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Student Learning Experience

Improving racial representation in medical learning materials

A team of medical students is helping review and improve all pre-clerkship learning materials in undergraduate medical education.

An initial group of four medical students recruited more than 120 others to review approximately 900 learning materials, and identify learning events that needed improvement with respect to racial representation. (Supplied photo) 

For Iku Nwosu (Meds’22), a Black medical student at Queen’s, sitting in dermatology lectures, and watching slide after slide of skin conditions presented on mostly white skin tones, has been frustrating.   

“It’s been pretty discouraging to not see my skin tone represented in the lecture materials,” says Nwosu, now in third year. “Because of this, I may not be able to diagnose conditions on myself, my family members, community members, or my future kids, and neither can others in my class. 

“To me, it implies the university is complicit with sending out a cohort of medical students, future physicians, who don’t know what things look like in a large portion of the population. I thought this was really dangerous.” 

Similarly, Shakira Brathwaite (Meds’21) has also felt disappointed and frustrated with the lack of diversity in teaching resources. While she was on a dermatology placement outside of Kingston, she says she was excited to see patients who looked like her, with Black skin, but at the same time, she felt unprepared to manage their cases, because she had not learned to recognize the severity of certain conditions in skin of colour. 

“It was upsetting. I didn’t feel like I was giving them optimal care at that point,” says Brathwaite, noting that dermatologists have specialized training and can recognize conditions in different skin tones, but most general practitioners do not have this ability, which means patients with skin tones other than white are not given the appropriate therapies at crucial times. 

Because of their experiences, Brathwaite and Nwosu, along with fellow medical students, Aquila Akingbade (Meds’22) and Eric Zhang (Meds’23), have sought to make change at Queen’s with respect to racial representation in medical school teaching materials and curricula.  

Brathwaite’s experience pushed her to seek funding through the Ontario Medical Student Association, a process she began in 2019, to create an interactive teaching module that provides information about various skin conditions, what to look for in different skin tones, as well as photos showing how ailments present in various skin colours. The compact, curated module will be easy to use, accessible, and available as a point-of-care resource for practitioners, Brathwaite says. 

Together, Nwosu, Akingbade, and Zhang decided to bring the skin representation issue up with leadership in the School of Medicine. They proposed a review of not only the dermatology lecture materials, but all pre-clerkship learning materials in undergraduate medical education (UGME).  

With widespread support for their project, Nwosu, Akingbade, and Zhang recruited more than 120 Queen’s students to review approximately 900 learning materials, and identify learning events that needed improvement with respect to racial representation. The students found that out of 168 learning events with skin presentations, 131 of those events contained only white skin presentations. The students also flagged 89 learning events for potential improvements in Indigenous representation.  

“There are numerous statistics that show skin cancer is not being caught early on in Black patients, and that it is being diagnosed at a much more lethal stage,” says Akingbade. “Black people represent a smaller percentage of skin cancer patients overall, but there is a much higher proportion of Black people who are likely to die from the disease. 

“This is something that is wholly preventable and it starts at the institutional level. We have to start teaching and normalizing what conditions look like in darker-skinned individuals.” 

A representative image collection

A key component in improving racial representation in lecture materials has been the need for a central repository of images, and one that contains a significant number of images with different skin tones. To that end, and because of the students’ work and leadership involvement, Bracken Health Sciences Library has purchased access to VisualDX, a medical image database that is currently the best repository of diverse images. 

“The students have done a really great job of mobilizing a lot of resources, and acquiring VisualDX through the library is an important step in addressing challenges in this area,” says Michelle Gibson, Assistant Dean, Curriculum, UGME, who has supported Nwosu, Akingbade, and Zhang on the review project.  

“At UGME, we do not want to depend on student work to support our curricular reform,” says Dr. Gibson, noting that there are many different projects currently in the works to improve racial diversity in UGME curriculum. “But we are grateful to the students for their work, and we always welcome and value student partnerships. This has been a strength of our curriculum for years.” 

