VPFA R.I.S.E. - March 2024

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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.

Leveraging Our Collective Strength

Donna Janiec, Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration) at a podium with Queen's banner to her left

Dear VPFA Community,

Greetings and welcome to another edition of the VPFA R.I.S.E. newsletter!

I want to express my deep appreciation for your continued support as we navigate the challenging landscape of the university's budgetary constraints. I want to acknowledge the tremendous efforts you are making to contribute to the financial stability of our institution. I am grateful for the resilience and creativity you bring to our community.

I am inspired by your goodwill and hard work, and our collective commitment will continue shaping the future trajectory of our institution. I am confident that, with this shared commitment, we will overcome the hurdles before us and emerge stronger than ever.

Whether it's finding new efficiencies, proposing novel solutions, or adapting to changing circumstances, your inventive spirit plays a vital role in overcoming the complexities we face. This creativity is not only a testament to your individual capabilities but also a collective strength that enhances the overall resilience of our community.

In this edition, we bring you a lineup of engaging content. Join us as we continue featuring the diverse skills and talents of our VPFA colleagues through the Employee Spotlights section; share health and wellbeing resources in the Well at Work section; and offer an exciting range of books and podcasts; explore wonderful culinary delights in The Great VPFA Recipes section; and join a furry friend on a journey through time to discover a unique space on Queen’s campus.

As I continue to introduce members of my leadership team, along with their respective portfolios, I am delighted to feature the Risk and Safety Services team, led by Kim Murphy, Executive Director, Risk and Safety Services. The team plays an impactful role in ensuring our campus is safe and inclusive for all employees, students and visitors. Their efforts contribute to the overall safety of our campus.

I would also like to take the opportunity to emphasize the importance of personal and home life, recognizing that our well-being extends beyond the workplace and how a series of events reinforced the significance of personal relationships for me and their crucial role in supporting us during both joyous and challenging times.

I traveled home to Barbados a few months ago to attend a family wedding, a beautiful celebration that was a true reminder of the joy and love that come from being surrounded by those who care deeply about us. Family events not only provide a break from our busy routines but also offer an opportunity to recharge our emotional batteries. However, life is a blend of highs and lows. During this trip, I also faced personal loss that brought about waves of grief. In these moments of sorrow, I found solace and immense support from family members. It's during such times that the strength of our personal connections truly shines through.

My mantra is that our personal endeavours are just as important as our professional ones. They shape who we are and impact our well-being. As we navigate the various challenges and triumphs in our lives, let's not forget the significance of these human connections that sustain us. Prioritize these relationships. Also remember your colleagues are not here only as co-workers but as your support network. 

Wishing you all continued success and fulfillment in all aspects of life. 

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

Strengthening Campus Safety, Fostering Community

Risk and Safety Services stand at the forefront of ensuring a secure and cohesive campus environment, with each strategic project contributing to the overall safety of the university community.

Team Highlights

Risk and Safety Services Leadership Team Members

Risk and Safety Services was established in 2018, bringing together existing Queen’s departments and services with similar mandates under a single portfolio. With a focus on supporting a safe and secure campus environment, their 37 full-time, 8 part-time, and between 10 and 15 casual staff in Campus Security and Emergency Services, Environmental Health and Safety, Insurance Services and Enterprise Risk Management provide expertise and leadership in all areas related to security, workplace safety, risk management and insurance. In September 2022, they relocated from different buildings across campus to come together in beautifully renovated space at 355 King St. W. This move has provided the portfolio with the opportunity to improve collaboration, creating efficiencies as a cohesive team. 


Project Highlights and Impact

With a focus on partnership and collaboration, the Risk and Safety Services team provides essential services to support a safe and secure campus community. Examples of some of their most recent notable projects are noted below. 

Risk and Safety Services is currently engaged in a review of the university’s emergency notification processes and platforms. Campus Security and Emergency Services (CSES) employs a multifaceted approach to providing notification of an emergency to the campus community which significantly enhances the likelihood that individuals will receive notifications promptly. These include, the use of the SeQure App, email and website notification, use of social media, and the Emergency Notification Public Address System (ENS), which utilizes loud sirens and pre-recorded messages on campus. An upgrade of the ENS is being planned for sometime in March 2024.. This involves a software upgrade and the addition of a 5th speaker on top of 355 King St and will include a live test of the system . 

Risk and Safety Services has recently updated the university’s Off-Campus Activity Safety Policy (OCASP). The policy provides a framework for risk assessment, planning, preparation, and support so off campus activities and the associated travel can be conducted as safely as possible and enables the institution’s Emergency Support Program to assist community members should an incident occur while participating in off-campus activities. 

