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People of Queen's: Keeping Queen's sustainable

[Aaron Ball]
Aaron Ball is Queen’s Sustainability Manager and says that one of the great things about his job is working with students who are eager to make a difference. (University Communications)

Aaron Ball’s face lights up when he talks about the work he does with students.

“One of the greatest things about this job is that there’s a ton of interaction with students,” says Mr. Ball, who has been Queen’s Sustainability Manager since 2008. “They’re full of energy, they’re bright, intellectual and super engaged. I get to feed off that energy.”

As Sustainability Manager, Mr. Ball works regularly with Queen’s student governments to put into action the campaigns and initiatives they plan and with classes as they imagine and design solutions to major sustainability challenges. It’s just one part of a job that has him working to reduce the energy consumption, waste output and improve the overall environmental impact of campus.  

While technological changes and efficiency improvements can have a large impact on campus’ carbon footprint, Mr. Ball’s office typically focuses on changes that can happen at an individual level.

“We often focus on everyday behavioural changes, because these are easy for people to change,” he says. “To make our programs and initiatives successful, we need the buy-in and cooperation of other units on campus. We’re rarely in a position where we develop and launch something on our own.”

An alumnus of Queen’s, Mr. Ball (Artsci’01) returned to campus three years after graduating to begin working in Physical Plant Services. As one of campus’ assistant area managers, he oversaw the custodial work and maintenance of buildings like Stauffer Library and Gordon Hall. Interested in sustainability, he put into practice a green cleaning program for those buildings, and jumped at the chance to work as sustainability manager when the position was created.

Since the office’s creation, he’s worked to keep the university’s environmental impact in check, even as campus has grown to include new buildings like the Queen’s Centre and the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts.

The key to making a more sustainable campus, he says, is by letting the people who work and study at Queen’s have their say.

“It’s important to an overall sustainability strategy for the entire community to get involved, think about it and change their behaviour in small ways. Ultimately, it’s a group effort.”

That’s the key to the sustainability office’s most recent undertaking to improve waste diversion from landfills. Their posters and materials remind people to take special care when sorting garbage and recycling because “one mistake makes the entire bin garbage.” 

It’s not the last campaign of its kind that Mr. Ball hopes to run, and he knows his work won’t be over anytime soon. 

“There’s no silver bullet for sustainability,” he says. “There’s always more to be done, better solutions and an endless variety of challenges.”

A tale of tested traditions

In the early 20th century, female Queen’s students participated in an initiation ceremony every October in Grant Hall. The upper-year students lit the younger students’ candles that were adorned with tricolour ribbons. After blowing out the candles, the first-year students examined where the wax fell on the ribbon to determine who they would marry: gold for an engineer, blue for a medical student, and red for an arts student.

[Duncan McDowall]
University Historian Duncan McDowall sits in his writing space in the Queen's Archives surrounded by the thousands of documents he used to research the third volume of Queen's official history. Queen's University, Volume III, 1961-2004: Testing Tradition will be published in 2016.

The antiquated tradition eventually changed with the emergence of second wave feminism in the 1960s. As female students increasingly regarded Queen’s as a place to get a top-notch education rather than meet their future husband, the ceremony evolved into a celebration of women.

This challenge to tradition is just one of many that occurred at Queen’s between 1961 and 2004, the period University Historian Duncan McDowall covers in the third volume of Queen’s official history, which will be published in early 2016.

“In the book, which I have titled Testing Traditions, I document a lot of these tensions,” says Dr. McDowall, who started the project in 2010. “People were asking: ‘Why do we keep these traditions? Do these traditions sustain us or do they obstruct our future? Should we jettison them or simply modify them to the times?’”

In a sense, Dr. McDowall even “tested the tradition” of official Queen’s histories. From the outset, Dr. McDowall knew that he wanted to take a broader, livelier approach to writing the university’s history than his mentor and former Queen’s professor Frederick Gibson, who wrote Queen's University, Volume II, 1917-1961: To Serve And Yet Be Free, and Hilda Neatby, author of Queen's University, Volume I, 1841-1917: And Not to Yield.

“I am not faulting Fred. History, like any other discipline at the university, has changed over the past 30 years,” Dr. McDowall says. “What’s missing from the two previous volumes is any sense of the cultural and social ethos of the university and what it was like to be a student, a professor or even an electrician at Queen’s. I hope I have brought some of that perspective into this volume.”

