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Beauty and Discovery at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre

Agnes Etherington Art Centre: Current & Upcoming Exhibitions

Georgia Carley

There is nothing quite like the thrill of standing in front of a historical object that you have spent months researching, finally getting to see it in person for the first time.

When I first looked at Mohawk poet Pauline Johnson’s stage costume – featured in the Agnes Etherington Art Centre’s “The Artist Herself” exhibition – I was surprised. I had studied the dress extensively, and had been looking forward to this day since hearing that the dress, which rarely leaves the Museum of Vancouver, was coming to the Queen’s campus.

What I saw in front of me told me more than any black-and-white photograph or written description ever had. In person, I saw that the dress had striking red accents, and that the buckskin skirt was much stiffer than I had imagined. Suddenly, I knew so much more about this turn-of-the-century performer, and about how she had felt wearing this outfit on stage.

The Agnes Etherington Art Centre is full of such moments of delightful insight.

“The Artist Herself,” one of the Agnes’ five current exhibitions, is the first exhibition examining women’s self-portraiture in Canada. But what is a self-portrait? In the gallery, dresses, dolls, quilts and needlework samplers are displayed alongside self-portraits in the more expected mediums of drawing, painting, photography and print.

Alicia Boutilier, Curator of Canadian Historical Art, likens this expanded definition of self-portraiture to the diverse forms of self-expression found today on social media.

She and Tobi Bruce, co-curators of the exhibition, sought as many artworks and objects as possible that could be considered “self-portraits” by women artists in Canada when preparing the exhibition. The result is an incredibly moving exploration of the means of self-representation.

I enjoy “The Artist Herself” as a critical intervention in the idea of portraiture; I enjoy it also because it is pretty. The exhibition is filled with beautiful and carefully-wrought pieces.

This contrast suggests the importance of this campus art gallery. The spaces in the Agnes are quiet and contemplative. They offer beautiful works of art to enjoy – including works by Rembrandt that are permanently on display. For a graduate student, spending time in this space, away from labs and books, is a refreshing interlude.

But the exhibitions at the Agnes are also enriching and provoke critical reflection.

An upcoming exhibition this fall will be a travelling show from University of Toronto’s Hart House gallery. It features the works of Canadian artists from the interwar and post-war periods – not least the Group of Seven and Tom Thompson. Boutilier highlights that there is much to learn about these artists as we enjoy the beauty of their works.

The Agnes features a rich variety of works from different artistic traditions. Other artists featured in the Agnes’ fall season include contemporary artists Judy Redoule and Ulrich Panzer, and the seminal Carl Beam. The Agnes’ “Artists in Amsterdam” and exhibition of the art of West and Central Africa will continue to be on display.

The Agnes’ Fall Season runs from August 29 to December 6, 2015. The season launch, in September, is open to students. Free tours of the exhibitions are offered on the third Thursday of each month at 12:15pm.

Admission to the gallery is free to all Queen’s students, staff and faculty, a further incentive to drop in.

Look to the Agnes’ website for full information about admissions and opening hours.

Redesigning HLTH 415

Redesigning HLTH 415: A Journey in Teaching & Learning

Wanda Praamsma, Communications Officer, University Relations

Through redesigning HLTH 415 into an active learning experience, PhD student Janette Leroux has experienced her own transformation as teacher and learner.

PhD student Janette Leroux is thankful that students in HLTH 415 “keep it real” for her.

“They told me I’m not a very good lecturer,” she says with a laugh, adding that she’s developed a “thick skin” over the past few years, since she began instructing the course several years ago.

HLTH 415 is a health studies course, intended to give students the skills to design and develop community health programs. Health promotion is a practical field, one that lends itself well to active and experiential learning – something Ms. Leroux is also thankful for. Instead of being offended by the students’ comments, she’s used the criticism as impetus to teach in different ways.

“Teaching this course has been a journey of self-discovery,” she says. “There’s more risk when you put yourself out there in less conventional ways. But it’s so rewarding. And the return for students is immense.”

HLTH 415 is called Program Design and Evaluation – a full-year course that includes both a classroom component and a community component. Inside the classroom, the health studies students gain an introduction to program planning, covering different issues, strategies and theories associated with designing community health programs. Ms. Leroux guides them and gives them space to try out scenarios, helping them develop skills and competencies that will support their practical work.

