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Brainy international research collaboration receives renewed funding

The German Research Foundation has funded “The Brain in Action” for another four and a half years.

An international research collaboration uniting two German universities and three Canadian universities, including Queen’s, will continue its important work studying how perception and action interact and how they are processed by the human brain.

Renewed funding from the German Research Foundation means the International Research Training Group "The Brain in Action" project will carry on with its work for another four and a half years. Funding from the foundation was set to end in April 2018.

The main goal of this research training group is to deepen our understanding of the neural systems and processes that underlie perception and action in everyday living – for instance, how the brain processes the sensory and motor signals involved in reaching for a cup of coffee and the feeling involved in touching it.

Annually, the graduate students and faculty involved in "The Brain in Action" attend a retreat at the Queen's University Biological Station. (Supplied Photo)
Annually, the graduate students and faculty involved in "The Brain in Action" attend a retreat at the Queen's University Biological Station. (Supplied Photo)

At Queen’s, the project unites faculty members Gunnar Blohm and Doug Munoz of the Biomedical and Molecular Sciences department with Nikolaus Troje of the Psychology department. The three are currently supervising seven Queen’s PhD candidates, and co-supervising several German doctoral students at the Philipps-Universität Marburg and Justus Liebig Universität Giessen. York and Western Universities are the other two Canadian institutions involved in the research group.

“We are grateful for the renewed funding, which confirms the value of our work and in the relationships being formed between our students, institutions, and countries” says Dr. Blohm. “Merging the distinct academic cultures of the two countries has been a valuable learning and networking experience for our students. I am sure that many collaborative initiatives will continue to happen long after they graduate.”

Nikolaus Troje explores virtual reality while PhD candidate Christoph Lenk monitors his progress. (University Communications)
Nikolaus Troje explores virtual reality while PhD candidate Christoph Lenk monitors his progress in the Queen's Biomotion Lab. (University Communications)

The two German universities boast 25 PhD candidates and 12 faculty members working on the project. As part of their studies, the students spend several months learning in Canada.

“I really appreciate the welcoming and helping Canadian culture. My colleagues at work and my housemates have helped me to feel comfortable in the first weeks,” says Christoph Lenk, one of the German students currently studying in Canada. “My master’s studies in biomechanics, motor control, motion analysis, and perception led to an interest in perception in virtual reality. I am glad that I can exchange experiences with other young researchers in Canada and in Germany on this field of research.”

The aim of research training groups such as this one is to prepare PhD candidates for careers outside academia by bolstering their transferrable skills. So far, many of the graduates have gone on to work in the science or high tech fields. Parisa Abedi Khoozani, an international Queen’s PhD candidate who is working on the project, is hoping to teach science in Canada once she graduates.

Queen's PhD candidate Sia Eftekharifar speaks with Christoph Lenk about his work in the Queen's Biomotion Lab. (University Communications)
Queen's PhD candidate Sia Eftekharifar speaks with Mr. Lenk about his work in the Queen's Biomotion Lab. (University Communications)

“I am currently in Germany on my second visit as part of this research group, working with another collaborator who is also researching computer neuroscience,” says Ms. Khoozani. “The exposure to different fields and different areas of research has been interesting and beneficial. This opportunity has been as much about the learning as it has been about forming connections, and I hope to continue collaborating with my German colleagues in the future.”

In addition to the German Research Foundation funding, the “Brain in Action” research training group is supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) CREATE grant.

Learn more about this international research training group on the School of Graduate Studies’ website.

An international spotlight on undergraduate research

(From left to right) Richard Ascough, Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning) at the Faculty of Arts and Science,  with global winner Eden Gelgoot and highly commended entrant Sari Ohsada at the Undergraduate Awards in Dublin, Ireland in November 2017. (Submitted photo)
(From left to right) Richard Ascough, Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning) at the Faculty of Arts and Science, with global winner Eden Gelgoot and highly commended entrant Sari Ohsada at the Undergraduate Awards in Dublin, Ireland in November 2017. (Submitted photo)

Undergraduate students across Queen’s who receive top marks on their research papers are now invited to submit them to the Undergraduate Awards 2018 program, a prestigious international competition.

