Retirees' Association

Retirees Association of Queen's

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Ann Tierney Interview

RAQ President Diane Kelly in conversation with Ann Tierney, Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs

Life is certainly different for our first year undergraduate students in the Fall of 2020. The challenge, according to Ann Tierney, is how to balance the tradition of a welcoming community, which has been Queen’s hallmark ,with the obligation to keep oneself and community members safe.

Normally, there would be 4,500 students in residence, but this year, Queen's limited residence spaces to 1,850 along with 100 dons. While some first year students may have chosen to live in Kingston off-campus, Student Affairs does not yet have those numbers.

To prepare for the academic year, Student Affairs offered virtual orientation sessions over the summer, working in partnership with the student associations in the faculties. Some activities were social in nature, while others helped to guide students through administrative systems. There was fairly good uptake by incoming students for these virtual orientation sessions, which aimed to connect with students and help them feel welcome.

With the start of the academic year, it appears that being virtual and offering services exclusively online has increased accessibility for students. The Student Academic Success Center, the Learning Centre, and Counselling Services all report an uptick in attendance by students. And no lineups or challenges for students with mobility issues.

But what about making behavioural expectations clear to new and returning students? Ann tells us that students cannot be prevented from going home, but they have been encouraged to limit their trips away from Kingston, to stay in their bubble groups, and to think of others. The university, and the student associations for undergraduate students, and graduate and professional students are sending the same overall message - Think of Kingston as your home and to respect your neighbours. Ann and the Provost continue to tour the student areas, knocking on doors and speaking to students, getting to know them and encouraging them to be respectful of their community.

With the new testing facility in Mitchell Hall, the burden of testing Queen's students, faculty, and staff is taken off resources across Kingston. And should students need isolation while awaiting Covid test results or recuperating after falling ill, Queen's has reserved over 200 rooms with private bathrooms to serve as isolation facilities.