StFX News

Subscribe to StFX News feed
Updated: 1 hour 53 min ago

2020 StFX grads receive $25,000 Spark Nova Scotia funding for waste management company

Thu, 2020-11-26 14:31
Maxwell Gauthier and Adam Starr

Two 2020 StFX graduates who as students launched a waste management company that re-manufactures plastic waste into consumer and industrial products via semi-industrial shredder and injection machines are among 11 entrepreneurs awarded Spark Nova Scotia funding, aimed at developing startups in the province outside of metro Halifax. 

Maxwell Gauthier of Freeport, Bahamas, who graduated with a BBA with an advanced major in management and leadership, and Adam Starr, of Toronto, ON, a BBA graduate with a major in marketing and minor in philosophy, received $25,000 from the Spark Nova Scotia competition in support of their business, Drastic Scholastic Thermoplastic (DST). 

They’re working on devising a better way to recycle plastics through community-based recycling. They will begin the initiative at StFX, and want to expand to other institutions. 

“DST differs from traditional recycling methods in that we keep plastic waste local. In other words, we collect, sort, clean, and remanufacture plastic waste in the community it is consumed in,” they say.

Mr. Gauthier and Mr. Starr say they worked diligently on the Spark Nova Scotia application but weren’t expecting to get far. 

“In fact, after we delivered our pitch, we said that if we didn’t win, the networking alone was worth it all. We felt fortunate just to be a part of such a fantastic group of ambitious people. Once we got the victory phone call, we were absolutely starstruck. It served as validation of our hard work and we were absolutely ecstatic. 

“We firmly believe that Spark has given us the opportunity to propel our efforts to make a difference in the waste management industry.” 

Their current plan is to use the Spark funding to develop a decontamination technology, system, or process that cleans and disinfects plastic waste. “This is a priority for us as our machines only process clean plastic and having clean plastic guarantees that plastic is repurposed into high-quality end products rather than being placed into a landfill. In fact, 91 per cent of Canadian plastic is not recycled and therefore ends up in landfills or oceans, according to the Environment and Climate Change Report, 2019,” they say. “Fundamentally, this is due to high levels of contamination.” 

Starting at StFX, their aim is to divert plastic waste from landfills and oceans by creating a value-recovery system that empowers StFX to manage their own plastic waste. “This community-based solution to recycling does not yet exist in Canada and we hope to implement this solution to other academic institutions,” they say. 

The duo say the business idea had its origin in summer 2019, when they travelled to Ghana, West Africa through StFX Service Learning. The trip was a two-month social justice internship, where they studied global change and economic development within a Ghanaian context. 

“In Ghana, we worked with a local NGO that focused solely on rural economic development and this allowed us to see the plastic crisis firsthand,” they say. “In fact, the NGO we interned with was creating programs for reducing plastic waste and educating others on the dangers of plastic pollution. We were humbled by this experience and are inspired to implement community-based recycling in Canada starting at the university that gave us this fantastic opportunity: St. Francis Xavier University.” 

Together, they were awarded a Wallace Internship, administered through StFX Innovation and Enterprise Centre, which granted them funding and resources to kick-start the business. This internship lasted for 12 weeks and allowed them to explore the venture in detail while receiving coaching and mentorship help. They worked closely alongside Paula Brophy, the program coordinator, and four other interns as they met weekly to develop the idea and solidify the business model. They say while it was handled virtually this year, it was an inclusive environment and helped them develop their strengths and weaknesses. 

“We both agree that the Wallace Internship was one of the most engaging and useful experiences of our undergraduate degree. For this reason, we encourage any StFX student with a venture idea to apply,” they say. 

“In our opinion, there is nothing better than working on something you are passionate about and getting paid for it. Throughout the Wallace Internship, we experienced the challenge of starting a business from the bottom-up in a pandemic and were extremely lucky to have learned so much through trial and error. Many of our key business learnings would not have manifested without the Wallace Family support.”

Both say that to them, entrepreneurship requires unconventional thinking and testing new strategies with existing problems. “Entrepreneurship interests us because it involves the creation and/or development of something novel that directly addresses a problem. We love learning how to find new avenues that deliver value to new customers through innovative problem-solving.

“Entrepreneurship is a constant yet rewarding challenge and every day presents us with new hurdles to overcome - making the overall process very exciting. We are passionate about climate change, waste management, and empowering individuals and communities.” 

They say their business will be operating at StFX in the new year. “At StFX, we hope to collaborate with students, faculty members, and staff to create a formal system of collecting, sorting, cleaning, and processing plastic waste. We recognize that we can’t accomplish this by ourselves, so making university members aware of the plastic crisis present on our campus is a must. 

“With a decentralized recycling system developed and prototyped, we hope to expand to other academic institutions throughout Nova Scotia and Canada. Plastic is an extremely valuable resource that is currently being wasted and we hope to change that at every academic institution.”

StFX faculty elected to international board serving the worldwide community of digital humanists

Wed, 2020-11-25 14:49
Dr. Laura Estill and Dr. Ken Penner

StFX will be well represented on an international body that is a mainstay of the digital humanities. 

Two faculty members, religious studies professor Dr. Ken Penner and English professor and Canada Research Chair in Digital Humanities Dr. Laura Estill, were recently elected to international positions for The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI), a consortium that collectively develops and maintains a standard for the representation of texts in digital form. 

