this knowledge, the city will be better positioned to develop a community food strategy that fosters equitable and sustainable food systems for all.

Sustainable Development Goals for the City of Kingston – 17 Rooms
Partner: City of Kingston

A “17 Rooms” exercise allows individuals to come together to share ideas and develop initiatives that contribute to the development of a relevant, sustainable, and localized framework for advancing the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This project built off the research students previously completed for the 2022-23 PhD-Community Initiative. It has advanced the process of developing a community-wide “17 Rooms” exercise for Kingston.

Organizational Implications of AI within a Public Health Context
Partner: KFL&A Public Health

This team of students researched how artificial intelligence applications like ChatGPT could be used in public health work. The students explored topics such as the risks, benefits, and copyright implications of using AI to develop recommendations for KFL&A Public Health.

PhD-Community Initiative capstone event

Graduate students presenting at the PhD-Community Initiative capstone event.

Pathways for Newcomer Entrepreneurs 
Partner: Kingston Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO)

To help support newcomers to Canada who arrive in Kingston, KEDCO is interested in developing programs and services specifically to provide assistance to those interested in starting or purchasing a business in the area. The team of Queen’s students working on this project helped KEDCO research the topic and develop ideas for moving forward.

Identifying Barriers and Challenges for Students with Children
Partner: The Ban Righ Centre, Queen’s University

To help The Ban Righ Centre pursue its mission of supporting mature women students, this team worked on a project to better identify and understand the barriers and challenges faced by students with children. The information gathered by the team provides a better overall picture of the challenges students with children face while at Queen’s and will help student service units understand areas for improvement as they strive to create a more inclusive campus.

Increasing Student/Faculty Awareness and Access of Services
Partner: Student Academic Success Services (SASS), Queen’s University

The student team sought input from graduate supervisors and graduate students about SASS services, the student research experience, and how the creation of a referral system (or another method of communication) could improve the access of ongoing individualized writing support for graduate students. The overarching goal of the project is to improve the relationship between supervisors and their students as well as the overall student experience.

Learn more on the School of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs website.

Community Stories
Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs
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