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    Confronting COVID-19

    Fostering community remotely

    The Student Experience Office is helping students stay connected to Queen’s wherever they are.

    pet stress relief sessions
    The Student Experience Office has set up online pet stress relief sessions which also allow students a chance to share their experiences studying from home and to feel linked with the Queen’s community.

    Queen’s University is well known for a strong sense of community shared among students. Even during COVID-19, the university is finding new ways to bring students together, no matter where they are in the world.

    The Student Experience Office (SEO) – a unit in Student Affairs – is helping lead this effort by coordinating many innovative remote activities on several different digital platforms.

    Confronting COVID-19 Read more articles in this series

    “The heart of Queen’s is academics, but the student experience is also shaped by our lively campus community and when students connect with each other. Our team is working hard to help students remain connected to the Tricolour community even if they’re not able to be together on campus,” says Meg Ferriman, Director, Student Life.

    Virtual community and stress relief

    During these uncertain times, the SEO has created various opportunities for students to take a break and calm any anxieties they might be feeling. Their virtual pet stress relief sessions over Zoom have been especially popular. During these group calls, students have been on camera with their pets to spread some happiness with their peers. These Zoom sessions have also given them the chance to share their experiences studying from home and to feel linked with the Queen’s community.

    Many other remote activities hosted by SEO also focus on fostering a greater sense of connection by promoting some fun and a bit of friendly competition. The Friday afternoon trivia challenges on Instagram Live bring many students together and they will soon have the opportunity to take part in a game on TikTok, where they can make a short video and challenge other people from Queen’s to recreate it.

    SEO is currently planning for its summer activities. Keep up to date with their future events by following them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

    Helping local organizations navigate economic hardship

    Smith School of Business partners with City of Kingston to support area businesses impacted by COVID-19.

    Downtown Kingston
    The Kingston Region Business Support Network is set to provide local organizations with assistance to navigate economic challenges posed by COVID-19.

    Smith School of Business at Queen’s University is joining forces with the City of Kingston and Kingston Economic Development to provide student and faculty resources to help local businesses, not-for-profits, and social enterprises navigate and survive the impact of COVID-19.

    “Our local businesses and not-for-profits are integral to the character of Kingston and the truth is they are struggling right now,” says Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson. “They need every resource we can muster as a community, and so I’m very proud to see this program come together and so quickly. I believe this will serve as an incredible resource for our community.”

    Under the banner of the Kingston Region Business Support Network, the effort offers free services, including student time and skills, and community classroom learning sessions with faculty on topics designed for local business needs.

    “We are grateful to be a part of the Kingston community and are ready to help local organizations as they cope with the extraordinary impact of COVID-19,” says Brenda Brouwer, Dean, Smith School of Business. “These are our neighbours, friends, employers of our students, and the businesses, stores, and services we rely on day-to-day. We want to contribute what we can to help them through this difficult time.”

    Tapping into Student Resources

    Through a matching platform, interested businesses can tap into the time, expertise, and skills of Smith students, which can range from research, strategic planning, and digital development, to sales, marketing, design thinking, and applying for grants. Once registered, businesses are contacted by a student consultant to confirm specific needs and to match with appropriate resources.

    Participating students come from across Smith’s programs, from undergraduate to professional masters and graduate level research programs, and bring a diverse range of skills and experience suited to assisting businesses small and large. Each student consultant is supported by a Smith faculty member.

    Confronting COVID-19 Read more articles in this series

    “Kingston is tremendously blessed to have the wealth of talent and expertise within our post-secondary institutions at Queen’s and St. Lawrence College,” says Donna Gillespie, Chief Executive Officer, Kingston Economic Development. “During these incredibly challenging business times, leveraging these assets and supporting our business community together is paramount to address immediate needs and how we, as a community can support and prepare businesses for the path to recovery.”

    Community classrooms with experts

    As part of Kingston Region Business Support Effort, Smith School of Business faculty and instructors will also host free webinars designed specifically for regional businesses to help tackle their day-to-day challenges.

    The initial online Community Classroom Learning Sessions will take place on April 22 and April 29. Peter Gallant, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Strategy, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship will lead the first webinar entitled Cashflow During Coronavirus: Strategy and Tactics for Business Survival and Recovery in the Age of COVID-19. The second, entitled Anticipating the New Normal: Critical Changes to Plan Today will be led by Ken Wong, Associate Professor and Distinguished Professor of Marketing.

