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Student Learning Experience

Manager strives to support staff members

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

Chauncey Kennedy, the manager of Residence Life, ends his one-on-one meetings with staff members with two questions.

“I ask them ‘how are you taking care of yourself, and is there anything I can do to support you better?’” he says. “I pose those questions because I want to make sure they’re balancing work and life commitments and they’re progressing toward their individual development goals.”

[Chauncey Kennedy with Sonja Smiljanic]Chauncey Kennedy accepts the Mentor of the Year Award from the Ontario Association of College and University Housing Officers alongside Sonja Smiljanic, the Residence Life co-ordinator who nominated him.

Mr. Kennedy’s particular attention to the personal and professional well-being of Residence Life staff and co-ordinators recently earned him the Mentor of the Year Award from the Ontario Association of College and University Housing Officers (OACUHO). The award recognizes a person who has shown interest and assisted in the success and career development of new individuals within the association.

Mr. Kennedy says he views mentorship as a key part of his role at Queen’s.

“We recognize in Residence Life that it’s quite cyclical, especially for professional staff who live in residence,” he says. “With that in mind, I try to focus on how I can help them get to where they want to be.”

With a large team of staff members and 118 residence dons, Mr. Kennedy believes it’s important to maintain a consistent management style while also supporting the strengths of different individuals. Sonja Smiljanic, the Residence Life co-ordinator who nominated Mr. Kennedy for the award, says she appreciates his management style.

“He approaches mentoring and coaching in a kind and compassionate manner, yet stays firm and challenges us in ways we need to be challenged based on our own individual strengths and areas for development,” she says. “I believe that Chauncey has created that kind of positive work environment for us by emphasizing the importance of being professional and doing our jobs well, but also having fun along the way.”

Mr. Kennedy recently accepted the award at the OACUHO Annual Spring Conference.
 

Design team competes on 'Mars'

By Andrew Stokes, Communications Officer

A group of Queen’s students got to experience Mars last week without leaving Earth.

After working for a year to build a functioning space rover, the Queen’s Space Engineering Team (QSET) flew to the Mars Desert Research Station in Hanksville, Utah, to pit their rover robot against opponents from around the globe.

QSET competed in four separate events against 22 teams during the University Rover Challenge. Facing stiff competition from veteran groups, the Queen’s team placed 13th.

“As a first year team we feel we did really well,” says Emily Wong (Sc’14), captain of QSET. “A lot of the teams have been improving their designs for many years, so we’re really happy about our results.”

The team faced challenges well before the competition started, as flight delays and overbookings left the students stranded in an airport and arriving to the competition just in time to compete. Their first task of traversing the desert terrain didn’t go as well as expected, but the team excelled in round two. An admitted mixture of skill and luck had their rover exceed expectations during a mock equipment servicing mission. They pushed their rover too hard in the third challenge, though, and repairs didn’t last for the final task of assisting a stranded astronaut.

Invigorated by the competition, the team is already making plans for next year. “There’s a lot of talk about going back,” says Ms. Wong. “You want something to build off of for your designs, so we have a lot of hope for progress.”

Adam Hall (Sc’14), Vice-President of Operations, QSET, appreciates the learning opportunity provided by the engineering team.

“Designing robots like we do is a great chance to supplement what’s taught in the classroom. You can follow the textbook word for word to build your power system, but it won’t teach you what brand of wiring to use, or what to do when something suddenly catches fire,” he says.

The student leaders were both happy and proud of their team, who spent the weekend running on a tight schedule with little sleep. “Everyone did great out there,” says Mr. Hall. “The team really came together out in the desert.”

QSET is partially funded by the Alma Mater Society and the Shell Experiential Learning Fund.

Award-winning professors still learning from students

Clarke Mackey (left) and Robert Morrison are this year's winners of the Frank Knox Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Each year, the Alma Mater Society (AMS) at Queen’s awards two professors for their outstanding commitment to teaching excellence with the highest honour given by students: the Frank Knox Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Named for Frank Knox, an economics professor who taught at Queen’s for 40 years, the award serves as a reminder of the need for a strong commitment and high quality of teaching from professors at Queen’s.

