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Financial Sustainability

New vice-principal to manage university assets and sustainability

Queen’s University is moving toward a more integrated approach to managing its real estate assets and sustainability initiatives, as Principal and Vice-Chancellor Daniel Woolf announced plans to recruit a new vice-principal of facilities, properties and sustainability.

“With roughly 180 buildings and 170 acres of land in Kingston alone, Queen’s has substantial real estate holdings that are currently managed through three different vice-principal portfolios,” says Principal Woolf. “Assigning responsibility for the management of all property and sustainability initiatives to one vice-principal will help Queen’s develop an integrated real estate strategy that best supports the university’s academic mission and helps to strengthen its financial and environmental sustainability.”

The new vice-principal’s portfolio will include responsibility for Campus Planning and Development, Physical Plant Services, and leased property such as Innovation Park.

The creation of the new portfolio will help ensure that facilities and properties are cohesively managed as the university moves forward with addressing priorities such as classroom renewal, major capital projects including the revitalization of the Physical Education Centre, deferred maintenance, and sustainability initiatives such as the Climate Action Plan. A key component of the new vice-principal’s duties will be the development of a real estate strategy that includes opportunities to generate revenue from properties not currently being used for core academic purposes.

An advisory committee will be appointed to lead a search process and advise Principal Woolf on the appointment of the new vice-principal. That process is expected to begin in the coming weeks.

Queen’s currently owns more than 80 large buildings and almost 100 houses, occupies roughly 170 acres on the main and west campuses (plus 7,500 acres at the Queen’s Biological Station), and manages satellite locations in Toronto and Shanghai, as well as Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex, United Kingdom.

Queen’s welcomes post-secondary investments in 2016 budget

Queen’s University Principal Daniel Woolf welcomes the investment in students, research and innovation outlined in the 2016 federal budget.

“The 2016 budget includes important new investments in the post-secondary sector, including financial assistance for students, funding for fundamental research, and infrastructure renewal at Canada’s post secondary institutions,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “We look forward to hearing further details about the announcements made in the budget.”

The budget will see up to $2 billion invested over three years in infrastructure renewal, starting in 2016-17, through the new Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund. The new fund will support up to 50 per cent of the eligible costs of infrastructure projects at post-secondary institutions and affiliated research and commercialization organizations.

In addition, the budget announced a new investment of $95 million annually in discovery and research through Canada’s three granting councils. The budget also signaled the development of an “innovation agenda” to define clear outcomes, objectives and metrics to measure Canada’s progress, and announced a strategic review of the government’s supports for research and innovation funding.

“Canada’s positon as a leader in research and discovery depends on continued support through the tri-councils,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “This new funding represents a significant boost to the sector and we look forward to working with the government as it undertakes its review of research and innovation funding.”

Going forward, the Government will work with the provinces and territories to expand eligibility for Canada Student Grants so that even more students can receive non-repayable assistance. Under the new model, the existing low- and middle-income thresholds will be replaced with a single progressive threshold under which grant amounts will gradually decline based on income and family size. This will help make postsecondary education more affordable and open up new opportunities for those from low-income families, and ensure graduates can manage debt as they transition into the workforce.

The 2016 budget also proposes substantial investments in Indigenous education to help ensure Indigenous students have the same opportunities for success as other Canadian students. For more information on the 2016 federal budget, please visit the website.

Credit ratings remain high

Queen’s University has maintained its high credit rating on the strength of its prudent management practices, strong enrolment profile and successful fundraising operations.

Both the Dominion Bond Rating Service (DBRS) and Standard and Poor’s held Queen’s credit rating stable over last year, at AA and AA+ respectively. The rating, DBRS noted in its report, reflected that Queen’s has a “consistently strong applicant pool and profile… providing stability to tuition fee revenues and government operating grant allocations.”

“Maintaining a good credit rating is important to Queen’s as it demonstrates that the university continues to be soundly managed from a financial perspective,” says Caroline Davis, Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration). “However, both the DBRS and S&P reports do stress that there continue to be financial risks at Queen’s.”

DBRS said the most significant financial risk for Queen’s remains pension sustainability and the potential for significant special payments for the solvency deficit. It also noted that constraints on tuition fees in regulated programs means the university has limited ability to address increasing costs.