    Registration for these sessions and information about future sessions can be found on the website. Planned topics will include negotiation with banks and creditors, and innovating and pivoting.

    “The efforts being made by people and organizations across the Kingston region to respond to the challenges brought on by COVID-19 are inspiring,” says Patrick Deane, Queen’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “I am especially proud of our faculty, staff, and students who have been engaged on healthcare’s front lines, assisting local businesses, and contributing crucial research and development expertise to help our community through this difficult period.” 

    Lending a helping hand

    An interdisciplinary team of Queen’s researchers and industry partners have mobilized to formulate hand sanitizer for Kingston hospitals

    Graduate student tests a sample of hand sanitizer
    Department of Chemistry graduate student Hailey Poole takes samples from a prototype batch of sanitizer.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has led to worldwide shortages of personal protective equipment and, very early on, products like hand sanitizer. This has a great impact on hospitals where these products are critical to limiting the spread of the virus, especially for frontline health care workers and patients.

    A team of Queen’s researchers from the Departments of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering along with GreenCentre Canada have partnered with Kingston Health Sciences Centre and Tri-Art Manufacturing (Kingston) to develop hand sanitizer. Having just received Health Canada approval, the team will use three sites (two at the university and one at GreenCentre Canada) to make 300 litres of product per week to help meet the needs of Kingston hospitals.

    “Our health care professionals have enough to worry about at the moment and should not have to be concerned about rationing hand sanitizer as we try to ‘flatten the curve,’” says Richard Oleschuk, Head, Department of Chemistry. “We know that we are not going to be in the long-term business of supplying hand sanitizer, as eventually supply will be brought online to meet demand. However, we felt that our interdisciplinary team had the skill set and infrastructure to make a difference in the short term.”

    The World Health Organization has approved two formulation recipes (ethanol and isopropanol) for sanitizer. To create the isopropanol recipe the team is producing, large amounts of isopropanol (commonly known as rubbing alcohol) needs to be mixed with smaller amounts of water, hydrogen peroxide, and glycerin, in exactly the right proportions. The mix then needs to sit for 72 hours so that it can sterilize its own container.

    While production of hand sanitizer is not a complicated process, it involves the use of chemicals that can be hazardous if not handled correctly. To make the isopropanol sanitizer, the team at Queen’s needed to develop a process that ensured quality control of the product, but still maintained social distancing rules at each of the three sites. They developed a “buddy system,” in which a second individual acts to monitor each and every chemical addition/volume added to the mix, so that the integrity of each batch is maintained.

    “At this unprecedented time, it is important that the university and Kingston community work together to ensure our citizens remain healthy and safe,” says Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “I am proud of our researchers and our community partners for both their resourcefulness and initiative undertaking this project.”

    Confronting COVID-19 Read more articles in this series

    The team’s protocol was developed in collaboration with Queen’s Environmental Health and Safety, who are also essential in transporting the raw materials and finished sanitizer to and from the formulation sites. A training video was also created, so that the students, faculty and staff involved in formulations could learn the same formulation process.

    “I applaud the innovation and creativity of our researchers and industry partners in addressing these critical shortages,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research).  “This project shows the strength of the Queen’s research community in mobilizing their expertise and resources to deal with pressing global challenges.”

    While the team hopes not to be in the hand sanitizer business for long, they are thankful for the opportunity to be able to support the needs of Kingston hospitals and for the contributions of the Queen’s faculties and Physical Plant Services in this effort.

    A team effort for dissertation defence

    A student in the Department of History was one of the first ever at Queen's to defend her dissertation remotely.

    Photo of Sanober Umar after successfully defending her dissertation over a video conference on Microsoft Teams
    Sanober Umar after successfully defending her dissertation over a video conference on Microsoft Teams.

    Queen’s has had graduate degree programs since 1889, but is still having new firsts in its approach to graduate education. Over the past few weeks, the university has held its first remote defences of theses and dissertations. One of these defences was for Sanober Umar, who on April 6 became the first PhD candidate in the Queen’s Department of History to defend her dissertation using Microsoft Teams.

    Nine people joined the video conference, including Umar, her committee members, a facilitator, and a staff member from IT Services for support. Most were in Kingston, but one person joined from New York City and another from Halifax.

