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Celebrating Queen’s spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation

Queen’s receives the Deshpande Symposium Award for The Entrepreneurial University for its curriculum innovation and student engagement.

Every Spring, the Deshpande Foundation hosts the Deshpande Symposium on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education, which brings together academics, policy planners, practitioners, business incubators, and foundations to discuss best practices in integrating entrepreneurship throughout their college and university communities.

At this year’s virtual gathering, Queen’s University received the Deshpande Symposium Award for The Entrepreneurial University. This award celebrates an institution that demonstrates excellence in entrepreneurship-related curriculum innovation and student engagement.

"Entrepreneurship has become an important means by which we fulfill our obligations of positive societal impact, to the regional community in which it is embedded, and in global society," says Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor.

Queen’s was unanimously voted as the 2021 recipient of this honour for fostering a culture of innovation throughout its many curricular and extra-curricular offerings.

Curricular Offerings in Entrepreneurship and Innovation

The university’s academic and curricular programs of study make entrepreneurship and innovation a priority at all levels. Undergraduate and graduate students across Queen’s are exposed to entrepreneurship and related topics in a broad range of sectors across disciplines. Some courses engage students in team-based venture projects in for-profits contexts, while others, like the Arts and Science "Dean’s Changemaker" courses ASCX200/300, give them opportunities to identify and pursue entrepreneurial solutions to pressing societal problems. The Dean’s Changemaker program supported 12 students in its pilot run and is expected to grow to 50 students per year.

Curricular delivery prioritizes interdisciplinarity. The Certificate in Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Creativity (CEIC), offered by the Dan School of Drama and Music, is taught not only by faculty from the Dan School but also from the Smith School of Business and the faculties of Arts and Science and Engineering and Applied Science. These pan-university partnerships persist even at senior levels of education and training. The blended format Master of Management of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MMIE), for example, is a joint collaboration between Business and Engineering and offers networking opportunities with other programs across campus. Since its inception five years ago, 420 students representing 25 countries globally have completed the program, which now accepts 114 students/cohort. MMIE participants have created 89 start-ups and scale-ups, collectively raising $750,000 and employing 112 people. By placing a strong emphasis on interdisciplinarity, Queen’s has been able to increase each individual unit’s capacity for providing immersive programming, thereby fostering development of entrepreneurial mindsets.

[Photo of the QICSI 2019 cohort at Mitchell Hall]
The 2019 Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI) cohort at Mitchell Hall.

Co- and Extra-Curricular Offerings in Entrepreneurship and Innovation

The university also offers numerous co- and extra-curricular opportunities in entrepreneurship and innovation, many of which are provided and/or coordinated through the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC) and Queen’s University’s Partnerships and Innovation (QPI). DDQIC was founded in 2012, following a significant gift jointly provided by distinguished alumni Andrew Dunin, Sc ’83, MBA ‘87, and his wife Anne Dunin, ArtSci ‘83, and Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, PhD ‘79, and his wife Jaishree Deshpande. 

DDQIC collaborates with schools and faculties, assisting in the development and delivery of many co-curricular programs across campus. The centre runs the Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI), a 16-week full-time program in which participants complete a two-week boot camp and receive seed capital to found and build ventures. Since 2012, DDQIC has mentored 460 changemakers in QICSI and helped students launch and grow 200 ventures, 50% of which are still in operation, including Mosaic Manufacturing, CleanSlate UV, and RockMass Technologies. The part-time DDQIC QyourVenture program operates year-long and supports early stage start-ups by providing foundation and mentorship. Furthermore, DDQIC prioritizes innovators and leaders from underrepresented groups through its Konnect program for women entrepreneurs and the Jim Leech MasterCard Foundation Fellowship for young African entrepreneurs. 

QPI supports programming through workshops targeting thematic areas and groups (e.g. health, research-based graduate students) and in sector-targeted and IP/commercialization-advising roles. It provides an accelerator facility for growing ventures, complementing DDQIC’s QICSI, and offers linkages to other ecosystems, notably the Kingston-Syracuse Pathway in Health Innovation, Invest Ottawa, the Toronto-based Technology Innovation Accelerator Program, and L-Spark. Since 2014, QPI has supported 300 entrepreneurs and 150 ventures.