The awards, presented each year at the Undergraduate Awards Global Summit in Dublin, Ireland, celebrate undergraduate research from students across all disciplines and around the world. Global winners from each category receive a medal at the ceremony, and the top 10 percent of applicants in each category receive the designation of highly commended entrant. Last year, the program received nearly 6,500 submissions from 299 institutions in 47 countries.

Students can submit up to three research papers, each A grade or equivalent. There are 25 categories, ranging from art history to engineering to life sciences. Each category has different criteria for submission, depending on the nature of the discipline.

Global and highly commended winners will be eligible to spend four days in Dublin for the Global Summit, providing opportunities to meet renowned researchers from around the world, present findings in “three minute thesis” presentations, and explore the historic city of Dublin. Global winner research papers will be published in the Undergraduate Journal to display the high level of undergraduate research being produced.

Eden Gelgoot (Artsi’17) was the global winner for the 2017 Art History and Theory category. Her essay focused on the role of the UNESCO World Heritage List in the commemoration of the Second World War, based on her final term paper for the course Conservation Principals: Cultural Heritage Preservation.

“I am very grateful for the recognition I received from the Undergraduate Awards,” says Ms. Gelgoot. “It has provided me with the opportunity to present research that I am passionate about to an international audience, to publish my work, to travel to Dublin, to learn about the work being done globally in diverse areas of research, and to build an international network of friends. I would highly recommend that undergraduate students at Queen’s consider submitting their work. The work has already been done and the submission process is simple, so why not take a chance at having your work recognized and winning an opportunity of a lifetime?”

Sari Ohsada (Artsci’19) was one of the highly commended entrants with her submission for the 2017 Social Sciences: Anthropology & Cultural Studies category. Her essay explored how to facilitate smoother adaption and resettlement for Syrian refugees who escaped a combination of drought in 2006 and civil war starting in 2011. She originally wrote the essay for the course Cross-cultural Research Methods.

“Being part of the Undergraduate Awards Global Summit 2017 in Dublin was one of the most enriching experiences of my life. Meeting 130 undergraduate students from across the world reminded me that there are numerous disciplines and different approaches to conducting well-thought research,” says Ms. Ohsada. “At the same time, I was also amazed by the interdisciplinary nature of our research topics, as they often linked with each other and related to more than one category.”

Other highly commended entrants from Queen’s last year included:

  • Caela Fenton in the Literature category for her essay on oral tradition in Visions of an Inuk by Anthony Apakark Thrasher,
  • Vinyas Harish in the Social Sciences: Sociology & Social Policy category for his essay on social issues with the implementation of telemedicine, and
  • Evelyna Ekoko-Kay in the Literature category for her two essays, one on the concepts of diasporic identity, multicultural policy, and Indigenous erasure in What We All Long For by Dionne Brand and the other on gender and exile in old English elegies.

To learn more about the Undergraduate Awards and how to submit your undergraduate work, visit their website. Submissions close by June 12, 2018. Graduates of 2017 or students who will graduate in 2018 or 2019 are encouraged to apply.

Stephanie Simpson named next equity and human rights head

The current Director of the Queen's Human Rights Office will assume leadership of both the Equity and Human Rights Offices in February.

Stephanie Simpson (Artsci’95, Ed’97, MEd’11) has been named the Executive Director (Human Rights and Equity Offices) and University Advisor on Equity and Human Rights effective Feb. 1.

Stephanie Simpson (Artsci’95, Ed’97, MEd’11). (University Communications)
Stephanie Simpson (Artsci’95, Ed’97, MEd’11). (University Communications)

“Stephanie has been a leader on equity, diversity, and inclusivity at Queen’s for many years, and her appointment reflects the important role she plays in the Queen’s community,” says Teri Shearer, Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion). “She brings deep knowledge, experience, and commitment to this new position, and her appointment will be a significant gain for the cause of creating a more welcoming Queen’s.”

In this role, Ms. Simpson will lead the Equity and Human Rights Offices and will continue to play a key role in fostering both competence and legislative compliance around matters such as inclusivity, diversity, accessibility, human rights, and equity on campus.

