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Rector focuses on ‘choosing her lanes’

Recotr Alex da Silva addresses graduates during convocation
Alex da Silva addresses the graduating students at Grant Hall after being installed as the 36th Queen's rector at the first ceremony of Spring Convocation. (University Communications)

As Alex da Silva (ConEd’19), the 36th rector of Queen’s University, stood upon the Grant Hall stage for the first ceremonies of Spring Convocation, she knew that she would be taking part in one of the big moments for thousands of Queen’s students as they received their undergraduate or graduate degrees.

However, she also quickly realized that each event was an extremely valuable experience, providing her with a better picture of the people who make up the Queen’s student body.

“I think for convocation something I didn’t expect to get out of it is it really exposes me to the diversity of Queen’s students, because you see the entire graduating class walk across the stage at some point or another. You pick up on the differences from ceremony to ceremony,” she says, explaining that some ceremonies feature primarily undergraduate students, while others, like the Masters of Business Administration, is made up of mid-career graduates. “That dynamic is so different. Seeing graduates looking out into the audience to their loved ones – there’s children and full families there – and that’s special. That distinction serves to remind me that there are students here at Queen’s who are mid-career and mid-family development; these are students that I am just as responsible for representing. It’s definitely going to influence the perspective I have on the students that I represent, having been able to see that through convocation.”

Ms. da Silva’s term as rector began on May 1 after being elected in January. In her role, the third highest officer of the university after the chancellor and principal, she represents all students at Queen’s – graduate and undergraduate.

During the first convocation ceremony on May 25, she was officially installed, donning her regalia before taking on her duties of addressing graduates and their guests, shaking hundreds of hands.

Throughout her time at Queen’s, Ms. da Silva has been involved in numerous activities across campus with various causes and clubs. More recently she worked with the Alma Mater Society as the ReUnion Street Festival Coordinator for Homecoming. It provided her the opportunity to work at the intersection of students, alumni, administration, and city stakeholders. As the rector, she will be able to take this experience even further.

“As the ReUnion Street Festival coordinator I got to see how the various counterparts work together, the different priorities they bring to the table, and how willing they are to work together, which is something I was really surprised by the most,” she says. “The fact that the members of the administration that I worked with as a student were so receptive and supportive of everything that I brought to them, which was really what got me thinking of getting involved, not just at the student level but in a capacity where I can interact with all those different parties.”

Growing up in Hamilton, Ms. da Silva was constantly encouraged by her family “to do things that are meaningful and fulfilling.” As the rector she will be able to do just that. However, during the transition phase, she received some sage advice from her predecessor Cam Yung as well as Vice-Principal (Advancement) Tom Harris, who will become Provost and Vice-Chancellor on July 1. Both told her that she should “choose lanes,” to select priorities in order to avoid being “spread too thin.” 

Ms. da Silva is prioritizing mental health and wellness, alcohol awareness, and equity, diversity and inclusion. Each is a key issue for the university, and she is hoping to contribute to the ongoing efforts during her two years as rector.

“Something I’ve already discussed with stakeholders at the university and with peers is trying to help students become more sustainable in supporting themselves, understanding what self-care looks like on a daily basis and not something that comes at the end of a difficult two- or three-week period,” she says. “I also want to continue the work that Cam Yung has done on alcohol and there are numerous stakeholders on campus and beyond that are very invested in that.”

In terms of equity, diversity, and inclusivity, Ms. da Silva is supporting a project to create a space on campus for marginalized students where they can hold events, group meetings, while at the same time have the “recognition that those students absolutely deserve.”

Having chosen her lanes, Ms. da Silva also knows that there is so much more work to be done. It’s something she has learned both through her years at Queen’s and up on the Grant Hall stage.

“Campus is ever-changing and that is something that I am absolutely attuned to,” she says. “I am excited to see how things transform in the next two years.” 

More infomation about the Office of the Rector is available online.