To support community members, Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) created a new website and dramatically transformed the online safety planning tool now called START (Safe Travel Activity Registration Tool. START allows a quick and easy way for students, faculty, and staff to register their university-sanctioned low risk off-campus activities, while continuing to facilitate the creation of a safety planning record for higher risk activities. START also enhances the University’s ability to provide guidance/emergency support in the event of an incident.

Leadership Highlights 

Kim Murphy, a Chartered Public Accountant, joined the Internal Audit Department at Queen’s University after an 8-year career in public accounting. Throughout her almost 25-year career at Queen’s she has had the privilege of serving in several different roles across the university, most of which were newly established positions that she was able to develop and grow. This included spearheading the first finance and administration role for the Student Affairs portfolio, taking on the responsibility for Enterprise Risk Management for the university while working as a Director in the Office of the VP (Finance and Administration), and the first Executive Director to lead the Risk and Safety Services portfolio.

Kim has a strong mandate for service and partnership in the work she undertakes for Queen’s, always seeking ways she and her team can provide added value in their focus on ensuring the safety and security of students, employees, and visitors to the Queen’s campus. When not working, Kim can be found travelling with her husband in pursuit of their goal to visit all 30 Major League Baseball parks…15 down and 15 to go!

Employee Spotlight

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

Tyler Robinson, Financial Services

Tyler Robinson

Tyler Robinson is the Manager, Research Accounting. His work and personal interests have taken him from the depths of an Ontario mine to the peaks of mountains in Western Canada.  

How did you get connected to Queen’s? 

I grew up in the Kingston area. I started my career at a local accounting firm. After two and a half years, I realized I didn't personally resonate with a bottom-line, billable-hours, profit-driven approach to accounting. I had another job between there and Queen’s with a healthcare organization, which I liked because it felt like I was helping the community. 

How has your career grown at Queen’s? What do you enjoy the most about your position? 

I've been at Queen’s for over 12 years. I started in an accounting officer role looking after a few different funding agencies for researchers, which then progressed into one of the more complicated portfolios looking after one funding agency for a while, which then progressed into the manager position that I’m in now. 

I have five people within my team looking after the federal government funding, provincial government funding, industry and corporate funding, as well as all the internal Queen's research funding. Our team is awesome! 

Having the ability to work with the research community at Queen’s is amazing.

Do you ever get to learn about the research itself? If so, what research initiatives have really captured your interest? 

One that stands out is the SNOLAB research projects - that includes Art McDonald's Nobel Prize winning project. I got to go up to SNOLAB in 2014 to get a tour of the underground lab in the mine. 

I was the research finance contact for that project, dealing with the funding agencies to ensure we were receiving the funds in time and keeping the budgets up to date. My team took care of all the annual and semi-annual financial reporting, and we were the point of contact between the researchers and the funding agencies. We also took care of the after-the-fact audits.  

What do you find motivating in terms of work? 

I really like working with numbers and I enjoy helping people advance their work. Having the chance to do both is a big thing for me. 

What are some of your biggest learnings about life and work? 

Very early in my career, while dealing with so many different people on a regular basis, I learned you don't know what type of day the person you're dealing with has been having. I intentionally take a step back and think about the situation at hand to stay calm and not overreact to anything I deal with.  

Taking a step back helps you to realize when you do have an uncomfortable situation, it's not 100% your fault. That's just something the person you’re helping might be going through, and stepping back to think about that is very, very important. 

What's one thing on your bucket list? 

My wife and are both very big snowboarders and enjoy anything outdoors. We've been snowboarding since high school. One of our major wish-list trips is heli-snowboarding in either Western Canada or somewhere in the northwestern US. There's one spot in Revelstoke especially that’s caught her eye. 

It's something we've talked about for the last 10 years and something that we hopefully get done in the next five years while we're still physically able to do it. 

It's just a matter of putting that time aside from work. My wife and I both did a self-funded leave just over a year ago; we were off for six months. We did some traveling and a snowboarding trip out West, so that's what's re-sparked that flame for heliskiing and snowboarding. 

What is one skill that you'd love to learn? 

I do quite a few home renovations and building projects. Welding is one thing that seems to always come up for renovations. 

Is there something you enjoy doing for fun that you would suggest somebody pick up if they're looking for a new hobby? 

We're very outdoorsy. I love fishing, hunting, camping, kayaking and paddleboarding. We're lucky enough to live on the water in South Frontenac. Being just outside of Kingston offers a lot, between the provincial parks in the area for hiking and lots of boating. 