Student engagement extends beyond Queen’s as DDQIC, QPI, and their partner organizations deliver entrepreneurship-geared educational outreach programs, providing translational career and leadership skills to high school students in the Kingston area and globally.

The university received the award as part of a ceremony on June 10, 2021.  

Training Canada’s future health data workforce

With $1.6 million in funding, NSERC’s CREATE program is supporting the implementation of an experiential graduate training and research program in medical informatics at Queen’s.

[Photo of Parvin Mousavi]
Dr. Parvin Mousavi (Computing) is the Director of Queen's new CREATE Training Program in Medical Informatics.

Queen’s researcher Parvin Mousavi (Computing) and her co-investigators have been awarded $1.6 million in funding over six years as part of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s (NSERC) Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) program. The fund supports the training and mentoring of students and post-doctoral fellows in developing academic and industry skills in areas such as research, communications, and collaboration. The objective is to encourage collaborative and integrative approaches to addressing Canada’s research priorities while also fostering job readiness skills for trainees across sectors.

Leaders in their fields
This unique CREATE program is led by 11 leading research experts in computing, machine learning, medical and imaging informatics, data analytics, software systems, and surgery. In addition to Dr. Mousavi, they include Drs. Randy Ellis, Gabor Fichtinger, Ting Hu, John Rudan, Amber Simpson, David Pichora, Yuan Tian, Boris Zevin, and investigators at Western University, Drs. Aaron Fenster and Sarah Mattonen.

Dr. Mousavi’s CREATE grant will support a training program in medical informatics, preparing Canada’s workforce to handle the health data of tomorrow. Since 2017 at least 86 per cent of family physicians in Canada use Electronic Medical Records, generating vast digital health data at an exponential rate. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated on a global scale the significance of digital health data and its interpretation to decision-making at all levels of healthcare. In fact, the pandemic has led to an acceleration on the part of the federal and provincial governments in Canada to invest in digital-first health strategies and high-performance computing platforms. The CREATE program will aim to further leverage data-driven decision-making in current and future public health responses.

Canada is not alone in the rapid accumulation of digital health data. By 2050, the global markets for artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare and medical informatics are forecasted to grow to a combined $134 billion. Just to meet Canada’s immediate needs, the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) predicts at least 120,000 skilled workers in computational sciences will be required by 2023 to support the health and biotechnology sector alone. Currently, most graduate computer science programs in Canada follow a course+thesis model where there is limited access to training and field experience in machine learning for healthcare informatics. With Dr. Mousavi’s leadership, Queen’s will be home to a unique CREATE program providing comprehensive training in medical informatics, experiential learning, and skills development to prepare students for careers in this rapidly developing sector. 

"We aim to solidify Canada’s competitive advantage in the global space through concerted efforts to train computer scientists with specialized multi-disciplinary experience in medical informatics and digital health, and engage diverse groups and experiences in our training," says Dr. Mousavi. "Our aim is to not just train students for jobs immediately after graduation but prepare them for success throughout their careers."

Dr. Mousavi and her co-investigators have collaboratively developed the NSERC CREATE training program in consultation with key industry and government stakeholders to augment the course+thesis model with opportunities for experiential learning, practicums, mentorship, and competency-based training to help students gain these critically needed skillsets. During the program, students will have training opportunities with extensive real-world clinical data through partnerships with the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the Ontario Health Data Platform, and the Canadian Cancer Trials Group at Queen’s. The program also leverages partnerships with Western University and Kingston Health Sciences Centre, and collaborations with industry and academia including the Vector Institute alongside Queen’s-based research infrastructure and expertise at the Centre for Advanced Computing, the Human Mobility Research Centre, and KGH Research Institute.

The NSERC CREATE grant is just the beginning, with Dr. Mousavi and her co-investigators already planning for long-term sustainability of the program. Through the advancement of partnerships, establishment of courses and micro-credentials, and development of research projects and funding, they aim to continue the comprehensive training program following the grant and help build a hub of excellence in healthcare informatics and data analysis at Queen’s.

