Laying the foundation for a new Queen’s vision

Laying the foundation for a new Queen’s vision

Principal Patrick Deane shares his first report on wide-ranging conversations with campus stakeholders about the university’s path ahead.

By Dave Rideout

October 13, 2020


Queen’s is another step closer to fashioning a strategic vision capable of transforming the institution into a truly competitive international university that is globally recognized for its educational and research impacts. Following a year-long collaborative consultation with a vast range of campus stakeholders, Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane has shared his Report on the Conversation – an account and reflection on the feedback he heard which will serve as the groundwork upon which the university’s new strategic framework will be built.

“I am grateful to all members of the Queen’s community – and to many individuals beyond it – for their frank and helpful contributions to this effort,” says Principal Deane. “Based on all of my conversations over the past many months, this report strives to give an honest and critical look at the obstacles facing Queen’s, and to outline what I believe will be key areas of focus and ongoing dialogue as we worked toward a shared vision for our future.”

Out of his conversations with the campus community three significant pillars on which to construct a compelling vision for the university’s future emerged. These will continue to take shape as the community reviews and provides feedback on the report over the coming months.

Articulate a Global Purpose

The Report on the Conversation begins with Principal Deane’s thoughts on the theme of global purpose. He notes Queen’s was built as an academic community for the purpose of providing a national academy for Canada that would nurture the formation and development of the country; a Canada of the 19th century that was white, male-dominated, Christian, and Eurocentric. This effort was successful, turning Queen’s into a revered institution, but in an ever-evolving modern Canada this history is becoming quickly inadequate in carrying the university forward.

The vision and values of the Canadian community as they exist today are now inconsistent with those on which Queen’s was built, so, while loyalty to the institution remains strong, it lacks a sense of meaningful purpose.

“We are undoubtedly still a very proud university, but I heard powerfully the message that we need a cause for pride that transcends our history, that has the potential to excite us all by the vigour and creativity of its engagement with the present as well as the future,” writes Principal Deane. “We need deliberately to reconsider and renegotiate our relationship with the world beyond Queen’s.”

He leads with this emphasis on impact. The need for institutional thrust fueled by a recognition of the value that exists beyond the academy – value tied to the wellbeing of people and the maximum benefit to Canada, society, and the world.

Attend to the Nature and Quality of our University Community

To be thought of as a truly national institution, Principal Deane highlights the need for Queen’s to reflect and serve equitably the needs and aspirations of our increasingly diverse nation.

“Another recurring theme of the Conversation (has been) the need to address, once and for all, the intractable problem of racism at Queen’s, and to entrench more broadly and deeply the principles of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Indigeneity,” he writes.

Furthermore, he notes how this need is compounded by cultural globalization which has come to necessitate that universities extend beyond a national scope, in service to the great human challenges of our time.

“Reimagining our relationship with the notion of community will be fundamental to our success in the future,” he adds. “It is possible to imagine a Queen’s University buoyed up, vibrant, and united by its unqualified joy in diversity.”

Specific to this thematic area, Principal Deane notes that the Higher Education Research for Sustainable Development (HESD) and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have become defining activities of the global academy in the 2020s – and can serve to clarify Queen’s sense of purpose.

Design & Build Partnerships for Impact

The campus community’s feedback made clear that the impact of universities is directly proportional to their connectedness; partnerships – particularly those formed around shared goals – with peer institutions, governments, organizations, and local, national, and international communities will be essential.

“In addition to whatever economic benefit we passively contribute (to Kingston and the region) at present, we have an obligation intentionally to bring the scholarly and human resources of the university to bear on issues of cultural, social, and environmental sustainability as they manifest themselves locally,” writes Principal Deane. “That is the founding assumption of community-engaged research and teaching; a movement that has gained momentum around the world in the spirit of (the Sustainable Development Goals).”

This energy must also be applied to further Queen’s reach internationally.

“The concept of the ‘national’ university has… become insufficient – at least for any academic community that aspires to be compared to the best,” he says. “Through its work the university brings benefit to the world, and by virtue of that, the world enlarges and enriches the university, the experience and prospects of its students, and opportunities available to its faculty.”

Research and teaching stood out to Principal Deane as conduits through which Queen’s can strive to offer the highest benefit. He highlighted needs for targeted investment, new budget models, more interdisciplinary partnerships, increased capacity, and deeper integrations between research and curriculums.

“Our goal cannot be ‘research prominence’ as we have rather vacantly articulated it in recent years,” he writes, “but something much greater and more inspiring: to make a positive difference for humanity and the world we inhabit.”

The next steps

Principal Deane shared his 12-page Report on the Conversation university-wide on Oct. 9, 2020, kicking off the next phase of a continued conversation. The campus community will now have an opportunity to review and comment on his assessment to ensure it accurately reflects the voices and desires of Queen’s stakeholders, as well as to spur further dialogue that will bring the university closer to a new vision and strategic framework for the future.

Learn more on the Principal’s website.