“I have always had a passion for issues of social justice and I have committed to strengthening my knowledge and skillset in order to bring my best to this work,” says Ms. Simpson. “There is a sense of renewed energy and purpose on campus in relation to equity right now. I’m very much looking forward to the role the Equity and Human Rights Offices will play in supporting the vision for inclusion clearly articulated in our formal reports, and by community members.”

She will also provide guidance to senior administration, governance bodies, and units on achieving equity within the institution’s strategic priorities. As a member of the Office of the Provost team, Ms. Simpson will work in concert with the Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion) in developing initiatives that support the creation of a welcoming campus in collaboration with equity-seeking communities. 

Ms. Simpson has been a member of the Human Rights Office since 1996, starting in the portfolios of anti-racism advisor and education coordinator and increasing in responsibility since. She was most recently the office’s director.

“I want to acknowledge the contributions of Equity Office staff, Human Rights Office staff, and community members I’ve been fortunate to work with over so many years,” she says. “The accomplishment of which I feel we can be most proud is an approach to institutional change work that is respectful and appreciative while also being challenging. Being viewed by community members and colleagues as a trusted resource is our first priority, so we know when we’ve achieved this we have done our job well.”

Ms. Simpson has also supported inclusivity and equity efforts in the Kingston community through her roles with the Black Inmates and Friends group; her consultation and education services efforts with organizations such as Interval House, Limestone District School Board and Kingston General Hospital; and her role on the Kingston Immigration Partnership Operations Committee where she represents Queen’s.

Welcoming winter exchange students

  • International students wrap up a chilly tour of campus, led by the Queen's University International Center (QUIC), at Summerhill on Wednesday, Jan. 3. (University Communications)
    International students wrap up a chilly tour of campus, led by the Queen's University International Center (QUIC), at Summerhill on Wednesday, Jan. 3. (University Communications)
  • Newly-arrived exchange students watch a video during the orientation day on Thursday, Jan. 4 at Dunning Hall. (University Communications)
    Newly-arrived exchange students watch a video during the orientation day on Thursday, Jan. 4 at Dunning Hall. (University Communications)
  • International exchange students learn about the resources available to them during their time at Queen's during the orientation session. (University Communications)
    International exchange students learn about the resources available to them during their time at Queen's during the orientation session. (University Communications)
  • In what has become an annual tradition, exchange students who arrive for the winter term received Queen's mittens and scarves during the orientation session. (University Communications)
    In what has become an annual tradition, exchange students who arrive for the winter term received Queen's mittens and scarves during the orientation session. (University Communications)
  • Oshaen Swartz, a fifth-year Concurrent Education student at Queen's, provides some advice for exchange students based on her own experience through an exchange to France. (University Communications)
    Oshaen Swartz, a fifth-year Concurrent Education student at Queen's, provides some advice for exchange students based on her own experience through an exchange to France. (University Communications)

A new year, new university, and new country. Over 200 international exchange students have arrived for the winter term, and they have had a week of welcoming events to help get settled on campus.

These exchange students come from all over the world, including China, Sweden, Australia, Chile, and dozens of other countries, to study in almost every faculty.

The highlight of the week was the Exchange Student Orientation on Thursday, Jan. 4. The students received their tri-colour mittens and scarves to help them adjust to the cold, learned about the support available from the university and their respective faculties, and listened to representatives from the Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC), the International Programs Office, and the Division of Student Affairs.

Students also learned about the Queen’s Winter Coat Exchange, and how to make the most of their time on exchange from a fifth-year Queen’s student.

Other events throughout the week facilitated by the QUIC included games night, tours of the Athletics & Recreation Centre and campus student services, a flu shot clinic, and an information session on how to stay healthy and warm during the upcoming winter months.

Events continue throughout the winter semester, including reading and writing workshops facilitated by the Student Academic Success Services (SASS), and QUIC’s English peer conversation groups, a ramen night social, immigration information sessions, a bus trip to Ottawa, and intercultural awareness training. Find out more about these events on the QUIC events page.