Outside class, students work with organizations within the Kingston community – such as Kingston Coalition for Active Transportation, the Boys & Girls Club, Kingston Gets Active, Kingston Transit and H’Art Centre – to develop new, or enhance existing, health programs.

The course used to be more theoretical and hypothetical – instead of going out into the community, students attended lectures and worked on case studies.

“Putting things into practice in the community is very different,” says Ms. Leroux, who began as a teaching assistant in HLTH 415 before becoming the main instructor in 2013. “It can be messy, and there’s a steep learning curve. Community service learning is a delicately balanced system – as an instructor, I have to consider the safety and needs of the students and the community partners. I want it to be a positive experience for everyone.”


Taking HLTH 415 away from lectures and case studies and into the community, in some ways, has reflected Ms. Leroux’s own academic journey. She's moved from studying the world at a microscopic level, to a macroscopic, more sociological level.

Raised on a farm north of Kingston, she was intrigued by nature and thought the best way to understand things was through the hard sciences. Ms. Leroux enrolled at Queen’s, studying biochemistry. During her undergraduate degree, she worked as an assistant in the morgue and museum in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology.

She went on to do a master’s in cell biology, also at Queen’s, studying cardiovascular pathologies. But she was beginning to feel a shift. “I discovered I was more interested in health than disease, and I began exploring. I took a course in geography, health geography, and found this whole other realm of research. I discovered that this field was really getting at the questions I was trying to answer for myself.”

Ms. Leroux began looking at population health, and the social and physical determinants of health. She took a year off after her master’s, lived in Quebec City and studied French intensely at Université Laval. She took a job as a cashier at a grocery store, and without even realizing it, Ms. Leroux began observing the psychology of food choice – an area of research that soon formed the backbone of her PhD thesis.

“I’ve really moved from the cellular to the social,” says Ms. Leroux, who is nearing completion of her PhD in health promotion and social epidemiology. “I’m looking at the impacts of social networks and relationships on health, and how social inequalities affect people’s health behaviours.”


One of the best decisions Ms. Leroux says she’s made in the past few years has been to take a course, SGS 901: Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, offered jointly through the School of Graduate Studies and the Centre for Teaching and Learning. She learned more about different pedagogical approaches and different discipline-specific epistemologies – or the ways of knowing and understanding – and simultaneously began to critically examine what it meant to her personally to be a teacher and a learner.

“I hadn’t sat through a lot of non-science lectures. Without realizing it, I was trying to apply my scientific epistemology to teaching and research around social health issues. I was teaching according to the didactic pedagogical traditions, through which I had been taught, and in my research, I kept looking for ‘answers’ and the ‘right’ way of doing things.”

She came to realize that some of the things she was struggling with in teaching – namely, the bigger picture and her place within it – she was also struggling with in her research.

“I began to see myself more as a learner, and as a co-learner in the classroom. I didn’t have to be an expert, and I didn’t need to hold all the answers,” Ms. Leroux says. “It’s a humbling and freeing realization, and it opens up a lot more possibility in terms of a richer exchange between myself, each student and community partner.”

In turn, her work in the classroom has enhanced her research, and she’s allowed – through a great deal of self-reflection – her many different identities, as teacher, learner, researcher and community member, to merge.

As for the students in HLTH 415, Ms. Leroux believes most leave the course with greater confidence. Working in the community, they build their interpersonal and professional skills, and learn to navigate day-to-day challenges.

“They sometimes feel uncomfortable with the ambiguity that can arise in their projects,” says Ms. Leroux. “I help them interpret the challenges and I guide them and encourage them to take ownership of their projects. The process is enriching for all of us.”

This article was reposted with permission from the Queen's Gazette.

Cricket Comeback

Cricket Comeback: Queen's club brings the sport back to Kingston

Georgia Carley

Cricket is coming to Kingston, and the members of the Queen’s Kingston Cricket Club couldn’t be happier.

I sat down with two QKCC members, Bharat Negi (Master’s student in Management Information Systems) and Suchit Ahuja (Doctoral candidate in in Management Information Systems), to talk about the club.

