Won’t you be my neighbour?

The University gets a new community outreach co-ordinator to enhance life in the the off-campus student community

Marija Linjacki, the University’s first community outreach co-ordinator, hopes to build a sense of community among off-campus students.
Marija Linjacki, the University’s first community outreach co-ordinator, hopes to build a sense of community among off-campus students.

Queen’s first community outreach co-ordinator is surprised the University didn’t have a similar position before “Why isn’t there someone to help you find those resources, someone who already knows where to go so every student doesn’t have to pound the pavement on their own?” she asked.

As a math and biology student at Queen’s, Marija Linjacki, ArtSci ’06 and ’04, volunteered with the Queen’s Student Auxiliary Branch at Kingston General Hospital and with Queen’s Medical Outreach. She also worked at the Union Gallery and Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

Linjacki said she hopes to help other students get similarly involved by offering opportunities to interact with each other, the University and the community.

“I thought it would suit me well and it was something that I thought was vital to student life,” she said. “I thought it was important to get involved at school and outside of school while I was here … Not everybody is that eager to find that connection on their own.” Dean of Student Affairs Jason Laker said Linjacki was hired from a pool of 56 applicants. He asked the search committee, comprised of staff and students, to send him the top two or three finalists.

“They were unable to do that because Marija’s interview was so far [above the others].” Laker said Linjacki stood out from the other applicants because of her diverse involvement as a student.

“She’s very familiar with Queen’s and a variety of different aspects of Queen’s,” he said. “In addition to being a major in the science areas, she was also quite involved with the arts so she’s well-rounded.” Laker said Linjacki’s involvement in the Kingston community was also valuable.

“She’s quite knowledgeable about the local community and the notion of civic engagement,” he said. “I think the combination of her working knowledge and her initiative makes sense.” Laker said the funding for the position—both Linjacki’s $43,867 salary and her services budget—come from the offices of the Vice-Principal (Advancement) George Hood, Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane and Laker’s office of student affairs.

Laker said the money for the program is considered “soft money”—it’s available for the year, but there is no guarantee the funding will be able to continue.

“My hope would be that it would go well and we would be able to continue funding it, but … you don’t know that for sure,” he said. “It’s really difficult to fund positions because, of course, there’s always a tight budget.”

Laker said Linjacki is currently in the process of developing a budget for the year.

“I do think, conceptually, if it goes well, in the future it’d be nice to have a few of these positions.”

Linjacki said her first goal as community outreach coordinator is to let people know about the new position.

“It’s about getting the word out … so that students know it’s another resource they can use to streamline things.”

She hopes to receive feedback from the students about what they want from her.

“I have a vision of … what I think would be great, but every student is going to have their opinion of what they need and what they think is great.”

Linjacki said she also hopes to have some services, such as promotional packages, to offer students during exam time in December.

“I really hope that with activities I’ll have planned for December, it’ll really make it clear what this position is about, but on some level it is also about the students saying, ‘Hey, you, help me with this,’ or, ‘This is what I’m hoping to do.’”

Linjacki’s also going to be meeting with various directors and co-ordinators of other student services on campus.

“I need to know what they do, and how are they going to help me help students,” she said, adding that she is still developing ideas behind what her position will entail.

“Long-term-wise, I see this to be a very individual service,” she said. “It’s really about students who live off-campus and their needs.” She said services could include everything from organizing pick-up games of soccer for students to helping students who live outside of the Ghetto get in touch with each other.

“It’s very, very broad, but it’s meant to be specific when it comes down to a student’s need,” she said, adding that she will draw on her experiences volunteering as a student.

“I have a lot of connections with non-profits and I’ve mulled over sort of some things we can do to get them here on campus in a different way,” she said. “I think it’s important that the position is understood as a liaison. I am a liaison between students, Queen’s and the community.”

Laker said he came up with the idea for the position as a response to the different living experiences Queen’s students have.

“Queen’s students have a pretty intense residential experience their first year, and then they’re just sort of off on their own,” he said. “For some students, that’s just fine, I’m sure. But for others, they just feel a bit lost. For others, they’re okay, but to … have a sense that someone actually knows you’re there and cares about you, it would do a lot for the sense of community.”

Laker said he hopes having a community outreach co-ordinator will help make the transition from residence to living on one’s own easier.

“I think that when that happens, students tend to be more successful,” he said.

Although experience working with students was a necessary pre-requisite for the job, Laker said they weren’t looking specifically for a Queen’s graduate.

“I think it’s more, ‘Do you have a sense of who students are, are you a quick learner, are you personable?’” he said, adding that they also looked for familiarity with the Kingston community.

Laker said the job description is purposely left open-ended because he wants the character of the co-ordinator to define the position.

“I felt that it was important as just a matter of philosophy on my own part, that when you hire someone that’s talented, you should give them the opportunity to develop that,” he said.

“One of the obvious expectations I have is that Marija is going to go out and knock on doors and get to know students and let them know that she’s here,” he said. “From her conversations with students, [she’ll] get a sense of what’s on their minds, and that will help us be more responsive to them.”

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