Nwosu, Zhang, and Akingbade have prepared a draft framework for racial representation of learning materials in UGME, including standards that all materials should meet, and where to find images to meet the criteria. Student volunteers are also ready to help implement changes to learning materials for lecturers to use in the next academic year. 

For the teaching module, Brathwaite has created the script for the interactive, curated resource, and is currently in the process of gaining permissions for image use, learning more about VisualDX and how it may be used in the module, and working with dermatologists to incorporate the most up-to-date information on certain skin conditions. 

Interest in advocacy work

Momentum behind these two projects, as well as several others, has been fuelled by the global Black Lives Matter protests in spring and summer of 2020, along with the pandemic, which the students say forced more people to pay attention to racial disparities, around the world and at a local level. Last summer, Queen’s students were eager to get involved in advocacy work, and Nwosu, Akingbade, and Zhang say the group effort made a huge difference, making the time commitment to review learning materials much more feasible.  

“We are a smaller community and the medical school here has very involved students,” Nwosu says. “I think it’s important that if students see a gap, they feel empowered to propose a solution.”  

Zhang emphasizes that their work on this project has been conducted with the understanding that the issue is not just a local one, but a national and international problem. 

“This is not just a Queen’s problem,” Zhang says. “We’ve always had in the back of our minds that if we can do this successfully here, then we can create resources that will be helpful to other schools across the country.” 

This article was originally published by the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Power restored following outage

Several buildings affected by a power outage. Outage expected to last 6-8 hours

Power was restored to all the affected areas at approximately 12:30 pm on Friday, March 5.


Queen’s campus is currently experiencing a power outage to several buildings on campus. The outage is impacting buildings west of Fifth Field Company Lane and south of Union Street, including Theological Hall. 

John Deutsch University Centre (JDUC) and Goodes Hall are also affected as are Residences buildings within this zone, with the exception of Ban Righ Hall. 

Repairs are expected to take 6-8 hours to complete. Affected buildings are closed during this repair. 

In-person spring convocation ceremonies delayed due to COVID-19

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane confirmed earlier today that the Spring 2021 convocation ceremonies will not be hosted in-person, due to the ongoing pandemic and the effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Principal Deane sent letters to this year’s graduating students, as well as 2020 spring and fall graduates who also did not have in-person ceremonies.

In the letters, the principal expressed his pride in the efforts of all graduating students in the face of significant challenges.

“I appreciate that your Queen’s experience over the last year may not have been what you were expecting – it is not what any of us were expecting for you,” he says. “Still, you will graduate soon, and we look forward to celebrating your achievements and welcoming you into the Queen’s alumni family.

Convocation is a capstone event for Queen’s graduates and Principal Deane restated the university’s commitment to holding in-person ceremonies for all 2021 and 2020 graduating students soon as it is safe to do so, with the necessary precautions.

Alternate graduation events to be hosted by the university and faculties are currently being planned. Details will be communicated in the coming weeks as they are finalized.

“I recognize this is a disappointment for our spring 2021 graduates, as it has been for everyone who graduated in 2020,” Principal Deane adds. “It is disappointing for the university as well, as convocation is a highlight for the entire campus community.”

While the convocation ceremonies are delayed, students who have applied to graduate, and who have completed all program requirements, will graduate. Each degree will be officially conferred and mailed to graduating students.

An announcement will be made when it is determined that it is safe to host in-person convocation ceremonies. Updates can also be found on the Office of the University Registrar’s website.

IGnite Virtual set for March 4

The IGnite series, hosted by the McDonald Institute and Queen’s University Relations, is returning virtually for 2021. The free online forum showcases stories of discovery from researchers at Queen’s University. Speaker presentations are engaging and geared toward a wide variety of audiences, making IGnite accessible for anyone who is interested in attending.  