Dr. Penner has been elected to the TEI board, the governing body for the consortium, which works on the organization’s overall vision and strategy.

Dr. Estill has been elected to the TAPAS advisory board, which is the TEI Archiving, Publishing, and Access Service (hosted by Northeastern University Library's Digital Scholarship Group). TAPAS focuses on making digital editions easy and supporting teachers who want to use TEI with their classes. 

“Being elected to the Text Encoding Initiative’s Board of Directors means being part of strategic planning for the TEI,” Dr. Penner says. “We aim to serve the worldwide community of digital humanists who produce and process transcribed texts mainly by establishing standards that enable the computer data and tools to work with each other. I’m honoured to become part of the decisions that will make digital work on texts that much more efficient, and to represent StFX together with Dr. Estill in an initiative of such global scope.”

Dr. Estill says she is honoured to be on the TAPAS board and looks forward to working with a fantastic team. “I have had the pleasure of teaching TEI before in multiple contexts and I am certain this will also help me improve as a teacher.”

She says this is a real honour for StFX to have both faculty members elected. 

TEI is an international standard for creating digital text projects, Dr. Estill says. 

The TEI is an active scholarly community, with a journal (jTEI), annual conference, and many training sessions around the world. Many digital humanities projects use TEI to share and represent information. This includes TextTHREAD (Toolkit for Humanities Research & Editing Ancient Documents) by Dr. Penner and StFX computer sciences professor Dr. James Hughes and Dr. Estill’s DEx: A Database of Dramatic Extracts, co-edited with Dr. Beatrice Montedoro, University of Zurich. 

To read Dr. Penner and Dr. Estill’s candidate statements, please visit:


X-Ring Ceremony will be virtual

Tue, 2020-11-24 18:58

To the recipients of the 2021 StFX X-Ring and the campus community,

Earlier today, the decision was made to transition our December 3rd X-Ring Ceremony to a virtual format. With the rate of COVID-19 infection increasing and the public health situation rapidly evolving in Nova Scotia, we will take no chances by hosting a large gathering.

As a member of the University senior executive team charged with overseeing the ceremony, I can report that this decision is not taken lightly and was one where we sought extensive input from stakeholders, including student leaders. At the beginning of the pandemic we, as an academic community, committed that the health and safety of the StFX and local Antigonish communities would be our top priority, and we hold that commitment to heart. It’s with this in mind that we have made this decision.

The StFX X-Ring is a symbol of achievements, both academic and personal. It will forever remind you of new experiences inside and outside of the classroom, friendships made, the challenges you’ve faced and the triumphs during your time as a StFX student. It will affirm your commitment to the Xaverian values of justice, equality and service to community on a daily basis. Regardless of how you receive your X-Ring, these feelings and values remain true. COVID-19 cannot and will not take this away from us. In fact, as a Xaverian from the Class of ’87 who proudly wears his father’s X-Ring from the Class of ‘47, I can say with confidence that transitioning to a virtual ceremony this year to ensure the safety of our community exemplifies what it means to wear the X-Ring. 

We look forward to celebrating with you in a virtual format on December 3rd and pledge to make the ceremony special and meaningful for all X-Ring recipients. More about the virtual ceremony, including how rings will be picked up (or delivered for those who cannot pick up their rings in person), will be shared in the days ahead; please be sure to be watching your email for details.

Although not the celebration we had envisioned, rest assured that the entire Xaverian community will be very proud and cheering for you.

Murray Kyte ‘87
Vice President, Advancement








StFX Marine Ecology Lab publishes multiannual study unraveling spatiotemporal patterns in intertidal temperature along Nova Scotia’s Atlantic coast  

Tue, 2020-11-24 11:09
One of the surveyed locations along Nova Scotia's Atlantic coast

StFX’s Marine Ecology Lab, led by Dr. Ricardo Scrosati, has just published a large multiannual study that for the first time documents the latitudinal and temporal changes in air and sea temperature in intertidal habitats along the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia.  

Dr. Scrosati, together with postdoctoral fellow Julius Ellrich and Master of Science student Matthew Freeman, has co-authored the article, “Half-hourly changes in intertidal temperature at nine wave-exposed locations along the Atlantic Canadian coast: a 5.5-year study” that appears in the high-impact journal, Earth System Science Data.

“This is a particularly relevant study because it applied an unprecedented level of sampling effort, since we measured temperature every half hour at nine intertidal locations spanning more than 400 km of coastline for a period of 5.5 years (2014-2019),” Dr. Scrosati says. 

“All in all, the temperature loggers that we deployed along the coast generated more than 800,000 data points during the study.”

There are multiple potential uses of this data set, Dr. Scrosati says. For example, they have already established links between the thermal conditions of coastal waters and patterns of invertebrate recruitment and predator abundance along the coast. 

In addition, they have shown how El Niño-related changes in coastal winds relate to the intensity of upwelling, a coastal phenomenon that cools down the ocean surface and increases productivity. 

“Our study also reveals alongshore differences in upwelling that consistently occur every year, a previously unknown occurrence. Ultimately, this is the first baseline data set on intertidal temperature for this coast.