Making friends for the holidays

  • The Queen's University International Centre (QUIC) hosted its annual holiday tea on Tuesday, Dec. 19 at its location in the John Deutsch University Centre (JDUC).
    The Queen's University International Centre (QUIC) hosted its annual holiday tea on Tuesday, Dec. 19 at its location in the John Deutsch University Centre (JDUC).
  • International students and staff of the Queen's University International Centre (QUIC) gathered for the annual holiday tea on Tuesday, Dec. 19.
    International students and staff of the Queen's University International Centre (QUIC) gathered for the annual holiday tea on Tuesday, Dec. 19.

Students, staff, and faculty who are planning to stay in the Kingston area over the holidays gathered at the Queen's International Centre (QUIC) on Tuesday, Dec. 19 for the annual holiday tea.

This social get-together gives individuals a chance to meet each other, and make plans with friends, new and old, to connect over the holidays.

Visit the QUIC website to learn more about the resources, programming, and opportunities available at Queen's.

Queen’s alumna wins prestigious Schwarzman Scholarship

Heather Evans (Com’16), a member of the winning team from the 2014 Queen's Innovation Centre Summer Initiative, will study for a year at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Heather Evans (Com’16), a member of the winning team from the 2014 Queen's Innovation Centre Summer Initiative, will study for a year at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
Heather Evans (Com’16), a member of the winning team from the 2014 Queen's Innovation Centre Summer Initiative, recently received a Schwarzman Scholarship and will study for a year at Tsinghua University in Beijing. (Supplied Photo) 

Heather Evans (Com’16) thrives in stressful situations. When she was a commerce student at Queen’s, she successfully juggled schoolwork with launching a 3D printing company, Mosaic Manufacturing, with four other students. She and her cofounders were recognized as the top venture in the 2014 Queen's Innovation Centre Summer Initiative winning $40,000.

She beat long odds and is preparing for another heavy workload as she prepares to head to China next year after receiving a prestigious scholarship.

Ms. Evans is one of 142 people selected from a field of more than 4,000 applicants from across the globe to receive a Schwarzman Scholarship. Inspired by the Rhodes Scholarships, Stephen A. Schwarzman, CEO of the private equity firm The Blackstone Group, founded the program three years ago with an aim to promote international understanding. Mr. Schwarzman personally contributed more than $100 million to the program and is leading a fundraising campaign to raise an additional $500 million.

“It was the best feeling in the world. I cannot wait to move to Beijing,” Ms. Evans says. “I think it will be one of the most interesting, intense, and craziest things I have ever done. The scholarship is extremely generous, so I have the freedom to stop working, pause my life and move to China for 11 months.”

Ms. Evans still has a small stake in Mosaic Manufacturing but is no longer involved in its day-to-day operations. Upon graduation from Queen’s, Ms. Evans launched a second startup through Canada’s Next36 and now works for the Government of Ontario in technology strategy and was very involved in launch of Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

Ms. Evans and the other Schwarzman scholars will live and study together for a one-year Master’s Degree program at Tsinghua University in Beijing, one of the top universities in China. All expenses are covered by the scholarship. 

She feels her year in China, which starts in August 2018, will be an amazing opportunity to learn about one of the world’s most powerful economies. That’s an important lesson for any entrepreneur.

“The Chinese culture and economy is completely foreign to me as someone who has grown up in Canada,” says Ms. Evans, who was born and raised in Kingston. “Living in Beijing seems like one of the best ways to have a better understanding of how China operates.

When she started at Queen’s she didn’t feel like an entrepreneur. She is grateful that Greg Bavington (Sc’85), Executive Director of the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC), and Jim McLellan (Sc’81, PhD’90), Academic Director of the DDQIC, convinced her to take part in the Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative and helped teach her the tools to succeed in business.

“Heather is smart and a hard worker. These are the kind of people we look for at the Dunin-Deshpande Centre – people who have drive and curiosity,” says Mr. Bavington. “This is what makes successful entrepreneurs. I know she will do well in China.”

Queen’s School of English turns 75

  • Maple syrup party favours greet guests as they enter the event.
    Maple syrup party favours greet guests as they enter the event.
  • Guests take a trip around the world at the Agnes and learn the culture, food and traditions of countries such as Japan, China, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia.
    Guests take a trip around the world at the Agnes and learn the culture, food and traditions of countries such as Japan, China, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia.
  • Queen’s School of English students share a morsel of Japanese culture with food and facts.
    Queen’s School of English students share a morsel of Japanese culture with food and facts.
  • Principal Woolf welcomes guests to the anniversary event, and shares a short history of the Queen’s School of English.
    Principal Woolf welcomes guests to the anniversary event, and shares a short history of the Queen’s School of English.
  • Queen’s School of English students prepare for the anniversary event.
    Queen’s School of English students prepare for the anniversary event.