This year’s award recipients, Clarke Mackey (Film and Media) and Robert Morrison (English Language and Literature) sat down with Rosie Hales, Communications Officer, to talk about the award, Queen’s students, and the value of an education in the humanities.

Rosie Hales: How did it feel to win the Frank Knox Teaching Award?

Clarke Mackey: I must say that I was pleasantly surprised because sometimes I worry that it will be hard to connect with my students because of our generational gap. It didn’t matter to me whether I won; it was just great to be nominated. The fact that this award is based on who students believe to be the most dedicated means everything to me and I’m glad that students feel they are getting something meaningful out of our time together.

Robert Morrison: This is my third Frank Knox award but each one has felt just as good as the others. It’s like listening to “Hey Jude.” It’s feels fantastic whether it’s your first time or 50th time listening to it. To be nominated means that I’m still doing my job and I was very happy to know that. The process, from nomination to award, is an avalanche of work for the students, especially when they have so many other commitments. I really applaud Queen’s students - they are wonderful in a whole bunch of ways.

RH: How have you seen Queen’s students change over the years?

CM: In my 25 years at Queen’s, I’ve found the students here to be decent, curious, smart and good to each other and their professors. It’s a really positive working atmosphere.

RM: I have found Queen’s students wonderful from the day I arrived 11 years ago. My admiration for students here is very high; they’re just top notch people.

RH: Do you think students respond differently to the humanities now than when you started?

CM: I think we have to do a little work on explaining to people that it’s enormously helpful to have a humanities education. Humanities give you the chance to think critically, be creative, and communicate effectively in different ways. You gain a sense of ethics and sense of the larger world which makes you a better decision maker and independent worker.

RM: I think that a humanities degree is applicable everywhere. In regards to English literature, I always talk about how John Keats relates to today, because John Keats does relate to today. He struggled with health, relationships, debt, and death – as many people today do. An education in the humanities exposes you to things that are part of yourself that you didn’t know were there.

RH: What do you hope your future at Queen’s brings for you?

CM: Hanging around with 22 year olds and keeping up with them is very stimulating for me and teaches me an enormous amount about the world. I learn a lot from my students. I hope I still have some useful things to tell them so they can learn from me, too.

RM: The first year prof I had at the University of Lethbridge changed my life. I remember him telling me that my job was to go into the classroom and aim to do the same for others. I hope I can do this for Queen’s students.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. This story first appeared in the May edition of the Gazette newspaper.

Casting call

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

Aboriginal high school students came to campus this week for the Medical Week for Aboriginal Youth (MedWay) program. The 19 students from Kingston, Tyendinaga, Cornwall and Thunder Bay received an introduction to various medical fields. The students had the opportunity to participate in a workshop on casting during the final day of the program. MedExplore, the Enrichment Studies Unit and Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre worked together to offer the program.

A fertile space for community growth

By Andrew Stokes, Communications Officer

A community garden has sprung up at Sydenham Street United Church (SSUC) in recent months. The garden was the idea of two Queen’s students, Gillian MacDonald (Artsci’16) and Victoria Denney (Artsci’16).

“There’s a serious disconnect between people and their food production, and it’s important that we understand our place in the land we occupy,” says Ms. MacDonald. “We wanted to focus on land stewardship and treat our space sustainably and with respect — we didn’t just want a lawn.”
 

Victoria Denney (left) and Gillian MacDonald proposed the garden.

They have transformed a large section of the church’s grass lawn into a garden, complete with permaculture furrows that include old logs buried under the soil. The process, called hugelkultur, is a centuries-old German farming practice that increases soil fertility and aids in irrigation.

Turning the church’s lawn space into a garden was a job that required a lot of manual labour, but members of the church and local community, professors and students have all stepped up to help.