If you could sum up Queens in one word, what would it be and why? 

I would say ‘community.’ In my role, I deal with a lot of different people across the university, whether they are researchers or other shared service providers. Most people you deal with are working to better the university or propel research forward. It feels like a tight knit community. 

What drew me to Queen’s was the opportunity, especially within Research Accounting, to help researchers with their financial reporting and their funding grants, to free them up to focus their time on the actual research they're doing. The opportunity at Queen’s is a good one in terms of being able to help the Kingston community that I grew up in.


Brian Locke, Facilities 

Brian Locke

Brian Locke is a long-serving member of the Facilites team with a deep dedication to the beautification of Queen’s. 

How did you first get connected to Queens? 

I was 14 when I started in the horticultural industry - my next-door neighbor owned a business. I worked summer jobs through high school, and then I went to Humber.  

After 26 years as a landscape foreman and designer, I took the summer off and then dropped my resume at Queen’s. The manager of Grounds called me, and I got on as a casual. I did three rounds of a casual position for three months at a time, and within a year there was a posting for a grounds keeper. I was lucky enough to get it, and have been at the university for 22 years. 

What would you say you enjoy most about your job? 

I love my job. I like the whole atmosphere at Queen’s. I love the buildings. I like coming to work. To me, it's not a job. I like what I'm doing. There's such a variety of jobs to do - if you get tired of planting flowers, you can go trim trees for a day. 

I plant the flowers and maintain the beds. After they've been in for a couple months, you start to see the colour and the progress of the plants. We try to keep colour for all seasons.  

I look after the perennials, and we put pansies in the planters and then the tulips come up. Once the tulips are done, we hand dig them all out. There's usually about 15,000 tulips that we dig out in the spring – usually May, depending on the season – and give them away. We take them down to our old Rideau garage on Stuart Street and we stockpile them down there. If you see us taking them out, we have bags; we put them in bags for anybody that wants them. 

We plant flowers during the month of June and then usually in July and August, I'm on the maintenance of the beds and the baskets that hang.

Grounds is a team of five. We get five or six students in May to help cut the grass. Halfway through June, usually the grass cutting slows down. There's always stuff to do. We remove the garbage. We trim trees and shrubs. We peeled posters. We do snow removal. It keeps us busy.  

Is there something about the university grounds you find interesting that most people might not know about?  

We have a very old Arboretum with a number of different cultivars and trees. There are some species that aren't very well known in here, especially for our zone. 

Do you have a favorite garden on campus?  

I always like Flemming and HR’s - it was fantastic last year.  

I’m able to help guide the selection of some plants – especially the plants we don't want because some of the stuff crawls on the ground and it's too hard to cultivate. Our boss is not afraid to bring in different colors and different plant materials, so that's good to see as well. 

What considerations go into designing a flower bed or garden?  

You want to consider the maintenance - do you want annuals? Do you want perennials?  Do you want a focal point? Do you want different heights? There are a lot of variables.  

Regarding your philosophy around work, what motivates you? 

I’ve always been a morning person. I usually work from 7 am until 3 pm. 

Anytime we have hard work to do at Queen’s, I try to do it between 7 and 10 am. If we've got to edge flower beds, or string lines down or cut new edges, we do that first thing in the morning because it seems like after 10 am, the graph peaks – so let's get the hard work done in the morning. I always find we get good results with that. 

What have been some of the most important lessons that you've learned throughout your career? 

At my other job I was a foreman, but at Queen’s I’ve had to learn to be more of a team player. You’re in the trucks and working with two or three guys. I've had to learn to adapt. It worked out fine with no problems. 

Everybody has an opinion. If someone has a different idea, I’m willing to listen and try it. We're all equals in the department, so it's more of a collaborative approach to work. 

In terms of career goals and looking towards the future, is there a dream project you'd like to tackle? 

I'm anxious to see the JDUC completion and what's going to be done there in regards to the landscaping. There's always something new going up. I never know what projects we might be brought into. 

I also work after work. I do some gardening and grass cutting and a bit of stonework. I’ll probably work 10 years after I retire from Queen’s. I have a nice clientele; some of them are long standing clients of 20-some years. I don’t want to take on too much more. My goal is to look after the people I have.  


Continued below

Brian Locke cont.

What's one thing on your bucket list? 

My wife and I are hoping that after we retire, we're able to spend winters in Florida or Hilton Head. We have a couple of trips we'd like to do as well. One is over in London on the River Thames. I don't want to go out in the ocean where you can't see land. 

