VPFA R.I.S.E. - March 2023

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The VPFA R.I.S.E. Newsletter recognizes employee excellence across the portfolio by breaking down silos across units and departments, showcases priority projects, and aims to build a sense of community and belonging.

Celebrating the VPFA Community at Queen’s

Donna Janiec


I am delighted to share the inaugural edition of the VPFA R.I.S.E newsletter with you all. 

The launch of this newsletter was inspired by the exemplary achievements of VPFA portfolio employees, hence its title R.I.S.E., which stands for Recognition, Inspiration, Service, and Engagement, as we recognize your contributions to our portfolio and Queen’s. Meaningful employee experiences are enhanced by intentionally focusing on a climate of belonging and a culture of inclusivity. It is in this spirit that this newsletter will serve as a platform to learn, invest, and showcase your work and your impact. 

I encourage you to read and reflect upon the contents as we recognize employee brilliance across the portfolio through the Employee Spotlights; feature project excellence in the Portfolio Highlights section; nurture a community that focuses on health, wellness, and resilience through the Well at Work section; share current reads and podcasts in the Reading and Podcast Corner; and continue to learn and appreciate the beauty and history of Queen’s buildings and features as part of the On Campus section.

I look forward to future Employee Spotlights where we celebrate your contributions to Queen's and just as importantly, get to know a little more about your passions outside of work.

As we aim to break down silos across units and departments within our portfolio, it is my hope that you will join me in re-energizing Coffee with the VPFA. Embracing this opportunity to meet and spark conversations in person is one of the highlights of my job as the VPFA. These human forms of connection invigorate me. It is especially important for me to hear directly from you. If I am not aware of concerns, I will not have an opportunity to try to make a difference.

As an extraordinary group of people, you add to the enormous talent and range of perspectives on this campus. You undeniably infuse fresh energy into our campus, and I take great pride and joy in your contributions to our community. I hope that you will continue to thrive and grow in your role at Queen’s and beyond. I look forward to staying connected and sharing future updates and achievements across the VPFA portfolio.

With best wishes and thanks for all you do,  

Donna Janiec, FCPA, FCA
Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration) 

Employee Spotlight

Get to know the people across our portfolio serving in a variety of roles.

Ryan Curzon, Investment Services

Ryan Curzon

On a freezing February morning, intrepid global traveler Ryan Curzon regaled us with his plans for an upcoming trip to sunny Belize. This trip could be considered both a reprieve and a pat-on-the-back considering Ryan’s recent accomplishment.

Ryan is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) who has shown significant growth in his role at Queen’s while also working towards obtaining his Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designation.

Where do you work at Queen’s?

I work in Investment Services, as the Manager of Investment Operations. For those not familiar with the department, we manage the university's non-pension, financial assets - the endowment funds, the investment fund sinking fund, and the short-term fund. These represent a combined $2.3 billion in financial assets.

I’ve been at Queen’s since October 2018. I used to work in Toronto, but I grew up in Kingston. It feels like I’ve come home.

Please tell us about your educational background.

I don’t advertise this a lot around Queen’s, of course, but I went to the University of Waterloo. It was a double degree program offered jointly by Waterloo and Wilfried Laurier University. I graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) from Laurier and a Bachelor of Math (BMath) from Waterloo. I then did my MBA at York University. I also have my CFA designation, which is a Chartered Financial Analyst.

You recently completed the CPA (Chartered Professional Accountant) examination. Please tell us about your professional journey leading to this.

Ah yes, the CPA. I’ve completed the academic portion of the CPA program, and now finishing up the work experience requirements. I can’t call myself a CPA yet, but well on the way!

The way it works is that there is the academic component, the relevant experience requirements, and the Common Final Examination. I completed a number of courses to satisfy the prerequisites. After that, I entered the main program which consists of six common modules, a few elective modules, and a capstone.

There are a couple of different paths one takes to get the required work experience. I have already had jobs that cover certain requirements, so I’ve been fortunate that way. For the more difficult accounting aspects of it, my manager at Queen’s, Brian O’Neill, has been very good about working with the Financial Services team to help me satisfy those experience checkboxes.

The final exam is a 13-hour one that is spread over three days. I completed this in September and learned I had passed the exam at the end of November.

Please tell us about your personal journey.

I’m definitely a nerd at heart. In high school, all my best courses were technical ones. I really enjoyed Calculus, Algebra, Physics, and Chemistry.

