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Transforming the global academy

Principal Patrick Deane on how the SDGs are helping break down silos, provoke dialogue, and unite us all in a common global purpose.

[Photo of Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane]
Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Queen's University

This op-ed was originally published in the Times Higher Education supplement in 2021.

As a member of the international group tasked with updating the Magna Charta Universitatum – the declaration of university freedoms and principles that was first signed in Bologna in 1988 – I am struck by the extent to which the intervening three decades have altered the global consensus about the nature and function of universities. Where the original document spoke eloquently to the fundamental values of the academy, the new Magna Charta Universitatum 2020 reaffirms those values but also expands upon their social function and utility. I would summarise the shift this way: we have moved from an understanding of universities as defined primarily by their ability to transcend historical contingency to a more complicated view, which asserts that timeless principles such as academic freedom and institutional autonomy are the platform from which the academy must engage with history.

If the situation in Europe and around the world in 1988 made it important to speak up for the freedoms without which teaching and research would be impoverished, by 2020 it had become equally important to speak of the responsibilities incumbent on institutions by virtue of the privileges accorded to them. The reality of rapid climate change has brought urgency and authority to this new view of universities, as have parallel trends in the social, cultural, and political climate, and “education for sustainable development” has emerged as the increasingly dominant model for global higher education – one which fuses the concerns of environment, society, and economy.  

Recent columns in Times Higher Education have admirably described the diverse ways in which the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been intrinsic to this reorientation of the global academy: as a rallying point for students and staff, as an accountability framework, and as a global language for political action, for example. Here at Queen’s University, the SDGs have been an important frame for our current planning process, and in all of those ways have influenced the manner in which we understand and wish to articulate our mission.

At one point in the process, an influential and valued friend of the university expressed some irritation to me about the way in which the SDGs had come to dominate and disrupt the university’s normally untroubled and inwardly-focused dialogue with itself about mission and values. “And in any case,” came the throwaway dismissal, “there’s nothing original or new about aligning with the SDGs.” Of course, that is true in 2021, but is it relevant? If a university is able to maximise its global impact, does the inherent originality or novelty of its planning parameters matter? In such exchanges – still occurring, I’m certain, on campuses everywhere – we can see that the changing consensus about which I wrote at the start is not yet complete.

It seems to me, in fact, that much of the value of the SDGs as an organising framework for universities resides in their not being proprietary or “original” to one institution, or to an exclusive group of institutions. It has often been pointed out that they now provide a shared language which helps universities in diverse geographical, political, and socio-economic locations understand and build upon the commonality of their work in both teaching and research. Adoption of the SDGs, however variously that is done from institution to institution, is turning the “global academy” from a rhetorical to a real construct, and I can’t imagine why it would be in the interests of any university to hold itself aloof from that transformation. Having watched our planning process unfold at Queen’s over the last two years, I can confirm that what the SDGs do at the global level, they do also at the level of the individual institution, providing a common language that provokes and sustains dialogue – not only between disciplines, but between the academic and non-academic parts of the operation.

I want to end by commenting on the excitement generated when siloes are broken open and when people and units understand how they are united with others in a common purpose and in service to the greater good. To cultivate that understanding has been the primary objective of planning at Queen’s for the last two years, and preparing our first submission to the Impact Rankings has been an intrinsic part of that process of learning and self-discovery. Naturally, we are delighted and excited by where we find ourselves in the rankings, but we are energised in a more profound way by the knowledge of what synergies and collaborations exist or appear possible both within our university and in the global academy.

The first 16 SDGs point to the areas in which we want to have impact. The 17th tells us what the whole project is really all about: acting in community for the communal good.


Queen’s secures second consecutive top 10 position globally in Times Higher Education Impact Rankings

Queen’s places 7th in international rankings out of over 1,500 institutions in advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

[7th in the world - 2022 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings]

Capturing 7th position globally, Queen’s is ranked in the top 10 of the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings for the second year in a row. The rankings measure the actions universities are taking to advance the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) both within and beyond their local communities. This 2022 international competition saw participation from over 1,500 post-secondary institutions (up from 1,240 in 2021).

Created in 2019, the THE Impact Rankings are the only international assessment to evaluate how universities’ programs and initiatives align with the SDGs. This set of 17 wide-ranging goals is central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a universal call to protect the planet and its people.

"I am incredibly proud of the Queen’s community for this repeat stellar performance," says Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Queen’s University. "The ranking recognizes the sustained impact we are having in our local and global communities, but also serves to inspire future action fueled by our collective intellectual curiosity, passion to achieve, and commitment to collaboration – key to our mission and values."