    "Even though it was a momentous occasion, I felt surprisingly calm going into my defence. Mainly because I received so much support from Barrington Walker and Saadia Toor, my supervisors; Adnan Hussain, Graduate Chair in the Department of History; and Betsy Donald, Associate Dean in the School of Graduate Studies. Because of their help, I was able to focus on preparing and didn't have to worry about whether the new situation would affect my defence," says Umar. "The advisors at the Ban Righ Centre, who have provided me with so much support throughout my time at Queen's, also helped to keep me calm in the days before the exam."

    A successful remote defence

    Shortly after learning that classes were transitioning to remote delivery, Umar says she was contacted by Hussain, who let her and the other graduate students in the department know that there were plans in the works for holding defences and exams remotely. The School of Graduate Studies (SGS) also reached out with the same message. “I never had to worry if my defence or degree would be delayed,” Umar says.

    Making sure no technical glitches got in the way, David Smith, a staff member in IT Services at Queen’s, stayed on the video call for the duration. All the committee members were also eager to make sure that the defence could focus on Umar’s dissertation rather than whether everyone’s technology was working properly. So they all agreed to join the virtual meeting half an hour early to sort out any potential issues.

    Typically, successful defences end with a celebration of the accomplishments of the student. While there could be no in-person gathering, the facilitator of the defence did bring out balloons and a congratulations sign to recognize Umar’s achievement. As her dissertation studies global Islamophobia in the second half of the twentieth century, Umar appreciated having this light-hearted note after discussing such a serious topic for three hours.

    Best practices for remote thesis examinations

    As Queen’s continues to practice physical distancing, it will rely on this remote format for administering graduate exams and defences. And SGS is providing support and guidance for all students and departments. It has put together a guide to best practices for remote exams which were followed during Umar’s defence, helping to ensure it went off without a hitch.

    “Queen’s is one of the first schools in Canada to compile best practices for remote thesis examinations. And we have already seen many departments put them to use as they hold their first-ever remote defences,” says Betsy Donald, Associate Dean, School of Graduate Studies. “I served as the facilitator for Umar’s defence, and it was a pleasure to see her thrive in the remote setting.”

    To read the SGS best practices guide for remote thesis examinations, see their website.

    Connecting in a time of physical distancing

    Office of Advancement hosts a town hall featuring Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane and Special Advisor to the Principal on Planning and Preparation for COVID-19 David Walker.

    The Office of Advancement at Queen’s University hosted a special online town hall on Wednesday afternoon, featuring Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane and David Walker (Meds’71), Special Advisor to the Principal on Planning and Preparation for COVID-19.

    The town hall, moderated by Vice-Principal (Advancement) Karen Bertrand (Artsci’94), reached out to Queen’s alumni, offering them the opportunity to question the university administration on the ongoing response to the pandemic as well as the direction moving ahead. More than 250 people participated in the live town hall.

    Following brief introductory remarks, Vice-Principal Bertrand opened the floor to questions, some sent in advance and others sent through the Zoom platform. Queries ranged from the university’s expectations and plans for the 2020-21 academic year to how Queen’s is cooperating with postsecondary institutions around the province and across the country. Other questions dealt with the financial implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as whether or not Queen’s will be able to maintain its traditions and community spirit.

    “This online town hall was a great opportunity to connect with alumni, who are such an important part of the Queen’s community, during a time of physical distancing,” says Vice-Principal Bertrand. “Principal Deane and Dr. Walker provided a valuable update on the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and how Queen’s is playing an important role at the local, provincial and national levels.”

    Principal Deane explained that he has been particularly impressed by how quickly collaborations have formed with community partners and fellow postsecondary institutions, adding that he will work toward maintaining these connections once we move into the post-pandemic phase.

    “In the months before the coronavirus hit we’ve had some extremely positive discussions on campus about the role of Queen’s in our community, and one of the things that I would say about the crisis is that it has deepened those connections,” says Principal Deane. “It’s important for us to think about where we will be when we come out of the other end of this crisis and I hope that what we remember is how important it is to maintain all of those positive connections between the university, the city, social agencies, everybody who is interested in making the quality of life in Kingston as good as it can be.”

    Having chaired Ontario’s Expert Panel on SARS and Infectious Disease Control in 2003, Dr. Walker was asked to compare the two outbreaks. He pointed to the university’s steps to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

    Queen’s administration quickly worked to depopulate the campus in response to the spread of the coronavirus and continues to help frontline healthcare workers through donations of personal protection equipment (PPE) and providing living space at the Donald Gordon Centre, Dr. Walker pointed out.

