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Engaging the community in inclusivity

The 2017-18 budget allocated $1 million for diversity and inclusivity initiatives, including support for ideas from the community.

[The QBAS conference team]
The Queen's Black Academic Society (QBAS) conference team. From left to right: Dayna Richards (Artsci '19), Kianah Lecuyer (Artsci '19), Maclite Tesfaye (Artsci '19), Sydney Williams (Artsci '18), and Brandon Tyrell (Artsci '19). (Photo by Zoe Walwyn)

When the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion (PICRDI) issued its final report last year, the university was given dozens of recommendations to respond to – creating new positions, updating policies, and funding initiatives.

To help meet some of the needs, the university set aside $1 million per year over three years dedicated specifically to diversity and inclusivity initiatives. The funding has primarily been used to pay for a number of big-picture priorities, but some was put aside to support community initiatives – mainly to bring in speakers and host events.

“A more diverse campus community enhances our academic mission, our student experience, and our research,” says Teri Shearer, Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion). “These initiatives have offered many opportunities to share diverse perspectives and ideas across the university over the past year, and I thank all of the organizers who are helping us build a more inclusive community.”

[Photo from Mus[interpreted] art collection]
Additional funding for the Journal of Critical Race Inquiry has allowed them to purchase art like this image, from the “Truth & Dare Project” by Zahra Agjee, to enhance the journal’s presentation. (Supplied Photo)

A total of six initiatives were funded, resulting in dozens of high profile speakers visiting campus and some enhancements to a key diversity publication produced at Queen’s.

The Journal of Critical Race Inquiry, a publication based in Queen’s Gender Studies department, received some additional funding to help with the journal’s long-term planning and allowed them to make some investments to enhance the journal’s presentation – for instance, the February edition featured an art piece from the (Mus)interpreted project. Providing more funding for the journal was a recommendation of the PICRDI report.

In the academic year ahead, Samantha King, Head of the Department of Gender Studies, says the journal is planning an international symposium and special issue on ‘Decolonial Sex and Love’.

The Studies in National and International Development (SNID) speaker series was another initiative which received support. In addition to featuring 12 Queen’s academics, SNID 2017-18 co-chair Karen Dubinsky says the funding they received helped them bring in 12 up-and-coming speakers.

Upcoming Events
SNID: Regulating Romance: Hindus, Muslims and Proscribed Pleasures in Modern India – Thurs, Apr 19, 5 – 6:30 pm, Mackintosh-Corry Hall Room D214

Muslim Societies, Global Perspectives: The Medieval Mediterranean: Interconnected Histories – Sat, Apr 28, 9 am – 5 pm, Watson Hall Room 217

“Some of the highlights of this year’s series were Tanya Talaga, author of Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Deaths and Hard Truths in a Northern City; and Robin Maynard, author of Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present,” says Dr. Dubinsky, who is a Professor in Global Development Studies and History. “Both of these authors came to Queen’s at the beginning their book tours, and these titles have since become celebrated across Canada.”

Other groups across the institution and the Kingston community joined in with the Provost’s Office to help fund some of these programs. For example, the Faculty of Arts & Science partnered with the Provost’s Office to help fund the Muslim Societies-Global Perspectives initiative, which hosted a series of events looking at the legacy of Kingston resident and Syrian immigrant George Masoud, the 2017 Québec mosque massacre, and medieval Jerusalem.

[Adnan Husain, Ariel Salzmann, Gord Dueck]
Adnan Husain, Ariel Salzmann, and Gord Dueck of the History Department pose with a poster from their event about the life of George Masoud. (University Communications)

The support also resulted in some brand new projects, such as the Future of Black Scholarship Conference organized by the Queen’s Black Academic Society. More than 90 students, faculty, and alumni attended, and organizers say they hope to build on that with a second conference in 2019. Various community and corporate sponsors supplemented the Provost’s Office sponsorship.

Dr. Shearer says the Provost’s Office will seek to raise awareness of the opportunity to apply for funding in the year ahead. Her office is currently drafting terms of reference for the application process, which will be unveiled this fall.

Reports will be issued in the near future which detail the university’s overall progress in meeting the PICRDI recommendations since the report was issued last year. You can find links to all the mid-term updates on the Deputy Provost’s webpage.