All my work roles have been in the finance side of organizations, and I’ve always been able to follow those accounting types of conversations. So doing this CPA was a no-brainer. It gives me a strong foundation to be able to participate in these conversations.

I’m a big believer in lifelong education. Every so often, I try to do something academic-related to gain theoretical knowledge that may not necessarily be available on the job.

What do you enjoy the most about your role at Queen’s?

Two things come to mind.

One is working with the Investment Committee, which oversees the non-pension invested assets. The Committee has the best of the best, very bright, intelligent people in the finance world. It's a real pleasure to just hear how they think and their perspective and be able to interact with them.

The other one is being in Investment Services. We’re a bit of a unicorn at Queen’s because we are an academic institution, and nobody really gets what Investment Services does. You could say that it can feel like we’re working in a bit of a silo. We do work very closely with Financial Services, so it has been nice to have that sense of collaboration.

What do you do for fun? Tell us about some interesting activities you would suggest to someone who wants to explore Kingston.

My number one passion is traveling. I was in Italy in October. I did miss the traveling bit during the pandemic, so I’m happy to get back into it. Locally, I like going to the Rock Dunder Hiking Trail. It’s more rustic than a typical park, and I enjoy hiking there. The views are amazing. It is a nice way to get outdoors, get some physical activity, and be in nature. There are lots of good hiking trails around here too – the K&P Trail, from Kingston to Renfrew – you can walk or bike a couple of 100 kilometers on it. If you’re so inclined, there are lots of ways to get out on the water in the summer – St. Lawrence, Lake Ontario, and the Rideau Canal.

With the restaurant and bar scene, Kingston has a really nice downtown area that not a lot of Canadian cities can offer.

If you’re into craft beer, there’s the YGK Craft Beer Fest at Fort Henry every summer, with live music that you can enjoy while relaxing on the hill. It’s a great way to sample a lot of different beers and you’re at a National Historic Site at the same time. Win-win.

What are your future goals/where do you see yourself in five years?

I really enjoy working at Queen’s, so I’d like to stay and maybe grow into a more senior leadership position. I’d like to use the CPA once I officially have it.

Of note is Ryan’s deep knowledge of countries he hasn’t yet visited.

Rodney Watson, Risk and Safety Services 

Rodney Watson

As Picasso so eloquently put it – “Everything you can imagine is real”. As a master of imagining and building, Rodney is a true embodiment of creativity, as you will get to know.

Rodney is passionate about fostering a safe and welcoming environment for the students and broader community at Queen’s. His caring nature is closely tied to the calm and balance that come with broadening his creative horizons as an artist extraordinaire, a sand sculptor, and a Café Racer builder.

Where do you work at Queen’s?

I work as a Security Supervisor with the Office of Risk and Safety Services and have been with the team for about 13 years. My previous job as a Private Investigator brought me to Kingston on many assignments, and I liked the city so much, I ended up moving here!

What do you enjoy the most about your role at Queen’s?

Simply knowing that I am helping students through their education, by being there for them, offering resources, or making sure that their journey through the university is safe, makes it very enjoyable for me.

One of my favorite memories is during a summer camp held on campus. I kept a box of colored chalk in my pocket while on patrol. Every night, I went into a classroom that was serving as the main office for the summer camp in Kingston Hall and would sketch something on the chalkboard. I left a note in the corner that said, “Please do not erase.” Each night, I’d spend about 15 minutes and add something new to the previous night’s sketch. I covered a 16-foot chalkboard with a "Finding Nemo" theme. One night, I stopped at this classroom to make notes on what had transpired while on patrol prior to going into this building, and one of the camp counselors came up to me and asked, “Do you know who’s doing all the drawing?” I said, “I have no idea.”

It turns out that every morning, the young summer camp participants would come running into this classroom to see the new additions of the previous night's drawing. It would get them so excited to come to the camp every day. That was a boost for me.

They still have no idea who did it!

We’ve heard that you’re an incredible artist. Can you tell us more about your art?