    Visit the Queen’s Alumni website for more articles highlighting how Queen’s alumni are contributing to the effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Making the most of the summer

    Queen’s online course offerings are proving to be very popular with students facing summers disrupted by COVID-19.

    Photo of a person using a laptop.
    Faculties at Queen's are seeing an increased demand for their popular online summer courses.

    COVID-19 has abruptly changed summer plans for many students across Queen’s, as many employment and internship opportunities have been put on hold. To help students make the most of this unexpected gap, the university is ready to connect students with a host of popular online courses and programs around campus.

    Arts and Science Online (ASO) has the largest enrolment out of the units offering online degree credit courses at Queen’s. It’s aiming to become even more accessible to students through measures like increasing enrolment caps for popular classes, extending the application deadline and start date for summer courses, and by expediting the application process for prospective students and visiting students from other universities, such as allowing them to submit unofficial transcripts to support their applications. To support the larger class sizes this summer, ASO will also be hiring an additional 40 graduate students as teaching assistants.

    “From last year, there is already a 25 per cent increase in course enrolments in Arts and Science Online. We understand that many students suddenly need to find new plans for their summer, and we are working hard to make accommodations while maintaining the high level of education that we are known for. Whether students are looking to earn credits toward their degree or explore an interest, ASO has something for them,” says Bev King, Assistant Dean (Teaching and Learning), Faculty of Arts and Science.

    Arts and Science Online has a long track record of offering innovative online education. Students in ASO can take courses in a wide variety of disciplines, including art history, drama, astronomy, computing, and psychology. Courses in ASO are taught by Queen’s faculty members who often teach in-person courses on similar topics. Their courses are open to Queen’s on-campus and distance students, and students from other higher-education institutions who apply.

    Launching careers remotely

    The Smith School of Business has also been making their programs more accessible for students facing a summer of physical distancing. Notably, they have adjusted their popular Graduate Diploma in Business (GDB) program so that it is now delivered remotely.

    The GDB course is designed for recent graduates from any discipline and gives them a chance to build business skills that can help launch their careers. Credits earned in the program can also be transferred to a Smith MBA program, and completion of the program could qualify students for entry into other Master’s programs at Smith. Throughout the program, students also work with dedicated career coaches who provide mentorship and build important professional skills, such as communication, resiliency, and emotional intelligence.

    “This is the seventh year for Smith’s Graduate Diploma in Business. In four intensive months over the summer, students gain a deeper confidence in all areas of business through ten masters level courses plus professional coaching, communications skills, training in high performance teams, career planning, and more so they stand out as a great job candidate,” said Jim Hamilton, Distinguished Faculty Fellow of Sales Management, and Director Graduate Diploma in Business at Smith. “We are excited this summer to deliver the program fully remotely using our teaching studio technology and virtual support. It will be a completely immersive and engaging experience that a student can do from anywhere.”

    Health Sciences online

    Like ASO, the online Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHSc) program is already seeing growing demand for its courses this summer. Compared to 2019, enrolments are already up 71 per cent. Queen’s undergraduates are driving most of this increase, but there are also many students from other institutions requesting to enroll.

    To accommodate more students, the BHSc is adding more courses. Originally, the program planned to offer 18 courses, which was already an increase over the 15 offered in 2019. But now they will be adding 3 to 5 more courses on top of the 18. The preferences of students are being considered as the BHSc plans for this expansion. They have asked for feedback from students about which courses they are most interested in taking, and they have received over 100 responses so far.

    “Seven years ago, the Faculty of Health Sciences made significant investments to develop state-of-the-art, fully online courses that would become the foundation of the Bachelor of Health Sciences program. The result is that we can now offer a diverse array of courses online, enabling us to respond to the student demand because of this COVID-19 pandemic. We are very pleased to be able to help the students out,” says Michael Adams, Director, Bachelor of Health Sciences.

    The BHSc is designed for undergraduates who are interested in pursuing the health professions, and it offers online courses on a wide range of topics, including infectious diseases, pharmacology, physiology, and global health. This academic year, it launched an on-campus version of the program, which received over 4,000 applications for its first cohort.

    Queen’s Faculty of Law

    Having seen several years of steady growth for the Certificate in Law, the law school is continuing to see increases in enrolment in both individual courses and the Certificate program itself as the summer nears. Queen’s students represent about 60% of students in the program, but off-campus students, both undergraduates and lifelong learners, are a growing cohort for the program. Law 201, Introduction to Canadian Law, is a perennially popular course, but speciality courses such as Aboriginal Law and Intellectual Property are rapidly accruing interest and enrolments as May nears. 

