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Insights, advice and a song for Major Admission Awards

  • [Admission Awards - Abrams Brothers]
    John and James Abrams of The Abrams Brothers perform during the Major Admission Awards Reception held Monday, Sept 22 at Wallace Hall.
  • [Admission Awards - Abrams Brothers]
    John and James Abrams of The Abrams Brothers perform during the Major Admission Awards Reception.
  • [Admission Awards - Abrams Brothers]
    John and James Abrams stand alongside Alan Harrison, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic), during the Major Admission Awards Reception.
  • [Admission Awards - Haley Kawaja]
    Haley Kawaja, a Chernoff Family Award Scholar, speaks during the Major Admission Awards Reception as Ann Tierney and Alan Harrison look on.
  • [Admission Awards Reception]
    Donato Santeramo, Department Head for Languages, Literatures & Cultures, speaks to students at the Major Admission Awards Reception.
  • [Admission Awards - Ann Tierney]
    Ann Tierney, Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs, emceees the Major Admission Awards Reception at Wallace Hall.
  • [Admission Awards Reception]
    Students and faculty members attend the Major Admission Awards Reception held Monday, Sept. 22 at Wallace Hall.

A pair of upper year students offered their advice and personal insights Monday evening as Queen’s recognized its major admission award recipients at a reception. 

Both John Abrams and Haley Kawaja are award recipients themselves but have taken very different paths in their education and lives.

Mr. Abrams, a Chancellor’s Scholar from Kingston, is in his third year majoring in Film and Media with a minor in English Language and Literature.

However, he is better known as half of The Abrams Brothers, a country music duo named Best New Artist at the 2012 Canadian Country Music Awards. He and his brother James performed a song for the gathered crowd at Wallace Hall.  

His message was that many people, past and present, may have the ability to study at the university level but may not have the means. It was a message he related through the stories of his grandparents and parents. His father, now a judge, studied law after a career in the RCMP. Mr. Abrams recalled going to his father’s classes at Queen’s when he was a mere three years old.

“Most importantly for me, I recognize that in my generation a lot of us have what I would consider a misplaced sense of entitlement,” he says. “I observe that and I try every day to remember that I am not necessarily entitled to this, that this is a wonderful privilege to be here at this institution, to have this scholarship. As a result I carry myself accordingly and try and work as hard as I can to live up to those expectations and responsibilities.”

Ms. Kawaja, a Chernoff Family Award Scholar from Cornerbrook, N.L., is a fourth-year biology student with a minor in English Language and Literature.

She too has not taken the conventional path in her education, having taken a year away from her studies to live in Kenya, where she developed an educational program for HIV prevention.

Her message was that it was okay to not know what you want, a pressure that many award recipients and Queen’s students may feel.

“I wanted to get across that your plans are always made by a less mature version of yourself,” she says. “You make a plan in high school for the next four years, then in four years your plan hasn’t accounted for everything you learn over that time. More than anything, (my message is) it’s okay to not know what you want and to change your plan.”

Currently, there are 251 entering and in-course award recipients at Queen’s, hailing from coast to coast and across all faculties and departments.  

“Major Admission Award recipients are those who are engaged within their high schools and/or communities, demonstrate outstanding leadership abilities, possess creativity and initiative, and excel academically.  They continue to demonstrate these attributes throughout their time here," says Ann Tierney, Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs, who emceed the event. “Each year, the selection committee has to work harder to make its decisions, because of the calibre of students who apply to Queen's.”

The awards are generously supported by numerous donors.  Many donors want to give back this way because they too received some form of support, recognition and encouragement when they were students. Their generosity has a significant impact within the Queen's community and the recipients of their awards.

The 2015-16 Major Admission Award application is now open for students applying to Queen's for the 2015-16 academic year. The deadline to apply is Dec. 1, 2014. Visit the Student Awards website for further information about our Major Admission Awards.

Principal Woolf announces his priorities for 2014-2015

At the beginning of each academic year it has been my practice to outline for the community, in broad strokes, the goals and priorities I intend to pursue over the course of the year. These goals are, unsurprisingly, aligned with the four strategic drivers identified in the Queen’s University Strategic Framework 2014-2019, a document that will guide the university’s decision making over the next five years.

