The annual Special Recognition of Staff Awards was presented during a special ceremony on Thursday, April 14 at 5 p.m. at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts.

2021 Team and individual recipients, with write-ups from nominations:

Team Award: Times Higher Education Impact Rankings – Working Group
Kim Akerblom, 
Data and Operations Coordinator, Institutional Research and Planning
Kelly Blair-Matuk, Associate Director, Office of Vice-Principal (Research)
Jill Christie, Manager, Data and Administration, Human Rights and Equity
Tom Collier, Coordinator, International Agreements & Partnerships, Office of AVP International
Rebecca Coupland, Director and Associate University Secretary, University Secretariat & Legal Counsel
Kayla Dettinger, Special Projects Officer, University Relations
Ishana Gopaul, Manager, Special Projects, Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration)
Peter Jeffrey, Director, Communications, University Relations
Heather Kincaide, Strategic Internationalization Lead, Office of the Vice-Provost (International)
Melinda Knox, Director, Thought Leadership and Strategic Initiatives, University Relations
Jodi Magee, Executive Director, Institutional Research and Planning
Bob Minor, Senior Data Analyst, Office of the Vice-Principal (Research)
Chineze Onuoha, Administrative and Financial Assistant, Integrated Communications, University Relations
Gillian Ready, Special Projects, Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal Academic
Jennifer Ross, Manager, Special Projects, Office of the Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs
Stephanie Simpson, Associate Vice-Principal (Human Rights, Equity, and Inclusion)
Lori Stewart, Executive Director, Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic)
Heather Woermke, Associate Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration)

First in Canada, and fifth in the world. Meet the people behind Queen’s stellar showing in the 2021 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings. Established in 2019, the Impact Rankings measure how universities advance the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and how institutions promote social and economic well-being within and beyond their local communities. Queen’s also earned the highest first-entry position of any institution by ranking first for the goal of No Poverty, first for the goal of Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, and by ranking in the top 10 for the goals of Zero Hunger, Sustainable Cities, and Life on Land. It was a process of institutional self-discovery and self-analysis, making use of the SDGs to see where Queen’s was already making an impact in the world, and where it might do so in the future.

To produce such a solid submission, the team gathered and organized more then 600 pieces of evidence, focusing on Queen’s research, outreach, teaching and stewardship. The effort took place last fall, during an exceptionally challenging year, and on a truncated timeline; the deadline having shifted two months sooner than originally advertised. Queen’s submission was one of 1,240 from institutions in 98 countries – up 50 per cent from the year before.

The team then designed and implemented a successful communications plan, including a paid media strategy that delivered more than 18 million impressions. The submission also forms an important global starting point for the university’s new strategic framework.

Team Award: Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC), Division of Student Affairs
Arthur Chen
, International Student Advisor
Amanda Gray, International Student Advisor

Arthur Chen and Amanda Gray have not let a pandemic get in the way of their commitment to help others. During the early stages of lockdown, as other campus services were reduced, QUIC stayed open. Amanda and Arthur smoothly shifted from in-person meetings to one-on-one online delivery, advising students in many different countries, time zones and circumstances. They provided encouragement to those who couldn’t travel, those whose travel was interrupted, and those who were undecided, unsure, and afraid. They shared these students’ challenges and issues with staff in other service areas so that campus supports could be improved or created. 

Amanda and Arthur’s support of these international students, who were arguably the most the adversely affected by COVID restrictions, was an example to colleagues in other units. They worked with Student Awards to secure quarantine funding for 153 students. When the university shut down for the holidays, Arthur and Amanda assisted arriving students, called 857 students who were considering travelling to Canada to talk about their options, and regularly updated the website about international travel during a pandemic. 

Arthur and Amanda launched Quarantining Together, a program which enabled students to connect and support one another virtually and share resources, tips, and experiences. They also led a multi-unit collaboration of staff volunteers who made more than 2,000 check-in phone calls to 450 international students from all over the world while they were quarantining.

Amanda and Arthur continue to work tirelessly to ensure that all students feel safe and secure. They also provide the same care to visiting researchers and staff, some of whom bring dependents with them to Canada.

Chris Cornish, Communications and Events Coordinator, School of Policy Studies, Faculty of Arts and Science

In the School of Policy Studies, Chris Cornish is known for his planning, organizational, and technical skills. He is responsible for coordinating the Policy Talks and distinguished lecture series, managing the website and social media reporting, as well as dealing with administrative and technical matters for School conferences.

When the pandemic hit, however, one could easily add “crisis manager” to his responsibilities. Chris trained, facilitated, and took his technical talent to the next level to ensure that everyone had what they needed to do their jobs remotely. Without Chris, the School would not have been able to offer its students such a seamless transition to the world of online learning. It was hoped that this level of support would be short-lived, but COVID-19 has had other plans. Chris continues to provide technical support and encouragement along with his regular duties.

Chris is known for his “get-it-done” manner. When a faculty member experienced problems related to the delivery of a course, Chris patiently solved all of them. Later, outside regular hours, the faculty member called Chris’s cell with one more question, Chris picked up. He was walking his dog on the beach, and, without skipping a beat, provided the solution right away.

Karen Depew, Undergraduate Assistant and Assistant to the Director, School of Environmental Studies, Faculty of Arts and Science

Karen Depew puts a positive spin on even the most challenging situation. Despite what her job title says, Karen supports all students, not just undergraduates. Her 32 years at Queen’s has given her unmatched experience and knowledge to handle whatever issues are thrown her way. Professional and personable, Karen works tirelessly to ensure that students are protected, supported, and rightfully heard. Karen has made exceptional contributions to the department by establishing and upholding an inclusive and welcoming environment for learning and research.