"Congratulations to Dr. Mousavi and her co-investigators on securing this competitive funding that advances connections between research and training opportunities," says Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Research). "The program builds on an area of institutional interdisciplinary strength and will help position Canada to leverage heath data in decision- and policy-making."

For more information on projects and recruitment, visit the program website or email infoMedICREATE@cs.queensu.ca.

For more information on the CREATE program and training opportunities, visit the NSERC website

Queen's Skills Cards recognized as innovative practice

Graphic for best student program award at the Global Career Services Summit 2021

Queen’s students have many skills and strengths, but they may not always know how best to articulate them, especially as they prepare for job interviews.

To help students learn how to talk about themselves with confidence and clarity, Career Services, a unit in Student Affairs, developed the Queen’s Skills Cards, which have now received international recognition: at the Global Career Services Summit 2021, the Skills Cards received the Best Student Program Award.

The Skills Cards are a set of 44 cards describing skills that Queen’s students can develop during their studies, both in and out of class, that correlate with skills employers are looking for.

The Best Student Program Award recognizes practices that are designed to best serve students. The Global Career Services Summit recognized the Queen’s Skill Cards as a creative and easy-to-implement tool for lessening the skills awareness gap for students and recent graduates.

In addition to physical cards, and to ensure access to students and new alumni wherever they are located, there is a pdf version and the interactive Skills Cards Sorter.

The new online Skills Cards Sorter allows users to move cards into categories based on whether they find the skills draining or energizing, and whether they have higher or lower proficiency in that skill. Skill assessment helps students make more informed decisions about which careers they most want to pursue and improves their ability to pursue those roles with stronger resumes, cover letters, and interviews.  

These cards are another tool that assist students and new grads as they begin to navigate their careers and are free and available to everyone. Educators who wish to use them in classrooms may choose to read more about the project and contact Career Services Counsellors who will be happy to facilitate Skills Cards workshops.

Learn more on the Career Services website.

Celebrating the Class of 2021

Queen’s congratulates graduates on success in the face of unprecedented challenges.

Another academic year at Queen’s is now complete and more than 5,800 students have a big reason to celebrate, now that they have officially graduated. To help mark these achievements, the university is sharing a video message to offer congratulations to graduates and highlight their achievements and perseverance in the face of challenges posed by COVID-19.

“These have been unprecedented times, and very difficult times in which to bring an end to your course of study,” says Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, in his remarks. “That you’ve done so in such circumstances is remarkable, and therefore all the more admirable and deserving of our congratulations.”

With strict public health measures still in place in Ontario, on-site convocation events have had to be postponed, with plans to offer in-person ceremonies later once guidelines permit. As vaccination programs continue across the country, and return to campus planning well underway, Queen’s is hopeful that ceremonies missed in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic can be held.

“I’m so honoured to be able to offer you my most sincere congratulations on the completion of your degree at Queen’s,” says Kanonhsyonne Janice Hill, Associate Vice-Principal (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation), who joined Principal Deane in the video. “It’s been a very challenging year, but you persevered and succeeded. You should be very proud of yourself for doing so.”

While opportunities to host future in-person ceremonies are explored, graduates can expect to receive their diplomas by mail in the coming weeks, and the names of conferred degree recipients are being shared online by the Office of the University Registrar marking their official graduation. Several faculties and schools are planning virtual events or gestures of recognition in the near term.

“I’m so pleased to celebrate the successful conclusion to your studies and recognize your earned degree, diploma or certificate,” Chancellor Jim Leech says, making the final congratulatory remarks in the video.  “You should be proud of your accomplishment and that you are now a full-fledged Queen’s alum.”

For more information on Spring 2021 graduation, please visit the office of the University Registrar's website.

Principal Deane unveils university’s strategic framework

Queen’s convenes working groups to advance operational priorities.

