Welcoming Engineers back in style

Posted on August 28, 2020

In preparing for the Fall 2020 term, Queen’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science ran into an unexpected obstacle.

“We had, in the end, almost too many tools to talk about,” says Dean Kevin Deluzio. “After a spring and summer coming to grips with and planning for a successful Fall term, we had an unprecedented array of supports for our first-year, returning and graduate students.”

Screenshot Welcome Back Site.jpg

Bringing the entire semester into perspective, a new site was launched this week by the Faculty: its official Fall 2020 web presence. “We wanted to give our first-year and returning students a ‘big picture’ view of this term,” says Deluzio. “We have spared no effort to ensure this is a semester that delivers a Queen’s caliber education in an unprecedented remote setting.”

These efforts extend past the pedagogical work being done by faculty and the FEAS teaching and learning team, and into new types of student communication and support tools. “We’ve created a website specifically to ease entry – or re-entry – into Queen’s Engineering,” says Stacy Shane, Manager of Student Services. “It details all the new tools available to students to help them this fall, as well as making it easy to see, browse and use student support services.” The site, has specific sections for first-year students, returning students, graduate students and special information to help international students with the unique challenges they face.

Through the site, students are also being introduced or re-introduced to other innovations put into place by Queen’s Engineering.

Recently out of the gate were SOAR Online – a digital implementation of the university’s esteemed summer onboarding program for new students – and QEng Prep , a new, free and successful bridging program created to help students starting in Queen’s Engineering in the fall. That program has already been an unqualified success, with over half the entering class having taken QEng Prep courses to improve their knowledge of math, physics and chemistry.

EngConnect [Android | Apple] is the engineering school’s new community app: a dedicated, standalone iOS and Android app that allows students to get essential course information and reminders, learn about events, talk to each other in community forums ranging from textbook sales to general discussion, and directly contact student support services. “We wanted to move our student-facing communications away from being mostly email and passive websites,” says Stephen Hunt, Senior Director, IT and Facilities at FEAS. “We’ve worked with Ready Education, a company that specializes in campus apps, on planning and executing this app for months – this project actually predates the pandemic, but its timing couldn’t be better for meeting our contemporary needs.” The app is in its final stages of development and scheduled for launch before the start of term.

Also in the area of student support, the faculty’s Student Services team are expanding and improving their slate of Eng Well workshops for students. “We’ve always offered health and wellness supports, but wanted to give students more options and more kinds of tools in a challenging semester,” Stacy Shane says. “We’re offering free workshops for the first week of every month through the semester; we’ve broken it down by days, so each day of the week features a different area of wellness.” This means topics can be explored across the gamut of health and well-being issues, covering things as diverse as fitness, diet, affirmation and even things like graphic design. “Mondays are going to be when we offer graphic design, Tuesdays communications workshops, Wednesdays stress relief, and exercise and cooking on Thursdays and Fridays,” Shane says. “Wellness is a spectrum, and it’s important to us that we provide our students with as much breadth as possible – and mix a little fun into the formula, so we can make these sessions as entertaining as they are enriching.”

As the Faculty continues to roll out these six innovative tools, Dean Kevin Deluzio is as excited about the Fall term as he has ever been. “Fall is a time for renewal for me – it’s my new year,” he says. “I’m exited to see our students coming in this year, even remotely. I’m excited to see the optimism and energy of our students – they’re the renewable energy source that comes into the school every year. And their energy and optimism is matched by the faculty and staff: we’ve put every effort into preparing for the fall, and I’ve seen unparalleled creativity and energy going into our planning for the term.”

These new tools are reflective of the Faculty’s determination to ensure Fall 2020 is a dynamic – albeit different – semester. “This is an experiment, and experimentation is where engineers thrive,” Deluzio says. “I’m expecting that our faculty, staff and students will be providing their ideas and input when we succeed, and when we fall short of the mark.”

“Innovation is a comfort zone at the Faculty,” the Dean says. “I’m excited about the new tools and systems we’ve been working on to prepare students for this term, and even more excited to see how we can build on and improve them as we move into this unprecedented new school year.”