Queen’s recently received stage two solvency relief and has opted to defer payments on the solvency deficit for three years and then pay down the entire balance over the following seven. During the three-year deferral period, the university will build a reserve fund to offset the impact of the solvency payments that will begin in 2018. The university is also looking at establishing a multi-employer jointly-sponsored pension plan (JSPP) with other Ontario universities to achieve a solvency exemption.

Read the full report on the Queen’s Financial Services website

Statement from Principal Woolf on the 2016 Ontario budget

I wish to applaud the Government of Ontario for making some important changes to the student assistance program through Budget 2016. The result will be a more progressive system of financial aid for Ontario students and their families.

Changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program and the introduction of the Ontario Student Grant will mean easier access to financial aid and more grants for the students who need it most.

In the coming days we will look closely at other aspects of the budget. Queen’s looks forward to working closely with the government on the implementation of the changes to student assistance over the coming months.

Daniel Woolf
Principal and Vice-Chancellor

Breathing new life into the PEC

Queen’s University recently has made progress in its plans to revitalize the former Physical Education Centre (PEC) as a centre for health, wellness and innovation. Jasmine Toor, Communications Specialist, spoke with Alan Harrison, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic), to learn what the plan will mean for the university.

The revitalization plan for the former Physical Education Centre (PEC) sees the building transformed into a health, wellness and innovation centre.
Construction of the former Physical Education Centre (PEC) was completed in 1931, offering gymnasiums as well as swimming, diving and water polo facilities.

Jasmine Toor: What progress has been made on the university’s plan to revitalize the former PEC building?

Alan Harrison: The university has made significant progress. Queen’s retained CS&P Architects in fall 2015 to produce a functional program and conceptual design for the revitalized building. The preliminary business case for the project is complete and we have initiated the work that will yield a more reliable cost estimate (known as a class B estimate). Our hope is that the first phase of the project, the demolition of much of the interior, will commence early in 2017. Queen’s has raised a significant portion of the total cost of the project, the class D estimate for which is $87 million.   

JT: What was the impetus that led to the decision to redevelop the building?

AH: A structural assessment by an external consultant found that the building was in excellent shape and thus could provide a considerable amount of additional space at a relatively low cost per square foot, if renovated, in comparison to a newly constructed building. The Queen's Health, Wellness and Innovation Centre affords us a wonderful opportunity to utilize and revitalize valuable space in the heart of campus.

JT: What will the revitalized building be used for?

AH: The major constituent parts of this project are engineering, innovation and health and wellness. The revitalized building will enhance both the quality of our student experience and the quality of our research facilities by aligning academic and non-academic uses for the building.  Queen’s has a longstanding reputation of offering our students an exceptional educational and extra-curricular learning experience. When completed, the project will be a prominent symbol of Queen’s as the quintessential balanced academy, the Canadian research-intensive university with a transformative learning experience.

The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science will be a major occupant of the revitalized building. Undergraduate learning in engineering will be supported by an interactive Learning Commons that will allow more than 500 mechanical and materials engineering students to work individually or collaboratively on projects and assignments in an environment that offers state-of-the-art information and computing technology. Additionally, a number of high-technology, leading-edge teaching and design studios will each support between 75 and 150 undergraduate students.

Interdisciplinary laboratory space will support more than 20 faculty researchers working on bioengineering, environmental and biomedical research. This laboratory space will allow considerable expansion of interdisciplinary research, primarily but not exclusively in the areas of chemical and civil engineering. The benefits of this laboratory space will accrue not only to the researchers but also to their graduate students.

The Queen’s Health, Wellness and Innovation Centre affords us a wonderful opportunity to utilize and revitalize valuable space in the heart of campus.

— Alan Harrison, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic)

JT: How does this plan align with Queen’s commitment to enhanced health and wellness related facilities?

AH: The Wellness Centre is an integral part of the revitalization project. The new Wellness Centre will allow us to co-locate services, so anyone seeking counselling is assured of privacy.  By combining health, counselling and accessibility services together in one centrally located and visible location, along with three gymnasia and other athletic and recreation facilities, the revitalized building will provide opportunities to integrate physical and mental health, connecting them with the student experience.

Furthermore, the new Wellness Centre will be able to provide us with the increased capacity and flexibility to meet the rising demand across the spectrum of wellness services and expand in response to the evolving needs of our student population. This was acknowledged by the 2012 report of the Principal’s Commission on Mental Health, which recommended a new and centralized location for student wellness services.