“Due to its detailed spatiotemporal coverage, I expect that it will be useful over the years for various researchers to address a diversity of questions on coastal marine ecology, oceanography, and climatology in our region.”

Their research was funded by a Discovery Grant from NSERC and a Leaders Opportunity Grant from CFI awarded to Dr. Scrosati.

Learning Lodge on Mi’kmaw Livelihood to take place at StFX on Nov. 24 

Tue, 2020-11-24 08:53

A Learning Lodge on Mi’kmaw Livelihood will bring a number of high-profile speakers to StFX on Tuesday, Nov. 24 at 7 p.m. for a panel discussion on Mi’kmaw fisheries and livelihood rights.

Panelists include Jaime Battiste, Member of Parliament, Sydney-Victoria; Senator Mary Coyle; Regional Chief PJ Prosper; Dr. Megan Bailey, Marine Affairs Program, Dalhousie University; and Elder Kerry Prosper.

Everyone is welcome to attend the event via Zoom ( while a limited number of participants will attend in person (in-person participation is limited to members of the StFX campus community and COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions) in the Schwartz School, Rooms 205 and 215.

“It’s an important event,” says Dr. David Garbary, coordinator of StFX’s Aquatic Resources Program. “It’s a real opportunity to educate the public on what are fundamental rights of First Nations in Canada.” 

Dr. Garbary says the idea for the event was generated from the Aquatic Resources program.

“This is a really important social issue that I believed our program should get behind and promote within the larger community of Nova Scotia. We thought it was important that StFX sponsor the event,” he says, noting that the idea came together as a joint effort.

“The aquatic resources program itself focuses on the social, scientific and economic issues associated with water, and StFX’s Dr. Jane McMillan, a former eel fisher who was directly involved in the Marshall decision, is a legal anthropologist who does community engaged research specializing in social justice, Indigenous law and treaty rights implementation. Students in the anthropology department’s Mi’kmaw studies stream embraced the opportunity to host another collaborative learning lodge. All of these themes come together in this panel discussion.”

Dr. Garbary says the event is not a debate. “It’s a matter of public education to provide a better understanding of Indigenous fishing rights in the context of a moderate livelihood.”

The panelists will address the issue of Mi’kmaw Livelihood from a variety of perspectives. Each panelist will speak for 15 minutes on their background, and use this to reflect on the current social issue. Panelists will speak to this issue from a range of personal perspectives, emphasizing the rights of First Nations to earn a moderate livelihood in the fishery. Opportunities for questions will follow. 

Dr. Garbary approached several people, including StFX Academic Vice-President Dr. Kevin Wamsley and Central Nova MP Sean Fraser to see if they thought a panel discussion was a good idea. “They all thought it was an excellent opportunity for community education.”

The event is sponsored by StFX Aquatic Resources Program, in conjunction with Dr. Jane McMillan, provided the primary impetus, with planning and support from the Office of Indigenous Student Affairs & Mi'kmaw Studies. Sponsors of the Learning Lodge include the Departments of Anthropology, Biology, Political Science, Economics, Sociology, Public Policy and Governance, Mathematics/Statistics, and Earth Sciences, the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government, the John T. Sears Chair in Corporate Social Responsibility, StFX Academic Vice-President, the Dean of Arts, and the Dean of Science. 

Dr. McMillan and Dr. Garbary will serve as moderators.  

International team of scientists, including StFX physics professor Dr. Peter Poole, take big step to understanding supercooled water, publish results in Science  

Fri, 2020-11-20 07:06
Dr. Peter Poole

Unsolved questions about the way water behaves and why it is so different from other liquids is a problem that has puzzled scientists for many years. 

But now, StFX physics professor Dr. Peter Poole is part of an international collaboration of scientists who’ve taken a big step forward in understanding how water behaves. The team has published a paper in the prestigious journal Science, presenting work believed to be the most convincing experimental demonstration to date of a liquid-liquid phase transition in supercooled water.

It’s a problem Dr. Poole has been involved in working on since he was a graduate student in Boston in the 1990s.

In the paper, "Experimental observation of the liquid-liquid transition in bulk supercooled water under pressure," they present the results of the first experiment in which supercooled water is ‘caught in the act’ of switching from high-density liquid (HDL) to low-density liquid (LDL), a problem that has evaded scientists for years. 

Dr. Poole says achieving this result required assembling an international team of 21 scientists from Sweden, Korea, the U.S., Germany and Canada. The experimental team was led by Anders Nilsson at Stockholm University. Samples of frozen ultra-pure water were prepared in a custom-designed sample holder in Sweden and then shipped in a cryogenic container to South Korea. There, one of the most powerful x-ray lasers in the world was used to achieve what was previously impossible.  

“Using intense laser pulses lasting less than 50 femtoseconds (a femtosecond is one millionth of one billionth of a second), precise snapshots of the liquid molecular structure were obtained well before ice formation could occur. For the first time, this allowed us to follow the phase transition from HDL to LDL in detail as it happened,” says Dr. Poole.

Although mainly an experimental paper, Dr. Poole says he and U.S. colleague Nicolas Giovambattista contributed by conducting computer simulations to shore up the experimental results and help with interpreting the data. All the simulation work was done using ACENET and Compute Canada resources.


water illustration 2 .jpg

An image created by team members Jerker Lokrantz and Anders Nilsson.

