Despite stumble, BISC math & science program stands strong

After losing two professors in one semester, students rally behind the new programs

The Bader International Study Centre was established in 1993 as a secondary campus for Queen's.

This Frosh Week, last year’s cohort of Bader International Study Centre students arrived in Kingston for their first year on main campus. For science majors, it’s a year of transition from the first-ever Queen’s science program in England.

Last year, the program was off to a rocky start. Both science professor Eric Demoncheaux and a math professor left campus, under unclear circumstances, in the first semester. 

Previously, the satellite campus had mainly been focused on the liberal arts, and therefore didn’t have their own lab capacities. Last year’s students were transported to nearby Battle Abbey day and boarding school facilities to complete their work.

“The program did very well in its first year, culminating in an outstanding undergraduate research conference with poster presentations by Biology and Chemistry students,” Provost Antoine-Benoit Bacon wrote to The Journal. 

The Provost didn’t mention any difficulties within the program, and had no comment regarding the departure of the two professors in the first half of the fall term, stating that “Queen’s does not comment publicly” on the specifics of human resources. 

Erika Campbell and Krista Jones, both ArtSci ‘19, were among last year’s inaugural science cohort. 

Despite the year’s rocky start, both students agreed they were able to leave the BISC with a confidence in their program heading into second year. 

“I was very happy with my experience to be honest,” Campbell said. “I know that sure, there were complications in the beginning with the science programs but [Academic Director] Christian Lloyd was very quick to solve all those problems.”

Campbell said that those issues caused little hindrance to her learning experience. 

“Not much was lost there,” she said. “The new profs were brought in very quickly; we didn’t even miss a lecture. They just picked up and kept going.” She addressed the discrepancy in experiences among her classmates, noting the highly personal nature of attending a small, alternative first-year program. 

“I think everyone will have their negatives and positives,” she said. “I know that some people when I talked to them about their experience at the castle they hated it, but I think they might have hated it on main campus as well. You never really know.” 

In her eyes, the science program is strong, especially considering its relative infancy within the academic program. 

Jones, when asked about the science professor who left weeks into the program, said “I just think he overstepped his abilities a bit, with how much he could have on his plate at once.” 

 The professor also taught full time at Battle Abbey. She noted that “the majority of the class” had expressed concerns during the start of term. 

Following the departure, Queen’s alumnus Geoffrey Nelson was brought in as a replacement. He has since moved to an administrative position, aiding in the hiring of two new science professors. 

“Geoff was amazing,” Jones said, adding that his passion enticed students to learning the most they possibly could. “Once Geoff was running the labs, they were a lot better.”

According to her, there was a great deal more structure to the program. “You could tell that he actually cared about his students … not just because it was his job, but also because he genuinely wanted us to know about chemistry and he found it interesting. He thought it was this amazing topic to learn about.”

Though he declined to speak about the departures, Provost Bacon ended in noting that “teaching at the Castle is a privileged experience … we are fortunate to have an array of first rate instructors on site.”

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