A growing opportunity

As the school term winds down, the Queen’s Sustainability team is gearing up to provide the Queen’s community with an opportunity to try out their green thumbs over the summer.

The Queen’s Community Garden, operating since 2010, has garden plots available for reservations. Adjacent to the stone house on west campus, prospective gardeners can pay an annual rental fee of $25 for access to a three foot by seven foot raised garden plot, gardening tools, and water spigot.

The Queen’s community garden in full bloom. (Photo: Queen’s Sustainability)
The Queen’s community garden in full bloom. (Photo: Queen’s Sustainability)

“Sustainable food systems are an important part of the sustainability landscape at Queen’s,” says Llynwen Osborne, Recycling Coordinator. “The garden is a great way for students, staff, and Kingston community members to grow their own food or flowers.”

Gardeners can plan out their plots however they like with their own seeds. They are responsible for maintenance of the plots and removing plants at the end of the growing season in October.

New gardeners are encouraged to take the opportunity to learn from more experienced members throughout the growing season.

“Four years ago my wife, Sarah, and I lived in an apartment building with no gardening facilities and a small balcony, and we wanted to grow our own food, including larger plants like eggplants,” says James Lew, former Computer Science student and long-term gardener at the Community Garden. “The garden has been great for us to have something to go to, take care of, and nurture over the years.”

For new gardeners, Mr. Lew recommends planning out the plot before planting to maximize the space and starting out with smaller plants that don’t overshadow each other.

There are 18 west campus plots, including one accessible plot. Another garden area is located at An Clachan, available to residents of the building.

To reserve your garden plot or find out more about the yearly project, email sustainability@queensu.ca. Plots available for rent by May 1, 2018 for the May to October season.

Inclusion in the classroom

The Centre for Teaching and Learning is working to ensure curriculum meets the needs of Queen’s diverse student body.

[Klodiana Kolomitro and Ian Fanning]
Klodiana Kolomitro and Ian Fanning of the Centre for Teaching and Learning will play a key role in examining curriculum through the lens of diversity, inclusion, and reconciliation efforts. (University Communications)

The Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) is looking at all of Queen’s curriculum and asking the question, “How do we ensure it is reflective of the inclusive community we are striving to create?”

Following recommendations of the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion (PICRDI), and the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) task force, faculties, schools and departments are embarking on a curriculum review to ensure that racialized students, Indigenous students, and all students of diverse backgrounds and identities see themselves reflected.

That review process is part of the CTL’s mandate, which is to ensure quality teaching and build teaching and educational leadership capacity at Queen’s.

“To create a more inclusive learning environment, we are working on a number of initiatives that will ensure that our curriculum reflects the diverse viewpoints and experiences of a greater proportion of our community,” says Jill Scott, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning). “By taking steps to ensure the inclusion of content reflecting the experiences and perspectives of diverse groups, including Indigenous students and racialized students, we can begin to reduce barriers to education and create a more welcoming university for all.”

To better equip the CTL team as they work to enhance curriculum, the centre’s staff have taken courses centred on mental health awareness, creating positive space, trans-inclusion, and cultural safety training. In addition, the whole team participated in a KAIROS blanket exercise designed to help explain the historic and contemporary relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.

The CTL is also ensuring it has the right leadership in place within the unit on diversity, inclusion, and reconciliation matters. Klodiana Kolomitro, an Educational Developer in the CTL, has been appointed as the centre’s specialist on equity and inclusivity in curriculum. Educational developers like Dr. Kolomitro work closely with educators to cultivate inclusive teaching and assessment practices that reflect our students’ experiences and create space for imagining alternatives.

“The curriculum that we design can be a powerful vehicle for asking courageous questions, examining our assumptions and academic practices, and truly recognizing the limits of our own knowledge,” says Dr. Kolomitro. “If we decide on one curriculum, we must consider whose voices are heard, what knowledge and worldview is privileged over others, and why that is? I am really looking forward to enhancing inclusive excellence, and supporting all Queen's educators in developing a curriculum that encourages relevance, meaning, and accessibility.”

