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Using humour to bridge cultural divides

IETP Summer Institute
June 8-13

Keynote address by comedian Gilson Lubin
June 10, 6 pm at Residence Inn by Marriott (7 Earl St.)

More information

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

A comedian and an equity/diversity advisor walk into a classroom…

This setup promises to draw a lot of laughs and foster a serious discussion during the International Educators Training Program Summer Institute next week.

“We want to explore the ways humour can bridge cultural differences,” says Ekta Singh, an equity/diversity advisor in the Equity Office, who will lead the workshop with stand-up comic Gilson Lubin. “We also hope the participants will share the ways they use humour when interacting in an intercultural setting as well as with colleagues.”

[Ekta Singh]Ekta Singh, seen here during a recent Queen's University International Centre socio-cultural training program session, will lead a workshop on humour and intercultural learning during the upcoming International Educators Training Program Summer Institute.

Ms. Singh and Cathy Lemmon, an international programs advisor at Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC), incorporate humour into the socio-cultural training program (SCT) they offer to international students. Some jokes get people from around the world laughing together; other times, the instructors need to take more time explaining what they mean by certain idioms and language.

Humour offers more than just a window into a culture, according to Ms. Singh. She says research has shown that humour can ease the anxiety international students feel when they are experiencing a new culture and help them form bonds with others.

Using humour in a cross-cultural context does pose some risks, though.

“There is a responsibility to be educated about how we use humour in this context,” says Ms. Singh. “For example, there are some issues and topics Canadians feel comfortable joking about in public that people from other cultures might find insulting or offensive.”

In addition to the workshop, Mr. Lubin will also perform during the Summer Institute’s dinner and comedy evening on June 10. The event is open to the public.

QUIC has hosted the IETP Summer Institute since 2003. The core curriculum, courses and workshops offered during the Summer Institute give international education professionals from across Canada and around the world practical skills-based training on a variety of topics.

More information about the Summer Institute is available on the QUIC website.

Provost appoints associate vice-principal, international

By Communications Staff,

Kathy O'Brien, Associate Vice-Principal, International

Alan Harrison, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic), has announced the appointment of Kathy O’Brien as associate vice-principal, international, effective June 1.

Ms. O’Brien came to Queen’s in 2003 and for the past six years has served as executive director of the Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). Over the past six months she assumed the additional responsibility of leading the international portfolio on an interim basis.

“Kathy has done a great job in an interim capacity while continuing as executive director in the Provost’s Office and I am delighted that she has accepted this appointment,” says Provost Harrison. “An important part of her role over the coming months will be wide consultation with the Queen’s community as she refines goals and benchmarks in all areas of our international strategy.”

Queen's in the World

Ms. O’Brien arrived at Queen’s in 2003 as a major gift officer, working in the Faculty of Arts and Science. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from Carleton University and a Master of Public Administration (Management) from Dalhousie University.

Advancing Queen’s profile internationally is a key driver in the university’s strategic framework.

Read the full announcement on the Provost's website

A sea of learning opportunities

By Andrew Stokes, Communications Officer

Following in the footsteps of her mother, aunt and cousin, Rebecca Isaak (Artsci’15) spent a term sailing around the world. Enrolled in the University of Virginia’s Semester at Sea (SAS) exchange program, Ms. Isaak earned course credits while travelling to places like China, India and Burma during the winter term of her third year.

Rebecca Isaak visited the Great Wall of China while with Semester at Sea. (Photo provided)

Semester at Sea is a multiple country study abroad program open to students from all disciplines. The program emphasizes hands-on field experiences and engagement in the global community. Instructors often tailor course content to take advantage of the locations visited during the trip.

Because of her religions of the world class, Ms. Isaak was particularly excited about visiting India. “Before we arrived in India I was studying the Hindu deities. Getting to travel to Varanasi, one of the holiest places for Hindus, was just incredible,” she says. “The application of learning was what really made the courses come alive.”