The completion of Queen’s Gymnasium in 1931:
“It is modern in every respect; we can hold up our heads and boast of one of the finest gymnasiums in Dominion. The undergraduates will reap the benefits and it behooves them to carry on and bring more athletic honors to Queen’s. Swimming and diving and water-polo facilities are now open for the Queen’s natatorialartists and soon graduates should hear that Queen’s is once more carrying off championships in this new athletic field.”

JT: How does the revitalization project align with Queen’s commitment to innovation?

AH: Queen’s has committed to increasing the number of new opportunities for experiential and entrepreneurial learning, improving intra-university collaboration through new programs and curriculum innovation, and creating new and innovative ways for students to develop fundamental academic skills. The new engineering space of the building will include an Innovation Hub. This and other space in the refurbished building dedicated to innovation will result in a considerable expansion of the Queen’s Innovation Connector (QIC), which will support and allow the development of a core strength of the QIC, which is its interdisciplinary nature.

Students from across the university will have access to the resources, the networks and the mentors that will help transform their ideas into products and services. They will work in diverse teams to address important problems and identify the solutions that will yield benefits not only for our region, but nationally and globally too. The innovation component of the redevelopment plan also aligns with the federal government’s focus on innovation as an important component of university research.

A strategy for success

Imagine leaving the office at the end of each day knowing that you made a difference. For Roger Billings, this is the most rewarding aspect of his work as an external consultant with Queen’s Organizational Development and Learning.

On March 3, Roger Billings, an external consultant with Queen’s Organizational Development and Learning, will facilitate Strategic Thinking, one of several HR Learning Catalogue workshops he leads.

“I greatly enjoy what I do, because the results are immediate,” says Mr. Billings. “When you deliver a workshop, the energy from the participants is contagious.”

Seeing participants benefit from using the knowledge and tools they’ve gained is incredibly fulfilling, he says.

“They stay in touch with each other, which creates a very powerful network. They share their successes, their frustrations, they support each other. They know that I can be reached any time and I believe they trust me enough to seek further help. I can't think of anything more satisfying than hearing their success stories,” Mr. Billings says.

On March 3, Mr. Billings will facilitate Strategic Thinking, one of several HR Learning Catalogue workshops he leads. Developing a strategic plan or vision can be a difficult process. He notes that all staff would benefit from learning the theory and techniques of strategic thinking – the step before any planning can happen.

“People typically don’t see their piece of the puzzle, and if they do it as a group, that’s even better,” he says.

A facilitator with more than 30 years of coaching experience, Mr. Billings also leads workshops on delivering and receiving constructive feedback, emotional intelligence, effective relationship-building and team-building. Individual departments have also retained him for custom programming. He co-designed and facilitates the Foundational Leadership and Emerging Leaders programs with Queen’s Organizational Development and Learning.

“The learning experiences are truly amazing, mainly because many of the participants do not realize their potential until they are well into the program,” he says. “By the conclusion, they feel very capable, secure and strong. Yes, at times they may feel the commitment is substantial, and it is, but I believe they are so empowered when they reach the end.”

The Emerging Leaders Program, which pairs an experienced manager with a new or aspiring manager, has also proven to be a great success. Some participants have mentioned it should be called the mentors/mentors program, because the mentors learn as much as the mentees, he says. “All participants have been so willing to help and generous with their time, I can't say enough about the response and support for this program for staff, from staff.”

Before starting his own training organization, Mr. Billings began his career with IBM Canada and was the Canadian president of several companies. His experience in many fields from industry to universities has enabled him to appreciate and understand the complexities of organizations and the challenges associated with developing professional skills and competencies.

“There is very little I have not seen," he says. "This gives me the ability to take a calm and collected approach to difficult situations, seeing them from a distance in order to give my clients the support and advice they seek.”

For more information, visit the Human Resources website and click on Learning and Development under Quick Links. 

Queen's sees rise in applications

Queen’s University remains a leading choice among Ontario university students with continued strong growth in applications, according to data recently released by the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre.  