Complementing Dr. Kolomitro’s work, the CTL recently hired Ian Fanning as the centre’s first Indigenous curriculum developer. Dr. Fanning will be responsible for the creation and delivery of professional development programming on Indigenous knowledge, ways of knowing, and anti-colonial training at the individual, unit, department, and faculty levels.

He will also facilitate consultations with educators and educational support professionals to build capacity and provide leadership in the area of Indigenous curriculum development across the university. Dr. Fanning will work closely with the Director of Indigenous Initiatives, the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, and other Indigenous support professionals on campus.

The centre isn’t just investing in its own learning – they are also sharing what they know with the broader community. In March, the CTL hosted a workshop to provide educators with strategies for providing classroom and supervisory experiences that are inclusive of transgender students. This follows similar workshops on Indigenous cultural awareness in the classroom, and building inclusive learning environments.

The efforts to incorporate diversity into the learning environment do not stop at matters of curriculum. To address recommendations in the PICRDI Report, the Provost has also struck a subgroup of the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Teaching and Learning to revise the Teaching and Learning action plan and the Queen’s Learning Outcomes Framework through the lenses of diversity, inclusivity, and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

These efforts to diversify Queen’s curriculum align with the recommendations of the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion (PICRDI) final report and the Queen’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission task force final report.

“We recognize that our community contains many diverse identities, and having a greater understanding of and appreciation for different cultures is important for our learners as they join increasingly diverse work and study environments.” says Teri Shearer, Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion). “We are striving to promote an inclusive living and learning environment here at Queen’s, and we are committed to continuous improvement through dialogue and engagement with all members of our community.”

To learn more about upcoming teaching and learning sessions, visit the Centre for Teaching and Learning’s website

Etherington Hall and Richardson Laboratory temporary closure

Etherington Hall and Richardson Laboratory will both be temporarily closed between 6:30 am and 7:30 am on Wednesday, April 11 and Monday, April 16.

Etherington Hall and Richardson Laboratory will both be temporarily closed between 6:30 am and 7:30 am on Wednesday, April 11 and Monday, April 16 to permit contractors to safely perform medium voltage switching in aid of substation maintenance and testing. Each building will be without power for approximately 20 minutes during the 1 hour period between identified above.

During each power outage, the fire alarm systems in both buildings will be powered by battery backup. Exit and emergency lighting will operate on limited battery backup.

Occupants in both buildings should power down computers and sensitive equipment prior to leaving for the day on Tuesday, April 10 and Friday, April 13 (or Sunday, April 15 if working on the weekend).

For more information, please contact Fixit at ext. 77301 or by email.

Dreams of reconciliation

Among the Principal’s Dream Courses funded last year, two courses were specifically focused on sharing Indigenous knowledge.

For one group of students, their semester-long dive into Indigenous culture is nearing an end – while another class gets set to begin its journey this summer.

[Lee Maracle]
Lee Maracle, an early Indigenous feminist, activist, and writer, speaks to the ENGL218 class. (University Communications)

Heather Macfarlane, Assistant Adjunct Professor in the Department of English, has just recently completed the first offering of ENGL218: Introduction to Indigenous Literature in Canada. The course examined Indigenous novels, traditional stories, poetry, short stories and plays from various time periods, written by Métis, Inuit and First Nations authors.

“My goal was to provide the students with insight into Indigenous cultures that they might not otherwise have,” she says. “Students love to have answers but I wanted to open things up for them, and show them how much there was to learn about Indigenous Peoples in Canada. I want to get them asking questions, with the goal that they ended up with more questions than when they started.”

Texts for ENGL218 – Introduction to Indigenous Literature
● Dimaline, Cherie. The Marrow Thieves.
● Halfe, Louise. Burning in this Midnight Dream.
● Maracle, Lee. Sojourner’s Truth and Other Stories.
● Moses, Daniel David. Almighty Voice and his Wife.
● Robertson, David Alexander. Betty: the Helen Betty Osborne Story.
● Ruffo, Armand Garnet. Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing into Thunderbird.
● Van Camp, Richard. The Lesser Blessed.

In addition to reading the stories, the class of 54 students also welcomed a number of the authors to campus for weekly guest lectures. To engage them in these talks, Dr. Macfarlane had the class conduct traditional greetings, introduce the authors, and prepare thoughtful questions in advance.