Queen's Strategic Framework written on a blue banner, Mitchell Hall photograph in the background.
Newly established working groups will work over the coming months to define goals in support the Strategic Framework.

Following a comprehensive, year-long consultation with the campus community led by Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane, the university’s Board of Trustees has approved Queen’s new strategic framework. Developed out of consultations with faculty, staff, students, alumni, and stakeholders in Canada and abroad, the new strategy defines the mission, vision and values of Queen’s and identifies six strategic goals aimed at positioning Queen’s as a university committed to societal impact and positive change.

“More than a year ago, I began a comprehensive consultation process to better understand who we are as a university and why we are,” says Principal Deane, who met with several thousand Queen’s community stakeholders as part of The Conversation. “From that frank, thoughtful, and at times unflinchingly critical process emerged the components of a positive, forward-looking strategy for our institution – one that will make explicit that Queen’s is a university for the future.”

Principal Deane has established six working groups to advance the strategy in its next stage of implementation. Each working group corresponds with one of six strategic goals articulated in the framework, which include aiming to increase the university’s research impact; advancing the student learning experience; growing the interdependence between research and teaching; strengthening the university’s global engagement; deepening the university’s relationship with the local, regional, and national communities; and improving Queen’s organizational culture.

“Queen’s new strategy leads with an important vision statement that declares we are a community,” says Principal Deane. “In that spirit, I very much look forward to convening the working groups and, with their assistance, identifying ways by which we can realize our fullest potential as an institution.”

Each working group is led by a faculty champion and includes additional representatives from faculty, university senate, staff, and students. Chairs include Parvin Mousavi, Erik Knutsen, Ram Murty, Sandra den Otter, and Elaine Power. Ellie Sadinsky, a staff member, will co-chair the working group on organizational culture with a faculty member. The working groups will meet over June and July and are tasked with developing two or three operational priorities to align with the strategic goals. The groups will engage the community through public consultation and online feedback before finalizing their goals, which are to be presented to a steering committee, chaired by Principal Deane, in early August.

The steering committee – comprised of the chairs of the working groups, the senior leadership team, and the deans – will then combine the operational priorities into a plan to enable implementation of the new strategy in the early fall. Central to the realization of the strategy will be the university’s recent commitment to advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals; a commitment for which Queen’s was recently recognized as a national and global leader.

Learn more about the working groups, their composition, and mandates.

Innovating to improve virtual teaching and learning

Queen’s is receiving funding from the Government of Ontario for the creation of digital educational material for students in many different areas of the university.

As the past academic year has shown, digital innovations in teaching and learning can have a powerful effect on both students and instructors. Queen’s will now be developing 32 projects to improve online education at the university thanks to over $2 million in funding from the Government of Ontario's Virtual Learning Strategy (VLS) initiative, which is supported by eCampusOntario.

“Queen’s success in securing Virtual Learning Strategy funding shows the dedication of our faculty and staff to pursuing innovative methods to enhance teaching and learning, especially as the pandemic has forced us to adapt to virtual models of course delivery,” says Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) John Pierce. “Even once it is safe to return to in-person instruction, the new materials created by this funding will support the teaching and learning environment at Queen’s for years to come.”

The VLS funding enables Queen’s to produce a variety of new online educational resources, including full courses and training modules, that will benefit students at many levels and in many different areas of the university. The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science (FEAS), the Faculty of Arts and Science (FAS), the Faculty of Health Sciences, the Faculty of Education, the School of Graduate Studies, and the Regional Assessment and Resource Centre all submitted successful projects.

The digital educational material will teach students about a wide array of topics, including robotics, artificial intelligence, race and migration in Canada, and sustainability.

The funded projects will also support several areas of focus across the university, including equity, diversity, inclusion, and Indigenization (EDII). One project, “Modular Supports for Underrepresented Individuals to Access Internships and Work Integrated Learning,” will create modules that can be strategically integrated into relevant programs across Ontario to improve equitable access and inclusivity. The project is a joint initiative from FEAS, FAS, Career Services, the Human Rights and Equity office, and external collaborators.