Principal Daniel Woolf speaks with students during an event on campus. Strengthening the student learning experience is one of his goals for the 2014-15 academic year.

As I commence my second term as Principal my overarching goal remains unchanged-- to advance Queen’s as a university that uniquely combines quality and intensity of research with excellence in undergraduate and graduate education. The strategic drivers – the student learning experience, research prominence, financial sustainability and internationalization – directly support the success of Queen’s as a balanced academy.

It should be noted that the framework builds on and is fully aligned with The Third Juncture, a 10-year vision for Queen’s that I wrote in 2012, as well as a number of other recent planning documents including the Academic Plan (2011), the Strategic Research Plan (2012), the Teaching and Learning Action Plan (2014), and the Campus Master Plan.

In this context, my senior administrative colleagues and I are committed to:

1. Strengthening the student learning experience

A transformative learning experience is central to the Queen’s identity and to our vision as a university. Our academic plan outlines the centrality of developing our students’ fundamental academic skills while also providing them with learning opportunities that will help prepare them for the future. Goals related to this priority include:

  • Increasing the number of new opportunities for expanded credentials, as well as more opportunities for experiential and entrepreneurial learning, both on and off campus.
  • Further integrating technology into the delivery of course content where it enables improved learning.
  • Continuing to focus on strategies for teaching and learning based on student engagement and broad-based learning outcomes.

2. Strengthening our research prominence

Queen’s is recognized as one of Canada’s outstanding research institutions, but sustaining and enhancing our status means we must guide and support our research enterprise while resolutely pursuing funding. Goals related to this priority include:

  • Maintaining success rates in applications for Tri-Council funding.
  • Remaining among the country’s top three universities for faculty awards, honours and prizes, and election to major learned bodies such as the Royal Society of Canada.
  • Supporting the development and engagement of Queen’s faculty members as set out in the Senate-approved Strategic Research Plan.

3. Ensuring financial sustainability

To support teaching and research into the future, we will need stable and diverse revenue streams, particularly as government funding, per student, continues to fall. Goals related to this priority include:

  • Continuing strong revenue growth together with revenue diversification.
  • Meeting our $60 million annual fund raising target as part of the Initiative Campaign, while focusing on its overall achievement by 2016.
  • Pursuing long-term sustainability for our pension plan.

4. Raising our international profile

Two years ago I stated in The Third Juncture that as global competition among universities increases over the next decade, it will not be sufficient to be simply ‘known’ in one’s own country. Increasingly, the value of our students’ degrees will be tied to our international reputation, as will our ability to attract international students, who raise our profile and contribute a great deal to the academic environment. Goals related to this priority include:

  • Moving forward on multi-year plans to increase undergraduate international enrolment.
  • Maintaining our strong record in attracting international graduate students.
  • Supporting growth in international collaborations and partnerships.

5. Promoting and developing talent

We will need to ensure that we are able to acquire, develop and retain top quality faculty and staff to thrive as an institution. Our talent management strategy, which I initiated last year, will provide a strategic approach to ensure we have the right leaders in place and in the wings as we advance our academic mission and work to secure financial sustainability. Goals related to this priority include:

  • Continuing with succession planning efforts for academic and administrative leadership roles across the university.
  • Developing a competency model that will be used to identify necessary competencies when hiring, and for leadership development and performance dialogue discussions.
  • Refining our hiring practices.
  • Promoting discussion among the Deans around faculty renewal. 

Research leaders earn prestigious medals

Queen’s researchers Guy Narbonne and John McGarry were honoured today by the Royal Society of Canada for contributions to geology and political science, respectively.

Dr. Narbonne (Geological Sciences) is the recipient of the Bancroft Award for publication, instruction and research in the earth sciences and his contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of the subject of geology.

John McGarry has won the Innis-Gerin Medal.

Dr. McGarry (Political Studies) is the recipient of the Innis-Gerin Medal for his contribution to the literature of the social sciences. The medal has only been awarded 21 times since its inception in 1967.