The speakers included Onangaate, a knowledge keeper from the Kingston Indigenous community; Lee Maracle, an early Indigenous feminist, activist, and writer; and two authors from Queen’s including Daniel David Moses of the Drama department and Armand Ruffo of the English department. The final speaker was Louise Halfe, who shared poems about her experiences as a student at a residential school.

Of particular interest to the students was Cherie Dimaline, winner of the 2017 Governor General's Award for English-language children's literature. Ms. Dimaline was the author of dystopian post-apocalyptic book The Marrow Thieves.

Dr. Macfarlane’s course will be offered again this fall, potentially with changes to the author lineup. The talks are being video recorded, and Dr. Macfarlane hopes to use the recordings with future offerings of the course if it becomes a permanent addition to the department’s course lineup.

“I am thankful for the Principal’s Dream Course funding, as I would not have been able to bring the authors in otherwise,” she says. “I am hopeful the fall intake will be even more popular than this term’s offering.”

[Students walk along a rocky trail]
Indigenous community members lead students on a nature walk. (Supplied Photo)

In June, another Dream Course will get underway as Heather Castleden begins her first offering of GPHY309: Indigenous Perspectives on the Environment and Health. This field school is an opportunity to meet with Indigenous peoples to learn directly from them about their interconnected relationships with the land, environmental management, and human health.

“This is based on a field school I used to offer at Dalhousie University, and builds on many of the same relationships I developed when I was working out in Mi’kma’ki (Nova Scotia),” says Dr. Castleden, who is the Canada Research Chair in Reconciling Relations for Health, Environments, and Communities. “There seems to be a lot of excitement from the students - that Queen’s is finally offering something like this.”

As part of the three-week course, students will spend two weeks in Mi’kma’ki meeting with members of several Mi'kmaw First Nations.

[Google Maps screenshot of the students' route through Nova Scotia]
Dr. Castleden's students will be on the road for 14 hours as they meet with Indigenous communities across Nova Scotia. (Google Maps)

Their travels will take them to, for example, Pictou Landing, an Indigenous community that has been heavily affected by a local pulp and paper mill; to Unama’ki (Cape Breton), where they will learn about two-eyed seeing from the Elder who originated the principle. of embracing the best of both Indigenous and Western knowledge systems.They will meet with other Indigenous knowledge-holders that apply this principle to interpreting the local archaeological history and geological formations.

If time permits, they’ll also participate in a cultural camp in Bear River on the western side of Nova Scotia.

Along the way, they will connect with the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs, visit the site of a centralized residential school, go eel fishing at night (if the weather cooperates), and participate in land-based learning activities. The students have also been invited to a pow wow. The focus is on experiential learning with many in-person meetings and engaging in ceremony when invited to do so by Mi’kmaw hosts.

“This field school is meant to challenge the students emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually,” says Dr. Castleden. “When they get back to Kingston, the students will each have the opportunity to reflect on their experience by preparing short video stories, which will be showcased at a special open event on June 15.”

When the course is offered for a second time next year, Dr. Castleden says she may take the field school out to the west coast where she has other established relationships instead – though she is also keen to eventually develop local relationships so students can experience something similar in southeastern Ontario.

[Principal's Dream Course logo]
The logo for the Principal's Dream Courses program. (Supplied Photo)

Each year, the Principal’s Office funds a number of courses through the Principal’s Dream Course program. Interested faculty should submit proposals tied to key themes, such as sustainability, Indigenous knowledge, and diversity and inclusion, and successful proposals are granted up to $15,000 in one-time funding to offer the course for at least two iterations.

The Principal’s Dream Course program is administered by the Centre for Teaching and Learning – learn more about it on the CTL’s website. The 2018/19 recipients will be announced in the near future.

Moving forward on accessibility

A new conference organized by the Society of Graduate and Professional Students explored accessibility and inclusion.

[Atul Jaiswal]
PhD candidate Atul Jaiswal speaks at the inaugural Accessibility and Inclusion Conference hosted by the Society of Graduate and Professional Students. (Supplied Photo) 

A new conference on accessibility recently hosted at Queen’s attracted international attention.