Using calibrated metrics and indicators across four key areas – research, teaching, outreach, and stewardship – the rankings assess hundreds of data points and qualitative evidence that tangibly measure the impact of higher education institutions in addressing urgent global challenges. Since its inaugural year in 2019, participation in the THE Rankings has increased from 450 institutions to 1,500 participating institutions across 110 countries in 2022. This includes 400 first-time ranked institutions and 24 Canadian universities.

"The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings are unique in examining universities’ impact on society, through each of the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals," says Phil Baty, Chief Knowledge Officer, Times Higher Education. "Canada is one of the outstanding performers in this ranking, with ten universities in the world top 50 – and it is great to see Queen’s among Canada’s leading institutions, making the world top 10 and excelling in its contribution to SDG 1, and SDG 11, and SDG 16, in particular. It is important to be able to identify and celebrate the work universities do to make the world a better place."

Queen’s performance

Queen’s results once again reflect the cross-university collaboration and partnership of dozens of units across faculties, portfolios, and departments. Highlights from the 2022 rankings include:

  • Queen’s was ranked across all 17 SDGs
  • 2nd worldwide for SDG 1: 'No Poverty.' Queen’s strong performance acknowledged the Commitment Scholars program, which provides financial support for students who are members of underserved or underrepresented groups and who have demonstrated leadership in, and commitment to, racial justice, social justice, or diversity initiatives, and Swipe it Forward, a peer-to-peer program that facilitates the donation of meals to students facing food insecurity
  • 3rd worldwide for SDG 11: 'Sustainable Cities and Communities.' Queen’s supports public access to green spaces, including self-guided tours of the university’s Snodgrass Arboretum, free trail access at Elbow Lake Environmental Education Centre, and the castle gardens at the Bader International Study Centre in the UK. State-of-the-art cultural facilities – including the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts and the Agnes Etherington Art Centre – showcase world-class performing arts and collections to the community
  • 2nd worldwide for SDG 16: 'Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.' In addition to significant collaboration with all levels of government and training the next generation of policy makers though the School of Policy Studies, Queen’s supports academic freedom and is a member of the Scholars at Risk program, which arranges temporary research and teaching positions for scholars whose lives, freedom and well-being are under threat
  • Queen’s ranked in the top 100 of 12/17 SDGs and in the top 30 of 8/17 SDGs

Evidence of impact

[Report Cover - Queen’s contributions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals Advancing social impact | 2020-2021]
Read the report: Queen's contributions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals: Advancing social impact | 2020-2021 [PDF Report 13 KB]

More than 600 pieces of quantitative and qualitative evidence looked at Queen’s research, teaching, outreach, and stewardship and included:

  • Queen’s partnership with the Karta Initiative to provide educational opportunities to low-income youth from rural India
  • The new Queen’s Institute for Global and Population Health, created to boost research, education, service, and collaborative projects that will help advance and decolonize global health systems
  • Black Youth in STEM, an outreach program engaging Black elementary students in science, technology, engineering, and math programming through fun, hands-on activities in a Black-positive space
  • Leanpath Spark, a program to measure food waste and foster education and inspire action in Queen’s dining halls
  • A new Campus Map focused on accessibility to assists campus visitors in navigating Queen’s buildings and accessible routes, entrances, washrooms, and more
  • The Queen’s University Biological Station, one of Canada’s premier scientific field stations dedicated to environmental and conservation research and outreach
  • Supporting and connecting women of all ages through the Ban Righ Centre, dedicated to diversity and community building
  • Queen’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint and meeting its goal for a 35 per cent reduction in emissions between 2008 to 2020
  • A website and report created to illustrate Queen’s commitment to the SDGs and showcase programs and initiatives that address some of the world’s most pressing challenges

The Queen's University’s community of exceptional students, researchers, staff, and alumni all contribute to making a positive contribution to social impact and sustainability. For more information on the THE Impact Rankings and how the university is contributing to the SDGs, visit the Advancing Social Impact website.

[Illustration of Queen's campus and collaborations]

Student recognized for dedication to good governance

Sahiba Gulati is the recipient of the Margaret Hooey Governance Award for her role as a student Senator for the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society.  

Sahiba Gulati is this year's recipient of the Margaret Hooey Governance award.

Throughout her time at Queen’s, third-year biotechnology - specialization student Sahiba Gulati has made outstanding contributions to the good governance of the university through her work with the Senate and committees.

Like, Margaret Hooey, the longtime Secretary of Queen’s, Gulati has shown dedication to principles of service, mentorship, and friendship, leading to her selection as this year’s recipient of the Margret Hooey Governance Award.