We host international high school students. We've had a couple from Spain, a couple from Brazil, a couple from Mexico, and one from France, so we have an open invitation to each of their homes as well. The kids are great. We enjoy it because it's interesting to talk to them about their countries and learn about their cultures. 

Speaking of learning, is there a new skill you'd like to learn? 

I'd like to know how to weld, but I don't think I'll do that. My son took welding and he has that skill if I need work done. I like to dabble with woodwork; I've done toy boxes and made tables and just finished putting new shelving in a pantry. I have a bit of a workshop in the basement. I usually don't go down there from April until November. Once I start outside, I don’t have any interest in going downstairs. 

What do you do for fun? Any recommendations for interesting activities you might suggest to somebody who wants to explore Kingston? 

We have seven kids between the two of us and we have 11 grandkids. The kids keep us busy. My wife likes to entertain. We have three circles of friends and we're always seeing one or the other. 

We love the downtown in the summer, going to the market or in the afternoon we'll go have a drink on a patio and walk around. We like going and looking at the boats. We can't afford any of them, but we look at them anyways. 

What would you say to someone considering a career in grounds maintenance? 

There's lots of work in the horticultural trade. It's not easy work but it’s a great place to work if you like being outdoors and you're willing to learn.

Grounds maintenance fun facts:

  • There are 50 acres of grass to maintain across Queen’s properties in Kingston, including Main Campus, West Campus, the Donald Gordon Center, Isabel Bader and residence housing.  
  • Brian’s team tends 34 hanging baskets, 60 concrete planters with annuals, and 20 garden beds. Keeping the gardens full requires eight truckloads of annuals each year, totaling about 500 flats. In September, some annuals beds are replaced with Fall Mums.  
  • 300 yards of mulch are needed annually to top up gardens around campus. This includes topping up the sand and mulch at the Queen’s Day Care.  
  • Once 15,000 tulips are planted each the fall, the Grounds Team focuses on leaf removal. About 100 truckloads of leaves go to KARC each year.  

Portfolio Highlight: Queen's Renew Project

As we progress through the Queen's Renew Project, I would like to reiterate my sincere appreciation for the efforts that many across the VPFA portfolio have contributed thus far.

The Queen's Renew Project is a significant multi-year initiative aimed at elevating the effectiveness of our professional services in supporting the university's academic mission. As Co-Chair of the Professional Services Working Group, to oversee the project and make recommendations to the Principal, I am truly grateful for the hard work you bring to the table.

By engaging with NousCubane's UniForum program, we are opening doors to invaluable insights and benchmarks from other institutions, which will enable us to assess and enhance the delivery of our professional services. Your involvement and commitment to the recent Service Effectiveness Survey, conducted in February, have not gone unnoticed. The survey received high participation rates, thanks to your time and dedication.

Now, as we move on to the next phase – the Activity Data Collection scheduled through March 28 – we appreciate your collective efforts and continued support during this busy time. The Professional Services Working Group and university leadership will review the ensuing data analysis, reports, and recommendations to determine next steps.

Together, we are building a stronger foundation for the future of Queen's. For more information, I encourage you to visit the Queen’s Renew Project website.

Donna Janiec, FCPA, FCA
VP (Finance and Administration)

VPFA Remembers: Mark Fleming

This past December, many of us were surprised and saddened by the passing of Mark Fleming. At the age of 59, and preparing for his next big life adventure, he was taken far too soon. 

Mark had been a member of the Queen's community for the better part of the last four decades, as both a graduate and employee, serving in various IT support roles since 1989. Those who knew Mark would describe him as a bigger than life personality. It didn't seem to matter what the issue was, he would approach problems or questions with a natural blend of curiosity, technical competency, and gentle patience. Mark approached everything as a potential learning moment, and he intuitively knew how hard to push. It was no coincidence that ‘the Mac Support Guy’ was one of the most important and respected members of our Service Desk. 

Mark Fleming

But Mark was more than just those things. He was just as comfortable holding the paddle of a canoe, smiling behind the lens of a camera, working with wood, or hiking the many trails around the area. While he did not always follow conventional approaches, his inquisitiveness and passion often led to outcomes overlooked by conventional practice, and with superior results. 

 Mark was also a man of the world, persistently looking for his next big adventure, relationship to build or quite literally the next mountain to climb (he was making plans to climb Mount Kilimanjaro). Mark was pre-deceased by his wife, Bonnie Fleming, who was also an important member of the Queen's Community. Together, this power couple would open their home to many staff and students over the years, often leading to lifelong friendships with people across the globe, friendships he continued to nurture right up to the day he passed. 