“Drs. Narbonne and McGarry have been leaders in their respective fields for many years and these medals are recognition of their outstanding work,” says Principal Daniel Woolf. “The fact that Queen’s won two medals out of the 14 available in 2014 caps off a banner year with respect to Royal Society of Canada awards and honours.”

Dr. Narbonne is best known for his research into evolution’s first foray into complex multicellular life, the Ediacaran biota, a group of large, soft-bodied creatures that populated the floor of the world’s oceans 580 million years ago after three billion years of mostly microbial evolution. His multidisciplinary research on the origin of Earth’s earliest animals has been widely reported in the scientific literature and through public outreach.

Guy Narbonne (r) works with David Attenborough at Mistaken Point.

Dr. Narbonne also played a major role in establishing the Ediacaran Period, the first new geological period recognized in more than a century.

“I’m thrilled for the recognition this brings to Queen’s since to win this medal, you have to excel in three different areas – research, communication and tangible contributions to science,” says Dr. Narbonne.

Dr. McGarry is the Canada Research Chair in Nationalism and Democracy, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the winner of both the Trudeau Fellowship and the Killam Prize. Since 2009 he has worked as a part-time senior advisor on governance to the United Nations-mediated negotiations in Cyprus. He is viewed by many as one of the world’s leading experts on power sharing, federalism and constitutional design.

“It is thrilling for me to receive an award that is named after two of Canada’s most famous social scientists, and whose first recipient in 1967 was Queen’s own W.A. Mackintosh,” says Dr. McGarry.

For more information on the medals visit the website.

Mind over matter

Tom Hollenstein (Psychology) is running a two-year trial to see if the video game MindLight can help youth cope with and eventually conquer their anxiety.

The Playnice Institute develops video games such as MindLight with the goal of promoting emotional resilience in youth. Left unchecked, anxiety in youth is shown to lead to higher rates of substance abuse, school absenteeism, depression and suicide.

“The game gives kids a chance to practice regulating their emotions at their own pace and in a safe space using a popular tool, a video game. The idea is that through the game, they will learn how to deal with anxiety-provoking situations,” says Dr. Hollenstein, who is using a grant from the Ontario Mental Health Foundation to conduct the research.

MindLight is designed for children aged eight to 16 years old. Players enter a scary mansion and learn their grandmother was abducted by the shadows. They must travel the dark hallways, solve puzzles and avoid frightening monsters to find their grandmother.

Ethan Flanagan plays MindLight under the watchful eye of Tom Hollenstein.

To beat the darkness, players wear Teru the Magical Hat who teaches the player how to use their “mind light” mounted on that magical hat. Players wear a neurofeedback headset called MindWave that measures the player’s level of relaxation or anxiety and that information is incorporated into key features of game play.

“If the trial results are positive, it could lead the way to an entirely new way of treating anxious children and help researchers better understand the power of video games,” Dr. Hollenstein says.

The trial, conducted with the support of Dr. Hollenstein’s co-investigators Sarosh Khalid-Khan (Psychiatry) and Isabel Granic (Psychology), includes two elements. The first takes place through the Mood and Anxiety Treatment Program at Hotel Dieu. For the second part, Dr. Hollenstein’s research team is partnering with local schools to identify at-risk youth and work with them to determine if the game play can help reduce children’s anxiety.

World-renowned architects make their mark at Queen's

The Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts is now open, hosting classes and performances, and those interested in learning more about how the building was created and designed will get the chance to hear from the lead architect. Craig Dykers of Snøhetta will be speaking at the Isabel on Friday, Sept. 19 from 7-8:30 p.m. The event, which is free and open to all, is organized by the School of Urban and Regional Planning.

[Craig Dykers]
Craig Dykers, founding partner and a principal architect at Snøhetta, will be making a special presentation at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts on Friday evening. (Photo University Communications)

They designed the pavilion marking the entrance to the memorial museum at New York’s World Trade Centre site, reimagined Manhattan’s Times Square, and have drawn up the plans for hundreds of innovative buildings around the world, from opera houses to spaces for learning. And with the opening of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts on the Kingston waterfront, world-renowned architectural firm Snøhetta marks its Canadian debut.

