Queen's University

A bold plan: Planning for a diverse, inclusive, and globally minded academy

The University's new Academic Plan recognizes the crucial importance of ensuring that a Queen's education prepares students for life in a world that is fast-changing, diverse, increasingly global in scope.

[photo of members of the Senate's Academic Planning Task Force]Members of the Senate's Academic Planning Task Force

In his vision document Where Next? Principal Woolf emphasizes the importance of a diverse curriculum and an inclusive community for Queen’s. With its focus on global awareness, diversity, and inclusion, pillar three of the most recent academic planning document makes recommendations for the development of internationalized, intercultural, and indigenous curricula and for an academic community in which all members feel valued and supported in their pursuit of inclusive excellence.

I couldn’t agree more with Peter Taylor when he says that we will have to change the way in which we relate to our students. While university professors are highly trained in specific areas of research, we often lack basic skills in intercultural communication and are often unaware of global and other cultural perspectives.

Teaching to the wide range of diversity in our classrooms – race, gender, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, religion, language, personality, and natural aptitude for and previous training in the subject matter among them – is one of our greatest challenges. Diversity comes in many forms.

Our most important task is preparing students for a world in which the ability to communicate with people from other spheres is essential.

A Queen’s education should impart to students an understanding of their place in a culturally, economically, and politically ever-changing world and empower them to participate in it in an informed and responsible manner. It should encourage appreciation of the diversity of cultures within Canada and the rest of the world, and foster respect for Indigenous Nations’ knowledge, languages, and cultures. The University’s obligation to ensure that Aboriginal students have access to higher education is rooted in Canadian settler-Aboriginal history and relationship, and thus differs fundamentally from the University’s responsibilities for other equity seeking groups.

Queen’s curricula  . . . need to open up to other under-represented areas such as Africa, South Asia, East Asia, the Middle East/Islamic world, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

Aboriginal concerns need to be accurately represented in a variety of curricular areas. The Conference on Indigenous Issues in Post-Secondary Education,” which was hosted by Queen’s last June and aimed at establishing best practices in recruiting and retaining Aboriginal students, highlighted the importance of closing the education gap between Canada’s Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal population.

Apart from recommendations to make the recruitment of Aboriginal students, faculty, and staff a priority, the Academic Planning Task Force emphasizes the importance of representing Aboriginal issues, cultures, and languages in the Queen’s curriculum. This is a key opportunity for Queen’s.

With the exception of the U of T, where the focus is on urban issues, no other research-intensive university in Ontario is a key player in Aboriginal education.

Queen’s curricula also need to open up to other under-represented areas such as Africa, South Asia, East Asia, the Middle East/Islamic world, Latin America, and the Caribbean, as students are eager to learn more about these parts of the globe. A graduate student who attended my seminar on Canadian and American urban fiction observed that she found the discussion of Beijing and Shanghai particularly interesting. While I’d initially been reluctant to include these two cities in a seminar that emphasized the North American urban experience, I’m now happy I did. Students also want to see themselves represented in course content.

An undergraduate student in my Jane Eyre seminar, which included a discussion of Tessa McWatt’s 1999 novel Out of My Skin, told me that she appreciated having been introduced to this specific revisioning of Brontë’s novel because, like McWatt, she was born in Guyana. Although it might seem less challenging to infuse the literature classroom with cross-cultural content than the science classroom, I was surprised to find how much research has been done on cross-cultural science teaching and on bridging culturally different knowledge systems.

The APTF was fortunate to be able to draw on the important work done by the Diversity and Equity Task Force, the Aboriginal Council, the Human Rights Equity Offices, and the Queen’s International Centre. The great number of responses to drafts of pillar three (some of them quite passionate) on the APTF interactive website indicates how important issues around diversity and inclusivity are to the members of the Queen’s Community.

Read the next article in this series, "It all starts with a clear vision."

The Academic Plan 2011 is the result of an 18-month campus-wide collaborative process that was rooted in the ideas Principal Daniel Woolf put forward in his 2010 vision document, Where Next?

These concepts were discussed and refined in a 2010 Academic Writing Team report entitled, Imagining the Future. And finally, an eight-member Senate task force chaired by Prof. Peter Taylor further consulted with the broader Queen’s community over several months. The fruit of their labours, the University’s first Academic Plan, was given unanimous approval by the Senate in November, and the University community is now preparing for the next phase of the process, which is implementing the Plan.

For more information or to read the Academic Plan, please visit the Queen’s News Centre website and search for Academic Plan.

Queen's Alumni Review, 2012 Issue #1Queen's Alumni Review
2012 Issue #1
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