SAS courses range from anthropology to environmental science to Shakespeare, and all courses are taught by doctorate-level educators. For each voyage, a completely new faculty is appointed. Learning isn’t restricted to the classrooms aboard the ship; faculty members typically schedule off-board educational trips to supplement content covered in class.

Holly Fortier (Com’14), who travelled with SAS in 2013, enjoyed these faculty-led trips. When the ship was headed to Hong Kong, her international business class focused on a case study about Hong Kong Disneyland. Upon arrival, the professor arranged for the students to meet with Disneyland’s park managers. They discussed park operations and the implementation of the business strategy the class had been studying.

Semester at Sea courses are similar to those offered on a traditional campus complete with essays and examinations. However, Ms. Fortier says she was blown away by what happened outside the classroom. “The amount of information I learned outside of the classroom far surpassed what I learned inside of it,” she says. “It is such a unique experience that I really believe to be a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

The program goes much deeper than just giving students a chance to see the world. “At the heart of SAS is a desire for students to have an understanding of their global citizenship and responsibilities. It provides a fantastic chance to be surrounded by a community that seeks worldly education like no other,” she says.

More information about the program can be found on the Semester at Sea website.

New award aims to deepen international relations

By Andrew Stokes, Communications Officer

A new national research award is available to help upper-year undergraduate and graduate students conduct research outside of Canada.

“The Mitacs Globalink Research Award offers Queen’s students an excellent opportunity to make international connections early in their research careers and ultimately help the university increase its global engagement,” says Dr. Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research).

Globalink students tour Queen'sMitacs Globalink students visit the Queen's Innovation Park. (Innovation Park Communications)

Queen’s students can apply for the award to support their 12-24 week research project at an accredited university in Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Turkey or Vietnam. The program is open to students from all disciplines and provides awards of up to $5,000 to cover student travel expenses. Mitacs recommends students submit their applications by June 13 for projects starting in September 2014.

The research award is one of several Mitacs Globalink initiatives designed to increase two-way mobility between Canada and Mitacs’ partner universities. Queen’s has participated in the Mitacs Globalink Research Internship program for several years, inviting upper-year undergraduate students from countries like Mexico, Brazil and India to join researchers in a variety of departments. The application deadline for the summer 2015 intake of international interns is June 18, 2014.

Alumni of the research internship program can apply for a Globalink Graduate Fellowship. The program helps past participants return to Canada for graduate studies.

Mitacs is a national, non-profit research organization funded by federal and provincial governments. More information is available on the Mitacs Globalink website.

Israeli ambassador visits campus

 In July 2013 Principal Woolf, along with a delegation from the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), signed a five-year memorandum of understanding with the Association of University Heads, Israel (AUH) in Tel Aviv in order to strengthen ties between academic institutions in the two countries.

On May 9, Israel’s ambassador to Canada Rafael Barack visited Queen’s in support of this agreement. He toured a number of research laboratories before sitting down with Andrew Stokes, Communications Officer, to discuss co-operation between Queen’s and Israeli researchers.

Andrew Stokes: Given the memorandum of understanding between the AUCC and the AUH, how are you as the ambassador to Canada supporting the agreement?

Rafael Barack: [One way is] a symposium happening in Ottawa later this year hosted by the AUCC that we’re excited about. We’ll be sending scientists, government officials and success stories from the high-tech industry to represent Israel and to introduce the Israeli way of innovation. We’ve also invited 15 Canadian university officials to Israel; we want to look for more ways to co-operate, particularly through research and development.

Ambassador Rafael Barack (left) visited Dr. Peter Davies (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) lab during his visit. (University Communications)

AS: What were the goals of your visit to Queen’s?

RB: Canada, and Queen’s in particular, has a long-standing and deep friendship with Israel that spans years. In fact May 11 is the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and Israel. There’s a lot of interest and a lot of curiosity in Israel about Canada and we think there’s a lot to be done. I came to Queen’s to get familiar with the authorities in their subjects and meet the people who are already working with Israel. The government can only guide; it’s the researchers that need to act on these relationships. There’s a lot of potential for scientific development and research, particularly long-term agreements that can hopefully contribute to the good of humanity.

