Through tireless advocacy and unwavering support, Helen Connop, Manager of Education and Equity Services, has had an impact on the lives of thousands of law students for almost two decades. For her well known commitment to equity, diversity, and student welfare, she has received a Distinguished Service Award from the Queen’s University Council.
“Helen has been an indefatigable advocate for students, from those who are historically disadvantaged through to those who find themselves in situations of acute distress,” says lead nominator Assistant Dean (JD and Graduate Studies) Phillip Drew, Law’00, LLM’12. “Through her example of compassion and dedication she has influenced a whole generation of lawyers, people who are spread out throughout the world and who reflect on their experience at Queen’s through the language of community and service.
“It is not a coincidence that alumni regularly ask after Helen,” he adds, “nor is it a coincidence that Queen’s Law has the reputation for being the most accommodating and friendly law school in the country.”
Dean Mark Walters adds, “All students came to appreciate that there was always someone within the law school who could look out for their personal well-being in a manner that met their distinctive needs on a confidential basis. Helen’s approach considers student well-being holistically, so that non-academic issues can be addressed together with academic issues.”
Connop is always available to provide help, guidance, or assistance to students with any number of problems, ranging from COVID, personal stress, to deaths in their families. In addition to working with students in distress to find solutions before their problems accumulate, in many cases she reaches out to those who she knows are vulnerable and may need support. As noted by a student nominator, “Whether it be a crisis of confidence over a disappointing exam mark, a prolonged personal or family emergency, or any other grievance, Helen has always been there to support and guide students in need.”
What Connop views as her proudest accomplishment is the Tutoring Program and how it has grown over the years. In this program, she recruits and trains second- and third-year students who place in the top 25 per cent of their class, have a genuine interest in helping others, are sensitive to equity and diversity issues, and understand the unique stresses of the first-year experience. These tutors are matched with first-year students and third-year tutors are also matched with second-year students to assist with upper-year courses. What started out with five tutors assisting 12 students in 2002 increased to 67 tutors assisting 287 students in 2020-21. Her program’s training materials, which she has shared with other universities, have been adapted by two other law schools and a pharmaceutical school.
“I believe that the Tutoring Program reflects the heart and spirit of the Queen’s Law community and I am proud to be working with such an outstanding group of students,” she says.
When Drew speaks to fellow grads, he notes, “Many point to the first year tutoring program as being instrumental to their success in the JD program and their integration into the Queen’s Law community. Current students thrive on the program, and it is a key selling point to applicants during our recruiting process, with our post-admissions surveys telling us that Helen’s tutoring program is one of the determining factors for those who choose to study law at Queen’s.”
What does Connop like best about her job? “Being able to help students in a time of need to navigate difficult problems and remind them that they have the strength and resilience to get through challenging times,” she replies. “I think this Distinguished Service Award signals the value that the Queen’s Law community, including the Dean, senior leadership team, faculty members and students, places on supporting students’ well-being and success.”