“The results presented in this Science paper open up a great many new directions for future research,” he says.  

“Water plays a fundamental role in a vast range of science, technology, and industry. The existence of the LDL/HDL phase transition in supercooled water has profound implications for how we understand many important processes.”

As an example, supercooled water plays a central role in cloud formation and rain, which is a major influence on earth’s climate. Understanding the molecular structure of water, and how it can change, is central to many aspects of cell biology. Clarifying the behavior of water under low temperature conditions is also key for understanding our solar system, where water occurs in great quantities in comets and the outer planets.

The new techniques developed to conduct this experiment also have great potential for future discoveries, he says. 

“This work illustrates how experiments can now probe complex processes occurring in matter on extremely short time scales, which previously could only be studied using simulations. Now that the time scales probed by experiments and simulations overlap, results from both can be directly compared, greatly improving our ability to use these approaches in concert.”


“Water is both common and important. And yet, it is also weird,” Dr. Poole says. 

“Compared to other common liquids, such as oil and alcohol, water has a lot of strange properties. Ice floats on water. Most other solids sink in their melts. Below 4 C, water expands when cooled. Most liquids contract when they get colder. Water becomes more fluid when under pressure. Most liquids become more viscous under pressure.”

All this weirdness gets even weirder, he says, when water is supercooled—water below the freezing temperature.  

“Under these conditions, water will eventually turn into ice, but until this happens, you can still measure the properties of the liquid. The strange properties described above become even more dramatic in supercooled water. The colder water gets, the weirder it gets. But then something frustrating happens.  

“Just when things are getting really interesting in supercooled water, ice formation starts happening so fast that normal experiments can’t measure the properties of liquid water anymore. There just isn’t enough time to measure anything before the sample turns into ice.”

In 1992, as a graduate student, he was part of a team at Boston University using computer simulations to study this problem. Using computer simulations, they were able to measure the properties of deeply supercooled water faster than in any experiments at the time. They found something very unusual.  

“We found that if the temperature is low enough, there are two kinds of liquid water, a low-density liquid (LDL) and a high-density liquid (HDL). The change from LDL to HDL at low temperature is a sudden and dramatic ‘phase transition.’ We showed that the existence of this phase transition provided a simple and unified way to explain all of the unusual properties of water,” he says.

Since 1992, many experiments have attempted to test their theory and find evidence for the LDL/HDL phase transition. Some have found tantalizing evidence suggesting that the phase transition exists, but rapid ice formation continues to get in the way of a definitive ‘smoking gun’ result.


“It was exciting for me to get involved with this kind of massive experimental effort. I am not an experimental physicist by trade. Most of my work involves creating theoretical or computer models, and I became involved in this collaboration in order to perform computer simulations of the exact process that was occurring in the water samples in the experiment. Working with my colleague, Nicolas Giovambattista at the City University of New York, we recreated the experimental conditions in our water simulations, and showed that the data coming out of the experiments was completely consistent with the predicted phase transition. 

“Our simulations also helped to clarify how water reacts to the ultra-rapid changes in temperature and pressure explored in the experiments.”

Dr. Poole says all of the computer simulations for this work were carried out in Canada, using the resources of ACENET and Compute Canada.  

“The first-rate scientific computing facilities available to us in Canada were crucial for making it possible for us to be part of this international effort, and provided us with the considerable computing horsepower required to contribute to making the entire project a success.”

Dr. Poole says the impact of this study is important because the substance they’re studying is so important. “No substance on the planet is more important than water,” he says. “Everybody depends on water.” So to have discovered and demonstrated how the structure of water at the molecular level could be changing in different environments allows one to rethink a lot of ways that water behaves and the role of water in many different processes. 

“It’s fascinating to me to think about this trick Mother Nature has played on us,” he says. “Water pervades our everyday life, yet it’s still full of mystery.” 

Just published, the paper has already attracted news attention, including the following articles:

StFX aquatic resources student lead author on study boding well for Boat Harbour to support plant growth

Fri, 2020-11-13 13:44
Dr. Jim Williams and Megan Fraser

StFX researchers have found that the ecosystem at Boat Harbour, a body of water in Pictou, NS receiving effluent from a nearby mill for over 50 years, should after remediation be able to support organisms commonly found in estuarine ecosystems along coastal Nova Scotia, in particular, two primary producers, eelgrass and salt marsh grass. 

Lead author of the study, published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, is Megan Fraser, a 2020 StFX aquatic resources and biology graduate from New Glasgow, NS, who completed the research while an undergraduate student at StFX. She is a co-author on the study with her supervisor, aquatic resources professor Dr. Jim Williams. StFX biology faculty Drs. Russell Wyeth and David Garbary are also co-authors. 

“It felt great to have this research published in CJFAS. This is my first published paper and after all of the hard work that went into this research, to have it published was very rewarding,” says Ms. Fraser, now completing a masters in environmental studies at Dalhousie University, where her thesis is continuing research on Boat Harbour remediation. 

Dr. Williams says he is delighted they were able to get the paper in CJFAS. “It's a good journal with a lot of the target audience we were looking for. As a scientist, it's always satisfying to have research published, and as a supervisor, I'm particularly proud of Megan's hard work in seeing this through.”  