    “We have increased our caps for most courses, hiring more teaching assistants from our Juris Doctor and graduate students,” says Hugo Choquette, Academic Director of the Certificate in Law program. “We are continuing to invest in course renewals and improvements for the courses, and the quality of the courses are reflected in their growth both on- and off-campus. We’ve also extended our program enrolment deadline for Queen’s students by a week, to April 27, to accommodate this higher level interest.”

    The Faculty’s online Graduate Diploma in Legal Services Management is also seeing growing interest among legal professionals with a series of courses to train legal professionals in business skills ranging from financial literacy to project management. One of its summer courses, LSM 840 – Working With Teams and Managing People – has proven especially relevant in the current context.

    “The COVID-19 epidemic has, among other things, highlighted how important leadership and management skills are to weathering a crisis,” says Shai Dubey, Academic Director of the Graduate Diploma in Legal Services Management. “We’re reaching out to small and mid-sized law firms with a series of tools, created by the course developers, to help them with remote team management and mentoring, and seeing a strong positive response and interest in this course, as well as the other courses in the program.”

    Exploring online programs

    For more information about Arts and Science Online, visit the ASO website.  Learn more about the Graduate Diploma in Business on the program’s website, or find out about other programs that Smith delivers remotely on the school’s website. The website for the BHSc has information about both the online and on-campus versions of the program. 

    If you are interested in summer online courses in other academic areas, see the website of the relevant faculty or school to learn more about their programs.

    Recruiting the Class of 2024

    Undergraduate Admissions and Recruitment is busy making offers to the next class of first-year students.

    Aerial photo of Queen's campus.
    Queen's campus in the summer.

    As Queen’s students are completing the academic year, the university is busy reaching out to potential students that will be part of the Class of 2024. The Undergraduate Admissions and Recruitment (UAR) office is currently assessing over 45,000 applications for the next undergraduate class and is working towards having all admissions decisions completed by the middle of May.

    “As always, students across the country are showing a strong interest in coming to Queen’s, and we continue to process offers of admission. Undergraduate Admissions and Recruitment is moving ahead and we are on pace to admit an exceptionally strong class. Thanks to our admission staff who are working remotely and the strong collaboration with our partners across campus, we have been able to adapt quickly to this changing situation and stay on track with our admission plan,” says Chris Coupland, Executive Director (Acting), UAR.

    Many aspects of the recruitment process remain the same, but staff have noticed a heightened interest in their webinars and in prospective students wanting to have video chats with recruiters. These interactions are taking the place of larger in-person recruitment events that typically happen each year, such as March Break Open House and receptions that the university hosts across the country.

    Helping prospective students during COVID-19

    Given the unprecedented circumstances of this application cycle, UAR is working closely with colleagues at universities across Ontario to help prospective students. Queen’s and other higher-education institutions in the province want to ensure that students are not unduly burdened by the application process due to COVID-19. They are collaborating to develop a consistent approach that provides flexibility for students in submitting documents and completing all aspects of the admission process.

    As UAR recruits the next members of the Tricolour community, they acknowledge that many prospective students have questions about the 2020-21 academic year.  

    “Usually when we work with prospective students, we’re able to give them a clear sense of what their first year on campus will look like. We know students and families have a lot of questions right now. While there is some uncertainty, we can assure them that Queen’s is committed to offering our incoming class an excellent experience. We’re helping prospective students navigate the uncertainty by keeping them updated and letting them know we’re here to help,” says Coupland.

    For more information about how UAR is currently operating, visit the UAR COVID-19 FAQs webpage.

    Racing for air

    More Confronting COVID-19 Stories

    Multi-disciplinary team designs and builds life-sustaining ventilator in only 14 days.

    The team's device is comprised of more common or easily-sourced components.
    The team's device is comprised of more common or easily-sourced components.

    Any other time, having two weeks to design and prototype a respiratory ventilator that can outmatch those created by hundreds of international teams would be a daunting task. These days, however, the stakes are much, much higher than bragging rights.

    A multi-disciplinary team comprised of Queen’s University faculty and students, as well as health professionals from Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC), entered the Code Life Ventilator Challenge earlier this month. Together, they are hoping to be among the top three groups whose designs could go into production and soon start saving lives threatened by COVID-19. With the challenge about to close, the Kingston-based team worked steadily through the weekend to finalize their functioning ventilator model.