The next installment, IGnite Virtual, will be held on Thursday, March 4, 7-8:45 pm on YouTube. Panelists include astroparticle physicist Nahee Park (Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy) and her former student, Emma Ellingwood, who will discuss their work on high energy cosmic accelerators. Biomechanical engineers Kevin Deluzio (also Dean of the Engineering and Applied Science) and Elise Laende, postdoctoral fellow with Mechanical and Materials Engineering, will share their research on motion capture and understanding how people move through time and space. The event will feature behind-the-scenes science tours and an audience question and answer period.

IGnite Virtual is open to all and no registration is required to view the YouTube livestream

To learn more, visit the McDonald Institute website.

[Promotional Graphic: IGnite Virtual - March 4 7 - 8:45 PM EST Streamed on YouTube]


Helping students design their summer

Career Services is connecting students with hundreds of job listings and workshops to help them find summer opportunities.

Poster for summer opportunities 2021
Students can attend summer-job-themed workshops and career-related events throughout the rest of the term.

Each summer many students look for opportunities to build skills, enhance resumes, and make some money. Typically, these goals are met through a combination of employment, volunteering, professional development, entrepreneurial initiatives, and further education. Given the continuing impacts of the pandemic, many students are wondering about options for summer 2021.

To support students as they consider their options and plan for this summer, Career Services in Student Affairs, has launched a new one-stop website that brings together information on how to successfully find and create opportunities.

“While many aspects of life may be uncertain, employers are continuing to recruit Queen’s students,” says Carole Morrison, Associate Director, Operations and Business Development, Career Services. “The MyCareer job board has posted over 550 jobs in the last six weeks alone, and new postings are being added every day. Many employers are still working through what the summer will look like and we will be continuing to reach out to employers right through spring and into summer.”

In addition to the website and online job postings, students can attend summer-job-themed workshops and career-related events throughout the rest of the term. The next event is the Summer Opportunities Networking Event on March 4th. All students are welcome.

Life Sciences student Cheyenne Bates attended a similar event this past fall.

“I really appreciated the networking event,” she says. “It was cool to see all the career opportunities I could pursue with my degree, many of which I hadn’t even considered before. Talking with the employers in the relaxed environment really made me feel at ease, and I felt that I had real, meaningful conversations with many of them.”

Check out the new webpages for details and the event schedules.

Creativity in the online classroom

Classics professor Barbara Reeves holds excavating tools as she sits on an orange Kubota tractor.
In her first-year archaeology class, Barbara Reeves (Classics) has travelled all over Kingston filming herself talking about archaeological methods and procedures in interesting locations. (Supplied photo)

With the ongoing pandemic, professors and instructors in the Faculty of Arts and Science have had to rethink the ways they connect with students. Several courses have been adapted to the new world of online learning including redesigning the use of textbooks, using Zoom technology for performances, and exploring archaeology virtually.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the landscape of education across the country,” says Barbara Crow, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Science. “Not only have many of us learned new technologies and pedagogies, it has also been challenging for faculty with uneven access to WIFI, parenting with small children, parents in long term care and the longer hours to learn. They have also found new and innovative ways of delivering their courses and course materials. I continue to be amazed by the energy, enthusiasm, and creativity of our teaching and instructional design teams, and I am always pleased to hear and share their stories”

What follows is just five stories that show how our educators are enriching the student experience in unique and creative ways:

Barbara Reeves (Classics) brought a unique teaching twist to her first-year archaeology class. She travelled all over Kingston filming herself talking about archaeological methods and procedures in interesting locations.

One week she introduced excavation tools while standing in front of a fake ruin in a friend’s backyard. Another week Dr. Reeves discussed survey techniques next to an abandoned railway track in farmer’s field. In other weeks she filmed in city parks, in front of construction sites, and on Queen’s campus. In each case she sought out an interesting location to support the learning of that week’s material.