They were most excited to tell me about the new municipal cricket field that will open mid-July 2015 at the Memorial Centre. They are passionate about cricket and want to bring that passion to the Kingston community. As Suchit jokes, Canada is “lagging behind” when it comes to cricket.

For several years, Kingston has been without a cricket ground. The QKCC has been commuting to Ottawa to play games, and uses the Queen’s Athletics and Recreation Centre during the winter months.

Kingston’s new cricket ground is the result of at least two years of work behind the scenes. Bharat and Suchit credit the club’s past president, as well as councillor Jim Neil, for their hard work promoting the initiative.

There used to be cricket grounds in Kingston, they tell me. Five or six years ago there were grounds at the Memorial Centre and on Bagot Street. These were converted as interest in the sport waned in Kingston. But interest is coming back, and so are the grounds.

The club will be hosting an awareness camp to introduce Kingstonians to cricket once the ground is opened. Bharat and Suchit also encourage students and community members to come cheer them on at their weekend matches.

There is a real benefit to Kingston, say Bharat and Suchit. The QKCC has been travelling to Ottawa on weekends for a summer-long tournament. Once the grounds at the Memorial Centre are ready, their opposing teams will come to Kingston. Bharat and Suchit calculate that at least 30 people – the players, their families and friends – will be travelling into Kingston for the game and adding to the city’s tourism economy.

Over the winter, the QKCC is an active student club, with over 25 members. While most of the players are men, the club is open to all. The club is made up primarily of international students who already have a passion for the game, but they welcome anyone who would like to play.

During the winter, the team must play indoors. Confined to a small space and the time constraints of using space in the Queen’s Athletics and Recreation Centre, the club plays a modified version of the game. They use a softer ball, like a tennis ball, rather than the harder ball that is used in the summer outdoor games. They also have to make up rules about not hitting too hard, Bharat tells me.

Suchit likens this to the “gully cricket” played in India. He says, “indoor cricket resonates with that,” where at the grassroots level, people want to play cricket and make do with the space they have, alongside the competitive and institutional cricket leagues. This is like the difference between organized hockey and street hockey.

When asked what they enjoy about the game, Bharat and Suchit take it for granted that the athletics and team environment speak for themselves. Bharat highlights that his passion for the game stems from childhood. Before coming to Queen’s, he played competitively at home in India, where cricket is a national passion. When he knew he was coming to Queen’s, he searched to find a club to continue playing. He found out about the QKCC online.

For his part, Suchit becomes introspective at the question. He suggests that a large part of cricket’s popularity has to do with history. He tells me, “With cricket the big thing was after the British left the colonies, what was the equalizer? How do we stand up to them? The first one to win the cricket world cup in 1975 was the West Indies…this is a form of liberation for them.”

They joke that, since cricket is known as the “gentleman’s game,” it is perfect for polite Canadians. They look forward to the renaissance of cricket in Kingston.

Science Rendezvous

Science Rendezvous: Inspiring the next generation of scientists

Anthony Pugh

How can scientists inspire the next generation to choose careers in science? One way is through outreach events like Science Rendezvous, a science fair that shows children and teens that science is both fun and interesting. Gillian Mackey (PhD: Chemistry) and Alvine Kamaha (PhD: Physics) were two of the many Queen’s graduate students who participated in this year’s event.

Mackey has taken part in Science Rendezvous for the last five years. This year, she coordinated a team of chemistry graduate students at the event. The team set up three different experiments to be conducted by kids, teens and their families. Through the experiments, the participants made silly putty, played with giant soap bubbles, and copper-plated nails by using pennies.

Mackey has seen Science Rendezvous explode in Kingston over the last five years. The event now attracts about 3000 people and has been moved from Grant Hall to the K-Rock Centre. This excites Mackey because educating the public about science is highly important to her. Mackey likes working with kids and most enjoys seeing the energy in children who have never conducted an experiment before. She is especially conscious of the fact that not all children have equal opportunities to participate in science. She hopes that experiences at the event will inspire children to learn more about science and to consider becoming scientists when they are older.

Kamaha has participated in the event for the last two years. She was thrilled to coordinate a team of her colleagues in physics after her positive experience in her first year. The team created a cloud chamber which allowed participants to trace the path of a charged particle. Through this participants saw the footprint of radiation. The team also put together a Kelvin water dropper which uses falling water droplets to generate electricity.

