Queen's helps make Kingston more welcoming to newcomers
By Wanda Praamsma, Communications Officer
Monica Stewart and Stephanie Simpson are both well-acquainted with the challenges that come with settling into a new city and a new country.
Many years ago, Ms. Stewart, now the coordinator of faculty recruitment and support programs at Queen’s, moved from Germany to Kingston to study at Queen’s. She ended up staying and marrying a Canadian, and eventually found work in the human services sector with the Social Planning Council.
Ms. Simpson, an advisor in the Human Rights Office, is the daughter of Jamaican parents, who both struggled to find work in their fields in Canada. They persevered and finally landed good positions – her father in printing/publishing and her mother in nursing.
“I have a lot of empathy for newcomers to Kingston. I’ve felt what many of them have felt – I know how incredibly hard it can be to find work and settle into a new place,” says Ms. Stewart.
Since settling in Kingston themselves, both Ms. Stewart and Ms. Simpson have been integral community players in developing support services for newcomers, particularly through the KEYS Community Employment Centre where they have both served as chairs in the past. Now, the pair is continuing to share their knowledge, and personal experience and professional expertise, to serve both Queen’s and the greater community as members of the council for the Kingston Immigration Partnership (KIP).
KIP launched in 2009 as a joint initiative between Kingston Community Health Centres (KCHC), KEYS, and the Kingston Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO) with the goal of starting a conversation in the community around immigration and how to better welcome and serve the needs of newcomers.
Queen’s has been involved in the partnership since day one through Ms. Stewart, who served on the initial steering committee for KIP. Earlier this year, however, the university renewed its dedication to the partnership, committing to positions on the KIP Council (Ms. Stewart and Ms. Simpson) and to reporting annually on institutional activities related to KIP’s Strategic Plan, which includes areas such as employment; education, training and language; settlement; health and wellness; and housing, transportation and family services.
“Being the largest employer in the community, Queen’s plays an important role in this partnership and I am so pleased that we have Ms. Stewart and Ms. Simpson providing guidance and expertise on how we can better serve newcomers’ needs,” says Principal Daniel Woolf.
Ms. Simpson says from a human rights and equity standpoint, involvement in KIP allows the university to continue ensuring there aren’t barriers for newcomers looking to work at the university. Through the KIP network, Queen’s becomes more aware of what people are experiencing in the community and what can be done differently.
“Queen’s has always been interested in attracting and retaining the best, staying competitive. At the same time, we want it to be a diverse and welcoming place, aware of the needs and challenges newcomers face,” says Ms. Simpson.
Since its inception, KIP has been busy creating various initiatives to support immigrants, including job fairs, mentorship programs, an employer advisory group, an annual multicultural arts festival, and education sessions on women’s health and mental health.
“If you’re new to the city, you often don’t have the contacts and network that help you settle into your new life more smoothly,” says Michael Harris, Chair of KIP. “With KIP, we want to create a far-reaching dialogue with partners across the city so we can provide the services newcomers need to succeed and thrive in the community. Queen’s plays a critical role in our efforts and we’re fortunate to have the university’s active participation.”
More on KIP