AS: What did you learn while at Queen’s?

RB: Dr. Steven Liss [Queen’s Vice-Principal (Research)] gave an excellent talk on all the activities happening here at Queen’s and I was really impressed by the work in chemistry, neuroscience and biomedicine I saw happening. Dr. Oded Haklai’s work in the social sciences was great to hear about and Dr. Alice Aiken’s work on post-traumatic stress disorder and veteran’s care is superb.

AS: Given your work in countries all over the world, in what ways do you think Canada is exceptional?

RB: Well, a new Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development report says that Canada is the best-educated country in the world, and you have more than 100 universities and colleges. A country the size of Israel can’t support the sheer number of institutes you have. Canada has many high achievements in science, and has a number of Nobel Prizes to its name. Your laboratories and research facilities are excellent. We in Israel excel in the realm of the theoretical, and Canada has people doing superb clinical and practical work. This makes for great complementarity between our countries.

One week of sushi, robots and cultural investigation

By Wanda Praamsma, Communications Officer

Queen's in the World

One week doesn’t sound like nearly enough time to explore Japan.

But for three Queen’s students, it proved to be plenty to delve into the culture, both academically and socially.

There over reading week in February, the students spent their days working on a cultural project with Japanese students at the Japan-Canada Academic Consortium (JACAC) forum and the rest of the time wandering the streets of Tokyo, eating the “best sushi,” and making new friends.

“The experience went far beyond what I expected,” says Cory Bentley (Artsci’14), who attended the forum with Meagan Berlin (Law’16) and Hasina Daya (Artsci’14). “I was so impressed with how the whole week went, but especially the level of connections JACAC cultivated for us.”

Cory Bentley (second from right) and his JACAC group pose with Princess Takamado (centre) and Mackenzie Clugston, Ambassador of Canada to Japan (third from right), after winning first prize at the forum for best presentation.

At one event, the students had the opportunity to meet with Princess Takamado, a member of the Japanese Imperial family and widow of Norihito, Prince Takamado, and were notably inspired by her graciousness and confidence. Students also had the opportunity to chat with Mackenzie Clugston, Ambassador of Canada to Japan, and his senior staff. For Mr. Bentley, these meetings were especially significant, as he plans to spend the next year (or more) in Japan through the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme.

But, it wasn’t just the high-level connections that captivated the Queen’s students.

The JACAC forum is designed to bring students from both countries together to exchange ideas about a common topic of interest, and this year students were split into groups to discuss the challenges of an aging society, comparing both Canada and Japan.

“I really enjoyed the group work with the Japanese students,” says Ms. Berlin. “Everyone took each other’s background into consideration and we worked together to understand one another. Canadians and the Japanese have different styles of communication and at times the Canadians, who are much more direct, had to back off a bit to give the Japanese students the space and time to communicate their views.”

Queen's students Meagan Berlin (right) and Hasina Daya (second from right) spend some time exploring Tokyo with new friends.

Ms. Daya agrees: “The Japanese are extraordinarily polite and won’t leap into a conversation like we would. I am someone who talks a lot, and I learned that traditionally, people who talk a lot are not trusted in Japanese culture. The students explained that this applies more to older generations, but it still helped me to better understand the social context.”

At the end of the week, the groups presented on various aspects of the aging question. Mr. Bentley’s group, who investigated economic short- and long-term solutions to dealing with an aging population, won first prize for best presentation, an honour that garnered his team a photo with Princess Takamado. In addition to the group work and presentations, students also heard lectures from various university faculty on topics such as the challenges, and opportunities, of an aging society.

The students also went on field trips. A highlight was the trip to Cyberdyne, a Japanese company that specializes in creating robotic suits that strap onto human bodies and work on neuro-electric impulses. The robots are particularly designed to help the elderly conduct daily tasks when their own bodies are failing.