The Provincial Virtual Learning Strategy

The VLS initiative was announced in December 2020 as a $50 million investment by the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities intended to drive growth and advancement in virtual learning across the province’s post-secondary institutions.

eCampusOntario is a provincially-funded non-profit organization that leads a consortium of the province’s 48 publicly-funded colleges, universities, and Indigenous institutes to develop and test online learning tools to advance the use of education technology and digital learning environments.

Learn more about the VLS on the eCampusOntario website.

How a unicorn is helping Ontario’s public and Catholic schools welcome gender diversity

Queen’s researcher Lee Airton has created Gegi.ca, an online resource that helps students advocate for their gender expression and gender identity human rights.

Gegi.ca is a newly launched website that advocates for gender identity and gender expression
Gegi.ca is a newly launched website that advocates for gender identity and gender expression

Queen’s researcher Lee Airton, Assistant Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies in Education, and Kyle Kirkup, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law (Common Law Section) at the University of Ottawa, have launched an online resource that targets elementary and high school students and educators seeking more information about gender identity and gender expression human rights protections. With “Gegi” – a beautiful/handsome nonbinary unicorn – as their guide, K-12 students across Ontario can acquire information and tools to self-advocate within their school and school board.

The launch of the website aligns with Education Week and Catholic Education Week initiatives across Ontario.

Gegi.ca was created following a study by Dr. Airton and Dr. Kirkup of how Ontario school boards were responding to their new legal responsibilities to offer an environment free from two separate forms of discrimination: for who you are gender-wise (your gender identity), and how you let others know through things like your clothing, grooming, and behaviour (your gender expression). The resource aims to translate and mobilize findings from their recent Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant (2018-2020), which identified that Canada is going through a gender human rights law revolution and that action was needed to directly address the incremental and uneven rate at which K-12 school structures and practices are changing in response.

“Gender expression and gender identity are still new concepts to many people, let alone new areas of legal responsibility for school staff. Gegi.ca is intended to fill this gap by supporting Ontario’s K-12 students and their loved ones is the kind of self-advocacy that changes schools for everyone,” says Dr. Airton.

Each Ontario school board (public and Catholic) will have two dedicated student and staff web pages on gegi.ca. These pages connect students and their loved ones or staff directly to relevant board policies and suggest what a Gegi visitor can do or whom to contact if their board has not yet updated its policies. Students are also invited to download and share information about their gender identity or gender expression human rights in relation to athletics, field trips, and washroom or changing room access directly with school staff or administration.

The site will also host a series of downloadable and accessible resources both in French and English. These resources contain the most up-to-date law- and research-informed guidance on the changes required to fulfill every school’s duty to create a learning environment free from discrimination on the basis of gender expression or gender identity.

 “Gegi.ca is a powerful resource for Ontario students and their families to ensure their gender identity and gender expression is protected and that students can thrive and grow in our schools,” says Rebecca Luce-Kapler, Dean, Faculty of Education.

Gegi.ca targets both students and teachers, providing access to knowledge and skills that are typically only held by legal professionals. Skills fostered by gegi.ca’s resources include legal self-advocacy (i.e., correctly identifying governing laws, past legal precedents, policies and procedure; and maintaining written records and conducting correspondence), and identifying key actors and levers of power within their own school and school board. For school staff who face gender expression discrimination, gegi.ca’s board-specific pages connect to local school board policies and advocacy resources, as well as union policies. Lastly, teachers and school administrators who recognize the presence of gender expression or gender identity discrimination in their school can access gegi.ca’s collection of tip sheets and curated resources, all of which prompt proactive change. The Gegi.ca team will also share the resources with equity leads in Ontario’s school boards and work to engage all directors of education as part of the rollout.

For more information on gegi.ca, visit the website.

Giving graduates a jumpstart on new careers

The Queen’s Career Apprenticeship: Kingston program, a one-year, salary paid, career apprenticeship helps new graduates jumpstart their careers while helping small business attract and retain highly skilled talent in Kingston.

In 2018 the Faculty of Arts and Science partnered with Kingston Economic Development in 2018 to create QCA:K, a program supported by Ottawa-based business leader and philanthropist Alan Rottenberg. 