Dr. Williams says the research, which has been ongoing for several years, came about after he submitted a proposal outlining the eelgrass and salt marsh grass project to Nova Scotia Lands, the provincial agency overseeing the cleanup, which considers proposals from university researchers that are relevant to the objectives of the remediation. The proposal was approved for funding.  

“The big environmental problem in Boat Harbour is a layer of contaminated sediment on the bottom,” he says. 


“The removal of this contaminated layer is the major focus of the cleanup. I wanted to know if the original estuarine sediment in Boat Harbour, which is what will be left behind after the remediation, would still support the growth of two very important plants, eelgrass and salt marsh grass. Since the cleanup was years away, we designed and built a device that could remove large plugs or cores of this clean pre-industrial sediment, and then we inserted the cores into a local estuary, where we could transplant eelgrass and salt marsh grass. 

“We found that the growth and survival of the two estuarine plants was the same in the pre-industrial Boat Harbour sediment as it was in reference sediment from the local estuary. This bodes well for the recovery of Boat Harbour after the remediation.” 

Dr. Williams says he lectured about Boat Harbour in StFX’s Aquatic Resources Program for 20 years, and he sees it as a very complex and interdisciplinary case study. “It clearly represents an example of environmental racism. From a scientific point of view, the remediation process presents some considerable challenges. When an opportunity for research funding related to Boat Harbour presented itself at the same time that I was winding down my teaching activity, the timing was ideal.”

Ms. Fraser says being from Pictou County, and knowing the impacts of Boat Harbour on her community, and also being interested in aquatic sciences, this was a project she was keen to be a part of. She had Dr. Williams as a professor and approached him in her first year at StFX to ask if he was looking for a research assistant for his research on Boat Harbour. “We got funding in my second year to do the project and I was thrilled to be a part of it,” she says.  


“Being a part of undergraduate research was the highlight of my time at StFX. It challenged me in the best way possible and helped me to discover what interests me academically and professionally.”

Ms. Fraser says doing research as an undergraduate is invaluable and teaches you how to apply what you learn in the classroom, how to design a research project, problem solve to overcome challenges along the way and gives you hands on experience. 

Small institutions like StFX typically have many more opportunities for undergraduates to be involved in research, Dr. Williams says. “Our Aquatic Resources Program requires our students to do a senior research project, and both Tyler Winsor (now completing his masters at the University of Winnipeg) and Megan used aspects of their Boat Harbour research as their capstone research project.”

Ms. Fraser conducted research on the topic with Dr. Williams for over two summers, including one as an Irving Research Mentorship Award recipient. 

StFX computer science students win 2020 Atlantic Canadian Programming Competition

Fri, 2020-11-06 12:00
StFX computer science students Jueqi Wang (left) and Zhou Ti (right) and computer science professor Dr. James Hughes

A team of StFX computer science students, Zhou Ti and Jueqi Wang, have won the 2020 Atlantic Canadian Programming Competition held Oct. 31.

This is the first time that StFX has ever won this competition, and it is one of its best showings overall in terms of the number of teams that performed well, says programming competition coach and computer science professor Dr. James Hughes. 

In addition to Zhou Ti and Jueqi Wang's team, four other StFX teams participated, including Team Red: Sneh Joshi, Dalon Lobo, and Shubham Poriya; Team Green: Abdullah Shoaib, Heenakumari Sharma, and Bhavik Bhagat; Team Blue: Meredith Cudmore-Keating and Prahar Ijner; and Team Yellow: Ethan Heavey, Dawson Henley, and Logan DeYoung.

The competition included entries from a number of universities across Atlantic Canada.

“Programming competitions are a big deal in the computer science world and it's something that a lot of big name employers look at, such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, etc.,” Dr. Hughes says.

“The competition is also connected to ICPC, the International Collegiate Programming Competition, which is the biggest and most important competition in the world and arguably most significant academically related extracurricular that there is for computer science students.”

Not only did StFX record its best placing ever, winning the competition, it had high participation in terms of teams entered and good overall results from all participants, including junior students.

Dr. Hughes says typically this competition is the first round of the ICPC and would be hosted at a local university, but COVID-19 threw things off. Instead, the competition was held remotely with participating students self-isolating during the competition.

The event is made up of challenging, albeit silly sounding questions, he says, that the students need to understand, work out a solution, and implement the solution, all while under unusual conditions such as minimal resources for reference and a time limit. Example questions include determining how quickly Santa Klas must be woken up before his autopilot reindeer crash and calculating the uniqueness of tree shapes. The competition lasted from 1-6 p.m.

StFX’s teams will now participate at the upcoming ICPC competition. No date has yet been set for this.

Fall Convocation & X-Ring Announcement

Fri, 2020-10-30 12:26

To the Campus Community, 

I am writing to provide an update regarding plans for our December 3rd X-Ring ceremony and our Fall Convocation ceremony scheduled for December 5th.

This week, StFX’s Executive Council accepted a recommendation to proceed with an in-person X-Ring ceremony and shift our Fall Convocation to a virtual format. There were several factors why we have made this decision. The main ones are outlined below. 

X-Ring Ceremony will be in-person, but students must register to participate.

