One of the greatest challenges of living in a rapidly changing world is in knowing how to adapt. As a historian, I am well aware of the fact that things change. I’ve also learned that the key to success is in knowing how to anticipate and thrive as a result of it. As the Principal of my alma mater, it gives me great pleasure to see our students being equipped with the skills to do just that in the 21st century.
One of the ways we’re doing that is through experiential learning. From exchange programs, integrated and multi-disciplinary learning, to fieldwork, experiential learning is a critical part of our curriculum.
For example, Professor Scott Lamoureux and
his students from the Department of Geography are working to understand how changes in climate are affecting the Arctic – but they aren’t just learning in the classroom.
Every year, Professor Lamoureux’s students take part in fieldwork in the High Arctic at Cape Bounty. They know that the Northwest Passage – a sea route through the Arctic Ocean sought after for centuries – is no longer a dream. In the past decade, the amount of sea ice in the Canadian Arctic has disappeared at a staggering rate, leaving behind seaways of open water.
This has resulted in an increase in shipping for mining and other resource industries, along with tourism in the form of cruise ships traveling to communities that were inaccessible. But what does this change mean for the development of our Canadian Arctic – its land, its people, its water? In a world running out of resources, how do we responsibly manage the new opportunities provided in this area while ensuring sustainability for their communities?
These are the questions our students are seeking to answer with their fieldwork. Their discoveries today will greatly affect the future of the Canadian Arctic, where the rate of change is far outpacing our knowledge and understanding. This is an area at a crossroads, and Queen’s people are there to help find practical solutions.
From learning how to take water samples, to understanding how to deal with the vagaries of weather in the Arctic, fieldwork allows students to learn even more than they could in a classroom. They learn how to overcome equipment breakdowns and how to deal with the logistical complexity of carrying out research in a place where the nearest inhabited area is 450 kilometers away. They develop self-reliance, build confidence in their own abilities and learn to solve problems – skills that will serve them no matter where their futures take them.
Our students understand the world in a fundamentally different way today than students did even a decade ago. Experiential learning, in whatever form, creates possibilities – and leaders. And support from alumni like us allows Queen’s students to travel to field stations all over the world to learn and discover, think and do.
These students have the spirit, the ambition and the initiative to tackle issues like climate change. Given the right opportunities, I know our students will help make this world a better place. Please join me by adding your support to the 2013-14 Queen’s Annual Appeal, where every donor, every dollar, every gift creates opportunity.
Daniel Woolf, Artsci’80
Principal and Vice-Chancellor