The Queen’s School of English gave guests a taste of international flavour during their 75th anniversary event.

The school welcomes students from around the world to learn English language skills and prepare them for undergraduate and graduate studies. Students in the Volunteering in the Kingston Community course at the school created internationally themed booths in the Agnes Etherington Art Centre on Monday, Dec. 4.

“The booths were a visual and taste tour of the world,” said Kate Fazackerley, Student Services and Events Assistant with the school. “Guests got to see their names written in Arabic, Japanese, and Chinese, learn about their Chinese zodiac sign, answer trivia facts, and eat foods from the regions, such as tofu, kimchi, Arabian coffee, green tea, pocky sticks and mochi balls.”

Speakers at the event included Vern “Mishiikenh” Altiman, cultural counsellor with Four Directions; Principal Daniel Woolf; Rebecca Luce-Kapler, Dean of the Faculty of Education; Jim Neill, Deputy Mayor of Kingston; two alumni of the School of English, and one current student with the school.

Originally founded in 1941, a handful of students from Quebec would come to the Queen’s school to learn English over the summer. Since then, the school has grown to upwards of 500 students, who study in short-term and long-term intensive English language courses over a full year.

“The School of English is growing, so this anniversary is a great opportunity to invite people to see what we’ve been up to since our last celebration five years ago,” said Amie Pilgrim, instructor with the school. “I think it’s also valuable in supporting students, to connect them with the community they’re living in.”

“I think the most interesting thing about the school is the diversity,” said Angel Guo, a current student with the school from China who wants to study Film and Media at Queen’s when she graduates. “It’s the first time that the international students meet students from other countries, in one class. We can find friends, and improve our English skills.”

World Link program wraps for semester with focus on inclusivity

Fall workshops support social and academic cultural transition and connects students from around the world  

A series of workshops and social events designed to help international students adapt to their new life at Queen’s has wrapped up for the semester.

Students gather in the Queen’s University International Centre for a presentation on diversity hosted by Stephanie Simpson, Director, Human Rights Office. (Supplied Photo)
Students gather in the Queen’s University International Centre for a presentation on diversity hosted by Stephanie Simpson, Director, Human Rights Office. (Supplied Photo) 

The World Link program’s final event, held last week, focused on culture, identity, and inclusivity. Stephanie Simpson, Director of the Human Rights Office, led the session, and talked about how identity may be interpreted in Canada while providing tips and resources for navigating difficult circumstances.

The program is facilitated by the Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC) and is delivered in partnership with Student Wellness Services, the Student Experience Office, and the Human Rights Office. It will be offered again in the winter term.

The World Link program was enhanced this year to focus on intercultural communication skills and competencies, resiliency, and the appreciation of diverse cultures. The events are co-led by students fostering peer-to-peer engagement and learning.  

QUIC Director Jyoti Kotecha says undergraduate, graduate, and exchange students in all years and programs, both international and domestic, are invited to participate. All events are drop-in and registration is not required.

“The World Link discussions and activities help students develop skills, ease cultural transitions, and enhance knowledge and perspectives,” she says. “It is great to see students leave the sessions feeling empowered and confident in their ability to successfully bridge cultural differences, and to feel better prepared to fully engage in student life at Queen’s.”  

Jing Wang (Con.Ed’18) is a teacher candidate in concurrent education who volunteers with World Link. She grew up in Toronto, went to high school in Shanghai, and spent a semester on exchange in Germany.

"The workshops and events that the World Link program hold help both domestic and international students learn from and support one another. And so, while our events are designed to promote intercultural awareness, they are also an opportunity to make new friends, and we have been pleased to see many returning attendees at our events and workshops. Having the social support from other peers can make a big difference in one's transition into another country and also enrich one's university experience in general," she says.

For more information on World Link or other Queen’s events, visit QUIC’s website.

