The Origins of Queen's Strategic Framework
The Queen's Strategy emerged from a year-long discussion in the Queen’s University community about our aspirations, accomplishments and values, as well as the challenges and obstacles to be overcome if our institution is to have the national and international impact we desire in the coming years. The Conversation, which I launched with an open letter (PDF 450kb) in October 2019, was an attempt to understand deeply who we are as a community, as well as why we are: what particular contribution the history, character and evolving nature of Queen’s equips us to make, not only to the education of individuals and the advancement of knowledge, but through those things to the problems that afflict our planet and the lives it sustains.
There were obvious reasons to undertake this process, not least of which was that Queen’s earlier strategic framework had just expired. In the twelve months following my letter, however, events in the world at large brought home the urgency and critical importance of better understanding ourselves and our purpose as a university. We found ourselves in a world-wide pandemic, and beyond the health crisis there were cultural and geopolitical forces at work that were just as consequential. In particular, racist attitudes and structures in our own community as well as in society at large came into sharp focus and commanded attention. With expertise and the authority of science also under challenge, it became imperative that Queen’s assert and clarify for itself the role it wished to play in the movement for positive change at home and abroad.
The immediate lesson of our circumstances was that to be effective in that role would require the university to understand itself and to act holistically, drawing on all its intellectual and material resources in order to address challenges that are complex and multifaceted in direct proportion to their profundity and potential impact. Although the appearance of the COVID-19 virus was in the first instance a problem for medical science, the progress of the pandemic rapidly called into play the full range of academic disciplines and set a premium on cooperation and intersections between them. Contemporaneous social, cultural and political movements were no less demanding of a sophisticated response that drew on the humanities, science, the arts and all the professions to address them.
The very unusual circumstances within which the Conversation was conducted meant that issues of perennial relevance to an ambitious university like Queen’s were given added focus and urgency. Indeed, ambition itself—in the form of a powerful desire to see us make an impact on the world—emerged as a recurring theme in discussions that included students, staff and faculty in our internal community, and alumni, friends and stakeholders in the broader Queen’s family. What it would take to fulfil that ambition—through the educational experience we provide, the research we conduct, the way we engage with our local and global communities, and how we should constitute and conduct ourselves as a university community—was essentially the rest of the conversation.
From that frank, thoughtful, and at times unflinchingly critical process emerged the components of a positive, forward-looking strategy for Queen’s University. These were largely implied or embedded in my detailed Report on The Conversation (PDF 764 kb - October 2020), but they appear now in this Strategy distilled and refined after another intense and far-reaching process of consultation. In this summary and aligned form they express clearly the sense of social responsibility, as well as the optimism and belief in the future, that has historically been a defining attribute of Queen’s. They also comprise a strategy for renewing and extending that community of purpose so that the members of our university, broadly defined to include faculty, staff, students and alumni present and future, will be an increasing and intentional force for positive change in the world.
In 2018 Queen’s signed the Okanagan Charter, committing the university to embedding health into all aspects of campus culture and to leading health promotion action and collaboration locally and globally. In 2019 we signed the Magna Charta Universitatum indicating our unequivocal observance of academic freedom and university autonomy, as well as our intention to support other universities around the world in following those same principles.
Then in 2020 we signed three critical declarations: the 50-30 Challenge, committing the Board and senior management to seek and achieve gender parity as well as significant and appropriate representation of other underrepresented groups, Investing to Address Climate Change: A Charter for Canadian Universities, and the United Nations Race to Zero Global Climate Letter. These and other similar actions taken in recent years are evidence that we have for some time been moving intuitively in the direction that our new Strategic Framework makes explicit: that Queen’s is the university for the future.