Kamaha takes part in the event because she wants young people to see science as accessible and fun. Displaying this side of science means that more people will see it as something they can do and something they want to do. She was delighted by one child who did not want to leave her team’s booth and by two teens who returned several times to repeat the experiments. She also liked witnessing families interacting with each other while performing the experiments. Kamaha views the event as an opportunity for personal development by improving her own skills in areas such as public presentation. Participants ask a lot of complicated questions and require uncomplicated explanations.

Both Kamaha and Mackey enjoy sharing their knowledge with the community. Science Rendezvous is one forum where this sharing can take place. Scientists like these two students and their team-members will undoubtedly excite young people about science and inspire future generations of scientists.

Writing Hooks and Reading Books

Writing Hooks & Reading Books: When grad students get funky

Article by Karl Hardy

The Groove Commute members:

  • Keira Loukes, MA Environmental Studies- vocals
  • Christine Grossutti PhD Geography - bass/keys
  • Scott Carey PhD SKHS - trombone
  • Andrea Brennan PhD SKHS - saxophone
  • John Rose PhD Geography - guitars/vocals
  • Matt Ventresca PhD SKHS - guitars/bass/vocals
  • Graham Ketcheson Executive Director for a national non-profit - drums

The graduate student community at Queen’s University has given rise to The Groove Commute, a 7-piece band comprised almost entirely of graduate students with influences as eclectic as their respective research interests. They’ve found fun and friendship in making music together all the while balancing research and teaching in pursuit of their graduate degrees. Besides the joy of making music and feeling the support of their community, the members of The Groove Commute also say being in a band has been an invaluable part of their experience of graduate student life.

“Playing music is a catharsis, graduate student life can be very stressful and to have a creative outlet, and a collaborative one at that, has been worth its weight in gold,” says John Rose, the band’s guitarist. “It’s very important to continue to do the things that you enjoy and make you happy while a graduate student,” adds Christine Grossutti, who plays the bass and keys.

The Groove Commute evolved out of a musical collaboration between John Rose (PhD Geography) and Matt Ventresca (PhD SKHS) who originally played together at a few local open mics and eventually a show at the Grad Club. John and Matt were soon joined by Christine Grossutti (PhD Geography) and Scott Carey (PhD SKHS). They created a wish list for new members that included a female vocalist, a full-time drummer, and another horn player. They asked around through their graduate student networks and found a singer in Keira Loukes (MA Environmental Studies), Andrea Brennan (PhD SKHS) who plays the saxophone, and Graham Ketcheson who drums and, is the only non-graduate student member. Graham is the Executive Director for a national non-profit and plays drums in other local bands such as Wing n It and Venus Syndrome.

With the new full lineup they played their first show in January 2015 at the Mansion as The Groove Commute—a name Christine described as “words that sounded good together that we could all agree on”. The band’s name has taken on greater symbolism as Keira currently lives outside Kingston and commutes to practice and several of the band members have returned from field research trips with new song ideas.

The Groove Commute’s sound draws on blues, rock, jazz, soul and folk, and they now have 7 or 8 original songs and a mix of covers by artists that range from Feist to Aretha Franklin to Herbie Hancock.

Though they’ve only been playing together for a short time, the members of The Groove Commute say they’ve gained a lot of support from colleagues and friends, as well as committee members, supervisors, and departmental administrators who have all helped pack their shows. “The longer we play together, the more the lines between academic work and musicianship are blurred; my teaching and research influences my song writing,” says Matt. He and Scott will be co-presenting a paper on the embodied techniques and practices learned through musical performance at the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport in Santa Fe in November. Scott also regularly incorporated music into his recent Teaching Fellowship, using music as a metaphor to address the weekly topics.

For now The Groove Commute are excited about the process of refining their sound, writing new material collaboratively, and are excited to reach new audiences. Plans for a mini tour through southern Ontario and recording have been discussed, though they say their primary goal remains having plenty of fun and continuing to develop their musicianship.

The Groove Commute play the Mansion this Thursday June 11, with Saturday Night Glad Rags tapped to open the show. See the Facebook Event for the show.