“It is an incredible honour to be chosen as this year’s recipient of the Margret Hooey Governance Award as I look up to the great contributions that Dr. Hooey has provided to Queen’s,” Gulati says. “Being recognized for the hard work that has been done on the various committees feels very special, and I hope to use it to continue making change at Queen’s and follow in Dr. Hooey’s footsteps.”

Gulati has served as a student senator representing the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) from 2021 to 2022 and was also a first-year representative for her program.

In addition, she has served as a member of the Senate Orientation Activities Review Board and the subsequent Senate Orientation Review Committee and is currently serving on the Orientation Policy Working Group. She was also a member of the Fall Term Break Task Force during the fall of 2021.

Gulati is an active participant in all facets of ASUS and has been a member of several grant committees and worked as an ASUS mentor. In addition, she is engaged with a number of campus organizations dedicated to equity and advocacy work, such as the Queen’s Women’s Health and Advocacy Club, Queen’s HOSA, Queen’s Global Medical Brigade, and ThornQ.

“Before I was on Senate, I was unaware of the many staff and students that it takes to draft a policy or proposal for no matter how small that change is to be passed in Senate,” Gulati says. “You start to see the amount of hard work that goes into every decision, making you appreciate everything more.”

The Margaret Hooey Governance Award Committee was unanimous in its decision to select Gulati as this year’s recipient.

All students involved in the Senate and Senate committees are encouraged to apply. The deadline is Feb. 1 each year. Learn more about the Margaret Hooey Governance Award

Supporting student wellness during exams

A range of resources are available to assist students as the end of winter term approaches.

Students study at a desk in Stauffer Library
Throughout the final exam period there are a number of resources available to help students prepare and stay healthy. (Queen's University) 

As the academic year comes to an end, the pressure of final assignments and exams can cause stress and anxiety for students. With changes to learning formats and health guidelines adding to the overall load, it’s normal to experience some levels of stress.

For Queen’s students, there are a number of resources providing support throughout the year and with a particular focus on the exam period.

“Sometimes stress can be useful – for example, it gives us energy and motivation to be productive,” says Beth Blackett, Health Promotion Special Projects with Student Wellness Services. “There are also coping strategies such as physical activity, connecting with friends/family, sleep, spending time outside in nature, that can help people lower their stress to a more manageable level. Other times, stress can be overwhelming especially when it impacts our ability to function in which case it’s useful to connect with professional support.”

Support programs available

To support students on their academic journey, Student Affairs and Student Wellness Services offer several programs to improve and maintain health and wellness.

Social connections with peers, friends and family can be an important outlet to diffuse anxiety and stress. If you’re struggling and need to talk to someone Good2Talk, Empower Me and Wellness Together Canada are available 24/7.

Practicing positive thinking can help influence mood and displace stress caused by negative thoughts.  The Managing Your Anxiety self-directed workbook can help alleviate anxious feelings by re-framing negative thoughts into positive motivation and feelings of gratitude.

The TAO Mindfulness Library provides interactive ways of coping through various exercises ranging from breathing techniques to calming worry and pain management.

Taking a break from studying to get physically active and take in the outdoors has been proven to reduce stress. Athletics and Recreation has options for vigorous and light exercise classes to help students unwind and stay fit.

Booking a healthy lifestyle appointment connects students to Health Promotion professional staff to figure out strategies to improve sleep.

Nutrition is an important part of maintaining mental focus and overall health. The healthy plate model can help students plan a balanced diet consisting of proper portions of fruit and vegetables, protein, and carbohydrates. Learning new recipes from the Queen’s Home Kitchen , and tips from registered dieticians with Hospitality Services can provide useful information to help guide healthy eating decisions that taste delicious too.

“This has been an extraordinary year with a lot of ups and downs,” Blackett says. “Like mental health, our stress levels can vary from mild to severe so it’s important for students to access the pathway to care that best suits their needs at the time.”

If students are unwell and its impacting their academics, they can receive academic consideration through the extenuating circumstance policy.

To learn more about available resource visit the Student Wellness Services website.

Principal Deane hosts discussion series on Queen’s Strategy

The first event in a five-part series for Queen’s alumni reveals the university’s plan to strengthen its global presence.

For the Future event in Toronto
Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane, PhD student Morgan Lehtinen, and alumnus Ushpreet Mehta listen as Wanda Costen, Dean of the Smith School of Business, answers a question at the For the Future event, hosted March 31 at the Fermenting Cellar in Toronto’s Distillery District. (Queen's University)

On March 31, Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane hosted Re-imagining Education for Impact, an in-person and virtual event at the Fermenting Cellar in Toronto’s Distillery District.

