Hitchcock outlines global vision

Principal Karen Hitchcock is on a mission to “engage the world.”

In an e-mail addressed to members of the Queen’s community on Sept. 29, Hitchcock outlined her plan for the University to embark on a strategic planning process. She’s also published a discussion paper titled “Engaging the World” that outlines her vision.

“We have to be international in scope, our programs, our recruitment of faculty and students—we have to look across the globe,” Hitchcock told the Journal. “Nowadays labour markets are global, the economy is global, so as a University with the kind of excellence that we have in our faculty and our students, I think we can have and need to have an international impact through our programs of education and research.”

Hitchcock said this new initiative was motivated by conversations with faculty, staff and student government that took place last year, during her first year as principal.

“It was through those conversations that I began to shape what at least is a starting point for dialogue,” she said. “That’s what that vision statement is.”

Among issues that came up in these discussions was the student-

to-faculty ratio, Hitchcock said.

“We all shared the concern that we need to restore faculty ranks,” she said. “That’s the basic concern of everyone.

“In the years where resources have been kind of tight, we have not been able to have the kind of faculty ratios that we all want. So that’s been a very real issue.”

Hitchcock said although she hasn’t yet spoken with individual students, she hopes to do so in the near future.

“I hope students will be a major part of the planning process,” she said, adding that they can attend town hall meetings which will be held throughout October and November.

“It’s critical that we meet with students from across the whole of the campus.”

Hitchcock said that University-organized tsunami relief, drug research and urban development are a few of the ways in which the institution already has a global effect.

“We need to have an impact, I think, first of all on our students, and then on our region, certainly the province and the country, and internationally as well. And we do that in many ways,” she said.

Hitchcock’s discussion paper suggested the institution could petition the government for funding and immigration policies that would allow it to diversify its student body.

“One particular message on the funding side is [that] now, no university in the province is reimbursed for international students. If we want a more geographically diverse student body, we need ways to do that,” she said. “Then to work with the federal government on various immigration policies, to be sure that there is welcoming of student exchange, faculty exchange, and faculty hiring if possible. And that will take analysis to see what the best possible route would be for that. It’s really working with our government colleagues towards maximizing Canada’s impact and competitive position.”

Elspeth Wright, ArtSci ’09, said she thinks it’s a good idea to make the University more global.

“That’s what Canada is, a mosaic,” she said. “It would be nice to have Queen’s reflect that,” she said.

Virginia Emery, ArtSci ’08, said as a student from Calgary, she finds the University to be fairly insular.

“It’s a very Ontario-focused school ... almost elitist,” she said. “We don’t need to bring in foreign profs when we have quality profs [from elsewhere] in Canada.”

Nushant Upadhyay, ArtSci ’07, disagreed regarding the need for Queen’s to improve its international outlook.

“Right now Queen’s is not at all diversity-oriented,” he said. “I don’t see Queen’s doing much internationally. To do anything internationally, you should have international students.”

Upadhyay added he thinks no one really knows about the University outside North America.

Jason Pickar, ArtSci ’06, said that as an American student he agreed.

“No one where I’m from has heard of Queen’s,” he said. “[The creation of a global reputation] has got to be done through research, publicizing what’s going on.”

Hitchcock told the Journal she wants to use new technology to make teaching at the University more valuable.

“[We want to] use technology not as an add-on, but to bring actual additional value to a course,” she said. “We have to say that this is a priority of the campus.”

Emery said she’d prefer not to see more technology in the classroom.

“I don’t really see the point in a lot of technology,” she said. “The quality is more important than the gadget you have. A lot of [professors] don’t know how to lecture properly. That’s a skill you can learn. No point showing fancy PowerPoint shows if you can’t lecture.”

Hitchcock said she hopes to work with faculty to pinpoint key areas of academic strength on which to focus and channel additional resources into these areas. She added this strategy would not mean less funding for other faculties.

“We are a comprehensive University, we cover many different areas, and to provide a breadth of choice for our students we have to support a wide range of programs,” she said. “The key is, how do we develop the resources, not take away but develop the resources, to focus on particular areas that are emerging as real strengths.” Wright said that town hall meetings don’t fit into her schedule as a student.

“I probably wouldn’t go [to a town hall meeting],” Wright said. “I have a lot of work to do and I probably wouldn’t have time.”

Pickar said he thinks specialization is a good idea.

“We have to be able to focus on specific things we’re really well known for,” he said.

Pickar agreed that, while he thinks town hall meetings are a good idea in principle, he personally would probably be too busy to go.

“I’d like to think that I would, but the fact of the matter is that ... most likely I’d be apathetic to most town hall meetings, which is sad,” he said.

Pickar said a better strategy might be for Hitchcock to approach students herself.

“She’d kind of have to bring the meetings to the people,” he said.

Hitchcock’s paper can be found at adv.queensu.ca/lookingahead/dynamic.php.

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.