“We have a volunteer base of nearly 30 students that has helped us tend the space. It can be liberating for people to grow their own food, and it’s a great way to get involved in the community,” says Ms. MacDonald.

And it’s largely the community that will benefit from the garden. A portion of the crops will go home with the volunteers, but local charitable food organizations like Martha’s Table and Loving Spoonful will receive a majority of the produce.

“We wanted the food to be well-used,” says Ms. MacDonald, “and we were able to use connections already established by the church.”

The church is equally enthusiastic about the good things growing outside.

“The last few years we’ve been actively inviting the community to come use our church,” says Elizabeth MacDonald, Minister at SSUC. “It’s become clear that we need less and less space, so when Gillian and Victoria came to us with the idea for the garden, we were thrilled.”

Besides weekly church congregations, SSUC is used to host concerts, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, children’s outreach programs and more. “We’re blessed with this facility and we want to share it. We want it to be a kind of community centre with the church congregation as a partner,” the minister says.

The garden is about more than just growing food though, says Gillian MacDonald. “It’s been a space of learning for children and for adults. The garden is fertile ground for education and communication.”

Students pay tribute to high school teachers

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

Graduating students cross the convocation stage by themselves to receive their diplomas, but they certainly are not alone during the journey that leads them to that momentous occasion. Many students remember and cherish the support they received from their high school teachers.

Stephanie Sweirgosz (Artsci'14) nominated Marc LaRouche for a Baillie Award for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching.

Marc LaRouche was one of those influential educators for Stephanie Sweirgosz (Artsci’14). She credits Mr. LaRouche, a chemistry and calculus teacher and guidance counsellor at Kirkland Lake District Composite School, for helping develop her confidence and passion for kinesiology and health studies.

“He has touched the lives of many students with his commitment to education, fostering of critical thinking and devotion towards making the high school experience one that is not solely focused on learning information, but learning about life and about oneself,” says Ms. Sweirgosz, who nominated Mr. LaRouche for a Baillie Award for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching.

These awards are a wonderful opportunity for graduating students to honour a high school teacher who supported them on their path to higher education at Queen’s.

Ann Tierney, Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs

The award was established by Chancellor Emeritus A. Charles Baillie. It gives undergraduate students in their graduating year the opportunity to honour educators in Canada who had a decisive and formative influence on them. Mr. LaRouche and four other secondary school teachers will receive their Baillie Awards at various spring convocation ceremonies.

“I was completely speechless, and I am never speechless. I immediately reflected on the wonderful times I spent with Stephanie over the years,” says Mr. LaRouche. “Ultimately, I am left with a deep appreciation for your former chancellor. What kind of a man generously creates an award to celebrate the achievement of former teachers? I am fortunate to live among some truly great people.”

In addition to Mr. LaRouche, this year’s award recipients are:

• Ana Maria Pereira-Castillo, a Spanish and French teacher at University of Toronto Schools, nominated by Samir Kulkarni (Com’14 and Artsci’14).

• Carrie Wilson, a science and chemistry teacher at Kincardine District Secondary School, nominated by Ramona Neferu (Sci’14)

• Robert Berg, a physics, mathematics and science teacher at Orangeville District Secondary School, nominated by Alex Cormier (Sci’14)

• Barry Yee, an international baccalaureate biology and chemistry teacher at Western Canada Senior High School in Calgary, nominated by Chantal Loeppky (Artsci’14).

“The university is grateful to Mr. Baillie for setting up this program in recognition of the positive influence that so many secondary school teachers have on their students,” says Ann Tierney, Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs. “These awards are a wonderful opportunity for graduating students to honour a high school teacher who supported them on their path to higher education at Queen’s.”

More information about the Baillie Awards is available on the Student Affairs website.
 

Higher education conference coming to Queen's

By Andrew Stokes, Communications Officer


Faculty, students, administrators, librarians and educational developers will gather on campus June 17-20 to share their research and experiences around teaching and learning.

The theme of the 2014 Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education conference is “transforming our learning experience.” Jill Scott, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning), says the focus is particularly apt given the ongoing transformations in postsecondary education.