Home to the Department of Film and Media, the Isabel will also provide learning and working space for the university’s other creative arts disciplines, while housing a film screening room, black-box theatre and a state-of-the-art concert hall.  Snøhetta, who worked in partnerships with Ottawa’s N45 Architecture when devising the building, took a careful look at the university’s plans for the intended structure, while also considering both the users’ experience and the way the building would integrate into the existing landscape.

“Fundamentally, we wanted a place that brought light into (the users’) experience,” explained Craig Dykers, Snøhetta’s founding partner and a principal architect with the firm on a visit to Queen’s in late 2013. “We wanted to establish a strong connection between the landscape and the character of the shore, as well as the broader environment.”

It was for the latter reason that Dykers and his team chose to work with limestone – a building material commonly used in the Kingston area – reimagining it in a more monolithic, or slab-like interpretation so that it might look like it was emerging organically out of the landscape. They also deliberately incorporated two historic limestone buildings that made up the original site.

“We like being able to provide a new perspective on a material that people are already very familiar with,” said Dykers of his rationale. “It’s like being married and still wanting to learn new things about (your partner), even though you’ve lived together for so long.”

When it came to conceiving of the building’s jewel-like interior concert hall, Dykers and his team again turned to local limestone for inspiration. “We came across a beautiful limestone outcropping on one of our early visits to Kingston,” he recalls. “Each layer seemed to depict a different event in the history of this place, laid down over the millennia.”

The solution was to reinterpret the limestone’s subtleties in warm wood, a material that would also pay homage to the instruments that would be highlighted in the acoustically perfected space. The architects also decided to create a hall that is ever so slightly asymmetrical – the result being a room with a slightly more organic feel.

That hall was formally animated for the first time on Saturday, Sept.13 when the JUNO-nominated band Timber Timbre took to the stage as part of the Isabel Goes Alt series. The Isabel’s classical series kicks off on Sept. 21 with a performance by the Afiara Quartet, who will be joined by pianist Maxim Bernard.

For Dykers and his architectural collaborators, it will an opportunity to see Isabel’s spaces – once only imagined – being inhabited and enjoyed by the audiences it was first intended for. “It’s hard to be proud of something before the doors are open and people are using it,” says Dykers. “People are excited about this building.”

The Isabel was made possible by a transformational gift from Alfred Bader (Sc’45, Arts’46, MSc’47, LLD’86) and his wife, Isabel (LLD’07) as well as the financial backing of the federal and provincial governments, the City of Kingston and additional philanthropic support.

Uncovering Herstmonceux Castle's history

For the past seven years, Scott McLean has been analyzing the archaeology of the Herstmonceux Castle estate in East Sussex, England. A new excavation program at the estate aims to uncover the ways medieval peoples adapted when the region went through climate change.

Members of the excavation team worked this summer at a site called Mota Piece.

“Through combined excavations, archival research and environmental analysis we are hoping to reconstruct a better understanding of what the Herstmonceux Castle estate was like during the medieval period,” says Scott McLean, an associate professor of history at the Bader International Study Centre (BISC). “With the information we gather, we hope to learn more about how the owners coped with the fierce storms and rising sea levels that constituted this period of climate change.”

The Herstmonceux estate occupies 600 acres of land adjacent to the Pevensey Levels, an ecologically sensitive region that was repeatedly flooded starting in the 13th century when the world entered a period of global cooling known as the Little Ice Age.

Dr. McLean’s research scope has expanded with the excavation program that draws in collaborators from Queen’s University and the University of Waterloo. The program, which has received a $200,000 grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, will also place a strong focus on training students in archeology, archival research and public history research.

“The Herstmonceux Estate excavation provides an excellent opportunity for fruitful collaboration between experts at the BISC, Queen’s and the University of Waterloo,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “Participating in and observing operations at the archaeological sites also represents a unique hands-on learning opportunity for students studying at the BISC.” 

After their first summer of excavation, the team has turned up evidence of an early manor house on the edge of Pevensey Levels. The researchers have also uncovered approximately 100 previously unknown medieval documents related to the castle and estate.

