Growth factor

Expansion will focus on relieving space crunch on main campus

Andrew Simpson, vice-principal (operations and finance) says a university campus must meet the needs of its users and still be a pleasant place to live.
Andrew Simpson, vice-principal (operations and finance) says a university campus must meet the needs of its users and still be a pleasant place to live.
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Andrew Simpson, vice-principal (operations and finance), says Queen’s needs to consider the aesthetic coherence of the campus when expanding.
Andrew Simpson, vice-principal (operations and finance), says Queen’s needs to consider the aesthetic coherence of the campus when expanding.
Photo: 

Andrew Simpson hopes Queen’s will look the same in 20 years, at least to a degree.

“I’d like to see the University as a coherent campus design that reflects the needs of the campus and the Queen’s community and that the community can feel really positive about.”

Simpson, vice-principal (operations and finance), said building a campus as functional as it is enjoyable is something Queen’s does well. He wants to see this continue as the University expands physically.

Simpson said many schools don’t consider the atmosphere they’re creating when they build on their campuses.

“Beyond the particular physical needs, you’ve got to address the aesthetic needs—that it’s a great place to be,” he said.

“You can visit some campuses where buildings have been arbitrarily dropped … When you step back from it all, it doesn’t work. The right pieces aren’t in the right places.”

The University’s development is driven largely by feedback from students and faculty, he said.

“We get feedback that [departments] are unable to proceed because they’re lacking space,” he said.

He said the Queen’s Centre is an example of student feedback becoming reality. The University has been in consultation with students since 2002 in response to complaints about Queen’s athletics and recreation facilities.

“This is a direct example of student feedback that has led to the development of the largest capital project in Queen’s history.” The University bought the J.K. Tett Centre in 2006 with plans to turn it into a performing arts centre. Queen’s bought the Prison for Women this fall but has yet to decide what to do with it. Simpson said the University is considering moving Queen’s Archives to the new building.

Simpson said the University buys and renovates properties such as these with the aim of ensuring future students will have everything they need at their fingertips.

He said the Tett Centre’s purchase is a direct result of the drama and music departments’ need for a concert hall and theatre space. But Simpson said the planning was never meant to stop there.

“Beyond that, we’re also looking at the site and trying to say, ‘Over time, can we develop that into an arts campus?’”

The University would likely need to purchase the Corrections Canada property adjacent to the Tett Centre to have sufficient room for a large arts campus, Simpson said, adding that Queen’s is discussing the possibility of acquiring the land.

Simpson said the large waterfront property is ideal for the University’s purpose.

“As a location for arts, it’s hard to imagine anything nicer.”

The University is also considering the acquisition of a parcel of land owned by Novelis Inc. as a solution to campus crowding. Simpson said one possible use for the land is as research space for departments such as environmental science, which is housed in a small space in the BioSciences Complex.

He said creating research space outside the main campus of the University is a logical step in promoting the endeavors of Queen’s students and professors.

“When you look at future development and you look at where we could expand in the future, you have to make sure it makes sense.”

Principal Karen Hitchcock says she thinks a clear idea of what students need will contribute to a strong academic environment. She said the recent developments such as Stauffer Library and the BioSciences Complex are conducive to her goals of maintaining the size of the student population and working to better support those students.

“We’re living in a very competitive world, and the facilities that are developed and that are yet to be planned are designed to attract the kind of students we want to the University.”

Places such as the Tett Centre will show both current and prospective students that Queen’s is committed to arts and humanities, she said.

Hitchcock said she wants to ensure every department has the resources and facilities to develop their full potential and to show the provincial and national communities what they’re capable of.

To that end, she said, the main concern is the kind of space Queen’s can offer its students, not necessarily its location. She said she has no problem spreading campus over a large area of the city if it means better facilities for the students and faculty.

The goal is for Queen’s to be state of the art, she said, ensuring that both students and faculty have everything they need at hand to excel and in turn elevating the quality of research produced.

She said Queen’s isn’t the only institution that should be focusing on improving its academic environment.

“Canada as a country is underperforming in terms of production of PhDs”

The Queen’s Centre is another example of how the University is using physical development to better serve the current student population.

“If we’re going to have the kind of student centre we want, we have to talk about the Queen’s Centre and that doesn’t presuppose an increase in the number of students.”

In accordance with her strategic plan, which she said reflects the input of University faculty and students and Kingston community members, Hitchcock said the University has no intention of increasing its undergraduate population.

“It was felt that if we expanded our undergraduate program much, we would lose the opportunity to provide a more personal, collaborative learning experience for our students.”

She said the projected increase in graduate enrollment—542 students in masters programs and 147 in doctoral programs by the 2009-10 school year--is minimal when placed against the total number of students at Queen’s. She said the impact will likely be small.

Keeping the number of undergraduate students steady will help the University direct resources toward hiring new professors, Hitchcock said.

She said she wants to see a drop in the student--faculty ratio from an average of about 23 student per faculty member to 16 or 18 students per faculty member. She said the University is examining the differences in student--faculty ratios between faculties to determine where the professor shortage is creating the biggest problem.

“What we’re trying to do is disaggregate that number and examine where in the University we need to focus our recruitment,” she said. “The bottom line is, we need more faculty.”

Instead of looking at the numbers, she said, the University is examining the make-up of the student population.

“Our strategy on the undergraduate side is now to look very closely at our mix of students and how that brings about a diverse and vibrant student body.”

She said the range of programs as well as the cross-section of people represented at the University should be representative of a changing educational and cultural climate.

“Our students in 20 years will be totally immersed in the workplace or whatever profession they choose in a multinational, global society, and Queen’s needs to reflect that in its programs even more than it does now.”

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