Senate creates first Queen’s graduate certificate

New program will focus on mining-related issues like Aboriginal land claims

Professor Jeffrey Davidson says he based the new mining program on a similar one at the University of Queensland in Australia.
Professor Jeffrey Davidson says he based the new mining program on a similar one at the University of Queensland in Australia.

A new graduate certificate in community relations and mining engineering will be the first of its kind in North America.

A motion was passed at Senate on Feb. 28 with a clear majority to create the new certificate. It will begin in September 2012.

Jeffrey Davidson, a professor in the department of mining at Queen’s, is the program co-ordinator of the new certificate program. He said the certificate will educate students about the effects of mining operations on their communities.

“One thing that is an issue is the presence of a mining company in a community that uses land and water that was formerly accessible,” he said.

A certificate program offers courses based on creating professional skill sets.

Davidson said the program is based on a similar initiative he worked on at the University of Queensland in Australia.

“They always exceeded enrolment expectations in Australia. We just now have to refine the course outline and make some adjustments,” he said.

In the budget submitted to Senate, $45,169 in funding from the department of mining will be given to the new graduate certificate program to be used for course materials and program logistics.

Davidson said the certificate program consists of four core courses.

He added that employers typically pay the fees for their employees to participate in the one- to two-year part-time program.

“Enrolling in the program costs $12,000 — $3,000 per course.”

The coursework for the program includes online modules and one week of in-class lectures.

Davidson said the certificate program will produce better-trained workers.

“This program suggests that Queen’s is a leader in this kind of education,” he said.

One contentious issue surrounding mining is land rights issues, specifically with Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

“If communities don’t feel that they are being treated fairly then that leads to tensions and conflicts,” he said.

Davidson said Aboriginal issues will be addressed in the graduate certificate program.

“The way it stands now, we have a course about Aboriginal issues,” he said. “We’d like to have some Aboriginal leaders to address the group and give them a viewpoint of the Aboriginal community.”

Despite concerns from some University senators, Davidson said this initiative is a step in the right direction because it addresses a serious gap in mining education.

“The fact of the matter is that most people working in mining don’t have community development skill sets. So this was seen as a real need.” Marc Epprecht, a global development studies professor, said he has doubts about the creation of this new graduate certificate.

“What’s probably going to happen is Aboriginal issues will be tokenized. It might be one week focused on Aboriginal issues and a speaker from the community who has had a good experience rather than a full debate with the critics,” he said.

Epprecht said he’s worried about the University being co-opted to a corporate agenda.

“The bottom line is if the community tells you to go away, are you going to go away? And no they are not because they need the stuff that’s underneath the ground.”

But the certificate program also has potential to be very useful, Epprecht said.

“I’m not opposed to the principle of the certificate program,” he said. “It’s great if we can education professionals who are in the field. It’s better they know what they’re doing than not.”

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