Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Student Learning Experience

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.

A sea of learning opportunities

By Andrew Stokes, Communications Officer

Following in the footsteps of her mother, aunt and cousin, Rebecca Isaak (Artsci’15) spent a term sailing around the world. Enrolled in the University of Virginia’s Semester at Sea (SAS) exchange program, Ms. Isaak earned course credits while travelling to places like China, India and Burma during the winter term of her third year.

Rebecca Isaak visited the Great Wall of China while with Semester at Sea. (Photo provided)

Semester at Sea is a multiple country study abroad program open to students from all disciplines. The program emphasizes hands-on field experiences and engagement in the global community. Instructors often tailor course content to take advantage of the locations visited during the trip.

Because of her religions of the world class, Ms. Isaak was particularly excited about visiting India. “Before we arrived in India I was studying the Hindu deities. Getting to travel to Varanasi, one of the holiest places for Hindus, was just incredible,” she says. “The application of learning was what really made the courses come alive.”

SAS courses range from anthropology to environmental science to Shakespeare, and all courses are taught by doctorate-level educators. For each voyage, a completely new faculty is appointed. Learning isn’t restricted to the classrooms aboard the ship; faculty members typically schedule off-board educational trips to supplement content covered in class.

Holly Fortier (Com’14), who travelled with SAS in 2013, enjoyed these faculty-led trips. When the ship was headed to Hong Kong, her international business class focused on a case study about Hong Kong Disneyland. Upon arrival, the professor arranged for the students to meet with Disneyland’s park managers. They discussed park operations and the implementation of the business strategy the class had been studying.

Semester at Sea courses are similar to those offered on a traditional campus complete with essays and examinations. However, Ms. Fortier says she was blown away by what happened outside the classroom. “The amount of information I learned outside of the classroom far surpassed what I learned inside of it,” she says. “It is such a unique experience that I really believe to be a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

The program goes much deeper than just giving students a chance to see the world. “At the heart of SAS is a desire for students to have an understanding of their global citizenship and responsibilities. It provides a fantastic chance to be surrounded by a community that seeks worldly education like no other,” she says.

More information about the program can be found on the Semester at Sea website.

Once a 'scheme,' the Ban Righ dream lives on

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

The Ban Righ Foundation is celebrating 40 years of supporting the continuing education of women, a milestone the organization could not have reached without significant support, according to Ban Righ Centre Director Carole Morrison.

Shirley Brooks-Purkis, former Ban Righ Centre board member, Anne Maxwell, a Ban Righ Centre volunteer, and Katherine Leverette, former chair of the Ban Righ Centre board of directors, were just a few of the people who attended the 40th anniversary celebration on May 3.

“The success of the Ban Righ Foundation and Centre is the result, first and foremost, of collaborating with the local community and the university,” says Ms. Morrison. “More than 500 women from the community have served on the board or given their time, energy and financial resources in many cases.

“The Ban Righ Centre has worked together with the university and it has been a really productive relationship,” she adds. “The university has granted the foundation a certain degree of independence and autonomy that has allowed the Ban Righ Centre to support mature women students in an organic, grassroots way.”

The formation of the Ban Righ Foundation in 1974 required a good dose of initiative and it makes story compelling four decades later. The roots of the story stretch back to the early 1920s when volunteers from the Alumnae Association, the association of female Queen’s graduates, started planning and raising funds for a women’s residence. Their hard work and determination resulted in the opening of Ban Righ Hall in 1925.

The association continued to administer and supervise Ban Righ Hall until the late 1960s when the university decided it wanted to merge the management of male and female residences. Discussions were held over several years and the Alumnae Association fought to keep control of the surplus it had built over the years.

A group of women including Gladys Heinz (Arts’37, M.A.’38), Helen Anderson (Arts’46) and Bonnie Judge (Arts’49) “hatched a scheme,” in the words of Helen Mathers, the founding director of the Ban Righ Foundation, to use the money to support women’s education. Articulate and determined women made their case and it resulted in the formation of the Ban Righ Foundation in 1974.

The Ban Righ Centre at 32 Bader Lane is a welcoming home away from home for many women, especially mature women returning to Queen's.

That commitment to the cause lives on today through the many volunteers and staff members associated with the Ban Righ Foundation and Centre. Ms. Morrison says the Ban Righ Centre has remained true to its original mandate while adapting to the changing times.

“There has been a shift in demographics. There are far more women attending university, and a growth in women seeking professional and graduate degrees. Sometimes those women have families at that point in their lives,” she says. “We still provide student advising and financial assistance and invite speakers to the centre. We just do more of it.”

Mary Ballantyne (Arts'54) is a long-time supporter of the centre. She believes the centre is especially relevant given the university’s increased focus on the health and well-being of its students.

“I read the Principal’s Commission on Mental Health report, and the Ban Righ Centre is already doing a lot of the recommendations. It’s a home with people who care. It’s a place where mature women students can come and have someone listen to them and get help,” she says.

Ms. Ballantyne’s words were included in an audio history of the Ban Righ Centre that was played at the anniversary celebration on May 3. Ms. Morrison aims to post portions of the audio recordings on the Ban Righ Centre website in the near future.

A need for speed

By Rosie Hales, Communications Officer

The Queen’s Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (QFSAE) team hits the road starting this week to compete in three international events.

[Queen's Formula SAE team]Members of the Queen's Formula Society of Automotive Engineers spent 15,000 man-hours creating their open wheeled race car.

QFSAE has been building open wheel race cars – similar to the machines in Formula One racing – and testing them at international competitions for more than two decades. This year’s team of 30 people includes members from various faculties across campus.

“Everyone, no matter their background, has something valuable to bring to the table and will almost certainly get something valuable out of this experience,” says Joseph Liu (Sci’15), General Manager of QFSAE. “Anyone who’s a Formula One enthusiast, car lover or intrigued by the project can join.”

In April, the QFSAE team unveiled their 2014 race car – a product of 15,000 man-hours – at the Integrated Learning Centre in Beamish-Munro Hall. The team hopes that the new and improved aerodynamic package and undertray of the car will help them speed across finish lines in record time.

“The new undertray we’ve installed acts like inverted wings to keep the car in good contact with the ground, especially helping with tight corners,” says Mr. Liu (Sci ’15). “The aerodynamic package as a whole would also allow us to drive the car at 100 km/h upside down, if we wanted to, but not that we should!”

After being involved in the QFSAE team for the last three years, Mr. Liu’s favourite part is attending competitions and facing off against 80-120 international teams. In 2010, the QFSAE team placed first out of all Canadian teams at a competition in Michigan.

“The teams that compete are top notch,” says Mr. Liu. “It would be fantastic to be in the top 15 this year.”

This week’s competition lasts until May 17. The team will also be competing in Barrie, Ont., from May 22-25 and in Nebraska in June.

To follow the progress of Queen’s Formula SAE, follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook, or check out their website.


Subscribe to RSS - Student Learning Experience