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Turning graduate student knowledge into community good

The PhD-Community Initiative program wraps up with students and local organizations once again benefitting from this unique partnership.

PhD students cross the stage at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts.
While this year's PhD-Community Initiative participants couldn't take part in a public capstone event due to COVID-19 restrictions, the student teams have instead posted online videos of their presentations.

Each year, thousands of talented and ambitious students attend Queen’s to begin or continue their studies at the university.

As they build both academic knowledge and practical skills, these students seek out different ways to give back to the community through clubs, volunteerism, and other charitable pursuits.

Likewise, many not-for-profits and government organizations in Kingston are eager to tap into the knowledge and experiences these students bring, and want to help them develop experiential skills and connections to the community.

It is a win-win relationship that is best exemplified in the annual School of Graduate Studies’ PhD-Community Initiative. This program pairs multidisciplinary teams of graduate students with a mentor, usually a retired faculty member, and local not-for-profits and government organizations to help find solutions to local problems and challenges.

This year’s edition of the program concluded recently, albeit in a different way than in past years. To wind down the PhD-Community Initiative, students typically participate in a public capstone event where they present their findings. Due to the restrictions placed on gatherings this year, the student teams have instead posted online videos of their presentations. For similar reasons, their projects shifted to incorporate more remote work to ensure everyone’s safety while allowing the important research to continue.

“This initiative is one of our flagship programs, and the capstone is a wonderful opportunity for the students and the Kingston community to come together and discuss solutions to local problems in the local context,” said Fahim Quadir, Vice-Provost and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. “I am always impressed with what our students and the community can do through this program, and this year is no different despite the unusual circumstances.”

Supporting the community

This year’s teams helped the Cataraqui Conservation Foundation identify ways to attract donors who could help preserve Kingston’s conservation areas, provided the City of Kingston with a greater understanding of its doctor shortage, examined how the Kingston Arts Council could define the value of the arts in Kingston, assisted Kingston Community Housing in understanding the needs of those on its waitlist, and aided the Kingston Museum of Healthcare in understanding how to strengthen its member engagement.

“I joined the PhD-Community Initiative because, as a second year PhD student, I was hoping to gain experience in quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis and learn from members of my team,” said Hannah Ascough, a PhD candidate in Global Development Studies who was part of the Museum of Health Care team. “The Initiative has fostered a richer, more connected PhD community at Queen’s, and merged research with practical, community-based social action. The PhD-Community Initiative has proven to be one of my most treasured experiences in graduate school.”

The feedback from clients was likewise glowing.

“The City of Kingston is grateful for the high quality and meaningful work carried out by our PhD-Community Initiative team,” says Craig Desjardins, the city’s director of strategy, innovation, and partnerships. “A better understanding of the family physicians in our community is a critical component as we make our case to the provincial government for improved access to family doctors for our residents.”

In addition to supporting the community, making valuable connections, and learning new skills, the students participating in the PhD-Community Initiative also complete several workshops designed to enhance their abilities and improve their project outcomes.

The final presentation videos are available on the Queen’s School of Graduate Studies YouTube channel.

Online learning course offered for free

Continuing Teacher Education utilizes expertise to help teachers and more to improve online learning.

Queen’s Continuing Teacher Education has been offering online professional development for teachers for more than 20 years. When schools and higher education institutions across the province quickly shifted to remote learning, the Continuing Teacher Education team began work to share some of their expertise on the subject.

The Tech Savvy Teacher is a free online course designed to introduce teachers, administrators, parents, and anyone who is interested, to a variety of digital tools that can be used immediately to enhance the learning experience.

The course is one of the many ways the Faculty of Education has been trying to give back to the educational community and support teachers and educators. The Faculty of Education has set up a teaching resources page and Continuing Teacher Education has been curating resources for social media and offering free course giveaways for practicing teachers.

“We know that this is a difficult time for all education professionals, and it is our goal to support the Education community,” says Barb Huffman, Director of Continuing Teacher Education . “Our hope is that this course and these resources will help support education professionals in this current situation and in the future.”

Not just for teachers

Though the course idea was originally designed for teachers in a K-12 setting, Continuing Teacher Education has adjusted it to fit the needs of anyone who is working in an education capacity.

