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Gathering the threads of Indigenous culture

The path that led Armand Ruffo to his position as Queen’s National Scholar in Indigenous Languages and Literatures didn’t follow the traditional academic route.

Armand Ruffo is Queen's National Scholar, and teaches in the Department of English Language and Literature and Department of Drama. He was recently featured in (e)Affect. (Photo by Bernard Clark) 

A lifelong passion for creativity has seen Mr. Ruffo produce poetry, plays, biographies and a feature length film, even as he’s written literary criticism.

“It’s always a juggle to work in so many modes,” he says. “I have to wrestle to find the time to do it all.”

It was just that type of wrestling that led him to produce his most recent work, Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing Into Thunderbird, a biography of the innovative and controversial Ojibway painter. He researched and conducted the interviews for the book over the course of years, finding what time he could from his teaching position at Carleton University and the production of his film, A Windigo Tale.

Driving Mr. Ruffo’s creativity and productivity is a desire to share the stories and histories of Canada’s Indigenous peoples.

“I’m very interested in the idea of Indigenous history being silenced for so long,” he says. “Indigenous culture — the Indigenous thread — is part of the greater Canadian fabric. Telling those stories is a way of gathering the threads together.”

Support to tell those stories is something Mr. Ruffo says he’s seen great improvements in, especially as the study of Indigenous literature took off at Canadian universities in the 1990s.

“I’ve seen the steps that we’ve had to go through to get to where we are now. I have a long enough view back to see that people have been working on this for a long time,” he says. “There are a lot of positive things happening and the fact that I can be here at Queen’s, teaching these Aboriginal literature courses is amazing.”

Since starting at Queen’s in 2014, Mr. Ruffo has continued the multi-disciplinary juggling act that he does so well. He’s teaching classes in the Department of English Language and Literature and Department of Drama, and has become active with Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre. At Four Directions he’s led writing workshops and serves on their Aboriginal Council. He’s also completed a book of poems inspired by the work of Norval Morrisseau that will come out later this year.

Though Mr. Ruffo wrestles to find the time to do so many different things, he balances the mental challenge of being creative and being a scholar with a simple trick: he doesn’t think about it.

“It’s a different hat that I put on when I’m working in the creative realm. If I did think about it, I’d probably stop writing creatively. I do try to bring my creative side to teaching though, along with my interests in Indigenous aesthetics and epistemology. Those things help me,” he says, adding with a laugh, “but, I try not to teach my own work.” 

LIVES LIVED: Intellectually challenging and a force of nature

Ron Weisman obtained his PhD from Michigan State University in 1964 and was hired as Assistant Professor of Psychology at Queen’s University in that same year. Ron was promoted to Associate Professor in 1970, Professor in 1977, cross appointed to the Department of Biology in 1993, and finally promoted to Professor Emeritus in 2000.

In sum, Ron was a professor at Queen’s for over 50 years.

Ron Weisman

He is well known for his numerous significant contributions to our understanding of animal learning, cognition, and behaviour. Maybe more important, but not so easily tallied with facts and numbers, are the more qualitative and impactful contributions that Ron made to the research areas in which he was so totally and passionately invested during his long and productive career but that escape the accountant’s ledger.

Of these less quantifiable, but absolutely important contributions, one cannot hope to produce a comprehensive report here. And Ron himself would not want such a thing. “Too many words that no one is likely to read or care about” would probably be his quip in response to such an idea.

No, the manner in which Ron operated and conducted himself is best described using the words of those who have commented about his influence in the days since his passing. Strong themes like “force of nature,” “intellectually challenging,” “passionate,” “inspiring,” are a constant in Ron’s colleagues’ narratives shared in conversations, social media, and emails.

Never one to back down from a challenge, Ron reinvented his research career from the ground up when he realized an opportunity to pursue new more challenging but meaningful problems. This categorical change came when Ron was at a point in his career in which most people would be happy to simply maintain the currently successful status quo until retirement.

Not Ron. Instead, and in spite of, or perhaps, because of, the fear of the unknown, Ron forged a second, even more well-known career for himself, combining research in learning, cognition, ethology, and neuroscience in a manner not often done, certainly not with the same effect. While on this new path, Ron continued to make significant contributions to the scientific literature and to the field through the founding of the Comparative Cognition Society, and their flagship online and open access journal, Comparative Cognition & Behavior Reviews.