I have been into art since I was a child. There were a few decades when I did not do anything related to art. However, today I would credit my wife for this. A few years ago, my wife got me a wedding gift – a half-sleeve tattoo. I designed it myself, and the tattoo represents our journey, how and where we met, leading right up to our wedding. The next day, I drew a portrait of our pets. My wife was in disbelief, and she said, “Oh that’s a photograph.” And I said, “No, I drew it by hand.” That’s when I really started painting and sketching again. To this day, my wife supports all my hobbies. Whether it's spending hours in the art studio in my basement painting or sketching, hours on the beach sand sculpting, or hours in the garage building my custom motorcycle Café Racers.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I started drawing pet portraits, and it’s really taken off since December 2020. I am still working on about three dozen orders from around Canada and the US!

Rodney Watson Art

Please tell us about your other artistic pursuits.

I’m also a professional sand sculptor. In 2007, I was camping at Sandbanks Provincial Park in Prince Edward County and during that time, there was a professional sand sculptor who was practicing. My children looked at me and said, “Hey Dad, can you do that?” I laughed and said, “No.” But then, I returned to my campsite only to attempt to sculpt something in the sand. The passers-by were astounded at what I created. I had an overwhelming response. I was then hooked. Since then, I won the Cobourg Sandcastle event. The professional sand sculptors who were at the event were quite impressed with my creation; they invited me to the professional level.

I’m well-known for my dragon sand sculptures. I was sponsored by the City of Cobourg for a competition and have been commissioned to sculpt by the City of Kingston, Sandbanks Provincial Park, and invited to sculpt for Parks Canada in Prince Edward Island at one of their events.

I'm now that professional who practices at the Sandbanks.

Please tell us about your experience with sidewalk chalk.

In 2022, the City of Kingston held its first sidewalk chalk competition.  There were two categories – emerging artists and established artists. I decided to attempt the established artist level despite never having worked with sidewalk chalk.  We were given 11 hours to complete our art on an 8-foot by 6-foot piece of the walkway. I won both prizes for established artists -– Jury’s Prize and the People’s Choice Award.

What are your other creative pursuits?

My Café Racer builds.

The term Café Racer came into being in the ‘60s. British riders would strip their motorbikes of all unnecessary parts to make them lighter and faster to race between cafés. About five years ago, I decided to rip apart and rebuild a vintage bike and turn this machine into a Café Racer. I created an Instagram page for it, and the response I received was unimaginable. I have artists and builders following me on Facebook and YouTube. I was asked by Café Racer Magazine out of France if I'd be interested in sharing my build in one of their issues.  

My second build took me two years. The same magazine reached out again. I have a copy of that first feature. Although I can’t read it as it’s in French, I can see my name and my Café Racer in it.

What do you think awaits you on your next creative adventure?

I have a few sand sculpting gigs lined up for this summer and will again compete in this year's sidewalk chalk competition downtown Kingston. I have more paintings to complete for a store in Prince Edward Island. I’m still working on 36 new drawings that I took on in November 2022. I am currently working on a new technique that I want to keep under wraps and plan to focus on it after I am done with my pet portrait commissions. As for the Café Racer, I think two bikes will be enough. Maybe!

Portfolio Highlights

A Special Request from Tamale Technical University in Ghana

In the spring of 2021, IT Services (ITS) was approached by Tamale Technical University in Ghana with a rather unique request.

ITS was asked if they could provide some equipment in support of a Queen's alumnus, Dr. Abass Braimah, Ph.D., P.Eng., who had been appointed Vice-Chancellor. The request was not one easily handled by the team. Most of ITS’ equipment generally remains in operation until the end of its supported lifecycle. This results in equipment that has limited reusable value and is increasingly vulnerable due to the lack of vendor support. As such, ITS practices tend to focus on the preparation for disposal and not re-use.

Fortunately, Systems Team lead, Curtis Ireland, rolled up his sleeves and pulled together some of ITS’ soon-to-be retired assets that still had some intrinsic value. This was no small task but Curtis was happy to support this initiative. Using his limited spare time, and in some cases working during his off hours, Curtis managed to put together a suite of IBM System x3550 servers and their associated rack hardware. In June 2022, almost a year after the original request was made, these servers were shipped to Dr. Braimah. A letter of appreciation from Tamale Technical University expressed gratitude for “the equipment that could not have been received at a more opportune time.”

The servers are now in use at the Tamale Technical University, allowing them to install and use Moodle Learning Management System, and digitize their personnel files in their Human Resources Information System.