“This course will be useful for teaching assistants, faculty members, course instructors or even students who are looking to improve their presentation skills,” says Huffman. “Around 150 people have already taken our course from all over the world, with varied backgrounds from elementary school teacher to engineer. We are working on two additional free courses that will further support designing for online learning and teaching online.

To learn more about the course and Continuing Teacher Education, visit their website.

Queen’s constructing a new cutting-edge lecture hall

The Biosciences Complex will be home to large, modern, and accessible learning space.

Digital rendering of new lecture hall in Biosciences Complex
Digital rendering of the new lecture hall in the Biosciences Complex. (N45 Architecture Inc.)

Queen’s is soon going to have a new, 300-seat lecture hall in the Biosciences Complex. The new space will be fully accessible for instructors and students, and it will feature the latest design in technology, seating, and aesthetics to support student learning and well-being. This lecture hall will be created by combining and renovating two existing rooms: Biosciences 1102 and 1103. Construction began in May 2020 and is scheduled to be completed in time for the start of the fall semester in 2021.

“Queen’s is aiming to revitalize its learning spaces to best meet the needs of its students and faculty. As this new lecture hall will eventually hold some of the largest classes on campus, it represents a significant step in our work to modernize the university’s educational environment. After careful study of our existing classroom inventory across campus, combining these two classrooms into one larger classroom was the best option,” says John Pierce, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning).

Since 2016 there has been an investment of approximately one million dollars per year for the upgrade and renovation of centrally booked classrooms. This has allowed for a major renovation to MacArthur Auditorium and Kingston Hall 101, the addition of ten active learning classrooms, the upgrade in technology in seven of our large teaching spaces, and the renovation and reimagining of Student Street in Mackintosh-Corry Hall.

The new Biosciences auditorium will be the largest new classroom space since the lecture theatre in Chernoff Hall was completed in 2002. It will replace the Etherington Hall lecture theatre, which has nearly 300 seats. This project is part of the hospital revitalization and is made possible through collaboration with the Kingston Health Sciences Centre.

For more information about classroom renewal, contact Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) John Pierce. For information about the construction schedule, contact the Associate Vice-Principal (Facilities) John Witjes.

Lessons learned from remote learning

Megan Edgelow
Megan Edgelow, an assistant professor in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy, writes about the process of transitioning the course OT852 – Group Theory and Process to a remote learning format with students designing online group sessions. (Supplied photo)  

The following blog is written by Megan Edgelow, an assistant professor in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy, and first published through Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences Richard Reznick’s Dean on Campus blog.

This spring has unfolded in some unexpected ways for first-year students of the MSc in Occupational Therapy (OT) program. Students returned to campus in early March, fresh from their first two-month clinical placements across the province, and the country, ready to dig into a spring term of learning while applying their recently expanded clinical skills. Just one week of face-to-face learning took place before students left campus and courses moved online due to COVID-19, and students once again found themselves scattered across the country when learning resumed online in late-March.

For my teaching, the move online presented some challenges in OT852 – Group Theory and Process. This course traditionally blends group theory and practical group leadership experiences, with teams of OT students designing and leading health-oriented groups for community volunteers in the Clinical Education Centre of the Faculty of Health Sciences. While theory may lend itself to online lectures and textbook readings, the applied learning activities in the course were more difficult to reconceptualize. Thankfully, with some creative thinking, and the flexibility of the OT students, all the learning objectives could be met remotely.

My course team and the students turned our usual face-to-face class times into regular Zoom sessions covering the necessary group theory, and then used the “breakout rooms” feature of Zoom to allow the students to work in teams. These smaller online rooms provided the students with a virtual environment where they could effectively engage in group collaboration, including the designing and planning of OT group sessions, while continuing to receive essential formative feedback from instructors.

To replace the in-person Clinical Education Centre experience, further creativity was needed. This year, the OT students designed “Healthy Aging” groups, creating content to address the physical, emotional, social and spiritual factors that influence the aging process, responding to the performance and engagement issues that the aging process can bring. Teams of students designed online group sessions around a variety of topics, including falls prevention, physical activity, leisure activity, time use and routines, spirituality, and coping skills for use in daily life and with the stress of COVID-19. Students then recruited adults and older adults from their own lives, including parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends, and neighbours to volunteer as their group participants.

