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Addressing challenges and creating community

PhD-Community Initiative a win-win for Kingston and Queen’s.

  • The PhD Community Initiative gave Queen's graduate students the opportunity to partner with community groups to solve real-world problems and apply their skills in new settings.
    The PhD Community Initiative gave Queen's graduate students the opportunity to partner with community groups to solve real-world problems and apply their skills in new settings.
  • Team Systema Kingston discuss their experience working to improve volunteer recruitment.
    Team Systema Kingston discuss their experience working to improve volunteer recruitment.
  • The PREVNet team present their report, which focused on anti-bullying knowledge mobilization in local schools.
    The PREVNet team present their report, which focused on anti-bullying knowledge mobilization in local schools.
  • Improving public outreach and use of the Queen's University Biological Station, the team focused efforts on new Canadians - offering a taste of Canadiana.
    Improving public outreach and use of the Queen's University Biological Station, the team focused efforts on new Canadians - offering a taste of Canadiana.
  • The Sustainable Engineering in Remote Areas (SERA) team focused their efforts on recruiting students in non-engineering disciplines - who shared a focus on Indigenous/remote community issues - to expand the reach of the NSERC-supported project.
    The Sustainable Engineering in Remote Areas (SERA) team focused their efforts on recruiting students in non-engineering disciplines - who shared a focus on Indigenous/remote community issues - to expand the reach of the NSERC-supported project.

Teams of graduate students participating in the Queen’s PhD-Community Initiative delivered reports on the outcomes of their projects with local community groups during a special event on March 22. The reports mark the culmination of nearly five months of teamwork which gave the students an opportunity to apply the skills acquired in their graduate training to address real-world problems.

“The initiative offered our graduate students hands-on experience in applying the skills acquired in their academic programs as well as the opportunity to expand their network of colleagues and community contacts,” says Brenda Brouwer, Vice-Provost and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. “It’s incredibly gratifying to see how they’ve leveraged their complementary strengths and worked so effectively as teams. Each team has accomplished a lot in a short time and their efforts have had meaningful impacts on the partner organizations.  It is truly a win-win situation.”

For the past five months, interdisciplinary teams of Queen’s PhD students have partnered with local community organizations to address specific issues or challenges. By applying their knowledge and skills and offering a fresh, analytical approach, the students have gained valuable experience in solving problems as a team and the partner benefits from their creative solutions and insights helping them to move forward. As an added benefit, the partnerships offered a way to strengthen ties between Queen’s and the community.

“Working with a non-profit organization encouraged me to reach outside my comfort zone,” explains Mavis Kusi, a second-year doctoral candidate in neuroscience.

Seventeen graduate students formed interdisciplinary teams of three to four students and were matched with five organizations that had identified a particular challenge or issue that could benefit from a fresh, outside perspective. The organizations included Sustainable Energy in Remote Areas (SERA), Queen’s University Biological Station (QUBS) Community Outreach Expansion, Sistema Kingston after-school program, Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network (PREVNet), and Kingston Economic Development Corporation’s (KEDCO) night economy project.

Since mid-fall, the teams worked closely with their partners under the guidance of an alumnus or retiree mentor to identify the scope of the project, develop and implement a plan of action, and present deliverables.

 “I learned a lot about project management and communications from working with our community partners and stakeholders,” says Hasan Kettaneh, a first-year doctoral candidate in education. “It was challenging in the beginning, but we established communications processes and trust and that was key to the success of our project.”

For more information about the initiative, visit the School of Graduate Studies website.