Making a Difference through Procurement Practices

Image indicating social procurement

Strategic Procurement Services (SPS) is well on the path to enhancing equity-focused business practices by focusing on a social procurement approach for the Queen’s community. Social procurement stands at the confluence of four areas: supply chain diversity, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), Truth & Reconciliation, and Sustainability. Recognizing that organizations need to meet their needs for goods or services while achieving value for money and generating benefits to the organization, the society, and the economy, while minimizing damage to the environment, Strategic Procurement Services has made considerable efforts in the aforementioned areas.

Capturing those impacts and seeking to make intentional, positive contributions to both the broader economy and the vibrancy of our Queen’s community, the team has collaborated with Queen’s Human Rights and Equity Office (HREO) on an I-EDIAA (Indigenization, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Accessibility, and Anti-Racism) Supplier classification icon in acQuire, the Queen’s eProcurement system. This allows acQuire users to understand which suppliers are equity-deserving and make meaningful decisions on the suppliers they use or is considering using. Additionally, SPS and the WE-CAN (Women Entrepreneurs Can) Project have joined forces to focus on Kingston area businesses owned by underrepresented groups of women entrepreneurs in an effort to promote awareness of the goods and services available from local, small business owners who may be facing barriers.

On the sustainability front, the team is proud of its paperless operations and successfully engages with the Queen's community around its initiatives through outreach and training activities. SPS continues to promote the identifiers in acQuire, a feature that helps clients understand and choose sustainable options whenever available. Specific, category criteria are also incorporated into many Requests for Proposals (RFPs).

The dedicated webpage on the SPS site encourages equity-deserving suppliers to be considered by the Queen’s community. Having held eight supplier outreach sessions on “How to do business with Queen’s”, with over 250 suppliers in attendance, the team has received overwhelmingly positive feedback on its initiative and dedication.

Fulfilling its sustained promise to continue this impactful work and implement new initiatives in 2023, the SPS team plans to deepen its partnership with HREO to incorporate evaluation criteria into its RFx (Request For) practices and design a training program to assist evaluators on how to evaluate I-EDIAA within these processes. Additional supplier sessions are being offered on how to do business with Queen’s, along with an overview of how to respond to a Queen’s RFP. SPS is looking forward to its ongoing contributions toward the university’s commitment to creating an inclusive economy and community.

Well At Work

As part of Human Resources, the Employee Wellness Services team aims to enhance the work experience of employees by fostering a sustainable, accessible, positive, and kind work environment. This team assists employees with return to work and accommodation, engages and educates in wellness initiatives and holistic wellbeing, and inspires collaborative work across the university in support of employees and their families.

In 2020, Queen’s University launched the Campus Wellbeing Framework. It represents the shared vision of more than 1800 Queen’s community members who believe that campus well-being is rooted in a culture of care, inclusion, respect, social connectedness, the places we learn and work, and the multiple dimensions of personal health.  Employee Wellness Service seeks to further well-being on campus by using this Framework as a guide while advancing the Queen’s Strategy. 

Community consultation and input through focus groups and the Employee Experiences Survey have informed key areas that the team will focus on to create a positive impact on campus including:

  1. Support and promote employee recognition.
  2. Create health and wellness opportunities that advance professional development and growth.
  3. Mental health supports and programming for staff and faculty.
  4. Create and share resources with staff and faculty to help establish a better work-life balance.
  5. Share resources aligned to leadership and role-modeling development opportunities.

Employee Wellbeing at Queen’s University Project

In 2022, work began to explore the possibility of an employee wellness strategy at Queen’s.

Five focus groups have been established to explore different wellness themes in an effort to determine the best way to approach, plan, implement, and evaluate employee wellness at Queen’s. The information gathered from these focus groups will help inform a future employee wellness strategy that aligns with the Campus Wellbeing Framework.


Enhancing Wellbeing and Preventing Burnout Certificate

This certificate program is the first of its kind and is designed to provide managers with strategies to enhance the well-being of their team and prevent burnout. 

Thrive 365 Initiatives

In 2023, Thrive is shifting to a year-round focus to better support well-being across the Queen’s community. Ongoing events and activities will be available throughout the year. Employees are encouraged to visit the HR Intranet to learn more and register for events.

As a part of this program, Employee Wellness Services will be launching the “Experience Queen’s” initiative which will allow employees to learn about the university and to better connect them to the Queen’s campus.