Perhaps Ron’s most enduring legacy will be of the contributions that he made to the mentorship and encouragement of young scientists. Many successful scientists owe their “academic legs” to Ron’s strong and generous support and wisdom. Ron posed challenging questions and championed points of view that were sometimes controversial and always aimed at pushing back the darkness to, as Ron put it, “explain nature.”

Ron always managed to be engaging, encouraging, and able to coax the absolute best out of everyone who was willing to meet his enthusiasm and level of commitment to science. Ron’s enthusiasm, wit, candor, compassion, and his huge smile will be sorely missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him. What a guy.

Christopher B. Sturdy and Marcia L. Spetch are professors with the Department of Psychology at the University of Alberta, co-editors of Comparative Cognition & Behaviour Reviews and colleagues of Dr. Weisman’s.

SPORTS ROUNDUP: Gaels advance to OUA Final 4 in women's basketball

[Gaels celebrate overtime win]
The Queen's Gales celebrate after defetaing the Laurier Golden Hawks 85-78 on Saturday in Waterloo. (Photo by Kha Vo)

Never count out the Queen’s Gaels women’s basketball team during the playoffs.

Trailing by as much as 14 points early in the game, the Gaels fought back to upset the No. 6 Laurier Golden Hawks in double overtime 85-78 in OUA playoff action at the Athletic Complex Gym in Waterloo on Saturday.

With the win the Gaels advance to the OUA Final Four in Windsor where they will face the Ryerson Rams in the semifinals. The Windsor Lancers will square off with the Lakehead Thunderwolves in the other match.

Saturday’s game was a see-saw battle with both teams using all the weapons in their arsenal.

“It was a bit of a game of runs for a stretch and then it just became a back-and-forth affair,” said Gaels coach Dave Wilson after the victory. “There were things that we were trying to do to keep them off-balance and changed things up and played four different defences at one point or another in the game. After that we had a lot of options offensively and it was just trying to find the right combination of offence to run to combat their defence.”

Queen’s saw a strong performance from a large contingent of Gaels in the marathon match. Jenny Wright led the Gaels offence with 24 points while adding six rebounds and Robyn Pearson finished with a double-double scoring 12 and matching that with 12 rebounds. Three other Gaels were able to reach 10 or more points while Emily Hazlett scored nine but nabbed five rebounds, four assists and four steals while going 7-for-10 from the charity stripe.

With the game knotted at 67-67 in the dying seconds of regulation Laurier had a chance to win on the final shot but missed sending the game to overtime.

However, that’s where the Gaels have thrived in recent years.

“Our team loves overtime,” said coach Wilson. “Our kids have never lost in overtime, so they were very confident heading in and almost even more heading into the second overtime, it was a very calm feeling on our bench.”

After the first overtime period ended with the teams still tied Laurier seemed to run out of gas and the Gaels were able to hang on for the 85-78 win.

Principal Woolf serves up a favourite meal

  • Principal Woolf Serves
    Principal Daniel Woolf helped serve up one of his favourite recipes – macaroni and cheese with jalapenos – on Friday at Ban Righ Hall.
  • Principal Woolf Serves
    Principal Daniel Woolf prepares to serve up one of his favourite recipes – macaroni and cheese with jalapenos – on Friday at Ban Righ Hall.
  • Principal Woolf Serves
    Principal Daniel Woolf helped serve up macaroni and cheese with jalapenos, a personal favourite recipe, on Friday at Ban Righ Hall.
  • Principal Woolf Serves
    Macaroni and cheese with jalapenos, a favourite receipe of Principal Daniel Woolf, was served for lunch Friday at Ban Righ Hall.

With a favourite recipe on the menu Friday at Ban Righ Hall, Principal Daniel Woolf just couldn't resist helping dish out some macaroni and cheese with jalapenos.

Dressed in a chef's uniform, Principal Woolf manned the serving area and filled plates for staff and students at the dining facility.

The recipe is one that the principal revealed is his "culinary guilty pleasure" during a recent Q&A with the Whig-Standard.

After seeing the article, Queen's Hospitality Services created their own recipe with a blend of cheeses, jalapeno and habanero peppers and a tortilla chip crust.

FIT TIPS: Get active and stay healthy

With the aim of helping faculty and staff ‘Get your 150’ (minutes of recommended exercise a week) to improve health and wellness, the Gazette and Athletics and Recreation will be offering a Fit Tip in each edition.