ORemote learning OT852 – Group Theory and Processver the course of two weeks in May, 10 teams led and recorded three group sessions each, for a total of 30 “Healthy Aging” group sessions, with over 50 community participants.

Feedback from the participants was overwhelmingly positive. They learned new things about staying healthy later in life, as well as ways to cope in daily life and during the global pandemic, and they appreciated the opportunity to connect remotely with the OT students and other participants during a particularly isolated time. Some participants even asked to keep in touch with each other to keep applying their learning and supporting one other.

For myself and my co-instructors, who had the pleasure of watching the recorded group sessions and providing the OT students with feedback on their leadership skills, the learning was clear. Our students designed creative, engaging and supportive sessions for their participants, learning about leadership in a new way during an unprecedented time in health care.

Given the ongoing need for flexibility in health service delivery, and the expanding nature of telehealth and remote health care, this learning experience sows the seeds for these OT students as future action-oriented, responsive and adaptive leaders. This evolving health care environment continues to provide opportunities for Occupational Therapists to lead in health systems adaptations, addressing issues of performance and engagement, and focusing on meaning, purpose and connection with patients and clients as their health journeys unfold in real time.

Educating future frontline health care professionals

Kingston hospital sites will provide unique learning opportunities for health sciences students during COVID-19.

Three health care professionals are seen as they work on a medical procedure.
As of June 1, approximately 200 students from the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Rehabilitation Therapy at Queen’s University will return to local Kingston hospitals to complete clinical placements and clerkships. (Photo by Matthew Manor / KHSC)

Health care professionals, including doctors, nurses, and therapists, are some of the frontline workers being hailed as heroes for their efforts supporting communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. For students entering these professions, the current crisis has posed challenges to course requirements, potentially affecting graduation timelines, in a context where frontline professionals are needed more than ever before.

As of June 1, approximately 200 students from the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Rehabilitation Therapy at Queen’s will return to local Kingston hospitals to complete clinical placements and clerkships that are key to their future frontline work.

Following the outbreak of the coronavirus in March, leaders from Queen’s, in consultation with Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) and Providence Care, made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend student placements as part of the ramping down of services and to preserve resources. Now, because of several factors, including a particularly low prevalence of the virus in the Kingston region, local teaching hospitals and centres are now able to slowly reintroduce students from Queen’s into the clinical environment.

“We have been keen to have students in the Faculty of Health Sciences return to their clinical placements,” says Richard Reznick, Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences. “Not only do they play an important role in the delivery of health care at our hospitals, they will be re-entering in a very unique context that presents incredible learning opportunities.”

The university worked closely with the regional hospitals and KFL&A Public Health to ensure that the students will be reintroduced to the system in a way that prioritizes safety.

“We are working with our partners in education and have developed safety measures to make sure students are phased into the hospital setting in a way that will keep them, our patients, and our staff as safe as possible,” says Michael Fitzpatrick, Chief of Staff at KHSC.

All students who are returning to complete their clinical placements and clerkships are required to self-quarantine in Kingston for two weeks prior to starting at the teaching hospitals. While they are on-site at KHSC and Providence Care, students will follow staff safety policies and procedures, including completing training on current COVID-19-related protocol, adhering to the staff screening process, and conserving personal protective equipment.

Additionally, students will be required to self-monitor for symptoms throughout their programs. They must be symptom-free for two weeks in order to participate in any in-person activities.

“As an academic health sciences centre, students play a vital role in the care of our patients, clients and residents. We’re looking forward to welcoming them back to our hospital and community programs safely,” says Allison Philpot, Director of Medical Administration at Providence Care. 

Once-in-a-Lifetime Learning Opportunity

While it may not be business-as-usual, the clinical environment will offer a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for students, many of whom are close to graduating and in search of permanent employment.

"Having the opportunity to complete my clinical placement means that I can work towards graduating on time, allowing me to use the nursing skills I've learned at Queen's to compassionately care for patients and families,” notes Bayley Morgan, School of Nursing, Class of 2020. “I am eager to join our heroic nurses and health care workers in supporting those affected by illness and injury, and in contributing to a safe and respectful practice environment."