    “In people infected with COVID-19, parts of the lungs fill with fluid, which prevents oxygen from passing into the blood, and causes the lungs to fatigue and stiffen,” says Ramiro Arellano, Head of Queen’s Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, and team member responsible for ensuring the device will provide the life-sustaining respiratory support patients require. “As an analogy, imagine how your legs would feel walking on pavement compared to walking in knee-deep mud; eventually your muscles tire and fail. For the lungs, a ventilator takes over the work so muscles can rest, and the body can better fight infection.”

    Dr. Arellano says the brilliance of their team’s design is its use of items readily available in the community in combination with items that are easily sourced or 3-D printed.

    In pairing two continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, commonly used to treat conditions like sleep apnea, the team was able to harness the air pressure required to provide a patient with the correct amount of oxygen. Since CPAP machines provide constant airflow to users, they next had to innovate a way for the device to provide a steady, on-and-off supply of air more akin to the natural tempo of breathing. Combining a small computing device, a series of tubes linked to the CPAP devices, and mechanical arms that compress the tubes intermittently, the team was able to simulate the proper timing to provide regular spurts of oxygen.

    The Queen's/KHSC team's ventilator design.
    The team's ventilator design combines machines typically used to treat sleep apnea with a computerized control centre that governs airflow.

    “Our ventilator design goal was to make the production of the device as simple and versatile as possible,” says Reza Najjari, a postdoctoral fellow in mechanical and materials engineering whose expertise in fluid dynamics has him overseeing that the device will deliver the precise volume of air to a patient. “I think the simplicity and modular features of our device give it the potential to help a lot of people, as it provides the production flexibility that local producers need to manufacture them rapidly with the materials they have on hand.”

    Drs. Najjari and Arellano feel that the team’s cross-disciplinary approach makes their Code Life Ventilator Challenge submission highly competitive, while recognizing there may be strong competition from across the globe. They are focused on creating an effective, life-saving device with an open-source design that can be used by anyone around the world.

    “Our ventilator design would not have been achievable without the wide-ranging expertise and collaboration of our team of researchers at Queen’s,” says Dr. Najjari. “We had specialists in fluid and solid mechanics, biomechanics, electrical engineering, computer science, and health sciences; all who showed the utmost dedication to creating this important device.”

    Dr. Arellano took it further, comparing the team’s complement of experts to an ensemble of musicians.

    “In many ways, the team is built like an orchestra,” he says. “Each person plays a unique instrument and the amalgamation and organization of each unique sound produces music that would be impossible otherwise.”

    Contest finalists will be announced soon. Watch the Code Life Ventilator Challenge website for the list of winners to appear. In the meantime, read about another ventilator design project being led by Queen's Nobel Laureate Art McDonald.

    See the world from home

    Experience art from around the globe through online collections and exhibitions with #AGNESFromHome.

    Leiden, Netherlands
    Leiden, Netherlands (Photo: Jose Zuniga via Unsplash)

    If you are itching to take a trip, there may be no better time to do so than right now. No need to worry about COVID-19 or going against our efforts to physically distance – you can explore the cultural richness of Europe, Africa, and Canada’s far north from the comfort of your living room with #AGNESFromHome.

    “There are few things capable of expanding our horizons in the ways that art can,” says Alicia Boutilier, Interim Director of Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen’s University. “Artists energize our imaginations and illuminate our individual experiences and our shared histories. As we maintain physical distancing, we hope you can find a connection to people, past and present, through our online collections and exhibitions.”

    Leiden, Netherlands

    Setting foot in Leiden is said to be like stepping into the 17th century. Heralded as the “city of discoveries”, the university town has been a science powerhouse for centuries — cultivating any number of groundbreaking researchers — but it is perhaps most notable as the birthplace of legendary painter, Rembrandt van Rijn.

    As part of Agnes’ Leiden circa 1630: Rembrandt Emerges exhibition you can take in the vibrancy of the Baroque master’s hometown in this short documentary, and get an up-close look at some of his most memorable works. Visit an interactive map of 17th-century Leiden for a look at the city’s incredible landmarks, and to see where the artist honed his craft and helped nurture the talents of countless pupils.

    Afterward, take a deep dive into the free, fully-illustrated digital catalogue (in both English and French) detailing the early careers of Rembrandt and his peers, highlighting the exhibition’s included works, and offering broader context to Leiden’s historical and cultural profile at the time.