“Both the students and I really enjoyed the result and I think such videos will now be part of my teaching even when we return to the classrooms,” says Dr. Reeves. “I feel there is too much focus on the problems and difficulties with remote teaching so I’m hoping we can counter that with some good news stories such as my own.” 

The Dan School of Drama and Music commissioned librettist Donna-Michelle St. Bernard and composer Afarin Mansouri to write a mini Zoom opera specifically for students in Colleen Renihan’s Music Theatre Ensemble. These students are experimenting with ways to capture online, aspects of community, co-presence, and immediacy that are valued in live music theatre. 

"This is an incredibly difficult time for performing artists but rather than simply press pause and wait for some semblance of normalcy to return, my students and I are leveraging the possibilities of the digital space to re-imagine our preoccupations with liveness, co-presence, and immediacy,” says Dr. Renihan. “Guided by these industry professionals, we are discovering what remote collaboration and performance can look like for music theatre in this new space."

The Department of Psychology recently redesigned PSYC100 with the aim of bringing contemporary and rigorous insights to students in such a way that promotes access. As part of this redesign, PSYC100 now uses a free Open Access textbook, with chapters written by leading experts across the world.

The course instructor, Meghan Norris, along with her undergraduate and a number of graduate teaching assistants, create rapport through weekly booster videos designed to address common facts from the course discussion board in the previous week. PSYC100 also uses informal check-ins through onQ to see how students are doing, and to look for ways to tweak the course to meet the needs of students studying all over the world.

Isabelle St-Amand (French Studies) is currently developing a course for the French for Professionals Certificate, titled Indigenous Arts and Contexts. This ASO online course is intended for distance students who are professionals working in relation to Indigenous arts and contexts (artistic and cultural organizations, education, government). It is designed to provide learners with the oral and written skills necessary to accurately understand and effectively engage with Indigenous arts and contexts in the workplace.

“The innovative aspect is how the course offers students multiple encounters with Indigenous artists who produce work in French, in an Indigenous language, or in translation, and with the diversity of course format (video recordings, film previews, short texts, interviews, etc.),” says Dr. St-Amand. “The course was developed with great care to maintain connections I have developed over the years with artists and organizations from the Indigenous arts community, to showcase and to reflect their work and vision. It could be described in some ways as an effort to Indigenize the French language for students studying it as a second or third language.”

In the Dan School of Drama and Music John Burge used Feedback Fruits Video for asynchronous preparation of a fall-term course on Mahler Symphonies, in which the class prepared ahead by watching videos that he had annotated with commentary and questions. Dr. Burge noted that because Feedback Fruits is available in onQ, it was an easy matter to select YouTube videos for this purpose. Additionally, any marks generated from the activity were connected directly to the onQ grade book and it was simply a one-click process to publish the grades.

“Mahler Symphonies are between 60-90 minutes long and with so many great performances of these works on YouTube, it was easy to feature a different orchestra and conductor for each Mahler Symphony,” says Dr. Burge. “The annotated videos included multiple choice questions drawn from that week’s assigned reading or by asking comparative questions with earlier symphonies. You could easily use Feedback Fruits Videos to increase student attention to any course’s video content and I will certainly be using it again in the future.”

This article was first published by the Faculty of Arts and Science. If you have an example of innovative and creative teaching techniques within the Faculty of Arts and Science, email anne.craig@queensu.ca for inclusion in the Faculty of Arts and Science’s monthly feature.

Deadline for undergraduate students to drop course without financial penalty extended to March 5.

In recognition of the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and remote learning, the winter term course drop date without financial penalty for undergraduate students is being extended to March 5.

This provides undergraduate students more time and flexibility to settle into the term and make any adjustments to their winter term course load, as needed.  

Prior to this extension, undergraduate students dropping a winter course would have avoided a financial penalty up until 22 January, and would have received a partial financial credit for courses dropped between 23 January and 5 March.

Undergraduate students are encouraged to speak with an academic advisor in their faculty/school office before making the decision to drop a winter term 2021 course through SOLUS. 