The volume is still an institutional history, though, and Dr. McDowall doesn’t ignore the significant contributions the administration, Board of Trustees and Senate made to the direction of Queen’s. In addition to chapters focused on the various principal tenures, Dr. McDowall intersperses the books with sections on student and faculty life, town-gown relations, and Queen’s opening up to the growing diversity of Canadian society in the 1980s and 1990s.

“People were asking: ‘Why do we keep these traditions? Do they sustain us or do they obstruct our future? Should we jettison them or simply modify them to the times?’”
University Historian Duncan McDowall

Dr. McDowall spent two years plowing through thousands of documents in the rich collections of the Queen’s Archives and interviewing hundreds of people. When it came time to write the book, he hunkered down in an office on the top floor of Queen’s Archives, which gave him easy access to material when he needed to check a fact or detail.

“The project was a delight because the Queen’s Archives is just the best in Canada,” he says. “I was surrounded by limestone in my little writing room in the Archives, which was very atmospheric. I liked writing here because I could come to work every day and watch the daily rhythm of Queen’s life unfold in the Medical Quad below my window.”

McGill-Queen’s University Press will publish Testing Traditions in early 2016 to coincide with the university’s 175th anniversary. Even though he is breathing a bit easier these days with the book off at the publisher, Dr. McDowall certainly isn’t taking it easy. Throughout the summer, he will write short entries for 175 seminal moments in Queen’s history. The major project will serve to engage alumni, faculty, staff, students and community members leading up to the university’s anniversary next year

Half a century of stellar service

[Hans Metz]
Hans Metz, Technical Services Manager in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, received a 50-year ring at the Celebration of Service on Tuesday, May 12.

Back in 2010 when he was recognized for his 45 years of service at Queen’s University, Hans Metz said he planned on attending his 50-year service dinner as well.

On Tuesday, he did just that.

Mr. Metz (Arts'71), the Technical Services Manager in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, was among the 154 people recognized at the Celebration of Service for reaching 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50 years of employment at Queen’s. Mr. Metz was the lone member of the 50-year club while five Queen’s employees reached the 45-year mark – Professor Donald Akenson (History); Perry Conrad (Physical Plant Services); Bonnie McCalpin (Obstetrics and Gynaecology); Frederic Post (Biology); and Arlie Redmond (Stauffer Library).

Mr. Metz arrived at Queen’s in 1965 and since then has been responsible for the technical activities and physical resources of what was then known as the Department of Biochemistry. Some of the tasks he has undertaken to support researchers in their work include maintaining complex pieces of equipment, creating technical drawings, designing a departmental magazine and even glass blowing to create lab equipment.

It has been an ideal job for someone who is always busy working on something, tinkering, keeping busy.

“It’s been total fun,” he says about the work. “Everything and anything, whatever.”

However, one of the keys to his longevity at the university, as well as his youthful outlook, has been his connection with graduate students, even today.

“In the early days I used to go skiing every weekend in New York and loaded a car full of grad students who wanted to go skiing,” he says. “So they’ve always been my comrades. They don’t get older and if you have lots of fun with them, you’re one of them.”

Though Mr. Metz will officially be retiring at the end of May, he says he will be making himself available to help out whenever needed.

Visit the Human Resources website to view a complete list of employees who were honoured at this year’s Celebration of Service dinner.

FIT TIPS: Live, laugh, play

With the aim of helping faculty, staff and students "Get Your 150" (minutes of recommended exercise a week) to improve health and wellness, the Gazette and Athletics and Recreation will be offering Fit Tips each week.

Make physical activity fun and enjoyable as well as social.

Join a Queen’s intramural team and take advantage of the beautiful outdoor weather Kingston experiences.  Instead of going for a walk, run or bike ride on your own, invite a friend or make physical activity a family outing.

Backyards, schoolyards and parks are meant for exploring; trees are meant for climbing; sprinklers are meant for running through; and mud puddles are meant for stomping in.

Remember your childhood fun or help create new childhood memories for you and your children and get outside and play!

Making her own mark

Andrea Gunn
After four editions as the editor, Andrea Gunn feels she has put her own mark on the Queen’s Alumni Review. (University Communications)

Andrea Gunn has her dream job.

With four editions already under her byline, Ms. Gunn is the new editor of the Queen’s Alumni Review, the quarterly magazine that helps connect thousands of alumni across the globe with each other as well as with what is happening at the university.