In early February, we took time to remember Mark and his life, but if you would like to make a donation in his memory, donations will be gratefully accepted by the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation (UHKF), Kingston Interval House, or the Kingston Humane Society. These were all organizations that meant a lot to him. Alternatively, you can also plant a tree in his memory through the Tribute Store

Well At Work

Recognition and appreciation form the cornerstone of building a thriving workplace environment and are key drivers for employee engagement. To support with the need for improved recognition at Queen’s, and to action results from the Employee Experiences Survey, Human Resources has developed Appreciation and Recognition Toolkits that can be leveraged at different points in an employee’s journey.  

These toolkits share best practices and offer different ways to recognize colleagues in the workplace. They also include accessible templates for furthering this work within the Queen’s community. Specific resources are included to assist in determining how employees would prefer to be recognized, to ease in the development of a learning plan, and to consider in the development of an onboarding strategy. 

In addition to these toolkits, Human Resources will be facilitating the following workshops to build awareness of psychological health and safety in the workplace and how to create action towards positive workplace culture. 

Appreciation and Recognition Through Creating Awareness:  A Team Discussion

This one-hour virtual session focuses on engaging an entire team in reviewing the factors that impact psychological health and safety in the workplace as they relate to appreciation and recognition. This approach is recommended by the National Standard of Canada on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. By doing this, the team will build awareness of the responsibility of each employee to contribute to a positive workplace culture through learning how to appreciate and recognize their colleagues. There is also an opportunity to get team involvement in developing and being part of the solution.

This session is being offered on April 1, from 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm.


Appreciation and Recognition Through Creating Change: Facilitating Policy Development

This 90-minute session builds on the appreciation and recognition ideas developed by employees in the Creating Awareness: A Team Discussion workshop. This session will focus on the next step in this process, which is to engage decision makers in reviewing the appreciation and recognition of employee suggestions, against evidence - or practice-based approaches in the workplace. The main objective in this workshop is to modify or create policies and procedures that improve appreciation and recognition for the organization.

This session is being offered on May 6, from 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm.


VPFA Recommends

In this section, your colleagues share a favourite recipe, book and podcast.

Vegan Broccoli Soup

Submitted by Jennifer Waldron, Manager, General Accounting, Financial Services

“Here is a recipe my family loves. We make a big batch on the weekend so that can have it for lunch during the week."

Get the Recipe: Vegan Broccoli Soup

The Black Echo by Michael Connelly

Submitted by Chad McLeod, Controller, Financial Services

"I’d recommend the entire Harry Bosch series (for those who enjoy easy read detective thriller novels whose characters have some depth) so thought the best way for folks to start is with the first in the series."

Review of The Blach Echo

Invest Like the Best

Submitted by Lydia Wen, Information Security Intern (QUIP), Office of the Information Security Officer

About the podcast: Conversations with the best investors and business leaders in the world. We explore their ideas, methods, and stories to help you better invest your time and money. Hear stock market and boardroom insights you can't find anywhere else.

Preview "Invest Like the Best" Podcast

Finn Visits Gordon Hall

Join VP “Finn”ance and Administration adventurer, Finn Cottontail, as he hops through Queen's campus and its enchanting surroundings, bringing joy and discovery to all he encounters. Finn is an Eastern Cottontail with an insatiable curiosity for the world around him. 

Today, Finn has ventured out to Gordon Hall. Originally hosting the Department of Chemistry, Gordon Hall is now home to the Office of the University Registrar, Career Services, the School of Graduate Studies, and the Office of the Associate Vice-Principal and Dean of Student Affairs.

Historic Gordon Hall

Completed in 1911, Gordon Hall was a gift of the government of Ontario and its cornerstone was laid by Premier Sir James Whitney in April 1910. It is named after the Rev. Daniel Miner GordonPrincipal of Queen's from 1902 to 1917.

The building was a much-needed addition to Queen's and provided a home for the Department of Chemistry for over 90 years until it moved to Chernoff Hall.

Exterior of Gordon Hall

Gordon Hall has been added onto several times. The Gordon Annex, a large wing that projects at right angles from the rear of building, was built between 1947 and 1949. The Frost Wing, named in honour of Grenville Barker Frost, professor of chemistry from 1925 to 1956 and head of the department from 1956 to 1960, was built in 1961 and attached to the south end of the annex. An extra floor was also added to the building in 1964.