Approximately 200 people took part in the event attending in-person and online, the first in a five-part series about the vision for the university. Discussions focused on how Queen’s is driving innovation and change inside and outside the classroom and preparing students to make a positive impact on the world.

“We want to share a bold new vision for the future of Queen’s with our alumni,” Principal Deane says. “As the world changes, Queen’s must be poised to build upon its successes while preparing itself to compete in a global environment that brings with it new challenges and exciting opportunities. This vision calls for the development and implementation of a comprehensive, equity-focused, and integrated program of global engagement that includes active, strategic partnerships, enhanced student and faculty mobility, and teaching and learning reform oriented toward a pluralistic and culturally relevant global environment.”

Panelists Wanda Costen, Dean of the Smith School of Business, PhD student Morgan Lehtinen, and alumnus Ushpreet Mehta, elaborated on how the new vision advances learning and better prepares students to have an impact in their chosen careers and throughout their lives.  

“The university’s new strategy is largely about the enormous potential of Queen’s to have a positive impact locally, nationally and globally,” Principal Deane says. “We are doing great things and we aspire to do even more. We accomplish this by cultivating excellence and leadership in our students, supporting groundbreaking research, and ensuring the university respects and fosters meaningful community partnerships. These are all areas where Queen’s alumni can play a valuable role realizing this shared vision.” 

The remaining sessions in the series will be virtual, with panels hosted live from cities across the country to bring the university’s strategic goals to the Queen’s community.

Spring Food Drive for the AMS Food Bank and United Way KFL&A

Student Wellness Services is partnering with the AMS Food Bank and United Way of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington to offer a Spring Food Drive. 

From now until early May, Queen’s staff, faculty, and students can drop off unopened, non-perishable food items to donation bins outside the Health Promotion Hub (located on the first floor in Mitchell Hall near the red staircase). 

Students can take what they need from the bins and any unused items will be picked up by the United Way to redistribute to the community.

For the Record – April 14, 2022

For the Record provides postings of appointment, committee, grant, award, and other notices set out by collective agreements and university policies and processes. It is the university’s primary vehicle for sharing this information with our community.

Submit For the Record information for posting to Gazette editor Andrew Carroll.

Department Head Search - Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering

Dr. Keith Pilkey’s term as Head of the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering ends Dec. 31, 2022.

In accordance with the terms of Article 41 of the Collective Agreement between Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA) and Queen’s University, a selection committee will be formed to consider the present state and future prospects of the department, and to assist the Provost and Vice Principal (Academic) in the selection of a Department Head.

Members of the bargaining unit will elect five members. Faculty, staff and students are also invited to nominate staff and students from the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and faculty from cognate disciplines, for membership on the selection committee.

Nominations should be sent to Kevin J. Deluzio (Chair), c/o Jacqueline Hill, Staffing Officer, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science by May 13, 2022.

Mental health efforts worth recognition

Queen’s graduate student Ampai Thammachack named a L’Oréal Paris Woman of Worth for continuing efforts to raise awareness for mental health and combatting stigma.

Ampai Thammachack
Queen’s graduate student Ampai Thammachack was recently selected as a L’Oréal Paris Woman of Worth for founding not-for-profit organizations Step Above Stigma and The Glass Slipper Organization and continuing to support the causes. (Supplied Photo)

Mental health plays an integral role in shaping our outlook and how we approach life, which is why Queen’s graduate student Ampai Thammachack is committed to supporting systemic change in mental healthcare.

As the founder of not-for-profit organizations Step Above Stigma and The Glass Slipper Organization, Thammachack was recently selected as a L’Oréal Paris Woman of Worth and will receive a $10,000 grant for philanthropic use.

Currently pursuing a master’s in human geography, Thammachack didn’t always envision herself at Queen’s, let alone founding two not-for-profit organizations aimed at raising awareness of mental health and combating stigma.

For Thammachack, the issue of mental health is personal. Growing up in Bedford, N.S., she experienced her own mental health issues. Seeking help from counsellors and other available resources, Thammachack began her journey towards improving her mental health as well as helping others who may be struggling.  

“Through my own experiences coping with undiagnosed PTSD for most of my life and watching my friends and family struggle with their mental health, I realized the importance of mental health advocacy,” Thammachack says. “Being selected as a L’Oréal Woman of Worth is incredibly rewarding as it has given me the opportunity to help others understand that they do not need to make themselves small and recognize that help is available.”

Not-for-profit leadership

Prior to attending Queen’s for her undergraduate studies Thammachack started The Glass Slipper Organization, a non-profit group responsible for donating more than 1,000 prom dresses to students unable to afford a gown for graduation and formal events.