I wanted to do something academic over reading week, but I was not expecting how beneficial this ended up being. The whole thing blew me away.

Meagan Berlin (Law'16)

Outside conference hours, students were free to do their own thing and much of the time they ended up hanging out with their Japanese counterparts, in the morning going out to eat a traditional Japanese breakfast (miso soup, grilled salmon, rice and a raw egg) and in the evening visiting izakayas, where they say much of the Japanese business world gathers after work. On the weekend, Ms. Berlin and Ms. Daya got an early start (2:30 am) to visit the famed Tsukiji fish market, which only admits 120 tourists per day to view the tuna auction.

“I wanted to do something academic over reading week, but I was not expecting how beneficial this ended up being. The whole thing blew me away – the group work, the quality of the lectures, the connections with Japanese students,” says Ms. Berlin.

The JACAC forum is held alternately in Canada and Japan each year. Member universities of JACAC are guaranteed one student spot in the forum each year, but this year Queen’s secured three spots. Altogether, 14 Canadian students and 14 Japanese students participated in the forum.

Learn more:

Queen’s University Prince Takamado Visiting Student Scholarship

Visit to Queen’s University by Princess Takamado


Personalizing cancer treatment with 'big data'

By Rosie Hales, Communications Officer

David Skillicorn (School of Computing) has been awarded a Big Data, Big Impact Grant from the Cancer Institute of New South Wales and the Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Australia to help personalize cancer treatment for children.

The grant, in its second year, will support Dr. Skillicorn and 10 other researchers for work on their project entitled Generating Actionable Knowledge from Complex Genomic Data for Personalized Clinical Decisions. The project will involve a large scale analysis of detailed data about childhood cancer patients suffering mainly from leukemia.

The project will challenge the previously defined categories that are currently used to determine cancer treatment for the patient.

“After a cancer diagnosis and some tests, patients would typically be categorized based on the risk and variance of their disease,” says Dr. Skillicorn. “The category would then determine the treatment program. There were always a few patients who didn’t seem to fit their category; they would do well against the odds, or poorly when they shouldn’t have.”

Current technology, called “high-throughput devices,” collects tens of thousands of marker values for each patient. Patients are then clustered and their eventual treatment is based on their cluster. Dr. Skillicorn’s research could result in a redefinition of these clusters.

“Patients don’t form clusters,” says Dr. Skillicorn. “The disease almost always looks different from one patient to another. We believe there must be some bottleneck that causes the wide variety of patient configurations to appear as a much smaller set of disease categories.”

Dean honoured by U.K. surgical society

By Communications Staff

 Dean Richard Reznick

Richard Reznick, Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences, and a professor in the Department of Surgery, has been awarded an honourary fellowship of the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland. Reserved for surgeons and other distinguished medical practitioners, it is the highest honour the association can confer. Dr. Reznick is only the second Canadian surgeon to receive the award.

“I have had a longstanding association with the society, including many excellent collaborations with surgeons from Great Britain and Ireland,” says Dr. Reznick. “It is an honour to be recognized as an honorary fellow.”

Dr. Reznick, one of North America’s most pre-eminent surgical educators, is also a fellow of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons, a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. In 2011, he was awarded honorary fellowships with the Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin, Ireland, and the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh, Scotland.

He has won numerous awards, including the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada Medal in Surgery, the Association for Surgical Educators Distinguished Educator Award, the National Board of Medical Examiners John P. Hubbard Award, the Association of Canadian Medical Colleges Young Educator Award, and the Canadian Association of Medical Education Distinguished Contribution to Medical Education Award.

Dr. Reznick began his five-year term as dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and director of the School of Medicine at Queen’s on July 1, 2010. He also serves as the chief executive officer of the Southeastern Ontario Academic Medical Association (SEAMO).