Moving Between Footnotes and Musical Notes

Georgia Carley

Graduate work-life balance is all about community, accountability, and joy for Maria Krause (PhD Candidate, Political Studies), Virginia Vandenberg (PhD Candidate, History) and Georgia Carley (PhD Candidate, History), which they find singing with the Kingston Choral Society.

“I love to sing,” says Maria. “I get a lot of personal pleasure out of it. I feel healthier when I do it. I notice emotionally I feel better.”

Virginia and Georgia echoed the sense of joy of singing that drew them to the Kingston Choral Society. All three have sung in choirs since their youth, and recognize it as an important part of their life and a valuable opportunity to connect with a community outside the university.

“I started googling choirs in Kingston,” Georgia says of how she found the Kingston Choral Society. “I know what I like are those big giant pieces.”

The Kingston Choral Society is a 120-voice choir that performs a repertoire of bombastic highlights of the classical repertoire such as Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Mozart’s Requiem and Handel’s Messiah, as well as Christmas favourites and show tunes.

The music itself, a process of creation that requires the cooperation of over 100 individuals, is a major draw for the singers. At the end of a successful performance, the culmination of months worth of rehearsal, “the sense of accomplishment is inherently community driven,” notes Virginia.

“The big pieces,” says Maria, thinking of the choir’s recent performance of Elijah, “it’s about a community creating music, and it’s this huge production that is just full of joy. And I really appreciate that different articulation of doing something that’s meaningful, as opposed to what success looks like in academia.” Joy and cooperation are measures of success here, not the competition graduate students feel in academia.

For Virginia, the different view of success that the choir offers helps to put graduate studies in perspective. She explains that initially she struggled with the music, feeling she wasn’t performing as well as she should be. She says, “I sometimes think that you have to fight your own expectations of what success is going to look like. That took a while to get used to, to think ‘I’m still in a learning stage’. As grad students we think ‘I’m on my way to being an expert in something,’ but to have to go back and be a learner…it’s a good reminder.”

Because the success or failure of the choral performance relies so strongly on the collective group, the sense of community is very strong, as is a sense of accountability, something Virginia, Maria and Georgia appreciate.

It can be difficult, all three admit, to juggle the time commitment of choir with the demands of graduate studies. The Kingston Choral Society rehearses once a week for two hours, and has three or more concerts each year. There is, as Maria says, a “constraint of having to be present.” If you miss too many rehearsals, you can’t sing in the concert, because you don’t know the music, and the pieces are usually performed at only a single concert.

But this need to commit is also one of the central values of being part of the choir. It is very important, Virginia says, that choir is “somewhere that you go on a regular basis, because the choir needs you, you need to be there, it takes out some of the internal motivation out of it.” At the simplest level, “making that commitment to the choir ensures I get out of the house and do something other than my own work,” says Maria.

Once the three are at rehearsal, the diversity of the community of singers is itself a joy. Maria highlights that rehearsals are a chance to socialize in an environment that is not dominated by students. The friendships and mentor-type relationships that can develop between people of very different ages are a very important aspect of the choir community for her. “You need those mentors in your life or people in different stages of your life, who aren’t your supervisor,” she says. Georgia adds, “I love being around people who have different stress cycles, so many of them are retired or in a non-semestered cycle, so I really enjoy that.”

The physical benefits are an underappreciated aspect of choral participation. Virginia praises the opening warmup at rehearsal which “forces you to deep breathe and to be aware of your body.” Maria likens it to the mindfulness she also finds doing yoga. At choir practice, as Virginia explains, you have to “focus your body in a way that is alert and ready to sing” which is “a kind of alertness or energy in your body that you don’t get when you’re hunched over the computer.” She laughs. “I often feel like when I come home by posture is better, after having sung.”

It is no wonder, then, that these three graduate students have such a strong love and commitment to choral singing.


Teamwork: The impact of teamwork in the lab and on the field

Sharday Mosurinjohn

It wasn’t only Timothy and Patrick Richardson’s love of Queen’s rugby that kept them here as graduate students, but they didn’t waste the opportunity, either. When the twin brothers graduated from Queen’s with their undergraduate degrees in Engineering, they needed to seek reference letters to include with some of their job applications. They approached one of their favourite professors, Dr. Amir Fam. The Civil Engineering professor did the boys one better by offering them both spots in his graduate studies research group researching the construction and repair applications of fiber reinforced polymers (FRP) as an alternative to conventional rebar (steel-reinforced concrete).  Tim and Pat both accepted Dr. Fam’s offer and are now about three quarters of the way through their M.A.Sc degrees – and back on the rugby field, having just won the OUA Championship as part of Queen’s Men’s Rugby team in November.