“The technology turn is upon us as courses are redesigned to blended or online modes and classrooms are being repurposed as active learning spaces,” Dr. Scott says. “Transformative also refers to the best learning experiences our students encounter — the best learning should transform students and educators in profound ways.”

Queen’s has endeavoured to address those changes in its recent Teaching and Learning Action Plan. Dr. Scott says having the conference in Kingston is a way to continue the discussions around the action plan and its bold recommendations that aim to enhance the student learning experience.

The university has partnered with the Royal Military College of Canada, St. Lawrence College and the Canadian Defence Academy to host the conference this year. Between 500 and 600 people from various disciplines are expected to attend the conference.

“When Queen’s last hosted the conference in 1987, we began talks about the need for a teaching centre, and the creation of the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) was the direct result. In that sense this conference feels like it’s come full circle,” says Dr. Denise Stockley, the chairperson of the conference and interim director of the CTL.

This year’s conference features two keynote speakers. Dr. John Smol (Biology), Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change, will discuss ways of integrating research into teaching. Dr. Eric Mazur, Dean of Applied Physics and Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University, will present on the disconnect between classroom assessment and real world skills.

The conference will conclude with presentations by the 3M National Student Fellows on student leadership in post-secondary education.

Those interested in volunteering or attending can find more details on the event’s website.

Teepee teachings

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

Aboriginal Grade 7 and 8 students from across Ontario learned about the significance and importance of the teepee in Cree culture through a hands-on activity at Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre (FDASC) this past week.

The students were on campus to participate in Engineering Week for Aboriginal Youth (EngWAY), a program offered jointly by Aboriginal Access to Engineering and the Enrichment Studies Unit to introduce Aboriginal students to engineering and applied science.

“The cultural activity was an interactive way for students to learn about the 15 traditional Cree cultural values represented by each pole of the teepee,” says Janice Hill, Director, FDASC. “By working with an elder, they could understand the protocol for replacing the canvas as well as the engineering behind the structure.”

Students completed in-class activities to learn about the sacred values that sustain the Cree’s spiritual, emotional, physical and mental well-being. The students, FDASC staff and Aboriginal Access to Engineering summer outreach staff then moved outside to erect the teepee and put on the new canvas. They were led by Elder Bernard Nelson, an Oji-Cree who lives in Kingston.

FDASC regularly conducts ceremonies in the teepee, a symbol of the sacredness of womanhood as it stands with dignity. The original canvas needed to be replaced because it was starting to rip and deteriorate. The new canvas contains a tricolour design and was made possible by support from the Aboriginal Access to Engineering.
 

New campus space helps 'SparQ' creativity

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

People toil away in their garages every day to come up with innovative products. For students living in rented apartments, though, that option isn’t usually available.

Queen’s students decided to change that and open their own “garage” on campus. They pitched the idea to the Queen’s Innovation Connector, a joint initiative by the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and Queen’s School of Business, who agreed to partner with them and support their project. The result, SparQ Labs in Beamish Munro Hall, is the first “makerspace” on a Canadian university campus where students can work on their projects and share resources and knowledge.

“Elspeth Murray, Associate Dean of QSB, says makerspace is the ‘garage phenomenon on steroids.’ That’s the culture we are really trying to instill here,” says Robin Sim (Sci’14), a co-founder and former director of SparQ Labs.

With the makerspace now in place, we expect that ideas that were once hidden in the university will be discovered. SparQ Labs will enable increased hands-on learning in the classroom of the future.

Robin Sim, co-founder of SparQ Labs

Brennan Piper (Sci’15), the current director of SparQ, initially visited the lab to use a heat gun for a personal project. He soon discovered other tools like a desktop 3D printer, drill press and milling machine that he could not access on a student budget.

“I have a list pages long of things I want to make. Now that I have access to this space, the ideas can come off the page,” he says. “And another great thing is that any Queen’s student, faculty or staff member can join SparQ Labs and make use of the space.”