Back in August, when she moved into the editor’s chair, it marked a major career accomplishment that also came with some trepidation.

Ms. Gunn isn’t exactly new to the magazine. She started working at Queen’s in 2008 and a year later joined the QAR as the Keeping in Touch editor.

“I was elated. It really was, and is, my dream job,” she says. “It was a little bit scary because I know the two most recent editors and my immediate predecessor was on the job for 28 years. So I knew I had some big shoes to fill and at the same time I need to carry on a tradition while making my own mark on the magazine.”

And she has already started making that mark.

Under Ms. Gunn’s editorship, the magazine has taken on a more graphic-style of design, employing new ways of delivering information and stories. She also points out that each edition is being centred on a different theme.

“We started a graphic redesign last year that has really started to bloom. We’re focusing a lot of our resources on great graphics, big photos that tell a great story, and illustrations,” she says. “But we’re also being more thoughtful with our stories and our story curation. For instance, our upcoming May edition is focused on mental health and it’s a weighty topic but I wanted to show various pieces of the mental health story – what’s important to talk about, what Queen’s researchers are doing in different fields, what Queen’s students are doing in terms of peer support – so, really telling different aspects of a larger story.”

Visit the Queen's Alumni Review website.

At the same time there is an increasing use of the QAR’s website but instead of simply posting the stories from the magazine Ms. Gunn is utilizing the strengths of the medium to complement the print version. In the August edition, she explains, she wrote a profile of an alumnus who is a composer and conductor.  In addition, exclusive to the website, she published an interview with the alumnus done by a recent School of Music graduate. Those interested could read the printed story, the online interview, or get the full experience by reading both.

Another new step is that there will be an online-only edition of the magazine this fall, which Ms. Gunn says offers her an opportunity to explore new ways of delivering information through video, audio and photo albums.

However, the print version of the QAR is here to stay, she adds.

“I don’t see the print issue going away. People really like having a print university magazine,” she says. “It still bucks the trend of the dying of print magazines. People still like to have the magazine in their hands or on their coffee table.”

From the feedback she has received so far, it is clear that QAR readers remain engaged and are always eager to hear the stories of their university, their community.

“The role of the QAR is, I think, to inform and engage the readers on what is happening at Queen’s today as well as providing a conduit for them to share their news with their Queen’s friends,” she says. “So I want to inform them about research, about student works, faculty work, and keep them excited about what is happening at Queen’s.”

Yet she also doesn’t want to give readers information they already know and that means having her finger on the pulse of life at the university, from new programs and graduate student research to new forms of teaching and the ups and downs of the greater Queen’s family.

The next edition of the QAR will be published May 19. Along with home delivery for alumni, issues are available at various locations across Queen’s.

Cancer conversations

“Let’s Talk Cancer” will be held on Friday, May 15 in Walter Light Hall from 9 am – 2 pm.

Kingston high school students are visiting Queen’s to talk about cancer.

Together with the Queen’s Cancer Research Institute (QCRI), Let’s Talk Science, and the Kingston branch of the Canadian Cancer Society’s Research Information Outreach Team (RIOT), students will spend the day learning about cancer biology and research.

Organizer Mathieu Crupi hopes the Let’s Talk Cancer symposium will inspire students to take an interest in cancer research.

“Students in high school are often not exposed to the topic of cancer, even though it’s a disease that likely has or will affect them directly or indirectly at some point,” says Mr. Crupi, a PhD candidate in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine. “Let’s Talk Cancer will give the students first hand exposure to cancer research and some of the work that goes on locally. It might even inspire them with a possible career path.”

Members of the Kingston RIOT team, from left to right: Saad Islam, Piriya Yoganathan, Dr. Stacy Visser-Grieve, James MacLeod, Kelly Brennan, and Mathieu Crupi.

As part of the symposium, students will hear from representatives of the local Canadian Cancer Society and Queen’s Cancer Research Institute, as well as cancer survivor Emma MacLean. This will be followed by a keynote address on cancer biology and childhood clinical trials from Dr. Janet Dancey, Director of Clinical Translational Research at the NCIC Clinical Trials Group and Professor of Oncology at Queen’s.

In the afternoon, students will participate in sessions focused on cancer subtypes, led by a panel of cancer researchers from Queen’s. Students will also hear about the transition from high school to post-secondary education and a variety of career paths at a workshop, where a panel of researchers with a wide range of experiences will speak. Lastly, students will receive a tour of the Anatomy Museum.