[Fall preview]
Applicants and their parents tour Queen's campus during Fall Preview last year. First-year applications from Ontario high school students are up 7.3 per cent from this time last year. (Photo by Bernard Clark) 

First-year applications from Ontario high school students to study at Queen’s in fall 2016 are up 7.3 per cent from this time last year. This compares to a 1.5 per cent increase province-wide.

Queen’s has already received more than 30,000 applications in total for more than 4,400 spaces in direct-entry, first-year programs across all faculties and schools, as of Jan. 15.

“Not only is Queen’s attracting a higher number of applications, more high school students are ranking Queen’s as their first choice, which reflects the strength of our programs and the quality of our student experience,” says Alan Harrison, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). “We look forward to welcoming the Class of 2020 in the fall, which will be the 175th entering class in the history of Queen’s University.”

Queen’s preliminary application statistics also indicate the university is progressing in two key priority areas. Applications from international students are up 31 per cent compared to this time last year. Furthermore, applications from self-identified Aboriginal students have increased 58 per cent from 2011-12. Acceptances by self-identified Aboriginal students have jumped 133 per cent during that time period.

Queen’s, which is still receiving applications, will continue to make offers of admission until approximately mid-May. The first-year enrolment target for 2016-17 is 4,422, which is unchanged from 2015-16.

At the interface between numbers and people

Throughout her career, Teri Shearer has immersed herself in business and accounting – numbers, yes, but also how those financial statements affect people and social structures.

[Teri Shearer]
Earlier this month, Teri Shearer became deputy provost of Queen's University. (University Communications)

“I’ve always been really interested in the interface between the numbers and people’s behaviour,” says Dr. Shearer, who took over from Laeeque Daneshmend as the university’s deputy provost this month. “My research has largely focused on management accounting – budgeting, incentive systems and cost-tracking – and the sociological and behavioural impacts of business practices.”

Dr. Shearer has stepped into the deputy provost role after 20 years at the Smith School of Business – a number that’s significant to her as she transitions to a senior administrative position.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time at Smith, but it seemed time to move to a more central position. Taking this position is a great opportunity to move beyond the walls of my faculty and get a view of the university as a whole,” says Dr. Shearer. “I want to experience the workings of the central university and expose myself to how other units approach operations.”

The deputy provost position is broad – in large part focused on the university’s finances and cost-containment, an area to which Dr. Shearer is well-suited, given her role in business education and the administration at Smith, where she was most recently associate dean. The position also oversees all academic appointments, as well as operations at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. She will also play a key role in implementing the Employment Equity Strategic Framework.

“I am looking forward to this work on employment equity. It’s a very important area and one I am committed to pushing forward. The university – all universities – needs to be a model for students, and attracting more members of equity-seeking groups is a huge priority.”

Born in Iowa, Dr. Shearer started her career as a bookkeeper, and later as a certified accountant. She enjoyed the work, but craved more in-depth study of business practices, and so pursued a PhD at the University of Iowa. Soon after, she moved north to Canada, teaching at the University of Saskatchewan for three years before coming to Queen’s in 1996. Queen’s mid-sized status, along with its dual focus on research and the learning experience, have always appealed to her.

“This is a great place to be, as a student, faculty member, or administrator,” she says. “I am excited to see what I will learn in my new role.”

Learning is definitely part of the job, and she relishes the opportunity this career move provides. She also knows that, like everyone, she needs balance, something she says she finds in her garden, and with the animals she’s kept over the years on her hobby farm northwest of Kingston – everything from chickens and turkeys, to goats, sheep and llamas.

“The gardening and farming is something tangible I do to offset all the non-tangible work I do in the office,” she says.

Driving sustainability ahead

For the past two Homecomings, Fraser Horn (Sci‘89) drove from Toronto to Kingston in his 100 per cent electric Tesla Model S. He was able to just make it to Kingston but had trouble finding adequate charging for his trip home. After last year’s Homecoming, Mr. Horn sent an email to Principal Daniel Woolf .

[EV Charging]
Fraser Horn (Sci‘89) charges his Tesla Model S. Mr. Horn made an initial $4,000 pledge to the Electric Vehicle Charging Station Sustainability Initiative.

“I wrote to Principal Woolf suggesting that there ought to be an electric car charger on campus. I told him I thought universities should be at the forefront of sustainable projects,” says Mr. Horn.