Undergraduate students who are receiving government student financial assistance (e.g. OSAP or equivalent in other provincial/territorial jurisdictions) are encouraged to consult with a Student Awards advisor before dropping a course, as any change in academic registration and/or assessed tuition may impact this funding.

Undergraduate students who dropped a winter term 2021 course after the previous deadline of January 22 will have their account credited.

For more information on process changes and deadline adjustments for students, visit the Registrar's website.

Undergraduate Admissions welcomes first Equity Ambassadors

New peer advisors are set to engage and support applicants and prospective students.

Photo collage of the five Equity Ambassadors.
Queen's first five Equity Ambassadors (clockwise from top-left): Tamjid Bari, Tatiana Yunadi, Kidus Leul, Fahmida Hossain, and Astrid Louise.

Prospective Queen’s University students can now connect directly with upper-year peers to learn about student life from a shared perspective. The first five Equity Ambassadors have joined the Undergraduate Admissions team and will be connecting about their lived experiences as BIPOC members of the campus community, and supporting applicants from equity-seeking backgrounds through the admissions process, as well as their transition to first-year studies.

The first ambassadors represent a range of academic disciplines in arts and science, and recruitment continues for ambassadors from all faculties and schools. Ambassadors are current students who have demonstrated leadership and a commitment to advancing equity, diversity, inclusion and Indigeneity (EDII), and are excited to be engaging with prospective students and their families about what Queen’s has to offer.

“A sense of community always seems to be a major factor in a student’s deliberations when they’re deciding which university to attend – it surely was for me!” says Fahmida Hossain, Equity Ambassador and fourth-year Life Sciences major. “Knowing in advance that there are current students from equity-seeking groups attending Queen’s, and also being able to hear and talk about our experiences here, helps establish this sense. My hope is that by having these conversations, our unique approaches to finding our way at Queen’s will help prospective students from equity-seeking groups navigate their admissions experience.”

Hossain is joined by fellow ambassadors, Astrid Louise Nandoh, a second-year Political Science major; Kidus Leul, a second-year Economics major; Tamjid Bari, a fourth-year Global Development Studies major; and Tatiana Yunadi, a fourth-year Sociology major. Many of the ambassadors are engaged in EDII-advancing Queen’s clubs, as well as with community organizations, and both Canadian and international students are represented within the group.

“Our first Equity Ambassadors are enthusiastic, young leaders with experience and insight I know will be invaluable to applicants,” says Ann Tierney, Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs. “Prospective students and their families want to know they are choosing a university where they will thrive academically and feel welcomed and supported. Speaking with current students – their peers – is a fantastic way for them to have their questions answered and be able to access support as they navigate the university experience.”

On Feb. 11, the campus community is invited to join a Meet the Equity Ambassadors webinar during which the group will talk about their own experiences, as well as choosing programs, financial aid options, campus supports, and more.

Following the Principal's Declaration of Commitment to Address Systemic Racism, the Equity Ambassadors initiative was announced in November 2020 as one of a number of strategies being implemented within Queen’s undergraduate admissions and recruitment processes to help eliminate potential barriers for BIPOC applicants.

Among the other strategies are new merit- and needs-based financial awards to provide assistance for applicants who identify as underrepresented, as well as a new Equity Admission Self-Identification form designed to support the university in gathering and understanding new data about campus diversity. Already, over 5,000 applicants have chosen to complete the new form—information that will benefit the Equity Ambassadors as they begin connecting with prospective students.

Equity Ambassadors are paid experiential learning positions, and include comprehensive training and support. Students can learn more about the initiative and how to apply to become an ambassador by logging into the Career Services MyCareer website with their NetID.

Recruiting the top international scholars of tomorrow

Queen’s unveils improved financial support for international PhD students.

Photograph of PhD convocation robes
This new policy is one of the first outcomes of the report released by the Working Group on Graduate Student Success in fall 2019. (University Communications.)