"I had the idea to host this event through discussions of diversity and inclusion that I was fortunate enough to be a part of throughout the University," says Rosie Petrides (Artsci’18), Equity and Diversity Commissioner with the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS). "I wanted to highlight the ways in which individuals who identify as having disabilities can become more integrated and feel more included within the greater Queen's community. I am quite thankful for the incredible keynote speakers that agreed to be a part of this initiative.”

The inaugural Accessibility & Inclusion Conference, hosted by the SGPS, attracted dozens of students, staff, faculty, and community members to campus on Saturday, and plenty of interest from around the globe as accessibility practitioners and those with accessibility challenges followed along on social media.

[The Forward Movement aims to bring the Accessible Icon Project to Canada]
The Forward Movement aims to bring the Accessible Icon Project to Canada, replacing the traditional accessibility icon on the left with the icon on the right. (Supplied Photo)

The conference featured five speakers, including Katherine Kerr, an Ambassador for The Forward Movement, the founder of Wheelchair Basketball Quinte, and Co-Founder of the Quinte Adaptive Sports Community. She was joined by Jennifer Tomasone, Assistant Professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, who spoke about the “Revved Up” exercise program – an adapted exercise program service that promotes physical activity for those with mobility impairments and developmental disabilities.

“The Accessibility & Inclusion Conference gave us the opportunity to continue the very important discussion of how to make our society more inclusive,” says Ms. Kerr. “As a Queen's graduate, I was grateful to be able to step back on campus and present initiatives that I feel will make a very strong impact on how we further the discussion of inclusion.”

Attendees also heard from Karen Kelsey, a representative of Lime Connect – a global not-for-profit organization that works with high potential university students and professionals with disabilities, in order to connect them to scholarships, internships, and careers – and lawyer David Lepofsky, a Canadian lawyer and disability advocate.

The conference’s final speaker was Atul Jaiswal. Mr. Jaiswal is a PhD candidate in Rehabilitation Therapy here at Queen’s and the International Commissioner for the SGPS. He spoke about his research with adults who suffer from deafblindness, and how assistive technology can be instrumental in helping them feel included. He also talked about the importance of attitudinal change and discussed different strategies that could help to change attitudes of people towards disability.

“The conference is still gaining attention and traction, even days later,” says Mr. Jaiswal. “People found it to be meaningful, and we received great support from the Equity Office and the Accessibility Hub. We hope to organize more conferences like this in the future.”

For more information on accessibility at Queen’s, please visit the Accessibility Hub website

Don’t let stress get out of control

Queen’s University provides a wide range of supports and services to help students prepare, be ready, and stay healthy throughout exam period.

It’s exam time at Queen’s and the university offers a wide range of support resources and services to help students prepare, be ready, and stay healthy.

Exam stress is a reality but learning how to manage it, and how to avoid long-term stress, is vitally important. Raising awareness of the importance of mental health and resilience on campus is a focus throughout the academic year, and especially during the exam period.

Student Support
Students looking to improve learning and studying strategies or academic stress coping skills can book a Learning Strategies advising appointment at queensu.mywconline.com.

For some students, self-care may not be enough. Anyone feeling overwhelmed should seek out support through resources such as Counselling Services at Student Wellness Services, the Office of the University Chaplain, the AMS Peer Support Centre, the SGPS Student Advisor Program, and Student Academic Success Services.

Students can also access support from the Queen’s University International Centre and Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, and counsellors based in Residences and most Faculties and Schools.

“I have been here for a number of years and we’ve seen mental health really come to the forefront,” says Beth Blackett, Health Promotion Coordinator at Student Wellness Services. “People talk about it which is really great, but we also need to ask ‘how do we take the next step’ and work to get everyone to a point where they can achieve optimal health and wellness. We want students to thrive, not just survive, even during exams.”

Throughout the year there are workshops aimed at stress management, mindfulness and mental and physical wellness. During exams, there is a heightened level of support and services available.

For students who are feeling overwhelmed and needing one-on-one support, counselling is available through appointments at Counselling Services. Students in crisis can stop by without a booked appointment on the second floor of the LaSalle Building, at 146 Stuart St.