The students look forward to returning to their clinical settings and credit university and hospital administration for developing creative solutions to allow them to meet their educational goals, while keeping their safe return to clinical duties at the forefront of efforts.

"The Class of Meds 2021 is eager to return to help serve the health care needs of Kingstonians and is confident that the reintegration into the clinical learning environment will go smoothly,” says Josh Gnanasegaram and Rae Woodhouse, Class of 2021 Co-Presidents, School of Medicine. “We see these coming months as a pivotal time in the re-shaping of health care systems as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are excited to be actively involved in that process.”

The reintroduction of students to clinical placements is part of a gradual and evolving re-opening of in-person activities that is being led by Queen’s University administration.

No stopping the Three Minute Thesis

Alice Santilli, a master's candidate in the School of Computing, is the Queen’s Three Minute Thesis winner with her presentation 'Sniffing out breast cancer.'

Alice Santilli, a master's candidate in the School of Computing, presents during the Queen's 3 Minute Thesis competition. (Supplied image)

Every cancer patient who goes to the hospital for a treatment hopes it will be their last.

Alice Santilli, a masters candidate in the Queen’s School of Computing, wants to turn that hope into more of a reality for breast cancer patients.

“Around 40 percent of women who currently go through breast tumor removal in Canada will leave their surgery with breast cancer cells remaining in their bodies,” says Santilli, likening the process to unsuccessfully weeding a garden.

So, how do you keep the ‘weeds’ out in this case? Her research aims to create an artificial intelligence-based model that will help surgeons tell the difference between skin cells, fat cells, and tumorous cells, which would minimize the likelihood of follow-up surgeries.

Her process involves using a device called a mass spectrometer to analyze the smoke being generated by a surgical tool known as an intelligent knife, or iKnife, during the surgery. The data being fed to the surgeon in real time would ensure the correct cells are removed.    

Santilli’s exciting research and her strong presentation skills have earned her first place in the 2020 edition of the Queen’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

Thesis presented in three minutes or less

3MT is an annual event where graduate students condense their research into a brief presentation for judges and a live audience. The judges score the presentations based on their communications style, the comprehensive nature of their presentation, and how engaging their performance was.

“I am glad the School of Graduate Studies team put the work in to allow this event to happen virtually this year so I could still participate,” she says. “I love presenting and enjoyed the opportunity to practice the skill of explaining my research to a non-technical audience.”

As the winner of the Queen’s competition, Santilli receives $1,000 and the opportunity to present Queen’s at the Ontario level competition. While the format for this year’s provincial Three Minute Thesis competition, which was to be held at the University of Windsor, is still unknown, Santilli says, if she gets to present again, she will be making some refinements based on the strong presentations by her peers.

“I actually turned my camera off after my presentation because I thought there was no way I had won,” she says. “There were so many great presentations.”

More winners

Sean Marrs, a PhD candidate in the Department of History, claimed second place and a $500 prize. His presentation focused on the establishment of an 18th-century surveillance state in Paris, France and draws parallels between Big Brother-style monitoring today.

“I learned a great deal in participating in the 3MT competition,” he says. “I learned how to better connect with a wide audience and certainly improved my presentation skills. Most importantly, writing and delivering a 3MT presentation forced me to clarify to myself and others the essential reason purpose of my research.”

Livestream viewers were also able to vote for a People’s Choice presentation, and they selected Arthi Chinna Meyyapapan, a masters candidate studying neuroscience. Meyyapapan’s presentation looked at how manipulating gut bacteria, particularly with personalized medicine approaches, could more effectively treat mood and anxiety disorders.

To watch this year’s presentations, and learn from our graduate student presenters, visit www.queensu.ca/3mt.

Supporting teachers with online education

Faculties of Education and Engineering and Applied Science share teaching resources webpage to help educators across Canada.

A teacher's desk with an apple, books, and letter blocks.
With students and teachers connecting from home, Queen's Faculty of Education has created a webpage to share a wide range of teaching resources. (Unsplash / Element 5) 

When the Government of Ontario made the decision to close elementary and secondary schools across the province to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on March 13, teachers and school boards were tasked with moving their programs online. While the required infrastructure was mostly available, resources to develop a quality online learning experience were in need.