Participants in our X-Ring ceremony are typically senior students approaching graduation, most of whom are already in the Antigonish area. With the decision to proceed with in-person classes this fall, most students receiving their X-Ring are already within our community and will not need to travel. Our successful delivery of a “dispersed” Xaverian Welcome event earlier this month has demonstrated we are able to hold larger-scale ceremonies on campus while maintaining physical distancing and all other COVID-19 health and safety requirements. While the X-Ring ceremony will undoubtedly look different this year, we are confident we can host this event in a similar manner. Please stay tuned for specific information as to how the ceremony will unfold. 

There are two important differences this year:

1)    We cannot allow family members or other guests to attend this year’s ceremony.
Simply, we do not have the capacity to safely welcome the number of guests who typically attend. We recognize this will be disappointing for students who looked forward to sharing the X-Ring ceremony with loved ones but hope they will understand that health and safety must come first. Extending an invitation to over 1,000 guests would place our attendee numbers well beyond what we could safely manage while still respecting COVID-19 restrictions, even in a dispersed format. Rest assured, we will be live-streaming our ceremony for all loved ones who would like to watch and cheer students on from afar. 

We also recognize that many family members within the Atlantic Bubble may intend to travel to Antigonish to celebrate with their students after the ceremony, even if they themselves cannot attend the ceremony in person. For the health and safety of our community, we are strongly discouraging these plans and ask that everyone respect that our local community has worked hard to create and maintain an “Antigonish bubble” within the broader Atlantic Canadian one. Limiting travel to and from Antigonish (including eliminating our fall reading week and asking students to stay in the local area over Thanksgiving) has been critical to the success of this initiative. Instead, we encourage you to celebrate safely with family members and loved ones during the holiday break, which begins just over two weeks after our X-Ring ceremony on December 3rd.  

2)    Students who wish to participate in the X-Ring ceremony MUST register. In order to plan a safe event, eligible students who wish to participate must register by Wednesday, November 18. The registration link can be found here:

Fall Convocation will be virtual.

An important difference between Fall Convocation and the X-Ring ceremony is the travel normally involved for participants. While most X-Ring recipients are already in the Antigonish area, this is not typically the case for fall graduates, many of whom are completing their studies from a distance or have already left Antigonish. Each year, we also hear from a number of graduates who cannot attend the ceremony because of distance or other factors. With these considerations in mind, we are proceeding with a live, virtual convocation ceremony. We look forward to celebrating our graduates and their achievements in this format where we can be together, even if apart. Please note that graduates will also be extended the invitation to return for any in-person convocation ceremony over the next five years to enjoy the experience of walking across the stage here in Antigonish should they wish. Stay tuned for more information on plans for Fall Convocation. 

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a year of immense disruption, and changes to these two seminal events are the latest in a long string of hard decisions. Still, I remain so impressed by the resiliency of our students. I am greatly looking forward to sharing in your achievements this fall, even if our celebrations look a little different.


Andy W. Hakin, PhD

President and Vice-Chancellor

St. Francis Xavier University 


New position at StFX will help tailor career development services for students with the Tramble Center for Accessible Learning

Wed, 2020-10-28 10:20
L-r, Career Transition and EDGE (Engage Develop Grow your Employability) Coordinator Heather Myers; Manager, Student Career Services Jane MacDonald; Accessible Learning Coordinator Elizabeth Kell; and VP Students Elizabeth Yeo.

A new position introduced at StFX this year will help students registered with the Tramble Centre for Accessible Learning (TCAL) receive tailored career development services, including workshops, one-to-one career coaching, and employment transition support. 

Under the direction of VP Students, Elizabeth Yeo, StFX secured two years of funding to hire a Career Transition and EDGE (Engage Develop Grow your Employability) Coordinator, whose role is to increase the students' self-awareness, career goals, workplace connections and employability in Nova Scotia. Heather Myers has been hired for the position, a collaborative partnership within VP Students Division between the Tramble Centre for Accessible Learning and Student Career Services. 

The grant funding for the position was attained through a partnership with Post Secondary Accessibility Services (PSAS) branch of the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education.

Ms. Yeo notes that persons with disabilities still face barriers to employment and remain underrepresented in the labour force. “This project enables StFX to better support professional development and employment transition by combining the expertise and supports of the two departments. Our service will help students bridge the transition and address the differing approaches and understanding of accommodations that exist between the education and employment settings.”    

Accessible Learning Coordinator Elizabeth Kell and Jane MacDonald, Manager, Student Career Services, say this position will give dedicated access to career support and work experience for students registered with the Tramble Centre. 

“This specific support will give the TCAL students much needed assistance while in the post-secondary setting providing work experience and career related workshops as they transition to the workplace,” Ms. Kell says. 

“Student Career Services has a strong track record of assisting students with career-related questions. Having Heather join the team will increase the programming and service delivery options for TCAL students. I would highly recommend TCAL students to utilize Heather and the Student Career Services as we contribute to students’ employment and career success,” says Ms. MacDonald. 

Students registered with the TCAL will be able to get career-related assistance and participate in wage-subsidized work experience opportunities. Career development services consists of helping students make connections between academics and the world of work, interests, career values, resume and cover letter writing, job search techniques, interview strategies, and post-grad studies. Personal effectiveness training, which will consist of confidence, goal setting, communication, self-esteem, work preferences, and building professional identity.