“We want to reinforce to the students that there are many different subtypes of cancer and each one is a different disease in itself which may have different implications and treatments” says Mr. Crupi. “This is also a great chance for students to ask any questions they might have and perhaps get involved in volunteer work. Forming these relationships early on is so important, especially with young researchers.”

Senate in brief

Highlights from the April 28 meeting of Senate

Consent agenda

Senate received:

Principal’s report

In addition to his written report and schedule highlights, Principal Daniel Woolf provided the following updates:

  • Principal Woolf and Vice-Principal (Research) Steven Liss will be travelling to Singapore and Japan in May in order to build academic relationships and foster research partnerships with universities in the region. They will also participate in the opening of the Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules, a research institute at Japan’s Nagoya University, where Queen’s professor Cathleen Crudden (Chemistry) is a Research Professor.
  • The federal budget contained good news for universities with the announcement of more than 1.5 billion to support research, including over 1.33 billion to the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI). Queen’s was specifically mentioned in the budget for the impact of its CFI-funded pipe-liner project with the City of Hamilton.
  • The provincial budget clearly showed the province is commitment to supporting entrepreneurship and innovation, especially through Campus Linked Accelerators and other funding. It also announced continued funding to the Ontario Online Initiative.
  • The Advisory Committee on Divestment of Fossil Fuels continues to seek input from the Queen’s community, and the deadline to provide views has been extended to September 17 to ensure all interested stakeholders have an opportunity to participate.
  • Consultations on the Richardson Stadium project will continue through the fall, including public meetings.
  • The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Working Group has held ongoing consultations, including a campus climate survey. The working group is preparing a progress report for final policy and procedures.
  • Principal Woolf encouraged faculty members to attend this spring’s ceremonies.

Provost’s report

In addition to his written report, the Provost provided the following updates:

  • As of April 24, Queen’s had received 31,000 applications, an increase of 1% over the same date last year. There has been strong growth in applications from international and aboriginal students.
  • The first class of the new, four-semester consecutive B.Ed. program is underway.

Committee motions and reports

Senate approved:

Senate received:

Reports of Faculties and Schools

Senate reviewed reports from:

Question Period


Senate received:

The power of giving back

[Praveen Jain]
Praveen Jain is the Canada Research Chair in Power Electronics and Director of the Queen's Centre for Energy and Power Electronics Research (ePOWER). (University Communications)

Praveen Jain’s success is due in no small part to the opportunities he has received throughout his education and research career.

The Canada Research Chair in Power Electronics and Director of the Queen's Centre for Energy and Power Electronics Research (ePOWER) repeats time and again that he wouldn’t be where he is today without the work, support and generosity of others.

And that is a big reason why he has donated all his patent royalties to Queen’s.

It’s no small sum. Dr. Jain is responsible for more than 50 patents and has started up two companies through PARTEQ Innovations, whose role it is to commercialize intellectual property arising from university-generated research, such as Dr. Jain’s.

One of his start-ups, CHiL Semiconductor, was sold in 2011 to a U.S. company for $75 million. Dr. Jain developed and patented the technology that formed the basis for CHiL’s success. All the funds he received from the patent royalties were directed back to the university.

With his current start-up, SPARQ Systems, he intends to do the same.

“It gives me great career satisfaction to be involved in a start-up company as a founder,” he says. “The research work that makes a start-up possible is done here at the university, so I feel it’s only right that the royalties that I receive as a result be directed back to the university, to be put to good use to allow students to develop their research knowledge, skills and experience.”

It’s simple for Dr. Jain, as he feels that the best use of the funds is to direct it to education, where it will create opportunities for others to realize their potential.

“I was welcomed in Canada and have benefitted from a number of opportunities. People in the past made contributions that provided me with valuable chances to learn and contribute,” he says. “I appreciate their generosity, and want to ‘pay it forward’ to support the next generation of researchers and inventors.”

A key to Dr. Jain’s groundbreaking work – with the aim of creating new energy-efficient, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly power electronic technologies – is trying different approaches.

As he explains it, there are two key steps to innovation – identifying the problem that needs to be solved and understanding the solutions that are already out there.

“Then the question to ask is: how can you create a different solution? So you start looking at things from a very different angle. When you do that, you may find two or three potential solutions,” says Dr. Jain. “Then your job is to evaluate the potential solutions and decide which one makes more sense.”