An average day in the lab for Pat involves finding out what it takes to stress a few thousand pounds of concrete to its breaking point. Pat is working on an innovative bridge design utilizing fiber reinforced polymers (FRP) as a stay-in-place form in a Ministry of Transportation-funded project.  He took over the project from a PhD student who designed and built these bridge decks, which he tested until they reached their breaking point and failed. But bridges have to be able to resist repeated stresses over time, so for Pat, it’s not about loading the bridge to its ultimate capacity; it’s about seeing how the bridge deck performs under fatigue and how much weaker a FRP-reinforced concrete bridge deck gets after it is loaded millions of times. “I’m testing the most critical section of bridge deck: the center. The structure itself is about 1.5 meters by 2.5 meters and there’s a hydraulic actuator that repeatedly applies pressure to bridge deck in order to simulate vehicles repeatedly driving over it – if I ever need help in the structures lab moving my specimens or other equipment, I really depend on the help of my labmates and the lab technicians!” Pat says of his extremely heavy project. If the FRP-reinforced bridge deck performs well throughout these fatigue cycles (sometimes lasting upward of three million load repetitions) by showing little deflection (basically, remaining stiff and strong), the MTO may be interested in using these innovative bridge decks in future infrastructure. “The choice of material needs to be based on the application. Steel is a go-to, but with FRP you need to prove its benefits and reliability,” explains Pat.

Like Pat’s research, Tim’s project also relies on the premise that sometimes you’ve gotta break something if you want to know how to repair it. Steel and FRP have similar strength characteristics, but Dr. Fam and his students are interested in exploring the latter’s superior durability. Since people are reluctant to choose FRP over steel for construction, Tim is looking for other applications – perhaps repair situations. “FRP could be used to repair, say, any reinforced concrete beam in any given building, based off a building code and intended to support a known load,” elaborates Tim. “You can apply steel externally, but it will be subject to corrosion and deterioration. FRP will be better for this kind of repair because it doesn’t suffer from corrosion problems.” So Tim’s project involves damaging steel-reinforced concrete beams to different extents and then performing surface repairs with FRP. “I’m looking to find answers to questions like: how much of the material do you need? And since there are different varieties of FRP, which kinds do you use for which purposes? At what levels of damage can this repair be effective?”

Throughout months of 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. days in the lab (“Those are the lab tech hours,” laughs Tim, “and they’re amazingly helpful, so you want to be there when they are”), the brothers have also been training about 15 hours a week with their rugby teams, and usually spending at least one day a week traveling for games on top of that. “Rugby is really only a few months’ commitment, and dividing your time between dedication to a sport and your program is actually a good balance,” offers Pat. “It can be tough at times, but it is incredibly rewarding.” Plus, Dr. Fam’s lab is the source of some of their biggest fans; many labmates often turn up to cheer at the home games. “And Dr. Fam is supportive of us playing rugby. He likes our commitment to athletics and we try to return the favour by working as diligently as possible,” adds Tim. “Plus it helps us to have to set deadlines for ourselves,” he grins.

Tim and Pat value collaboration in their research and in their athletics, and sometimes, the two arenas overlap. Both grad students are TAs of other members of the rugby team. “It’s funny,” reflects Pat, “since we have late birthdays [December], we went from being in their position as the youngest on the team, having come into university at 17, to the oldest members now at 24.” According to Tim, the integration between the social worlds of their research and rugby allows the boys to model high standards in academics and sports. “The other students in our lab are so collegial – they’re just as willing to explain a concept as they are to help you move a three meter concrete beam – so we’ve come to really appreciate the importance of that kind of teamwork.”

Now that rugby season has successfully wrapped up, Tim and Pat have to re-embark on the job hunt. But neither predicts that it’ll lead to another degree this time. Both are seeking professional employment after they complete their Master’s research and planning to continue playing rugby through men’s clubs outside of the university system.