It’s no secret that inactivity is bad for your health, but it may be worse than previously thought.

Researchers at Cambridge University concluded that exercise that burns around 100 calories a day, such as a brisk, 20-minute daily walk, can reduce the risk of premature illness by 16% - 30%!


• Small amounts of physical activity each day can have substantial health benefits for people who are physically inactive

• 20 minutes would make a difference, but you should be looking to do more – 150mins/week

• Physical activity has many health benefits and should be an important part of our daily life

• Start by standing up every 30 minutes from your desk!

• Go for a 20-minute walk on your lunch hour

• Take the stairs

Be creative, be active, be healthy….something to think about for you!

Show us how you Get Your 150, post your pictures on social media with #getyour150.

Richardson Stadium meeting held

On Feb. 26, the university hosted a meeting for West Campus neighbours to discuss the Richardson Stadium revitalization project.

Attendees were shown photos of the current stadium, conceptual images of design plans, and an architect’s video showing what the new stadium might look like.

Richardson Stadium has been a fixture at Queen’s for nearly 100 years. The original Richardson Stadium was built in 1921 and located on what is now Tindall Field, and in 1971 was rebuilt on its current site at West Campus. More than four decades later, the stadium is showing its age. In May 2013 an engineering report recommended the removal of sections of bleachers and later that summer temporary seating was installed at the field.

The project is a priority within Queen’s $500-million Initiative Campaign. It is the next step in the university’s efforts to enhance its athletics and recreation facilities to promote the health and wellness of all students. Other recent projects include the Athletics and Recreation Centre and the redevelopment of Tindall, Nixon, and Miklas-McCarney fields.

The university plans to host an open public meeting on the revitalization project in March.

For more information about the revitalization project, visit the website. To receive the university's Community Update, a monthly newsletter containing stories of relevance to members of the Kingston community, email gir@queensu.ca

Majors Night a major success

  • Arts and Science Majors Night
    Hundreds of first-year students filled Grant Hall on Thursday evening for the first Arts and Science Majors Night.
  • Arts and Science Majors Night
    Students looking to declare a major were able to ask questions and learn about each program in the Faculty of Arts and Science.
  • Arts and Science Majors Night
    Hundreds of first-year students filled Grant Hall on Thursday evening for the first Arts and Science Majors Night.
  • Arts and Science Majors Night
    Each Departmental Student Council was represented by students who have already gone through the process of selecting a major.
  • Arts and Science Majors Night
    Students who have already gone through the process of selecting a major were available to talk about their experiences.

Hundreds of first-year students who have yet to declare a major crowded into Grant Hall on Thursday evening for the first Arts and Science Majors Night.

Students were able to meet and ask questions of students who have already gone through the process, with booths being set up by each Departmental Student Council (DSC).

Attendees were able to compare the different programs they are considering and explore if they line up with their interests and future goals.

Queen’s also recently created “major maps” for all 44 of its undergraduate programs. The maps provide advice on academics, extracurricular activities, networking, international opportunities and career development, providing support before, during and after students earn their degree.

Students can access print versions of the maps through their faculty or department advisers. Career Services has also posted the maps online in web and accessible formats.

The Faculty of Arts and Science also has information that can be found online and posted a new video to help student in the process of choosing a major.

Majors Night is a partnership between Career Services in the Division of Student Affairs, the Faculty of Arts and Science, the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS), and the Arts and Science Departmental Student Councils.

Conference pays homage to Queen’s legend

There’s often an urge to exaggerate the accomplishments of our forebears, embellishing their successes and abilities to the point where they become more legend than reality.

For a person like George Whalley though, overstating the volume and breadth of his achievements is nearly impossible. He was a war hero who took part in the sinking of the Bismarck during the Second World War, an inventor of a naval navigation beacon, helped found the Kingston Symphony, was head of the Queen’s English Department for two terms and wrote multiple books of poetry and literary criticism. It’s a long list, but still doesn’t record all his accomplishments.   

George Whalley
The life and career of George Whalley will be the focus of a three-day conference  being hosted at Queen’s by the Department of English Language and Literature from July 24-26. (Portrait by Elizabeth Tatchell Harrison)

To celebrate the centenary of Whalley’s birth, a three-day conference is being hosted at Queen’s by the Department of English Language and Literature from July 24-26. Rather than a strictly academic conference, the event will be just as multi-faceted as Whalley’s life. Its first day will focus on Romanticism and Aesthetics, Whalley’s primary academic focuses, the second will focus on the man himself and his legacy, and the third day will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Canadian Writer’s Conference, which was held in 1955 at Queen’s. 