    These online assets were produced as part of Leiden circa 1630: Rembrandt Emerges, a touring exhibition which debuted at Queen’s University’s Agnes Etherington Art Centre in August 2019 to commemorate the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death. Experience many of the pieces included in the exhibit online by visiting The Bader Collection.


    African Ivory exhibit brochure cover
    Ivory figure created by a Lega artist from the region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    The world’s second-largest continent boasts rich cultural diversity and an abundance of natural wonder.

    As part of #AGNESFromHome, you can learn about the long-running exhibition The Art of African Ivory, which explores how African communities have used ivory to teach morality, convey social standing, heal wounds, safeguard communities, and in commerce.

    The use of ivory does carry baggage however, so be prepared to spend some time at the intersection of art preservation and animal conservation. Art curators across the world have the dual responsibility of protecting ‘cultural ivory’ works, while also combating the pursuit of contraband ivory. Past Director of the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African Art, Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, spoke at Queen’s on the matter last fall—discussing historical African ivory art and wildlife conservation in her lecture Displaying Historical Ivory in Museums: Let’s Talk about the Elephant in the Room.

    The Art of African Ivory exhibition features a number of pieces from the Agnes’ Justin and Elisabeth Lang Collection of African Art—one of the most comprehensive collections of its kind in Canada, with over 500 works created by primarily west and central African artists. You can view much of the African historical art collection online.

    Baffin Island, Canada

    Celebration and Drum Dancing from Picturing Arctic Modernity: North Baffin Drawings from 1964

    The most memorable elements of any journey are the people we meet along the way.

    With the Picturing Arctic Modernity: North Baffin Drawings from 1964 exhibition’s online interactive experience, we are introduced to Terry Ryan, an artist and arts advisor who encouraged and collected drawings by Indigenous people in the North Baffin region over three months in 1964. Traveling to three communities that had no formalized art programs—Clyde River (Kanngiqtugaapik), Pond Inlet (Mittimatalik), and Arctic Bay (Ikpiarjuk)—Ryan would distribute paper and pencils to local people at the start of his trips and purchase finished drawings on his way home. Together, the collection of drawings depicts profound perspectives of daily life, history, and memory during a time of profound social change for Inuit communities.

    You can now reveal the stories behind the drawings with #AGNESFromHome. A selection of illustrations spanning Inuit identity, land, and history, can be viewed online. Each drawing is accompanied by special video interviews with the artists’ descendants and friends, who provide an intimate connection to the people, events, and themes of the era, while underscoring the importance of cultural heritage to communities today.

    To learn more about contemporary and historical media created by Inuit, First Nations, and Métis artists from Turtle Island and across the world, visit the Agnes’ Indigenous Art Collection.

    Planning for our future

    More Confronting COVID-19 Stories

    Principal strikes new COVID-19 steering committee to plan for 2020/21 academic year.

    The COVID-19 outbreak continues to pose unprecedented challenges for universities across the world, and the Queen’s community is no exception. Most students, faculty, and staff are learning and working remotely to aid public health efforts, and it is unclear how long the situation could last. In readying to weather this uncertainty, Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane has struck a COVID-19 response steering committee that will focus on planning for the upcoming 2020-21 academic year, ensuring that Queen’s continues to fulfill its academic mission for faculty and students. 

    “With the current public health crisis posed by COVID-19 we must not only respond to immediate needs, but must also prepare for what may lie ahead to ensure we can face future challenges and, more importantly, emerge from them as a stronger institution,” says Principal Deane. “Over the coming weeks, the steering committee will identify and analyze a range of potential scenarios, providing crucial insights to Queen’s senior leadership as we navigate what lies ahead and look beyond it to the future of the institution.”

    The steering committee will be responsible for oversight and direction of seven sub-groups tasked with developing forward-looking recommendations for key areas of university operations. These areas range from academic regulations to research impacts, and from enrolment to remote delivery. The small, agile teams will include representatives from faculties and shared services.  Some groups will also seek input from students. They will meet regularly throughout April to craft strategic recommendations for the Senior Leadership Team and Principal for review in early May.

    “The university must plan for a variety of possibilities over the coming months that will directly affect how we conduct ourselves,” says Principal Deane. “Exceptional times call for exceptional solutions, and I am optimistic for our future having seen both the resilience and the creativity of our campus community in confronting COVID-19. I know the steering committee will bring this same ingenuity to the planning ahead.”


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