At the same time, Ms. Blackett adds, there is a growing emphasis on self-care and mindfulness.

Once again the Queen’s University Be Well team of peer health educators will be running a self-care exam challenge using social media, while Student Academic Success Services (SASS) has an excellent time management program for all students in the Exam Study Schedule.

The strength of the schedule is its simplicity. In a high-tech world, sometimes the best way to get organized is by writing it all down on paper, and that includes time for breaks and eating properly.

Picking up on this success, Health Promotion has created a new exam self-care plan modeled on the Exam Study Schedule.

“SASS does a really great job of helping students develop their exam study schedule so the idea is that you would build self-care into your exam schedule rather than thinking ‘I’ll get healthy when I’m done studying’,” Ms. Blackett says. “We know you are not effective when you are studying for 12-hours straight! It’s important to plan times to get up, get moving and try to bring in an element of health and wellness.”

Students can book a one-one-one appointment with professional staff to develop their own self-care plan for the exam period. 

Also new this year is a pilot project involving biofeedback brain-sensing headbands that can help users get the most out of their meditation sessions.

“This device gives you feedback when you are practicing mindfulness meditation,” she explains, adding that Peer Health Outreach Coordinator Schuyler Schmidt is available for support. “You meditate for a couple of minutes and you get some feedback about whether you’re actually focusing your attention and helps you connect back in with yourself.”

Information and booking for these appointments is available at the Student Wellness Services website.

Counselling Contacts

Students who wish to make an appointment with Counselling Services can call 613-533-6000, ext. 78264, or:

•Faculty of Engineering & Applied Science (613-533-3447)
•Faculty of Education (613-533-2334)
•School of Graduate Studies (613-533-2136)
•Smith School of Business (via Commerce Portal)
•Residence Counsellors (613-533-6000, ext. 78330 or 78034)
•School of Medicine (613-533-6000, ext. 78264).

Another resource available for students is Good 2 Talk, a 24/7/365 post-secondary student helpline which offers free, professional, and anonymous support. Students can call 1-866-925-5454 to talk about any stressful issues they might be experiencing.

A delicious special delivery

Principal Daniel Woolf and Julie Gordon-Woolf hand out 1,500 cookies at Queen's University libraries as students prepare for final exams.

  • [Principal Daniel Woolf takes a selfie with student at Douglas Library]
    A student takes a selfie with Principal Daniel Woolf as he hands out cookies at Douglas Library for an eighth year in a row.
  • [Julie Gordon-Woolf hands out cookies at Stauffer Library]
    Principal Daniel Woolf and Julie Gordon-Woolf visited each of the Queen's University libraries as they handed out 1,500 sugar cookies on Sunday.
  • [Principal Daniel Woolf and Julie Gordon-Woolf hand out cookies at Stauffer Library]
    Students take a break to enjoy a sweet treat as Principal Daniel Woolf and Julie Gordon Woolf handed out 1,500 cookies at Queen's University libraries on Sunday, April 8.
  • [Principal Daniel Woolf hands out cookies Stauffer Library]
    For many Queen's students, receiving a cookie from Principal Daniel Woolf and Julie Gordon-Woolf is a bit of a nice surprise, while others eagerly await the annual tradition.
  • [Julie Gordon-Woolf hands out cookies at Douglas Library]
    With the aim of giving students a bit of a break during the pre-exam study period, Julie Gordon-Woolf hands out sugar cookies at Douglas Library.
  • [Principal Daniel Woolf hands out cookies at Stauffer Library]
    Principal Daniel Woolf hands out cookies at Stauffer Library on Sunday, April 8. The event marked the eighth year the principal and his wife have delivered a sweet treat to students as they prepare for final exams.

Principal Daniel Woolf and Julie Gordon-Woolf helped spread some cheer on campus on Sunday with their annual cookie drop as students prepare for their final exams.

A highly-anticipated tradition during the spring pre-exam study period, the Woolfs handed out 1,500 sugar cookies to students at Queen's University’s libraries, including the Education Library, Bracken Health Sciences Library, Lederman Law Library, Douglas Library and Stauffer Library.

This marked the eighth year for the cookie drop.

The cookies were sponsored by the Principal’s Office, and the Queen's Student Alumni Association helped bag the treats.