Dr. Jain’s research these days is focused on increasing the efficiency of power conversion in electronics.

The primary source of energy used in the world is electricity – in its many forms – from computers to jets, from cars to household appliances. However, different products use different forms of electricity.

For example, the standard power frequency in North America is usually 50 Hertz, but a plane that lands at Pearson Airport may use 400 Hz power, so power frequency conversion is needed for the ground power unit used to power the plane while it is at the gate. And when any power unit receives one type of electricity and converts it into another form, a lot of power is wasted.

Even a slight reduction in electrical energy lost in conversion could have a massive result.

“Almost two-thirds of electricity throughout the world is processed through electronic devices,” Dr. Jain says. “So if you can improve the efficiency even by 1 per cent you can imagine the impact – you can save an enormous amount of energy.”

At ePOWER, Dr. Jain and his team of researchers are working to make this a reality. However, it’s far from a simple task, as many of the electronics, Dr. Jain points out, are used in consumer goods. As a result there is a need to make them cost-effective as well.

“So to meet the needs of industry and people who buy its products, at ePOWER we have to do this conversion in the most efficient manner and at the lowest possible cost, ensuring as small a device size and as low a device weight as possible,” he says. “Successfully balancing all these considerations creates technologies that meet the needs of companies and consumers.”

Role of nurses continues to evolve

[Nursing Week]
The School of Nursing will be celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2016. (University Communications)

The role of nurses within health care systems across Canada continues to change and the education programs responsible for training the next generation nurses, such as the School of Nursing at Queen’s University, must keep up with this transformation.

Nursing Week this year is marked May 11-15 and as Jennifer Medves, Director of the School of Nursing and Vice-Dean Faculty of Health Sciences, points out, it is an opportunity for those in the profession to receive a bit of recognition for all their efforts.

“Nursing Week is about, we hope, people stopping and recognizing the contribution of nursing to the health care systems,” she says, explaining that there is not just one health care system but many at the provincial, territorial and federal levels. “What nurses have in their scope of practice varies from one province to territory and the scope of practices for nurses is increasing.”

One new development announced earlier this week by the Government of Ontario is that nurse practitioners will be able to refer patients directly to a specialist, when before they had to first refer to a family physician. The result is a more efficient system of referrals.

 “That really was an added step that costs the system money and really is not required,” Dr. Medves says. “That was a very nice announcement that came out (Monday).”

While many people still tend to think the main role of nurses is working at the bedside in acute care hospitals, Dr. Medves says that there is an increasing percentage of nurses working in the community care sector, where patients are cared for in their own homes. As a result, the School of Nursing needs to provide education to meet these future needs.

“Looking into the future we need to be thinking about what those roles could look like and we, in an education program, are always looking to make sure that the practice for our education program is congruent with where the nurses will be working in the future,” she says.

Yet change is not a reason for concern. Instead, Dr. Medves sees it as a time of growth and the School of Nursing is in the midst of setting out its future course for the next five years.

“It’s exciting times because we are thinking about where we want to go in the future,” she says. “We’re in the middle of developing a strategic plan to last us until 2020, which obviously lines up with the strategic plan of the university and aligns with the Faculty of Health Sciences.”

In the shorter term, the School of Nursing is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2016. Dr. Medves says there are four special events planned throughout the academic year, including a pair of conferences.

This summer the school will also be celebrating two new graduate scholarships, funded by alumni of the School of Nursing, while the first Sally Smith Chair in Nursing, named in honour of Edith “Sally” (Carruthers) Smith, the wife of local philanthropist A. Britt Smith, who died in June 2012, will be named in the coming weeks.

Pick up the May edition of the Gazette

The May 12 edition of the Gazette is now available around Queen’s campus, as well as a number of off-campus locations.

[Gazette May 12, 2015]
Read the May 12 Gazette online

The newspaper is filled with interesting Queen's-focused items including:

  • A celebration of the first anniversary of the new-look Gazette.
  • A feature interview with the current editor of the Queen's Alumni Review.
  • The bios of the 10 honorary degree recipents for convocation.
  • Updates on the latest research, awards and achievements of faculty, staff and students.

The Gazette is published bi-weekly; the next edition will hit the newsstands on June 9.

Anyone looking to get a story, photo or information in the Gazette can contact the paper's editor Andrew Carroll or Senior Communications Officer Mark Kerr.

Also visit the Gazette Online for more stories and photos and follow us on Twitter at @queensuGazette.


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