Helping international students thrive

Dr. Arunima Khanna, Cross-Cultural Advisor, shares the challenges and rewards of her work in supporting and offering counselling to international students.
Dr. Arunima Khanna, Cross-Cultural Advisor, shares the challenges and rewards of her work in supporting and offering counselling to international students. (University Communications)

The Gazette talked with Arunima Khanna, Cross-Cultural Advisor with Student Wellness Services, as part of our coverage of International Education Week. Dr. Khanna provides counselling services to the 2,496 international undergraduate and graduate students studying at Queen’s, who come from 108 countries. Her work focuses on helping international students to navigate and adjust to campus life, as well as connecting them with resources and counselling for a range of personal and interpersonal issues that have an impact on physical and and mental health.

What type of support does cross-cultural counselling offer international students?

Our first point of contact with students is to participate in the orientation that is offered to degree seeking and exchange international students. Our message is that studying abroad can be both exciting and rewarding, but also challenging, sometimes stressful and overwhelming. The important thing for them to know is that there are resources and people that they can approach for help and support. Our aim is to put a face to our service, and to normalize seeking help and hopefully to reduce stigma.

After that, students are welcome to ask us for one-on-one counselling if they are having difficulties or if they have concerns about their environment and so on.  Sometimes these concerns are adjustment issues that pass with time, but sometimes more serious or pre-existing mental health issues can emerge. I always try to contextualize international student concerns within their social-cultural environment, by trying to understand how privilege, social and classroom dynamics, and their social experience impacts their mental well-being. Being away from your usual sources of support, experiences of exclusion or marginalization, and micro aggressions can cause an impact on mental health.

We also provide workshops to staff and faculty on multi-cultural competencies, and identifying the unique needs and issues of a diverse student population. I think “adjustment” has to be a two way process; it is not just about international students adjusting to Queen’s; the system has to adjust to the changing demographics of the student population as well.

We also try to advocate on behalf of our international students based on issues that we are seeing, the trends, what we think will be helpful for students to have a positive experience, and what is important to prevent mental health difficulties.

What sparked your interest in this field?

I am very interested in the social determinants of mental health and wellness. When I was training to be a psychologist, I noticed that these were often a missing piece in our interventions; the social-cultural contexts in which distress or issues were occurring were not being given full attention. I noticed that we needed to address not just the presenting issue, but also the contexts in which it is occurring. That is what got me interested in this work.

I firmly believe in using a strengths based, multicultural, equity, and social justice lens in my counselling and advocacy work. I also feel that if Canadian universities are actively recruiting international students, we really need to provide equitable learning environments, as well as culturally competent and meaningful services to our students.

How does your work feed into International Education efforts at Queen’s?

I hope that the work that we do provides support to international students to be well and really thrive during their time here.

As counsellors, we also have the privilege of hearing personal stories from students – their experiences, what are their struggles, disappointments, and successes. I think this information is important to share with senior administration and other decision makers when they design programs, equitable classrooms, support services, etc.

What needs to be addressed to see fewer mental health issues in the international student population?

First, helping students adapt to the academic culture. Academic difficulties cause vulnerability and it can be the beginning of distress. Students are spending a lot of money to come here, they have important academic and career goals that are important to them, so feeling that their goals are in jeopardy can erode their sense of wellbeing. I think that investing in providing early informational and academic support is very important. More TAs and time with TAs will also be helpful.

The second piece is helping students to achieve a sense of connection and community. Being part of a community, establishing a sense of belonging, and connectedness is critical to both academic success and student wellness. As a university, we need to encourage our population to cross demographic boundaries and connect with each other. Many of the undergraduate international students that I have seen say that they feel invisible and often excluded on this campus which is a problem.

What’s the biggest challenge in your role?

The biggest challenge for me is how to help international students who are feeling isolated and marginalized – how to help them build community and make connections. Facilitating a more integrated student body is a challenge. Right now we have pockets of different ethnic groups – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, we do need to be with people who are similar to us – but we also need to cross those demographic boundaries and to connect as a cohesive community.  We have been working with the Peer Support Centre, who have shown a lot of interest in fostering multicultural competency, to see what the student body can do to encourage a more inclusive student community. I do feel that these efforts need to come from students to be truly meaningful and successful.