Educational Downlink a stellar success

  • Alex da Silva and Cam Yung
    A pair of students listen to Drew Feustel's answer after asking a question during the Ask An Astronaut: Educational Downlink event, alongside Alex da Silva, left, and Cam Yung, right. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
  • [Drew Feustel]
    Drew Feustel (PhD’95) rotates as he answers a question from the International Space Station during Friday's Ask An Astronaut: Educational Downlink event.
  • [Ask An Astronaut Cutout]
    Una D'Elia (Art History) poses in the astronaut cutouts with her daughter Zoe during the Ask An Astronaut: Educational Downlink event on Friday at Grant Hall
  • [NASA Postdoctoral Fellow and Planetary Scientist Michelle Thompson (Artsci’11, Sc’11)]
    NASA Postdoctoral Fellow and Planetary Scientist Michelle Thompson (Artsci'11, Sc'11) talks about her experiences in trying to qualify as an astronaut.
  • [Cam Yung, the 35th rector of Queen's, and Alex da Silva, the 36th rector]
    Cam Yung, the 35th rector of Queen's, and Alex da Silva, the 36th rector, open the Ask An Astronaut: Educational Downlink festivities at Grant Hall.
  • [Professor Emeritus and Nobel Laureate Art McDonald speaks with a pair of elementary school students]
    Professor Emeritus and Nobel Laureate Art McDonald speaks with a pair of elementary school students who attended Friday's Ask An Astronaut: Educational Downlink event. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
  • [Nandini Deshpande from the School of Rehabilitation Therapy]
    Nandini Deshpande (School of Rehabilitation Therapy) talks about the effects of microgravity on humans as well as her experience as a visiting scholar at NASA.
  • [Indira Feustel and Daniel Woolf]
    Indira Feustel talks with Principal Daniel Woolf as people fill Grant Hall for the Ask An Astronaut: Educational Downlink event held in Grant Hall.

Projected onto the same stage that he graduated on 23 years ago, Andrew (Drew) Feustel (PhD’95) shared his expertise from 408 km above the Earth in the International Space Station (ISS) during Ask an Astronaut: a NASA Education Downlink event in Grant Hall.

A stellar lineup of speakers who took to the stage before the downlink began included NASA Postdoctoral Fellow and Planetary Scientist Michelle Thompson (Artsci’11, Sc’11) as well as Nobel Laureate Arthur McDonald, Nathalie Ouellette (MSc’12, PhD’16) of the Canadian Particle Astrophysics Research Centre (CPARC), and Nandini Deshpande from the School of Rehabilitation Therapy.

Dr. Thompson shared her experience applying to NASA and the Canadian Space Agency and about her research as a planetary scientist. Dr. McDonald explained how the SNOLAB and ISS have a lot in common as extreme environments for research. Dr. Ouellette shared her research in astrophysics, and how she works collaboratively with other research teams to unravel the mysteries of the universe. Dr. Deshpande walked through the research she conducts on astronauts to understand muscle atrophy and cardiovascular issues that affect astronauts in space.

The 20-minute video feed began just after noon when NASA connected Grant Hall to the ISS. Indira Feustel, Dr. Feustel’s wife, greeted her husband and thanked Queen’s for the warm welcome after travelling from Houston for the event. She also shared a video from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who congratulated Dr. Feustel for his work and for inspiring the next generation of researchers.

Dr. Feustel answered 24 questions from the Queen’s and Kingston community, ranging from local elementary and high school student to Queen’s students, professors, and alumni.

“One of the greatest impacts of my life has been how my perspective has changed on Earth, from up here on the space station. There’s only one home for us now, and it’s fragile,” said Dr. Feustel, answering Dr. Thompson’s question about how his perspective on Earth and humanity’s place in the universe has changed. ”We would be in a different world if folks could see how I see it from the ISS; no borders, one Earth.”

Other participants asked questions about how astronauts sleep in space, what to study to become an astronaut, and if astronauts play tag on the ISS.

The event wrapped up with a sign off from Dr. Feustel, thanking Queen’s for the chance to participate in the first Educational Downlink from NASA hosted by a Canadian university.