Seeing an opportunity to share its teaching knowledge and expertise, the Faculty of Education at Queen’s University quickly created a teaching resources webpage to support teachers as they made the transition to remote learning.

The webpage has become a valuable resource hub for the teaching community, students, and parents during these unprecedented times.

“Creating a teaching resources page to share the knowledge and expertise in our faculty has been an idea we’ve been thinking about for awhile,” says Rebecca Luce-Kapler, Dean of the Faculty of Education. “When the schools closed and students, teachers, and families were suddenly learning from home, we knew right away that sharing our expertise would be an impactful way for us to support teachers and families.”

Sharing ideas

Dean Luce-Kapler reached out to the Faculty of Education community to share their ideas and immediately received a flood of responses from faculty members, instructors, teacher candidates, alumni, and the experienced online teachers from the Faculty’s Continuing Teacher Education unit.

The webpage is divided into five categories – STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), Arts and Literature, Indigenous, Geography, History and Social Sciences, and General – where teachers  and parents can access a variety of resources including activities, books, games, worksheets, videos, and more.

Teacher candidates pitch in

One particularly rich source of ideas is the Faculty of Education’s teacher candidates, who, as part of their studies, are asked to create lesson plans and resources that can be used when they enter their own classrooms. Highlights include the Art at Home videos by Nelligan Letourneau, and the Phases of the Moon video provided by Craig Harris.

“I am very proud of the efforts by all of those involved with this project,” says Dean Luce-Kapler. “Queen’s Faculty of Education has always supported teachers, through their time here as teacher candidates and as alumni. It is exciting to see this project be so well supported by our community.”

Adding resources

New resources are continually being added, such as the recent contribution from PHd student Hassina Alizai with resources and ideas for learning about Ramadan.

To contribute, contact Becca Carnevale, Director of Operations, Advancement and Communications, Faculty of Education.

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Engineering engagement

The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science’s outreach teams are creating online programs which are giving elementary and high school students at home opportunities to virtually participate in fun STEM activities, and teachers much-needed resources for keeping young minds engaged.

Aboriginal Access to Engineering (AAE) works with Indigenous students and their teachers at Six Nations, Tyendinaga and Akwesasne, as well as with local Indigenous family networks through the Limestone District School Board, providing hands-on outreach to students in all elementary grades.

The team has launched InSTEM@home, an online program that features content they have developed for their partner schools. Running until the end of June, the program lets elementary students participate in weekly design challenges, using common household materials, and to share those creations back with the instructional team for a chance to win weekly prizes. Guest appearances by Indigenous engineers also help relate content to the "real world" of engineering.

Parents can enroll their children even if they aren’t a student at one of AAE’s First Nation partner schools.

Building Connections

Connections provides a wide range of outreach programs, both on and off-campus. Along with the ‘Tech and Tinker’ trailer, a mobile engineering classroom that visits local schools, the Connections team runs a number of programs for students of all ages, including STEM workshops and clubs for girls, and a Summer Engineering Academy. They also provide valuable training for teacher candidates in the Faculty of Education.

In early May, the Connections team reached out to school contacts to offer them support while transitioning their students to online learning. The response was overwhelmingly positive and resources were sent out to 100 teachers in the Kingston area, who have since shared videos of completed student work.

The team will also be delivering workshops for 200 Faculty of Education students in June, and is planning a remote version of their Summer Engineering Academy, designed for students in grades 4 to 11.

Impacting student futures

Wendy Powley of the School of Computing receives the Chancellor A. Charles Baillie Teaching Award.
Wendy Powley is the 2020 recipient of the Chancellor A. Charles Baillie Teaching Award, which recognizes undergraduate, graduate or professional teaching that has had an outstanding influence on the quality of student learning at Queen’s University. (Supplied Photo)

Throughout her career Wendy Powley has had a positive impact on students and their education, from teaching a variety of courses, from introduction to programming to computer ethics in computing, to her work toward increasing the number of young women studying and pursuing careers in the technology sector.

As a result, Powley is the 2020 recipient of the Chancellor A. Charles Baillie Teaching Award, which recognizes undergraduate, graduate or professional teaching that has had an outstanding influence on the quality of student learning at Queen’s University.