“One conference on one subject wouldn’t be enough to cover everything that Whalley achieved and what he meant to Queen’s,” says Shelley King, head of the English Department. “The scope of his intellectual endeavors was something that resonated not just with other academics, but the broader public as well. A recognized man of letters, he was a public intellectual in the 1960s when higher education was starting to expand and there was extraordinary popular support for university work.”

Open to a wide audience of academics, writers and interested members of the Kingston community, the conference will have heavyweights of Canadian literature as well. Famed Canadian author and Queen’s grad Michael Ondaatje (MA’67) will be present as well as Giller Prize-winner Elizabeth Hay. Ondaatje studied at Queen’s while Whalley was a professor and Hay was inspired by Whalley’s work on John Hornby during the writing of Late Nights on Air. Both authors will be presenting on the conference’s second day.

Though the conference is being hosted at Queen’s, much of its organization has been handled by Michael DiSanto, associate professor and head of the Department of English and Film at Algoma University. Dr. DiSanto has for some years now been working with Whalley’s poetry and essays, is writing a biography of Whalley’s astonishing life and wishes the work of this prominent Canadian was better known.

“Seemingly everything he chose to do, he did very, very well,” Dr. DiSanto says. “He was an exceptionally thoughtful and accomplished Canadian, and I see him as part of a trio that includes Northrop Frye and George Grant.”

Along with the conference’s presentations will be a number of social events. A chamber music performance will be held at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts on the evening of July 25 and a dinner will be held at the HMCS Cataraqui where Whalley was commanding officer in the early 1950s.

More information about the conference can be found at GeorgeWhalley.ca.

Childcare support deadline extended

HR Benefits has extended the childcare support application deadline from Feb. 27 to March 6 this year because the online system was unavailable from Feb. 25-26 due to a hardware failure. The deadline is extended for the following employee groups:

  • Non-Union Continuing/Term General Staff
  • U.S.W. Continuing/Term General Staff
  • OPSEU Continuing/Term General Staff
  • Research

Eligibility criteria will not be affected by the deadline extension.

To support employees in meeting the deadline, HR Benefits will continue to assist and work with employees to complete applications.

If you have any questions contact HR Benefits.

Fighting back against procrastination

Even the most disciplined of students can succumb to procrastination, so Student Academic Success Services (SASS) is helping them fight back with an event this weekend.

Get It Done will bring together students to work in a quiet, distraction-free environment. (University Communications)

Get It Done: The Long Day Against Procrastination is a day-long writing event for first-year students aimed at helping them get an early start on their final assignments of the term. Co-hosted by Residence Life, the event will bring students together in a quiet and distraction-free environment to plan, write and edit their work. Those in attendance will have ample support from SASS staff and student volunteers who will help them set goals and plan out their work.

Lisa Chandler, Comm’15/ArtSci’15, is a Peer Learning Assistant (PLA) and will be present at Get It Done to help students plan out their work. She’s excited to help students tackle what may be their first major assignments.

“We know that first-year students often see that they have to produce a large research paper that may be 10 or 15 pages and are overwhelmed by that,” she says. “As a PLA I want to help make that work seem manageable and to help them get started.”

Ms. Chandler will be hosting a workshop at Get It Done on covering topics such as brainstorming, planning, outlining and designing a strong thesis statement. There will be three other workshops throughout the day focusing on tips and strategies for productivity.

“Not every strategy works for every person, but sometimes getting a small start is all you need to build momentum,” she says. “When I was a first-year student, I had trouble starting work too, so I want to help use that experience to make things smoother for other students.”

Events similar to Get It Done are held at universities across Canada and the globe, with the first iteration held in Germany in 2010. Called The Long Night Against Procrastination, the event had students pull all-nighters to try to get their work done. SASS decided to take a different approach.

“A big part of the work we do is encouraging students to practice good self-care, so we really don’t recommend they stay up all night,” says Susan Korba, Director, SASS. “We want to encourage good habits and show ways to reduce stress, so we’re putting a Queen’s spin on the event by having it during the daytime.”

Get It Done will be held from noon-10 pm on Sunday, March 1 in Ban Righ Hall’s Fireside Room. The event will have free snacks and raffle prizes, and students are encouraged to drop in throughout the day. 


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