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Introducing our new faculty members: Beata Batorowicz

Beata Batorowicz is a faculty member in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy.

This profile is part of a series highlighting some of the new faculty members who have recently joined the Queen's community. The university is currently in the midst of the principal's faculty renewal plans, which will see 200 new faculty members hired over five years.

Beata Batorowicz (Rehabilitation Therapy) sat down with the Gazette to talk about her experience so far. Dr. Batorowicz is an assistant professor.

[Queen's University Beata Batorowicz Rehabilitation Therapy faculty]
Beata Batorowicz is a faculty member in the Rehabilitation Therapy department. (University Communications)
Fast Facts about Dr. Batorowicz

Department: Rehabilitation Therapy

Hometown: Krakow, Poland

Alma mater: McMaster (PhD, rehabilitation science), Western (masters, rehabilitation science)

Research area: Augmentative and alternative communication

Hobbies include: Enjoying classical music, biking, running, yoga, golf, skiing

Dr. Batorowicz’s web bio
Tell us how you ended up teaching at Queen’s.

I started at Queen’s last September after working clinically in the area of pediatrics and disability for a number of years.

During that time, I worked as an occupational therapist, and as manager of clinical services. I completed my masters at Western, and eventually became a faculty member at Western before finishing my PhD at McMaster. After completing my PhD at McMaster, I worked at a research institute in Ontario and at a university in Freiburg, Germany. Then, last year, I saw the opportunity at Queen’s.

I hadn’t visited Kingston before. I came for my interview and it was the middle of winter…it was windy and stormy. But people were wonderful and there was something special about this place.

I literally only moved houses to Kingston a few weeks ago. My husband and I just sold our home in London where I have lived for over 25 years – it was the first place I lived after moving from Europe. I am originally from Poland, started my university studies in philosophy and history of art there, lived for a time in Norway, and then immigrated to Canada.

What drew you to Canada?

When I was a child, we received books if you had the best marks in the class. The very first book I received in the first grade was written by a Polish traveler – Arkady Fiedler – and it was about Canada. I was always fascinated with Canada.

So, when the borders opened in Poland I was already in university – Jagiellonian University in Kraków – and took the opportunity to go to university in Norway. When I got there, the world became much more friendly and accessible – it made the idea of visiting Canada much more real.

When I came to Canada, my intention was to finish my degree in philosophy and history of art after two years of study in Poland. So I enrolled at Western.

So how did you transition from philosophy to rehabilitation science?
It was one of those moments in life where someone who you don’t really remember changes your whole life. I met an academic counsellor at Western University seeking advice, and she was this very nice, very pragmatic woman. She suggested I study a profession to help me support myself.
She mentioned occupational therapy, and at the time I did not know what that was. She said it was very creative, and involved lots of problem-solving and helping people live and enjoy everyday life. I took her advice, and volunteered in a hospital over the summer in the children’s oncology ward.
It was tough, and I hadn’t really seen anything like it before. I was drawn to the little successes, the little things that made a difference. So I graduated with an Occupational Therapy degree from Western, and later went on to pursue my masters and my PhD…and here we are.
What made you decide to become an academic?
When I was growing up, I always wanted to work at a university. It was in my family – my cousins, aunts, and uncles were all researchers with PhDs. At the beginning, the content wasn’t so important as the idea…I always knew, if I had the opportunity, I would do research.
Right after I graduated from the occupational therapy program, I started to practice in an interdisciplinary, very demanding, and specialized field called “Augmentative and Alternative Communication” – you work with technology and people to help them communicate. Think devices like the text-to-speech device Stephen Hawking used. It is typically not a field for new graduates, but there I was, a brand new clinician, telling our research department, “I want to do research”, because we need evidence for practice. 
Because augmentative and alternative communication is such a specialized field this has led to many international collaborations. I am currently working with researchers from 16 different countries on a large research project which has been running for 10 years. 
Tell us more about your international work.

Before I came to Queen’s, I was an adjunct professor at Western and I took on an opportunity to go to Manchester, U.K. and Freiburg, Germany as a visiting scholar. So I am supervising some graduate students as they finish their thesis writing, and one student from Malta as well. 

Research wise, my international project is on how children ‘become communicators’ and how technology helps particularly children with disabilities to learn and communicate with others. I work with scientists from health sciences, developmental psychology, engineering, computer science and education. This summer we met in Singapore, New Zealand, and Australia for a conference and research meetings where we worked on publications and designing future projects. 

What have you enjoyed most about Kingston?

Truth be told, I have not had much time in town yet – I have been commuting back and forth to London for the last year, and travelling internationally to Germany, Ireland, and elsewhere. Now that we have bought a house in town, I am looking forward to the fall and to next summer – and winter too of course!

I recently picked up curling – not a sport I grew up with, but something I enjoyed when I had a chance to try with my Queen’s colleagues. 

I love classical music. The first time I visited Kingston for interviews, I was told about The Isabel Bader Centre and I have visited many times since. The easy access to great concerts is a big plus for me. I also enjoy that Queen’s is in heart of the city, yet by the water...you can walk everywhere, but also find tranquility. Morning coffee at Tett Centre and walking by the lake have been my best ‘thinking moments'! 

Faculty Renewal

Principal Daniel Woolf has identified faculty renewal as a high priority for reinvestment by the university in support of the academic mission. The five-year renewal plan, launched in 2017, will see 200 new faculty hired, which nearly doubles the hiring pace of the previous six years.

Faculty renewal supports Queen’s commitment to diversity and inclusion by giving the university the opportunity to seek, proactively, representation from equity-seeking groups such as women, people with disabilities, Indigenous Peoples, and racialized individuals. It will also build on Queen’s current areas of research strength.

To learn more about the Principal’s faculty renewal plans, read this Gazette article. Stay tuned for additional new faculty profiles in the Gazette.