“The adjudication committee was astonished by what Professor Powley has accomplished. Her dedication is remarkable and extends well beyond what is normally expected of a Continuing Adjunct Professor,” says John Pierce, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning). “The student-centered approach to teaching, built-in mentorship methods, and the bridges that have been built to attract more female students to the discipline from high school are all particularly impressive. The teaching strategies employed and developed by Professor Powley offer special opportunities to learners from equity-seeking groups and are sound pedagogical approaches that elevate everyone in the classroom.”

Powley has been a faculty member at the School of Computing for over 20 years, while also teaching courses in the Faculty of Education and Arts and Science Online. She has been a major contributor to the School of Computing’s success, having developed the curriculum for more than 10 distinct courses in three units.

For example, her redesign of CISC 110, an introductory computing course, resulted in a three-fold jump in enrolment, an increase in the participation of women, while 92 per cent of the students enrolled in a second computing course. A grant from the Centre for Teaching and Learning was used to add a mentorship component to CISC 110 in 2019.

“I am honoured to receive this award in recognition for the diversity work that I do. I am pleased that Queen's acknowledges that teaching involves far more than simply conveying subject knowledge,” Powley says. “A large part of what we do – role modeling, inspiring, encouraging, building confidence is all part of the teaching experience and I am pleased to be recognized for this. I am also proud to be the recipient of this award as a continuing adjunct. It is wonderful to be part of an institution that has been proactive and ahead of other universities in providing opportunities and supporting and acknowledging individuals that have become career academics via a non-traditional path.”

Active learning

A hallmark of Powley’s classes is the use of active learning wherever possible. When lecturing, she incorporates demonstrations and illustrations and explanations into nearly every class. When it comes to coding she uses live coding, which can lead to real-life debugging tasks with the entire class involved in finding a solution. This demonstrates the real struggles of coding and normalizes errors. Significant learning in computer science stems from failure, Powley explains, so it is important for students to learn the debugging process and to understand that it is a normal and vital part of the software development process.

“Wendy is an exceptional teacher, a role model for young colleagues and students and a champion of women in computing in Canada and internationally,” says Hossam Hassanein, Director of the School of Computing. “In every task Wendy does, she goes far above and beyond what is expected and does so because of her dedication and love of the School of Computing and Queen’s.”

Women in technology

Away from the classroom, Powley has played a fundamental role in promoting education and career paths in computing and technology for young women. She is the founder of the Canadian Celebration of Women in Computing (CAN-CWiC) – which began as an Ontario-only event at Queen's University in 2010. The 2019 event attracted 750 participants from across the country, bringing together leaders in research, education, and industry, as well as students.

During her career Powley has introduced computing to thousands of students. She has taught introductory programming, databases, operating systems, web development, ethics and curriculum courses for pre-service teachers. She receives excellent evaluations from students who use words such as engaging, excellent, and amazing to describe her classes, while her fellow faculty members often hear from their students how much Powley has influenced their education.

“My motivation comes from the students and the impact that we can have on their lives – from teaching them a new skill, pointing out a career avenue that perhaps they have never considered or helping them to find the confidence that they need to pursue a life-changing dream,” she says. “There is truly nothing like hearing from a student that because they took your course, they have achieved success.” 

More information about the Chancellor A. Charles Baillie Teaching Award, including eligibility requirements, is available on the Centre for Teaching and Learning website.

Touching down in YGK

Looking beyond COVID-19, graduate students and city officials are teaming up to investigate ways to improve air travel to Kingston.

Plane landing gear (Pexels)
Smith School of Business masters students are collecting survey to assess air travel preferences. (Photo by Joël Super from Pexels)

Each year, thousands of people from over 100 countries visit Kingston for leisure, business, and education, but their ability to do so is limited by existing service offerings through major urban hubs, like Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa. Recently, senior students from the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University have partnered with local government and the Kingston Economic Development Corporation to make travelling to Kingston easier, faster, and more affordable.

“Our aim is to gather market intelligence during this COVID-19 time to improve air transportation supporting the community and local economy,” says Shelley Hirstwood, Business Development Officer at Kingston Economic Development. “Working toward this goal with Smith graduate students, particularly at this juncture when the global pandemic has placed extreme challenges upon all of us, will ensure local travel, tourism, and business can recover and optimize opportunities for future growth.”

