Queen's University

A bold plan: Space and community are key

A recent grad who sat as a member of the Senate's Academic Task Force Planning Committee explains that the physical environment on campus is a crucial element of a Queen's education.

The fourth pillar of the Queen’s Academic Plan is fundamentally about creating the best space and community possible for encouraging learning at the highest level. While the other three pillars focus on the things we feel students must learn to have a strongly transformative experience at Queen’s (the content of transformation) pillar four is more environmental.

In constructing this section, the task force members asked ourselves what sort of learning environment would allow the greatest number of students to flourish at the highest level, where Queen’s was succeeding, and where improvement was needed. The first and most obvious requirement for a learning environment is basic safety and support. We noted that there exist many branches of the University that do great work in this area – from Campus Security and the Walk Home service, to Health and Counseling Services and the Positive Space program. However, challenges persist.

The Academic Plan aims to lay the ground work for a campus where students are safe, and where services are in place and promoted to the point where no student feels so overwhelmed by work pressures and life changes that they lose hope.

The “work-hard, play-hard” reputation that has drawn many students to our halls comes with challenges for safety and physical and mental health that are apparent to anyone working in these areas on campus. These challenges have only been further underlined by the students we have lost to accident and suicide in the last two years.

The Academic Plan aims to lay the ground work for a campus where students are safe, and where services are in place and promoted to the point where no student feels so overwhelmed by work pressures and life changes that they lose hope.

[Task force members speaking with audience at a 2010 Town Hall meeting]Task force members Steve Tanner, Iain Reeve, and Prof. Petra
Fachinger speaking with audience members at a 2010 Town Hall
meeting. (Jeff Drake photo)

Queen’s has undergone significant change in recent years. When alumni return to campus they don’t just see new buildings and classrooms, but also a very different student body. In every way, Queen’s is slowly and surely becoming a much more diverse campus.

There is a clear opportunity here, as this diversity – mirroring that of our country, and major cities across the world – provides amazing new exposure to cultures, values, and differences that Queen’s students a generation ago did not have access to. We truly feel that harnessing this – as outlined in pillar three on global citizenship – can combine with the other academic strengths of Queen’s to make a truly unique student experience. That said, Queen’s is not naturally disposed towards diversity.

While diversity is coming, it is coming more slowly than on some other university campuses. This is partly due to perceptions of a culture of whiteness and privilege on campus. In order to fully benefit from diversity, immigrants, Aboriginal peoples, and people of all ethno-cultural groups, genders, and sexual preferences must not only feel safe and welcome here, but also fundamentally validated and included. The Academic Plan attempts to lay the bedrock for such ambition.

Lastly, the Plan tries to take stock of our changing academic environment. Our graduate student and post-doc populations have increased, shifting the student-body proportions. Our staffing is also changing. Academic staff such as those who work in the library, the Writing Centre, and the Centre for Teaching and Learning are increasing in number and could play an even larger role in students’ learning in years to come. This is also true for our non-academic staff.

Queen’s needs to continue to stay abreast of changes in our population, ensuring that they fit clearly and cleanly into the University's broader goals, and feel included and active in both their positions and the broader community.

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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