Applications are being accepted for the upcoming year. 

Graduates apply to local companies; companies receive four months of funding towards salaries and successful applicants have a guaranteed full-time job for one year.

“‘Where/how do I get experience if no one is willing to hire me?’ is an all too familiar question,” says Chandra Erickson, Experiential Learning Coordinator, Faculty of Arts and Science. “Most entry-level positions ask for experience creating a common hurdle for new graduates during their initial job search. QCA:K bridges this gap by connecting new graduates with local employers, providing meaningful first work experience(s) and keeping our graduates in Kingston.”

The project was piloted in 2018-19 with eight jobs created in Kingston. The pilot year proved successful, with seven of eight positions turning into permanent employment – three of whom remain with the original employer. Since the initial pilot, student applications have grown from 28 to 173 and the number of business partners from 15 to 25, with the number of positions posted doubling from 18 to 32.

“Our Strategic Plan identifies experiential learning as an important part of the student experience,” says Jill Atkinson, Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning). “We are committed to increasing access to both work-integrated and community service learning. The QCA:K program is a valuable addition to the Faculty of Arts and Science’s work-integrated opportunities because it extends beyond university providing a bridge to the workforce.”

Apprenticeship opportunities for 2021 so far include:

  • Rogers & Trainors Commercial Realty Inc. Brokerage - Executive Assistant

  • Maureen McBratney, Sun Life Financial - Administrative Assistant

  • Sherlock’s Escapes – 1) Operations Manager and 2) Digital Media Coordinator

  • Little Giant’s Rockin’ Dog Town – Manager of Operations and Social Media

  • Cher-Mère - Digital Media Coordinator

  • MaxSold – Content Writer

  • Kinarm – Knowledge Translation Apprentice

“When I signed up for this program, I had no idea it was going to be so life-changing,” says Nour Mazloum (ArtSci’19), Communication and Events Officer at Kingston Economic Development Corporation. “I have loved every minute since I started my career with Kingston Economic Development. All the social events, the connections, the support from my colleagues and mentors and just the overall memories that have shaped me to be the woman I am today. I will be forever grateful for starting my career through this program.”

To hear another testimonial from 2019 QCA:K apprentice Justin Karch watch the YouTube video.

Erickson adds the goals for the QCA:K program include being top of mind for businesses in Kingston so when they are looking to recruit recent graduates, they think of QCA:K and that when graduating students think about starting their careers, they consider staying in Kingston.

The Government and Institutional Relations team at Queen’s shared information on the program with MPP Ian Arthur, who, in early March rose in the Legislature with a Member’s Statement to showcase the QCA:K and the collaboration between Queen’s Faculty of Arts and Science and Kingston Economic Development.

To learn more about the program, see the 2021 job postings, and hear testimonials from QCA:K graduates visit the website.

What are the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings?

Looking at the social impacts post-secondary institutions are creating locally and abroad.

The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings are the only global performance tables that assess universities against the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through their research, teaching, outreach, and stewardship efforts.

Over 1,000 institutions based around the globe were assessed in this year's rankings, and you can view their performance toward each of the 17 SDGs on the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings website. Find out how universities are moving toward eradicating poverty and hunger, increasing health and wellbeing, achieving gender equality, advancing climate action and clean energy, stimulating economic growth and innovation, and improving education. You can also explore Queen's University's Times Higher Education profile.

 

Working together to support the community

Teams of PhD students work together to address key issues facing the Kingston and Queen's communities through the PhD-Community Initiative.

PhD-Community Initiative
Queen's PhD students Nancy Fynn-Sackey helps present her team's project as part of the annual PhD-Community Initiative, hosted by the School of Graduate Studies. 

When Queen’s University and the City of Kingston work together, good things happen.

With both communities facing the new challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual PhD-Community Initiative pivoted to address key issues while at the same time fostering ties between Queen’s and the city with a focus on collaboration, community, and creativity.