 Excavations at Herstmonceux Estate are planned to continue until 2017.

Research leaders earn academic accolades

Three Queen’s University professors have been named to the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists program. The new program recognizes an emerging generation of Canadian intellectual leadership and seeks to gather scholars, artists and scientists at a highly productive stage of their careers into a single collegium where new advances in understanding will emerge from the interaction of diverse intellectual, cultural and social perspectives.

Queen’s received the maximum allowance of three New College inductees.

“This is an exciting new program that opens the doors of the RSC to early to mid-career scholars and researchers, and provides them an opportunity to contribute to the promotion of learning and research, an important mandate of the RSC,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “Equally important is the opportunity for the RSC to connect with younger colleagues representing a wide range of research pursuits and perspectives. Although we were limited to a maximum of three, the Queen’s researchers elected into the inaugural College cohort are great representatives of the diverse range of leading edge and innovative research being undertaken by our younger colleagues across our campus.”

Pascale Champagne (l), Morten Nielsen and Una D'Elia were honoured by the Royal Society of Canada.

The three new members include:

Pascale Champagne (Civil Engineering) is an innovative and collaborative researcher rapidly establishing herself as an expert in the development of alternate water and waste management technologies and sustainable environmental approaches with a focus on integrated bioresource management.  “I am honoured to receive this prestigious award,” says Dr. Champagne. “The award will create new collaborative research opportunities and allow me to develop new synergies with other researchers, and contribute to Canada’s ability to manage bioresources in a manner that is both sustainable and supportive of economic development.”

Una D’Elia (Art History), a leading scholar in the elucidation of Renaissance art. Her award-winning and critically acclaimed publications are lauded internationally for revealing new interpretations of such famous artists as Titian, Michelangelo and Raphael.

“I take this award as validation of the importance and relevance of the study of the arts and humanities,” says Dr. D’Elia. “On a personal level, I am particularly proud to be able to have my two girls see their mother receiving this honour.”

Morten Nielsen (Economics), the Canada Research Chair in Time Series Econometrics and the David Chadwick Smith Chair in the Department of Economics. Dr. Nielsen is a research leader in econometrics, the field of study focused on developing methods for the statistical analysis of economic data.

“I am delighted to be inducted into the RSC College. Being recognized by your peers in this way is a great honour, and I am both humbled and thrilled,” says Dr. Nielsen.

For information on the New College, visit the website.

Queen's, Stuttgart to develop dual master's program

KINGSTON, ON – Queen’s University and the University of Stuttgart, Germany, have agreed to work together on the development of a dual master’s program in the fields of chemistry, chemical engineering and physics. The two institutions signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to begin the process.

Queen's Provost Alan Harrison and Univeristy of Stuttgart Rector Wolfram Ressel sign a memorandum of understanding for the creation of a dual master's program.

“International research experience can be a significant benefit for many graduate students, both academically and in terms of setting them apart in the job market,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “Signing this MOU is an important step in advancing our existing relationship with the University of Stuttgart and providing a valuable international opportunity for Queen’s students.”

Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Alan Harrison signed the MOU on behalf of Principal Woolf, and Wolfram Ressel, Rector of the University of Stuttgart, was at Queen’s to sign on behalf of his institution.

“The MOU provides an optimal framework for the graduate students of both institutions. International exchange and sharing of knowledge is important for the young scientists,” says Wolfram Ressel, “The memorandum promotes a sustainable relationship between the University of Stuttgart and Queen´s University.”

The University of Stuttgart was founded in 1829 and today has an international reputation for excellence in a range of disciplines, including the physical sciences, engineering, and mobile and information technology.  Around 26,500 students are enrolled in the courses of the university offered by 150 institutes in 10 different faculties. Queen’s has a long standing relationship with Stuttgart, both as a frequent research collaborator and as an exchange partner.