The EDGE component is both a part-time and summer work experience program within the province of Nova Scotia for PSAS registered students. The work experience will consist of part-time (to a maximum of 10 hours a week) and full-time summer work experiences. Over the coming months, the Career Transition & EDGE Coordinator will be building the work experience programming. 

In order for students to access these new services, they must be registered with TCAL. Students will be contacted directly about the upcoming programming available to them and the work experience requirements.  

Ms. Myers has a rich professional experience in community and people development, and in building programs that support and enhance individuals’ educational goals. Through her work with government, not-for-profits and academic institutions, she has managed and delivered job readiness programs with a focus on experiential placements that support and mentor learners. She says she is enthusiastic for the opportunity to work alongside The Tramble Centre for Accessible Learning and the Student Career Centre at StFX to help students find the careers they love. 

With almost 30 per cent of classes successfully moved online, StFX faculty make monumental effort to provide best education possible

Mon, 2020-10-26 13:46
Some of the many committed faculty and staff who helped prepare for online learning include, pictured here, l-r, Shafik Nanji, senior instructional designer, Continuing and Distance Education; Bill Hannah, academic technologist, It Services; philosophy professor Dr. Steve Baldner; human kinetics professor Dr. Melanie Lam; and computer science professor Dr. James Hughes.

StFX English professor Dr. Earla Wilputte readily admits she was not an experienced online teacher before the COVID-19 pandemic. “I loved teaching in-person and getting to know the students, saying “hi” when I saw them on campus. I was terrified of the technology, the loss of interaction and exchange, and not seeing my students,” says Dr. Wilputte, a past recipient of the StFX Outstanding Teaching Award, who logged countless hours over the spring and summer preparing for online teaching. 

She attended at least 17 hours of workshops offered by StFX’s Remote Teaching and Learning Preparedness Task Force—a 26-member body struck this spring to help prepare faculty to teach online—and she paired with an experienced StFX faculty mentor over the summer. Offering a course online is as much work for both Dr. Wilputte and her students, but they’re enjoying it, she says, and a month into the academic term, it’s going well. 

Robert Madden, who teaches second and third year accounting in the Schwartz School of Business, likewise invested over four months into learning how to teach online. That investment is paying dividends, he says, as he went from being scared of the technology to quite comfortable with it. “Everyone is trying to do their best, and everyone is trying to do their best for the students,” he says. “That’s why we became so committed.” 

For veteran online teacher, education professor Dr. Chris Gilham, another previous StFX Outstanding Teaching Award winner, and mentor for instructors moving to online teaching, every PD session StFX offered had something to teach him—even though he’s been teaching online for seven years. “I was so thankful for them and hope to continue in some regular, structured way. There is so much to learn from one another.”  

Strong team effort 

As almost 30 per cent of StFX courses successfully moved to remote delivery this fall, StFX faculty stepped forward to meet the challenge, making a monumental effort to welcome students online and to provide students with the best possible learning experience during this unprecedented time. 

“People have invested a lot of time into their teaching,” says education professor Dr. Joanne Tompkins, who with Dr. Janice Landry, Director, Continuing and Distance Education, co-chair the Online Task Force.

When the task force started in April, no one knew if StFX would be able to offer face-to-face classes in the fall, Dr. Tompkins says. 

Task force members, representing a broad range of university staff, had a huge mission, working hard in a short time period to build capacity. Dr. Tompkins says the task force had terrific uptake. “People were really generous with their spirit. They wanted to make this work.” 

She says a definite highlight was the quality of learning and sharing of ideas amongst colleagues. 

The transition to delivering courses online went reasonably smoothly, largely due to the extensive preparation and planning of faculty and teaching staff, as well as staff in Continuing and Distance Education and IT Services, say Dr. Landry and Dr. Tompkins. 

Instructors attended sessions offered by the Online Task Force, the Teaching and Learning Centre, and the Faculty Development Committee, and worked countless hours preparing course material for this new delivery method.  

As well, Continuing and Distance Education and IT Services staff supported instructors, including individually setting up each Collaborate classroom with optimal settings, responding to countless questions; and attending all online courses during the first couple of sessions to troubleshoot. 

“I was much impressed by the effort put in by faculty and teaching staff to increase and share their knowledge of online teaching and learning best practices. The turnout at PD sessions illustrated the degree of personal responsibility taken by instructors to make the transition to online delivery as smooth as possible for all participants,” says Shafik Nanji, Senior Instructional Designer with Continuing and Distance Education. 

“The quality of questions received by Continuing and Distance Education and IT Services during and following the PD sessions showed just how engaged instructors were in ensuring that their courses went smoothly and that students had the best possible experience of learning online. The receptiveness of faculty and teaching staff to new ideas, grounded in evidence-based concepts from the literature on online teaching and learning best practices, made it a pleasure for me and my colleagues to support the transition of selected courses to an online mode of delivery.”

Learning, moving forward

Dr. Wilputte says the PD sessions set up over the summer offered a great, and gentle way of introducing her, and others, to this new way of teaching. 

