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'Just ask Aphra'

[Aphra Rogers]
A constant source of information and support at the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, Aphra Rogers received the Michael Condra Outstanding Student Service Award, one of the six Principal’s Teaching and Learning Awards. (University Communications)

For first-year students at the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, if they ever have a question or need someone to talk to, they know they can always turn to Aphra Rogers.

While she is not the only person providing support for engineering students, she is the touchstone for new students, a kind of hub of information and connections.

It makes for a busy schedule, but Ms. Rogers revels in her role.

“Our students always know that they can call Aphra. One of the students wrote me a thank you card just a couple days ago and commented on the amount of times she had heard someone say ‘Oh, just ask Aphra. She’ll know,’” she says with a smile. “It’s more of a way to personalize the university experience, so the students know there’s someone they can always contact if they don’t know the right answers. Sometimes I don’t know but I do know who to direct them to.”

For her efforts Ms. Rogers was named the 2016 recipient of the Michael Condra Outstanding Student Service Award, one of the six Principal’s Teaching and Learning Awards. The award was established by the Division of Student Affairs in 2014.

“Student services are an important component of the student experience at Queen’s, and the individualized attention that students receive from people like Aphra can make a significant difference to their academic and personal success,” says Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Ann Tierney. “We are very pleased to be able to recognize the contributions of staff and faculty members in supporting our students.”

As Ms. Rogers explains, her job is unique at Queen’s. While she plays a key role in student services for the faculty, she is also the program associate for the first-year engineering program APSC 100, which introduces students to the professional skills required for a career in engineering.

The result is that instead of pulling her in different directions the two aspects of her job intersect and, for students looking for support, she has a full understanding of what they are dealing with academically. At the same time, Ms. Rogers strives to ensure that she is available to every first-year engineering student – there are 750 – connecting with them on campus and online.

“First year is always a big transition for students because a lot of times it’s their first year living away from home, it’s their first year of studying in a university atmosphere,” she explains. “There is whole new social game a whole new educational game. There are so many firsts that they go through and that can be challenging for them.”

In receiving the award Ms. Rogers was credited with being a key contributor to the faculty’s 97 per cent retention rate between first and second year as well as the high student satisfaction rate. But, as she points out, she isn’t alone in the effort.

First, the faculty has “great” office staff in the Student Services, providing valuable support and advice. Ms. Rogers also manages 80 teaching assistants for the first-year program. All of them are fourth-year engineering students and once were in the exact spot that the new arrivals find themselves. Beyond their instructional duties the senior students act as the eyes and ears for Ms. Rogers.

The Principal’s Teaching and Learning Awards, created in 2015, recognize individuals and teams who have shown exceptional innovation and leadership in teaching and learning on campus. The awards are administered by the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL).

The Michael Condra Outstanding Student Service Award recognizes the high level of service and commitment to students and student wellbeing exemplified by Dr. Condra during his 30 years at the university. He served as the director of Health, Counselling and Disability Services (now Student Wellness Services) and assistant professor in the Department of Psychology.

Nominations for the 2017 award are currently being accepted. All nominations should be sent electronically in PDF form to the Office of the Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs at vpdean.sa@queensu.ca no later than Tuesday, Aug. 1, by 4 pm. For more information about the award and the nomination form and process, visit the CTL website.