“International research experience can be a significant benefit for many graduate students, both academically and in terms of setting them apart in the job market,”

– Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor

“A growing number of Queen’s faculty members collaborate with colleagues overseas, including those at Stuttgart, on significant research projects. This MOU will lead to further opportunities to share expertise through our graduate students,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research), who hosted Rector Ressel and the Stuttgart delegation. “The next step will involve both institutions working out the specific details of the academic program over the coming months.”           

Founded in 1841, Queen's University is one of Canada’s leading research-intensive universities, renowned for fundamental advances in health care, the environment, materials and energy, as well as its contributions to public policy, economics, law and culture. Queen’s attracts students from across Canada and from more than 90 countries around the world.

Students get up-close look at the Isabel

  • [Isabel Open House - Wind Ensemble]
    Members of the Queen's Wind Ensemble practice during the student open house held the Isabel.
  • [Isabel Open House - Ceremony]
    Queen's Principal Daniel Woolf speaks following the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the student open house at the Isabel.
  • [Isabel Open House]
    A special open house for students was held at the Isabel on Saturday, Sept. 13.
  • [Isabel Open House - Sound Lab]
    Visitors explore the Isabel's new sound lab during the student open house on Saturday.
  • [Isabel Open House - Wood Press]
    Students use a wood press during the student open house held at the Isabel.
  • [Isabel Open House - Dan Tremblay]
    Wind Ensemble director Dan Tremblay works with ensemble members during the student open house held at the Isabel.
  • [Isabel Open House - Theatre]
    Vickie Sprenger performs in front of Craig Walker and Tim Fort of the Department of Drama.

Queen’s students got an inside view of all the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts (also known as “the Isabel”) has to offer on Saturday during a special open house.

Visitors were able to tour the recently-completed building while also taking in performances by fellow students held in the state-of-the art concert hall, rehearsal hall, film screening room, as well as other locations.

There also was a hands-on aspect to the day as visitors could learn how to operate a wood press and find out what is happening on campus at the Performing Arts Clubs Fair, held in the lobby.

The open house wrapped up with a concert by Polaris Music Prize-nominated band Timber Timbre, part of The Isabel Goes Alt concert series. 

Go online to find out more about the Isabel.

LIVES LIVED: Seeing the big picture and the tiny brushstrokes

Alec Stewart, was a native of Saskatchewan and studied at Dalhousie and Cambridge universities.

[Alec Stewart]
Dr. Alec Stewart

Alec was lured back to Canada from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1968 as Queen's Head of Physics. The department saw rapid expansion during his six-year headship. His appreciation of all aspects of the department was legendary. Alec saw not only the big picture but all the tiny brush strokes that go to make up the whole canvas.

He nurtured the young people he hired stressing the professorial virtues of dedication to teaching, excellence in research and service to the department, the university and the broader community, while his wife Alta helped to establish the new young families in Kingston and is fondly remembered. The social gatherings hosted by Alec and Alta at their home helped to mold the department into a vigorous community.

His research addressed important questions in physics. Collaboration at Chalk River with Nobel Laureate Bert Brockhouse developed the study of atomic motion in crystals using slow neutrons, and he pioneered the use of positron annihilation as a tool to study condensed matter and as a diagnostic tool in materials science. He was instrumental in organizing the first two international conferences on positron annihilation and he was the first chairman of the International Advisory Committee for Positron Annihilation. He also applied his knowledge to the public interest, including in a Royal Society of Canada study of the safety of nuclear power reactors and the development of emergency response plans, and in the expert panel on the possible risk posed by electromagnetic fields from power lines.

He contributed to the Canadian and international scientific communities through his work with the Royal Society of Canada for which he served as President of the Academy of Sciences, with the NRC and NSERC and with the Canadian Association of Physicists over which he presided. In recognition of his many contributions he was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada in 2001.

Alec and Alta raised three sons – James, Hugh and Duncan. After losing Alta to cancer, Alec married Annabel and together they enjoyed 10 years of happy marriage.

– Malcolm Stott joined the Department of Physics at Queen’s University while Alec Stewart was head of the department. The two worked with together for several years and latterly shared an office.

This article is published in the Sept. 9 edition of the Gazette. Pick up your copy of the newspaper at one of the many locations around campus. Follow us on Twitter at @queensuGazette.


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