Register below for the March events:

Mental Health Awareness (Webinar) - March 9, 10:00 am – 11:00 am

Experience Queen's @ the Queen's Observatory - March 17, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

Motivate, Recognize, and Energize Employees - March 20, 10:00 am - 11:00 am 

Experience Queen's @ SparQ Studio - March 22, 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

VPFA Recommends

Lights and books at a library

The books we read and the podcasts we listen to, can shape how we see ourselves, our communities and the world. This collection of books and podcasts shared by our colleagues is an opportunity to broaden our horizons, expand our worldview and inspire us to shift our thoughts about the world around us and our place in it. Happy reading! Happy listening!



Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

- Suggested by René Grisé, Controller, Financial Services

Genre: Non-fiction

In Blink, Gladwell transforms the way we understand the world within. Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant - in the blink of an eye - that actually aren't as simple as they seem.

Sooley by John Grisham

- Suggested by IT Service Operations Directorate

Genre: Fiction

In Sooley, we see Grisham regaling us with a tale of a young South Sudanese athlete, Samuel Sooleymon, who gets the opportunity of a lifetime: a trip to the United States with his teammates to play in a showcase basket­ball tournament. During the tournament, Samuel receives news that a civil war is now raging across South Sudan.

Atomic Habits by James Clear

- Suggested by Julia Hodgson, Financial Services

Genre: Non-fiction

As a habit formation expert, James Clear reveals useful tactics to help you form good habits, ditch the bad ones, and become the master of your own life. Read true stories from physicians, business leaders, Olympic athletes, and more, as you learn to use science to achieve your goals.


The Vinyl Café

- Suggested by IT Service Operations Directorate

Quintessentially Canadian, The Vinyl Café features Dave, owner of a secondhand store called “The Vinyl Café” and the people in his life. Frequently humorous, the Café also includes essays, short stories, and music. A major highlight of the show are the “Dave and Morley Stories”.

Crime Beat

- Suggested by Louisa Jennings, Financial Services

Canada’s version of Dateline, this true crime podcast takes you on a journey through some of this country’s most high-profile criminal cases.

Kuper Island

- Suggested by Aaron St. Pierre, Director, Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre

Duncan McCue explores the stories of four children who attended Kuper Island Indian Residential School in British Columbia. Out of the four, three survived, and one didn’t.

Please note that this content may trigger discomfort or strong emotions. Professional emotional support is available through Queen's Employee Family and Assistance Program (EFAP).

March is Women’s History Month

While we should celebrate women's history and contributions every day, this is an opportunity for an intentional and elevated reflection and recognition of women's history and excellence – and all the historical and contemporary achievements of women students, faculty, and staff at Queen's.

Learn More


International Women’s Day 2023 @ Queen’s

On March 8 at 12:00pm, the Queen's Women's Network (QWN), Women in Science at Queen's (WiSQ), the Chair for Women in Engineering, and affiliates are joining forces to host an interactive event about Women’s focused groups across campus. Light refreshments will be available.

Event Overview

Beyond the Glass Ceiling

Join Smith Business Insight and Queen’s Executive Education on March 8 at 1:00pm for a free webinar to learn about career advancement and the importance of mentorship and allyship. Speakers include the Dean of Smith School of Business, Dr. Wanda Costen, Dean of Faculty of Health Sciences, Dr. Jane Philpott, and leadership and talent strategy consultant, Kim Fulton.

Recording of Presentation

On Campus: Grant Hall

"Universities are not memorabilia; they're not mausoleums" - Toni Morrison

Queen’s campus – its buildings, its fields, its teeming life – keep memory alive. It can be a place of individual memory that colours and influences one's everyday experience and also a place of collective memory that impacts history and helps shape the future.

Grant Hall in the 1910s

Courtesy of Queen's University Archives

Perhaps one of the most iconic buildings on campus, Grant Hall was completed in 1905 and named posthumously for Principal George Munro Grant. When the original funding for the building fell through, Queen’s students raised $35,000, one-third of which came from the students themselves – a true testament to their respect for Principal Grant. The Hall also served as a military hospital during World War I. During World War II, the Hall was used as an entertainment centre plus a meal hall for the troops. This photo was taken sometime in the 1910s. Note the men in military uniforms outside.

Grant Hall Today

Photo: University Communications

Today, Grant Hall holds an important place at Queen’s. With a seating capacity of 900, the Hall serves as the space for ceremonial events, plays, concerts, exams, and public lectures and meetings; and is designed in keeping with accessibility features such as an automatic door opener, a water fountain with bottle fill station, a single-user washroom, and accessible parking.