International PhD students are an integral part of the life of Queen’s, bringing diverse perspectives to campus and contributing to the university’s research mission. Soon these students will have improved financial support from the university. Starting September 2021, tuition fees for international PhD students will be assessed at the same rate as those of domestic students, which will result in a substantially lower cost to pursue their education.

“With this new tuition policy, we are setting up international PhD students for success and making Queen’s a more attractive choice for graduate education for the most promising emerging scholars from around the world,” says Fahim Quadir, Vice Provost and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies (SGS). “This decision is a part of a broader set of efforts underway to enhance the overall graduate student experience at Queen’s.”

This new policy is one of the first outcomes of the report released by the Working Group on Graduate Student Success in fall 2019.

“The report on graduate student success has provided us with excellent guidance on how we can strengthen graduate education at Queen’s. This decision on tuition exemplifies our commitment to enhancing our programs by supporting the many contributions international PhD students make to our research,” says Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane.

The Working Group on Graduate Student Success, chaired by Dean Quadir, was established in 2018 after a Board-Senate retreat in March of that year. The Working Group was tasked with assessing the state of graduate education at Queen’s and making recommendations for ways to promote excellence in graduate education and experience. Throughout the process, the Working Group consulted extensively with current graduate students, faculty, and staff, and it examined the policies of other Canadian universities to learn best practices.

In its final report, the Working Group made 35 recommendations focused on six areas of strategic importance: student-supervisor relationships, professional and academic development, wellness and community, research excellence, communication, and financial support.

Following the release of the report, SGS established another working group to focus on graduate student funding. This working group developed the proposal for assessing domestic and international PhD student tuition fees at the same rate, which was then approved by the senior leadership of the university and the Board of Trustees.

“After reviewing the state of funding for international PhD students at Queen’s, we concluded that it needed to be revitalized if we want to remain competitive in recruiting high quality students. This new policy brings Queen’s in line with many of our peer institutions across Canada, including other research-intensive universities in Ontario,” says James Reynolds, Chair of the Working Group on Graduate Student Funding and Associate Dean of SGS.

Along with this tuition change, SGS is working to implement other recommendations from the 2019 report, including a new policy on graduate supervision for which feedback from graduate students, faculty, and other stakeholders will be sought in the coming weeks.

 “We’ve been listening closely to the concerns and ideas of our students to find out what they need to be successful at Queen’s. The recommendations and changes we are making are coming out of these consultations, and we thank our students for the insights they have been providing us,” says Reynolds.

SGS will be holding a town hall for current international PhD students to discuss the new tuition policy. The town hall will be held Wednesday Feb. 3 at 10:00 am EST. Students should email sgscomms@queensu.ca if they have questions about the event.

Learn more about graduate studies at Queen’s on the SGS website, where you can also read the 2019 report from the Working Group on Graduate Student Success.

Student summer research opportunities open to undergraduates

The Vice-Principal (Research) portfolio is seeking applicants for the Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowships (USSRF) program. This annual summer program offers opportunities for students to engage with research-based learning and develop their research and presentation skills.

USSRF primarily focuses on the promotion of research in the field of social sciences, humanities, and/or creative arts. This year, the program is offering a minimum of 21 fellowships at a value of $6,000 each.

To be eligible, student participants must be currently enrolled in a bachelor’s degree at the undergraduate level and must have completed a full year of studying at Queen’s. Additionally, students must be returning for undergraduate studies following the completion of the fellowship. Before the commencement of the research project, both the student and their faculty supervisor must submit all required documentation, including a completed application form from both parties. Working with a faculty supervisor at the undergraduate level is a unique aspect of the USSRF program, providing a window into the research process for students considering graduate studies.

Program applications are available on the Vice-Principal (Research) website and must be submitted by Monday, March 1, 2021. For more information on past USSRF projects, see The Gazette coverage of the 2020 participants for summaries and presentation recordings.


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