Through the program, four teams of doctoral students worked with the City of Kingston on a series of projects related to the priorities of the Mayor’s Kingston Economic Recovery Team (KERT), while addressing the big question: How do we increase the community resilience that is required to support economic and social recovery post-COVID-19?

Participants came from across the university with a wide range of research areas and expertise and were formed into interdisciplinary teams.

“Our students have continuously demonstrated the talent, energy, and enthusiasm needed to fuel positive change by applying the skills and knowledge gained in graduate studies to addressing challenges beyond the academic arena,” says Fahim Quadir, Vice-Provost and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. “At the same time they are giving back to the community in meaningful ways that will have long-lasting effects.”

Starting in September, the teams met on a weekly basis and have been supported by a mentor, most of whom are retired faculty members. Joined by Mayor Bryan Paterson, the program culminated on Monday, April 19 as each of the teams made their final presentations for their projects to a broad audience from within Queen’s and the wider Kingston community. The capstone event was hosted virtually and the presentations will be available online.

“The Queen’s PhD-Community Initiative has been an important annual opportunity for both students and community organizations to connect and create impact in our community,” says Mayor Bryan Paterson. “With the pandemic, the need is even greater for our community to come together to support each other, particularly those in social and economic distress. The four PhD teams collaborating with our Economic Recovery Working Groups have made significant contributions to advancing recovery and resilience in Kingston. I look forward to continuing to build strong relationships with graduate students at Queen’s.”

In fact, the Queen's PhD-Community Initiative's success bolstered Queen's successful submission to Times Higher Education's Impact Rankings, in which the university ranked 1st in Canada and 5th in the world for progress toward the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.

Supporting the community

For the participating doctoral students, the initiative not only provides an opportunity to support the community that is their home but also to learn new skills and apply the ones they have developed at Queen’s, while also making new connections within the university and city.

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.

Some students have enjoyed their experience so much that they have participated in the program twice. Hannah Ascough, a PhD candidate in Global Development Studies, participated last year as a student and signed up again this year as a co-mentor, and learning new skills around leadership and managing teams.

“I initially involved myself in the program to connect and learn from students in other disciplines, and hear their perspectives on research, school and community engagement,” she says. “The PhD-Community Initiative certainly fostered these rich, lasting friendships; however, my experience was also rewarded by the connections our team made with our community partners. Through our project, I learned firsthand how creative interdisciplinary research is, and saw how it can be mobilized to make positive, long-lasting change. I have loved all my experiences with the initiative, and recommend it for anyone looking to engage with other graduate students, and give back to their community.”

For more information about the PhD-Community Initiative program, visit the Expanding Horizons website.

PROJECTS

PhD United (Resilient Kingston) 
The aim of Resilient Kingston is to encourage and study resilience during the pandemic by offering members of the community a chance to connect with one another and share their experiences and perspectives in online focus groups. Participants discussed their perceptions of Kingston’s response to COVID-19, as well as topics related to making and maintaining social connections, adapting both personally and professionally, becoming more aware of privilege, and finding ways to safely engage with the community and its institutions during the pandemic.

TRIADS (Training and Reskilling Individuals through Actionable Deliverables that are Sustainable)
The TRIADS group’s goal is to empower the Kingston arts and creative community through upskilling opportunities post COVID-19. The group conducted a literature search and conducted interviews with local artists and faculty to determine the needs of the Kingston arts community. The recommendation for the city is an entrepreneurial program containing mentorship, continuous engagement, and experiential learning.

KOG (Kingston Outreach Group)
The pandemic is an excellent opportunity for PhD students to give back to the Kingston community. The KOG team focused on finding ways to better understand and support individuals who are working and yet still living in poverty. 

C5 (Community COVID Concerns Communicated Consciously)
Through a survey completed by more than 2,000 people in the Kingston area, the C5 team investigated consumer habits and associated perceptions of risk during the pandemic and pre-pandemic. It is hoped that the findings will help Kingston businesses (and the city) to better understand the concerns of the community and provide responsive services and support. 

A recording of the event will be available soon on the School of Graduate Studies’ YouTube page.

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