Comprised of four Master of International Business (MIB) students, the team is operating as part of Smith Business Consulting (SBC), a student-run management consulting firm that partners with businesses, start-ups, non-profits, and government to provide high-impact, cost-effective advice.

“We are excited to support the Kingston community in growing its connections to the region, the country, and the world,” says Despoina Dasiou, who is collaborating with her peers Karanveer Cheema, Andrew Boughner, and Indiwarjeet Hundal on the project. “Uncovering more about travelers’ needs and price sensitivity will help us to generate recommendations that can improve access to the city.”

In line with the city’s completed runway expansion project and recent renovations of the airport terminal, the SBC team has created a survey to assess traveler behavior patterns, price sensitivities, and service preferences further. All Queen’s students, Kingston residents, and those traveling between Kingston and Ottawa or Toronto are invited to fill it out.

“From insights gathered though this exercise, we will gain a better understanding of what ingredients go into an exceptional travel experience,” says Cheema.

The potential benefits of improved air access for future travelers – particularly students set to attend one of Kingston’s post-secondary institutions, like Queen’s – are numerous, but SBC Director Charlie Mignault goes further – citing the effort to understand access to Kingston as an invaluable education opportunity for the student consultants he mentors right now.

“Projects like this are fantastic opportunities for our students to gain hands-on, industry-facing experience before graduating,” he says. “Furthermore, they find the work enriching because they are able to see the impact they can make on their clients’ missions. The project with Kingston Economic Development, for instance, could provide invaluable insight into air travel that can help Kingston grow and prosper.”

Learn more about Smith Business Consulting and fill out the survey.

SASS provides graduate summer support

Student Academic Success Services (SASS) is turning to online platforms to provide support to graduate students working on articles, theses, and dissertations this spring and summer.

SASS recognizes that many graduate students may be balancing writing and research with many other responsibilities, or may be looking for extra motivation. As a result, SASS is offering a virtual Dissertation Boot Camp, which provides students with structured time to write and helps them build skills and habits they can use to finish their projects successfully.

Dissertation Boot Camp, a collaboration between the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) and SASS, is now entering its second decade. Usually, SASS’s writing, academic skills, and English as an additional language staff support approximately 40 graduate students working on dissertation-writing for an intense four-day in-person program of workshops and one-on-one sessions each May. This year, SASS and SGS staff have teamed up to create a collaborative online space to run the Boot Camp and ensure students keep moving forward with their writing. Staff from the Centre for Teaching & Learning were instrumental in navigating the pivot to an online format.

Using Microsoft Teams, features built into onQ, and SASS’s online appointment platform, graduate students will be able to work on their drafts in a productive and mutually supportive atmosphere over five days in the first week of June.

Recognizing that students with non-academic commitments and those logging in from different time zones may face barriers to participation, staff plan to share a series of short videos and written resources that participants can use at their convenience.  SASS and SGS will also offer individual support at staggered times throughout the day.

Alyssa Foerstner, Academic Skills Support Coordinator (EAL) at SASS, believes that the online format offers an opportunity to provide more support to more students than in previous years. “We're hoping that the online option will mean that we can offer similar events throughout the year, in addition to the in-person ones we will continue to run when we're back on campus,” says Foerstner.

SGS Manager of Recruitment & Events Colette Steer concurs: “This approach opens up so many more opportunities for our graduate students to be able to participate and find the version - online or in-person - that best fits their circumstances. We can’t wait to start.”

Leading up to Boot Camp, SASS’s staff are releasing a series of online video tutorials in graduate writing topics. The videos series introduces important summer writing topics: disciplinary writing skills for students looking to learn how best to meet journal and program requirements; self-editing for those who wish to polish writing ready for submission for degree requirements or publications; and, in partnership with the Queen’s Library, an introduction to the latest search and citation management tools. These videos, released over a three-week period in May, are available on SASS’s YouTube channel.

Enrollment for Boot Camp is still open; master's and PhD students who wish to take part can register online. Students who wish to access support with their writing are still able to book individual appointments with SASS through the reservation website.

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