While completing a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and health science, Thammachack created Step Above Stigma, an organization selling socks marked with the slogan “Step Above Stigma” and donates 100 per cent of the proceeds to mental health organizations across Canada. To date, the organization has held 504 events and initiatives, raised over $120,000, served 480,000 individuals, and drawn the support of 100 student volunteers.

Focusing on marginalized groups disproportionately affected by barriers to mental health care due to race, gender and socio-economic status, Thammachack’s aim is to raise awareness and normalize the importance of getting help.

L’Oréal Paris Woman of Worth 2022

As one of 10 award recipients honoured at this year’s event, Thammachack joins an exclusive class of women who have engaged in giving back and volunteering their time to serve their communities.

“The funding from L’Oréal will help push for systemic change in the mental healthcare system and move towards destigmatizing mental health,” she says. “It has given me an incredible opportunity to amplify Step Above Stigma’s message that mental health matters and is just as important as physical health.”

A virtual presentation celebrating the award winners was made on International Women’s Day this year.

Learn more about Thammachack’s advocacy at Queen’s and recognition as a Woman of Worth.

Queen’s community remembers Professor Emeritus Robert Steele

Dr. Robert Steele
Dr. Robert Steele

The Queen’s community is remembering Robert Steele, a long-time professor in the School of Medicine, who died March 5 at the age of 93.

Dr. Steele arrived at Queen’s in 1968 and held several positions during his nearly 30-year career, including professor in the Department of Family Medicine, and professor and head of the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology. He retired from Queen's as Professor Emeritus in 1996.

Born in West Calder, Scotland, Dr. Steele studied at the prestigious School of Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. He graduated as a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1952 and completed a Diploma in Public Health in 1956, also from the University of Edinburgh.

He did postgraduate training in various locations in Great Britain, including the General Hospital in South Shields, England, the City Hospital, Edinburgh, and as an officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps at Connaught Military Hospital, Surrey, England.

Dr. Steele and his wife Letitia emigrated to Canada in the late 1950s to take up a position at the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine.

He had a distinguished career as an epidemiologist, publishing in diverse fields including accidental injuries, delivery of health services, environmental issues, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Following his retirement from academic medicine Dr. Steele began to practise as a Physician Psychotherapist at a clinic in Toronto. He retired finally and fully at age 79.

A celebration of Dr. Steele's life will be held in June.

A family obituary is available online.

National recognition for Student Wellness Services staff member

Occupational Therapist Tess Shepherd receives 2022 Fieldwork Educator Award for supporting practicum students.

Occupational Therapist Tess Shepherd
Occupational Therapist Tess Shepherd 

Each year, the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) honours excellence among its members across the country. This year, the 2022 Fieldwork Educator Award of Excellence recipient is Tess Shepherd (ArtSci‘14), who works as an Occupational Therapist at Queen’s Student Wellness Services (SWS).

Universities nominate one preceptor for this award each year to acknowledge excellence in clinical teaching, student mentorship, and inspirational leadership in professional practice.

Shepherd completed her undergraduate degree at Queen’s University, majoring in psychology. She then continued her education at the University of Toronto, completing a Master’s in Occupational Therapy. She joined SWS in 2016 and works with students one on one, providing a safe and supportive learning environment for occupational therapy students on placement to help them expand their clinical skills.

“Tess is an extremely valuable member of the SWS team,” says Cynthia Gibney, Executive Director of Student Wellness Services. “Her compassion for students and easy collegiality makes her highly regarded by staff and students alike. Tess is diligent, conscientious, and driven to do the best she can with each individual she meets, which makes her a good recipient of this award. All of SWS is very proud of Tess’s accomplishments.”

As an occupational therapist, Shepherd works with patients referred by colleagues in medical, mental health and accessibility services at SWS, and collaborates with faculty members and staff across campus to help meet student needs. Shepherd, along with other occupational Therapists at SWS, supports students with injuries, illness, disabilities, and extenuating circumstances who are experiencing challenges fully participating in life on campus.

“I feel honoured to have been selected for the CAOT Fieldwork Educator Award of Excellence for Queen’s,” Shepherd says. “It is a privilege to be able to support the learning of future occupational therapists. This placement opportunity has allowed my students to develop their skills with the support of our interdisciplinary team while also positively contributing to the care of our clients. Being a Fieldwork Educator is a small way that I can contribute to the growth of this incredible profession.”

Visit the CAOT website for more information about the organization and the annual awards program. Learn more about occupational therapy services at SWS.


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