Grant Hall was decorated festively for the event, featuring life sized cutouts of Dr. Feustel for photos, big banners to sign to wish Dr. Feustel luck, and tables featuring displays from Graduate Studies and the Queen’s Reduced Gravity group.

In case you missed the event, check out the live video available on the Queen's Facebook feed. 

An exercise in caring

Queen’s Cares Alternative Reading Week offers undergraduate and graduate students valuable experience off campus as well as an opportunity to connect with the Kingston community.

[Queen's Cares works with KEYS Employment Centre]
One of the teams of Queen's students taking part in Queen's Cares worked with the KEYS Job Centre on a project to help a group of Syrian women, new to Kingston, develop entrepreneurial skills. From left: Areejah Umar; Katie Lu; Matthias Hermann; and Rodrigo Belda Manrique. (University Communications) 

For many university students, Reading Week is an opportunity to catch up on studies, take a break, or head home for a bit of family time.

But for one group of Queen’s students it was an opportunity to learn more about the Kingston community, lend a hand to the local support network, and connect with fellow students.

The Queen’s Cares Alternative Reading Week program is a community-engaged learning initiative, run by the Student Experience Office (SEO) in Student Affairs, offering students the opportunity to work in teams on a project that has been identified as a need by a local community organization.

For Matthias Hermann, a doctoral student in the Department of Chemistry originally from Germany, Queen’s Cares offered a chance to engage with the community. As a graduate student he applied for the project leader position and worked with KEYS Job Centre on a project to help a group of Syrian women, new to Kingston, develop entrepreneurial skills.

[Queen's Cares and the Boys and Girls Club]
A team of students participating in this year's Queen's Cares Alternative Reading Week helped out at the Boys and Girls Club of Kingston and Area. From left: Cordelia Staffieri; Megan Clemens; Yonie Ye; Bertug Yoruk and Kori Cembal, Manager, Volunteer Services and Special Events, Boys and Girls Club. (University Communications)

“I thought Queen’s Cares was a good way to become more aware of what is happening in the community, so I thought why not sign up. I also thought that through the project leader position I would be able to develop some leadership skills, some organizational-planning skills, which is also a big part of my PhD program or something that will be useful once I am finished with my doctorate,” he says. “Those expectations were fulfilled.”

He also enjoyed meeting and interacting with community members,  as well as the team of Queen’s students.

“It was nice working with the Syrian group and developing a sense of cultural difference when interacting with them while at the same time having a group of motivated students who stayed here for Reading Week,” he says. “Working with a motivated group of undergrad students who could go home or do something else was a really nice experience.”

Fanny Wang, a fourth-year Concurrent Education student, worked on a project with Focus Forward for Indigenous Youth. She got involved because she wanted to connect with people from diverse backgrounds and learn about their stories.

Queen’s Cares provided a valuable learning experience and an opportunity for personal reflection, she says.

“At the end of the program, I learned about just a slice of the experiences of the Canadian Indigenous population,” she says. “Coming from a background where my culture shapes a lot of who I am, I cannot imagine what it must feel like to have your culture and history taken away. I realized how fiercely I hold on to the idea that I am Chinese-Canadian and, just recently, warming up to the idea of being different. The difficultly for some Aboriginal youths to self-identify stems from deep societal and historical issues. These thoughts are some that pushed me to think outside of my comfort zone and encouraged me to be more reflective about my own experiences and how different systems work in society. How certain systems work can either benefit some or be damaging to others. There’s a lot of learning and re-learning that needs to take place in my life.” 

Other community partners included One Roof Kingston Youth Hub, the Boys and Girls Club, Kingston Community Health Centres’ Change the Conversation, and The H’Art School.

“We are thrilled to have built so many great connections with organizations this year so that Queen’s students can learn from a variety of community partners and work collaboratively in addressing community-identified needs,” says Kevin Collins, Coordinator, Community Engaged Learning in the SEO. “As the program continues to grow, we are excited to be offering international placements for students in February 2019 so that our students can partner with communities both here in Kingston and overseas.” 

Since it began three years ago, the Queen’s Cares program has continued to grow and 30 students from across faculties and schools took part this year. Information on the international placements will be announced in the summer.

For more information, visit the Student Experience Office website


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