I think as a university, our awareness of these issues of diversity, inclusion and equity awareness is growing. But, how do you encourage students to cross those demographic boundaries?

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work?

The most rewarding aspect is working with this wonderful and diverse group of students. I have learned so much from them! Being present with a student in their moment of need or self-doubt, and helping them connect with their strengths is so rewarding. Helping them name what is going on for them in terms of the environment when they are blaming themselves, changing these attributions is so important. To intervene, to be of service and be part of their journey of claiming space and building a sense of belonging, achieving their personal and academic goals is very rewarding.

What can people around campus do be more inclusive of students going through intercultural adjustment?

We all create the climate at Queen’s and so we bear the responsibility of creating an inclusive and equitable campus. We should try to create opportunities to bring diverse people together and demonstrate the importance of connection. We can work at learning about the experiences of international students not just by attending workshops, but actually applying what we have learned. But most importantly, we can connect at an individual level, be a welcoming and supportive student body and campus, and learn from each other.

We don’t necessarily need to leave Canada to learn about other people and places, we can do it right here on campus. Globalization has to begin right here, in our day-to day interactions!

Sharing international experiences

Queen’s is looking for students to share their learning experiences abroad as part of a new government campaign.

International education in Canada (2016 CBIE statistics)
● Seven in 10 mobile students agree that their experience abroad influenced their career choice
● France is the most common destination for Canadian students headed abroad, attracting 14 per cent. The U.K. came second with nine per cent, and the US with eight.
● Eighty percent of students report financial barriers as the biggest challenge to heading abroad during their studies.
● Business is the top field of study for outbound students, followed by engineering.

Whether it’s a short trip or a semester abroad, the Canadian Bureau of International Education (CBIE) wants to hear from students about how their learning took them beyond borders.

The government-funded group, of which Queen’s is a member, has launched a new social media campaign encouraging students to talk about their international learning experiences. The goal of #LearningAbroad is to persuade students to talk about what they are learning during their trips, and to share best practices among member organizations.

To date, over 791 social media stories and images have been posted and shared as part of the campaign.

“We know international learning opportunities are enriching both for the students personally and for their careers,” says Laura Esford, International Programs Manager. “For students who haven’t yet spent time learning abroad, hearing from another student about their experience can become a point of entry for that student.”

According to CBIE’s research, the main ways institutions share information about international opportunities include brochures and web pages, but these methods tend to only reach students who are already interested in studying abroad. This is why CBIE aims to tap into the enthusiasm and expertise of students who are participating and remind them about the importance of talking about their trips online.

Queen’s has a significant number of students participating in international learning opportunities each year. For example, Engineering students often participate in short-term international internships, while many Commerce program students participate in a term abroad during their third-year studies. Lexie Wright (Artsci’19) chose to spend a few months in Taiwan as part of her Linguistics degree, and says it is among the best decisions she has ever made.

Lexie Wright (Artsci'19) took a trip to Taiwan as part of her Linguistics degree, seeing sights such as the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. (Supplied Photo)
Lexie Wright (Artsci'19) took a trip to Taiwan as part of her Linguistics degree, seeing sights such as the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. (Supplied Photo)

“From the beautiful temples scattered across the island to the crystal clear waters of Sun Moon Lake to the generosity of the locals, studying internationally has taught me the importance of breaking free from the constricting walls of comfort zones and narrow-mindedness in pursuit of happiness and understanding,” she says. “My experience abroad has allowed me to reach previously undiscovered goals, along with a new level of self-understanding and the specific type of confidence that only comes with successfully ordering a cup of coffee in Mandarin with no mistakes for the first time. I know that the values I have developed will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

In the coming days, the International Programs Office (IPO) team will be reaching out to equip the Faculties and the students with the information they need to feed into CBIE’s campaign.

To learn more about the #LearningAbroad campaign, visit CBIE’s website.

To learn more about International Education Week at Queen’s, which takes place Mon Nov 13 to Fri Nov 17, visit the Queen’s University International Centre’s website.

Infographic supplied by Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE)
Infographic supplied by Canadian Bureau for International Education. For an accessible version, or to download a copy, visit CBIE's website.

 

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