When the pandemic hit and work transitioned from office to home, Karen was always available for help, counselling, and consultation. It is a testament to her abilities that, as far as School operations went, nothing really changed during that period of high uncertainty. In the switch to online learning, Karen took on additional responsibilities administering upper-year project courses. She coordinated communications, posted web updates, organized faculty-student meetings, and end-of-term symposiums.

One student describes Karen as the best administrator that they have ever encountered. In a job that is assuredly stressful and overwhelming at times, Karen makes it seem remarkably manageable and enjoyable. Another student laments, “It’s crazy that Karen is retiring – the department won’t be the same without her!”

Kevin McKegney, Manager, Facilities Infrastructure and Projects, Faculty of Health Sciences

Kevin McKegney has spent his 38-year career ensuring the safe operation of the Faculty of Health Sciences’ clinical, research and educational activities. Widely known as a walking encyclopedia, Kevin possesses a vast knowledge of the buildings he oversees, their history, and the people who work within them. His role, however, has never been more crucial than during the pandemic. Nearly every day since March 2020, Kevin has worked on site to ensure that services continue uninterrupted. The fact that Health Sciences has made it this far without a single outbreak is due in large measure to Kevin’s unparalleled technical expertise and commitment. He continues to boost morale and quell the fear and anxiety that many have experienced during this unsettling time.

Kevin is often among the first people to greet new staff and faculty members. Personal tours of the facilities are enhanced by his vast knowledge of the faculty’s history and his dry sense of humour. In part, his passion for Queen’s history resulted in the preservation of a nearly complete collection of photographs of medical classes dating back to 1860. His love for the university, and the faculty, clearly runs deep.

Knowing the people and the buildings so well, Kevin can anticipate trouble before it happens. Floods, more floods, radioactive leaks, student crises, faculty crises, problems with roofs, bats, bees, mice – you name it. Kevin has been there, seen it all – and made it right.

Nancy Sammon, Relationship Manager, Career Advancement Centre, Smith School of Business

Nancy Sammon excels at bringing people together. In addition to regularly exceeding her targets in new business development and job postings, Nancy goes above and beyond to attract new partnerships and to connect student diversity groups with companies and associations through her work at the School’s Career Advancement Centre.

Nancy is a true champion of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Indigeneity (EDII) initiatives. She attracted ICON Talent Partners and co-created a partnership agreement with the School to advance education, training, and mentorship of students to high impact sectors where there is often underrepresentation. She also connected this group with the newly formed Smith Black Business Association, and with the ONYX Initiative, which aims to bridge the gap in the recruitment and selection of Black college and university students.

Nancy works hard to connect student diversity groups with companies and associations. She serves on several EDII committees at Queen's, helping to advance knowledge and awareness in this area. To support gender inclusivity, Nancy recommended the practice of including pronouns in staff email signatures to Smith’s Human Resources team and was part of an awareness campaign to implement the practice university-wide.

Throughout the recruitment process, students praise her kind words, warmth, and support. Nancy constantly challenges her team to bring to light EDII considerations in everything they do, from conducting events to copy on the website.

Justin Siu, Information Technology Assistant, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts and Science

If it plugs in, call Justin! That’s how Justin Siu describes his role as Information Technology Assistant. It also demonstrates his commitment to excellence in customer service, evident in every colour-coded email that he sends to those seeking solutions to their technology problems. Justin is dedicated to helping everyone in Psychology with their computing and technical needs. That’s 13 staff, 33 faculty, and more than 85 graduate students using 300-plus computers. A problem-solver extraordinaire, it seems he has multiple back-up solutions in case the first idea does not work. He meticulously tracks and follows up on every request until he is confident that the issue is settled. If it is missing, Justin will find it. If it is broken, Justin will fix it. If you are stuck and can’t figure out an IT issue, he will solve it before it causes you any stress or concern.

Throughout the pandemic, and especially during lockdowns, Justin went well beyond what is usually expected. He remained on-site, keeping servers active. He worked with faculty, students, and staff remotely to ensure their off-campus set-ups supported their work and helped to migrate research efforts online. Justin also saved the department from not one but two recent floods in Craine and Humphrey halls. In the case of Craine Hall, he discovered a heat-pump failure on a Friday walkthrough and acted quickly to rescue equipment as water rained down from the ceilings.

Gabrielle (Gabe) Whan, Department Manager, Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science

Gabrielle Whan is always willing to jump in and get the job done, whatever that job may be. She is not afraid of the unknown. In fact, that’s when Gabe shines the brightest. Give her a challenge and she will meet it head on.

In normal times, Gabe’s leadership and her encouraging can-do attitude make the department a welcoming place for students, faculty, and staff. Since the start of the pandemic, however, Gabe has demonstrated exceptional resourcefulness and effort above and beyond her regular duties as the manager of a large and busy engineering department.

On her own initiative, Gabe developed an innovative QR code system to pre-screen and log access to the five buildings used by Mechanical and Materials Engineering. She customized questions for each building and incorporated provincial guidelines for self-assessment. The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science quickly recognized the brilliance and effectiveness of her system and implemented it for all its engineering buildings. Gabe then trained other department managers on the system. When Queen’s developed the campus-wide SeQure app that replaced the faculty system, it benefited from Gabe’s input and advice. 

In the 2021 winter term, Gabe’s second project positively impacted the mental health of 150 second-year students by giving them the option to return to the lab and safely complete vital hands-on learning. The project required multiple changes and reapprovals to meet the ever-changing provincial restrictions for in-person instruction, including last-minute construction of walls in the lab space to satisfy revised occupancy limits.

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