Principal Woolf connected him with the Sustainability Office to explore the idea of installing an electric car charger on campus. Mr. Horn, an electrical engineer and stay-at-home father, made an initial $4,000 pledge. So began the Electric Vehicle Charging Station Sustainability Initiative.

As Sustainability Manager Aaron Ball explains, this initiative fits perfectly with Queen’s goal of creating a sustainable campus by increasing support for alternative modes of transportation. 

“We want to break down the barriers to alternate transportation. For example, more people will ride their bikes if there are lots of bike racks on campus. As electric cars become more popular as an alternate form of transportation, installing a charger on campus will break down another barrier,” says Mr. Ball.

In Kingston there is an electric car charging station near Hwy. 401 at Division Street, one on Princess Street at the Best Western and another at St. Lawrence College, but because of the hours it can take to charge, it’s really only practical to have a charger at your destination, which for Mr. Horn was downtown and the Queen’s University campus. It is logical and fitting that Queen’s, with its highly-respected engineering program that encourages discovery and invention of sustainable products and green initiatives, leads the way in this initiative. 

The two electric vehicle charging stations will be located at the corner of Union and Division streets, in front of the School of Kinesiology, where they will be “visible, accessible, and where we easily can connect to a building to get the power,” says Mr. Ball. They will be used by Queen’s employees and visitors to campus.

The cost of installing the two chargers on campus is $30,000. While Mr. Horn’s initial gift to the program is a good start, more donations are required to make this goal a reality. 

“I’m reaching out to my classmates and others who feel the same way I do, that Queen’s needs to encourage the adoption of sustainable practices,” says Mr. Horn. “I do a lot of driving with my three busy children, so I see the positive impact of using a sustainable and cleaner means to get around.”

He adds: “Things like this may feel small, especially if only one or two individuals are doing it, but collectively, I know, we can make a big difference. The lack of charging infrastructure is one of the biggest barriers to electric vehicle ownership but because electricity is everywhere it’s a relatively easy problem to solve.”

To contribute to the EV Charging Station project, visit givetoqueens.ca/sustainableengineering.

Personal IT items available at Campus Bookstore

With the Campus Computer Store closing at the end April, the Campus Bookstore is expanding its selection of IT items that staff, faculty and students can purchase for personal use. 

To smooth the transition of these purchases, the Campus Computer Store anticipates personal purchases of accessories and consumables will conclude by the end of January. Departmental purchases will continue through the Campus Computer Store until its final day of operation on April 29.

“Given the retail focus of our operation, we saw an opportunity to support further the personal purchases by Queen’s students, staff and faculty,” says Chris Tabor, General Manager, Campus Bookstore. “We will carry items such as headphones, phone cases, ink, toner, cables, routers and portable storage. Staff/student key-fobs for building access will also be available for purchase.”

[Computer Store]
With the Campus Computer Store closing at the end of April, the Campus Bookstore is expanding its selection of items that members of the Queen's community can purchase for personal use. Department and unit IT purchases will transition directly to Strategic Procurement Services starting in May.

Department and unit IT purchases will transition directly to Strategic Procurement Services (SPS) starting in May. The Campus Bookstore will not take account codes for departmental purchases, and departments should only use the Bookstore for last minute or emergency needs.

SPS is currently developing new IT procurement processes to ensure ease and efficiency, and more information about the transition will be released in the coming weeks. In the meantime, departments can continue to place orders through orderit@queensu.ca.

The Queen’s Mobile Voice and Data Plans will transition directly to ITS after the store closes. Until that time, staff and faculty phone requests can continue to be submitted to qmobile@queensu.ca.

Education discounts direct from Apple, Dell, Lenovo, Microsoft and Toshiba will continue to be offered online. (Visit the SPS website to learn more about other discounts for Queen’s employees).

The drop-off location for used toners, cartridges and other IT recycling has been re-located to the Campus Bookstore. More information about the electronic waste recycling program is available online or by contacting Llynwen Osborne, Recycling Coordinator, by email or at (613) 533-3396. 

Queen’s community members who have additional product lines and merchandise that they would like the Campus Bookstore to explore can email the store’s general merchandise buyer.

The university reviewed the Campus Computer Store and all other ancillary operations on campus during the 2014-15 fiscal year. The review recommended closing the store by April 29, 2016, with retail services being discontinued and core services that support the academic and business requirements of the university transitioning to existing shared services.

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