After opening in May 2013, SparQ Labs made several moves before finding a permanent home at Beamish Munro Hall Room 115H in February 2014. SparQ has supported student projects and the Queen’s Summer Innovation Institute (QSII). Last year’s QSII winner, GCC Labs, developed the prototype of its cordless cellphone charger for restaurants and bars in SparQ Labs.

Mr. Sim believes the makerspace supports the university’s goal to give students more experiential learning opportunities and fosters a growing entrepreneurial community at Queen’s.

“The education system is changing. When you can show employers you have actually created a product, that’s worth something to them,” he says. “With the makerspace now in place, we expect that ideas that were once hidden in the university will be discovered. SparQ Labs will enable increased hands-on learning in the classroom of the future.”

More information is available on the SparQ Labs website.
 

Making competitive moot points count

By Nancy Dorrance, Senior Development Writer

Thinking on their feet, improvising under pressure and working as a team – these important skills enabled law students Emily Evangelista, Law’15, and Ben Snow, Law’14, to help their Queen’s teams capture first place at two key mooting competitions this spring.

Now, as the result of a $100,000 gift from Toronto litigation firm Lenczner Slaght, Queen’s will be able to further expand and deepen the range of mooting opportunities it can offer its students, giving them the chance to hone their courtroom skills in a real-life environment.

[Moot court competition]Law students hone their courtroom skills by preparing for moot competitions. A $100,000 gift by Toronto litigation firm Lenczner Slaght will allow the Faculty of Law to deepen the range of mooting opportunities it can offer students.

“Experiential learning has long been an integral part of our students’ legal education,” says Faculty of Law Dean Bill Flanagan. “Our Competitive Moot Court Program allows upper-year students to develop essential legal research and written and oral advocacy skills. With the generous support of our alumni and friends at Lenzcner Slaght, we will continue to provide a first-class range of mooting opportunites for our students.”

Each year, teams from Queen’s compete in up to 20 national and international mooting competitions in a wide range of legal areas including constitutional law, Aboriginal law, criminal law, international law, tax, securities law, environmental law, trade law, commercial arbitration, IP, labour arbitration, trial advocacy and client counselling. At least one-third of all law graduates participate in a competitive moot during their time at Queen’s: among the highest participation rates of any law school in Canada.

“Lenczner Slaght is committed to the development of our advocates of tomorrow,” says Peter Griffin, Law ’77, the firm’s Managing Partner, past president of The Advocates’ Society and member of the Dean’s Council. “We are delighted to be a strong supporter of the Queen’s Moot Court Program.”

Mooting forced me to take principles that I’d spent hours reading and hearing about, and learn how to communicate them with persuasive precision.

– Ben Snow (Law'14)

For Ms. Evangelista and Mr. Snow, the opportunity to develop their own unique advocacy skills at competitive moots has proved invaluable. “The best way to learn how to do anything is by practicing, and mooting is the best advocacy practice you can get,” says Ms. Evangelista, whose Queen’s team recently won the Canadian rounds of the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition – the largest and most competitive moot in the world. (See page 3 of the Gazette newspaper for more details).

“There's no other course in law school like it,” she adds. “And employers also take note of moot participation: every interviewer I've had has asked about my experience on the Jessup team.”

“Mooting forced me to take principles that I’d spent hours reading and hearing about, and learn how to communicate them with persuasive precision,” says Mr. Snow, a member of the Queen’s team that brought home the 2014 Arnup Cup for trial advocacy. “The program connected me with experienced coaches who provided essential guidance and mentorship. Most importantly, mooting created an unparalleled, fail-safe opportunity to take risks, receive constructive feedback and build confidence as I developed these skills.”

The Initiative Campaign is the most ambitious fundraising campaign in the university’s history. The goal is to raise half a billion dollars to ensure Queen’s future as a destination for exceptional people. The campaign will nurture a supportive campus community, enhance the student learning experience, and secure a global reputation in discovery and inquiry.
 

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