A Step Ahead

A Step Ahead: Introducing walking meetings, and why they're effective

Georgia Carley​

On a bright sunny May morning, six people are walking leisurely around the perimeter of Nixon Field, talking. This is Dr. Ian Janssen’s lab (School of Kinesiology and Health Studies), holding its weekly walking meeting.

“It beats sitting, I hate sitting,” says Thomas Ferrao, a Masters student in the Physical Activity Epidemiology lab.

Sitting, which we do so much of every day, is the very reason that Dr. Janssen started his walking meetings four years ago. Now, once the weather hits a stable 10 degrees, he and his students, research coordinator and research assistant head to one of Queen’s sports fields for their meetings. The group will walk for between one to one and a half hours, circling the field and discussing their current research projects.

“In my field,” Dr. Janssen explains, “it is not unusual to do this.” He describes conferences with tall desks for attendees to use while watching presentations and workshops that proceed while walking. He says the research is clear about the negative health impacts of excessive sitting, and he sees his lab’s walking meeting as an important “interruption in sitting time.”

Each of the six arrives at the field with a notebook, but note-taking is not a priority. Instead, the focus is on conversation and ideas.

“These meetings are a chance to talk about the big picture stuff, about where your thesis is going,” PhD Candidate Mike Borghese explains. “It’s helpful to take a step back sometimes,” he adds. 

“Communication flows easier” with their supervisor when they are walking, MSc Candidate Thomas Ferrao says. He contrasts this with their winter lab meetings, held as a group around a desk. “At sit-down meetings all the attention is on you when it’s your turn to talk,” putting the student in the spotlight.  He says the conversations they have while walking are more productive.

The walking meetings are casual, offering opportunities for members of the lab to split off to talk with each other while Prof. Janssen speaks one on one with a student.

“Sitting at a table, there’s not a lot of side talk,” Mike says. While walking, different conversations can emerge. Chao Xue and Karen Li, Research Coordinator and Research Assistant in the lab, emphasize that these side conversations let everyone get to know each other better and to talk about different things. All members of the lab highlighted this as a benefit of the walking meetings.

While the walking meetings reduce sitting time, the physical activity is no intense enough to be considered exercise. Exercise is defined according to increased heart rate, breathing, sweating and other factors. The walking meetings proceed at gentle pace, and are aimed at getting more light intensity physical activity rather than getting more moderate and vigorous intensity exercise. 

Emily Borgundvaag, a Masters student in the lab, sums up her feelings about the meetings: “It’s so nice, I look forward to it.”

Making a Difference

Amanda Tracey

What does it take to be a volunteer?

The short answer is not very much at all. It takes a bit of your time and a lot of your heart. As graduate students it is really easy to get consumed in our daily routines. We easily get absorbed in our research and find ourselves not venturing far from our homes, offices or labs. Sometimes, when I mention volunteering to fellow graduate students, actually, more often than not, I am met with responses like “I don’t have the time” or “I wouldn’t be good at that” or “I’m not sure where to start”.

First of all, yes, as graduate students we are strapped for time. We are always reading papers, running experiments, writing manuscripts, mentoring undergraduate students, working as a TA … the list is endless! But sparing a few hours every week isn’t impossible and it also benefits you to take a well-deserved break and do something you enjoy.

Second of all, you won’t be bad at volunteering. You might be worried and nervous at first but, that’s an appropriate reaction to something new. As long as you choose to be involved in something you actually like doing, then there’s nothing to stress about at all! I have been involved in many organizations and the support networks available to you through the organization itself as well as through other volunteers are often very accessible.

Finally, getting started can be tough but the possibilities are endless, especially in such a tight-knit community like Kingston. There are several agencies that work with children and youth in a mentorship setting such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters KFL&A. There are also agencies that work with children and youth in a more academic setting like Pathways to Education. If you like animals, there are lots of opportunities at the Kingston Humane Society or with Kingston Animal Rescue. Interested in conservation or the environment? What about Society for Conservation Biology: Kingston Chapter?

Do your research. Find something you’re interested in and run with it! Can’t find what you’re interested in? Then start something up! The SGPS at Queen’s actually has a club fund award. As an avid volunteer with many organizations both within Queen’s, Kingston and abroad, I know  that volunteering can change lives, including your own.