Bridging the gap between ideas and action for global health

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Bridging the gap between ideas and action is the focus of the second annual Knowledge Translation for Global Health Summer Institute at Queen’s University. The conference offers upper-level students, graduate students, researchers and professionals an opportunity to learn about global health and social problems and how best to move evidence into action to improve or solve them.

Co-chair Colleen Davison.

“We cannot ignore the gap between knowledge and action,” says event co-chair Colleen Davison (Public Health Sciences). “Knowledge translation is important in many areas. We need to move apply knowledge towards improving health in vulnerable populations, food security and even service reconstruction in areas of conflict. This workshop will provide the tools for bridging the gap that so often exists between the knowledge of solutions and their implementation.”

Based on feedback following the inaugural conference, the organizers have developed a new two-day option this year that is designed to emphasize skill-building. Participants in the two-day workshop will build competences in such areas as deliberative dialogue, partnership building and message communication.

The original five-day workshop will involve a more comprehensive approach to building knowledge translation understanding through a small group, problem-based learning experience. In addition to attending the skills workshop, students in this option will have opportunities to apply their new skills to a current global health project with the help of an experienced mentor. One of the main goals of the event is to build a supportive community for knowledge translation and mentors who have experience in the field will be available for one-on-one support throughout the week.

As an opportunity for public participation, there is a free public roundtable discussion titled “Knowledge Translation in Context: Lessons from the Poorest Countries to the Richest.” Keynote speakers include Margaret Biggs, the Skelton-Clark Fellow in the School of Policy Studies and former president of the Canadian International Development Agency, and Ian Graham, former vice-president of Knowledge Translation at Canadian Institutes of Health Research and senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. This event will take place on Tuesday, June 3 from 6:30- 8 pm at the New Medical Building .

The Global Health Summer Institute runs June 2-6 and early bird registration is now open.

Queen's professor unveils revolutionary foldable smartphone

By Rosie Hales, Communications Officer

Queen’s professor Roel Vertegaal and student Antonio Gomes have unveiled PaperFold, a ground-breaking smartphone technology.

The shape-changing, touch sensitive smartphone allows the user to open up to three thin-film electrophoretic displays to provide extra screen real estate when needed.

Displays are detachable so users can fold the device into a number of shapes that can range from an ultra-notebook, to a map and back to a smartphone shape.

“In PaperFold, each display tile can act independently or as part of a single system,” says Dr. Vertegaal, a professor in the School of Computing and Director of the Human Media Lab at Queen’s. “Advantages to this technology include better support for performing tasks that would usually have required multiple devices, like a phone and a tablet PC or ultra-notebook in one.”

The technology was released at the ACM CHI 2014 conference in Toronto – widely regarded as the most important conference on interaction techniques for new technologies.

PaperFold demonstrates how form could equal function in malleable mobile devices. 
                                                                                                            - Roel Vertegaal

PaperFold automatically recognizes its shape and changes its graphics to provide different functionality for each shape.

  • For example, a user could search for a building in New York City on Google Maps in three ways.
  • By flattening the three displays, the user changes can view a Google map across all displays.
  • Manipulating the device into a globe-like shape opens a 3D Google Earth view.
  • Folding the device into the shape of a 3D building on the map will pick up available 3D SketchUp models of buildings on that location and turn the device into an architectural model that can be printed in 3D.

Inspiration for PaperFold came from its namesake: paper. Typically, mobile devices require scrolling or zooming in order to see different parts of a document whereas paper can be folded, detached or combined allowing it to be accessed in multiple documents.

“The development of electronic paper computers that can adopt similar qualities to paper has been a research goal for our team,” says Dr. Vertegaal. “The PaperFold smartphone adopts the folding techniques that make paper so versatile, and employs them to change electronic views and display real estate on the fly. PaperFold demonstrates how form could equal function in malleable mobile devices.”

A video of PaperFold is available at the Human Media Lab's Youtube channel and high resolution photos of the new technology can be found on the Human Media Lab's website.


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