“Engaging the University” Symposium at Queen’s University

Sponsored by Global Scholars Canada and co-organized by Peter Schuurman, our Executive Director

A Report from Ross Jansen-vanVuuren, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Chemistry Department, Queen’s University

26 October, 2019 – On a beautiful fall morning in Kingston, 70 people (consisting of approx. 30% graduate students) gathered at Robert Sutherland Hall for the first event of its kind (one involving faculty as well as students), held at Queen’s University. The gathering was advertised as a ‘multi-disciplinary symposium exploring the nexus of Christian faith and academic life’. Professor Emerita Deborah Bowen (Redeemer University College) opened proceedings with a presentation titled “Poetry, Ecology and the Word” on stewarding God’s Creation (a Christian perspective of Ecology), and detailed the funded Poetry and Ecology Project she leads.

This was followed by some marvelous presentations by faculty from a range of departments: Policy Studies (Rachel LeForest), Mathematics (Leo Jonker), History/ Religion (Marguerite Van Die), and Biomedical and Molecular Science (Charles Graham), followed by Q&A. Each presenter shared their understanding of faith-and-academic life plus personal anecdotes showing how their faith influences how they engage with their subject matter.

A networking lunch break was followed by a Professors’ Panel Discussion during which four academics from a range of backgrounds and disciplines — Nursing (Jacqueline Galica), Chemistry (Tucker Carrington), Medicine (Alison Froese), Mechanical and Materials Engineering (Qingguo Li) – responded to questions generated by the panel, moderated by Associate Dean Yolande Chan (Smith School of Business), and to questions texted in by the audience. The idea was to bring to light issues faced by Christians in the university such as balancing home-church-work life or the appropriateness of sharing one’s faith with students. 

This was followed by a talk by Professor Lynann Clapham, former Engineering Associate Dean, focused on the importance of maintaining one’s mental health while working in a university setting based on her personal journey (and with an emphasis on spending daily time for prayer and Bible-reading and taking a Sabbath).

Eric Bateman, a History PhD student, shared from his research on a Christian perspective on the Crusades, before Professor David Lyon (Sociology) – the other keynote speaker, closed the day’s presentations with a presentation highlighting how his Christian faith frames how he works in the critical study of data surveillance.

A book draw was conducted at the conclusion of the symposium in which participants able to correctly answer a question concerning contents of the day’s presentations were awarded a copy of either “Why Study? Exploring the Face of God in the Academy” or “The Subversive Evangelical: The Ironic Charisma of an Irreligious Megachurch”.

Susan Norman (Campus Minister, Intervarsity, University of British Columbia) was with us for the day, and we are thankful for her support and contributions.

The symposium was organized by Dr. Ross Jansen-van Vuuren (postdoc, Chemistry), Professor David Lyon (Director, Surveillance Studies Centre), Dr. Peter Schuurman (Executive Director, Global Scholars Canada), and Dr. Steven Kooy (Director, Geneva House), and sponsored by Geneva House and Global Scholars Canada. Attention was also drawn to IFES, where the “Engaging the University” idea originated.

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