“I’ve learned that nothing is a catastrophe,” she says. “Last week, I divided my students up into break-out rooms to discuss a poem among themselves. They loved it. They got to meet some of their classmates and exchange ideas. Unfortunately, they couldn’t figure out how to leave their break-out rooms and return to the main classroom, so I began receiving many chat messages saying, “We can’t get out!” “Help us. We’re locked in the room!” It was sad AND hilarious, but I got them all back and we laughed about it. They let me know when I’ve forgotten to turn my mic back on. They send funny chat messages when I can’t figure out which button to push to do a poll or return to a slide. I hope that they’re learning that we all make mistakes—and it’s not the end of the world. We learn and move forward.”  

She says online classses are shorter than in-person ones, usually because of technical/connection difficulties, and because it takes longer to communicate through microphones, whiteboards and chat boxes, so students must be prepared beforehand or they can’t cover the material. “They’ve easily adapted to this format—where they take more responsibility for their own learning—probably because it’s just one more new way of taking their classes. It’s great! 

“Students seem more open to talking before and after class online. As with my in-person classes, I arrive early and stay afterward to be available to students. Online, they arrive early to chat with me, so there’s a feeling of familiarity and connection. I like it. Online teaching isn’t as alienating and lonely as I thought it might be.”

Flexibility, learning

Philosophy professor Dr. Steve Baldner wanted to be able to teach courses simultaneously in-person and online, and he worked hard to learn how. The learning curve was steep, he says, but it’s been good for the grey matter.

“In-person teaching is important because it is better than online and we have committed to this as an institution. It is, however, crucial to make online teaching available, because in this time of the pandemic, we should allow students the option of staying home, if they have to. My goal has been to make in-person teaching and online teaching simultaneously available, so that a student could go seamlessly from one to the other. The healthy student can come to class, where the experience is better; if the student becomes ill, he or she can stay home and attend the same class virtually. No additional arrangements need to be made.”

After four weeks of this in his classes, he says, it’s been successful: students appreciate the flexibility and he’s enjoyed the challenge. “I think that this dual teaching mode is an excellent expedient for these COVID times, but I would not do this otherwise. I provide, I think, a very good class meeting, but with the simultaneous sessions, I can’t be as relaxed and informal as I normally would be.

“Two comments,” he says. “One, you have to be on your game to manage the simultaneous in-person and online. There is a lot to keep in mind, and you have to have complete confidence in your teaching material, to be organized, and to remember all of the little things that you need to get ready. It requires a more intense readiness to teach, but it works and is worth it. Two, there is some loss in the normal, relaxed informality of learning that I try to foster in the classroom. I’m focusing my attention on all that has to be done, and there is some loss of the spontaneous interaction with students.”

Lectures on YouTube

Computer science professor Dr. James Hughes is also teaching online for the first time, something he always wanted to try. “For me, my strategy was to not only find something that works for students, but also works for me, and I know talking at a screen is something that will not work for me. Instead, I have been uploading recorded lectures from a lecture hall environment to YouTube. This has been an amazing strategy since almost all students are familiar with YouTube, they can play/pause as they please, and they can break their watching time however they want.” 

He’s had to cut some of his favorite content and learning strategies, but he’s tried to learn new technologies to facilitate workarounds. “There have been some difficult learning curves for the students—and for myself; it’s been a little less good than what I had hoped for, but honestly, so so so so so so so much better than what I expected.”

Dr. Hughes says he always tries to make his course content and himself as accessible as possible, but this year really requires extra, special attention. “This is easier said than done as we’re all juggling more this year, and there are only so many hours in the day, but I think we’ve all found ways to get that extra support in there for our students.” 

Making connections

Dr. Gilham says PD that was of particular help to him this year were sessions by education faculty Dr. Jennifer Mitton’s on formative assessment and Dr. Lisa Lunney Borden’s on OneNote and the incredible live-time, easily accessible way to run an entire course through OneNote Notebook. 

“I’ve been upfront with my students about being just two minutes ahead of the OneNote tech I’m using with them, and they are happily coming along with me, for the most part, especially the B.Ed students.” Key, in all this, he says, is that he took the time to do community building activities with them, so they could connect. 

Prof. Madden says he had never taught online before and it required a lot of work to learn how. He reached out to several people, who helped mentor him, including Continuing and Distance Education’s Matt Cameron, who worked with him all summer. So far, he says, things are going better than expected. 

Human kinetics professor Melanie Lam says she chose to offer her second year ‘Intro to motor control and learning’ course online because it was a required course and she didn’t want students who had health issues or who were in contact with those who did to have to worry about attending. “I love being in the classroom,” she says. “But I wanted to look at it, and put myself in the students’ shoes and think about what I could do to relieve some of that stress.”

She hadn’t taught online before and she says she is appreciative of the learning and PD workshops offered. She worked to prepare herself as much as possible. 

The class has been going well and she says she has had some students thank her for moving the required course online. 

StFX student Audra Jander to intern at International Criminal Court 

Wed, 2020-10-21 09:39
StFX student Audra Jander

StFX student Audra Jander has been offered an internship at the International Criminal Court (ICC), headquartered in The Hague, the Netherlands.

The ICC investigates and, where warranted, tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression.

Ms. Jander, of Georgetown ON, is currently in her fourth year at StFX and is completing a BA in political science with a minor in chemistry. 

The internship is for six months, December through June, and she will relocate to The Hague for that duration as it is the location of the court itself. Through her role, she will work alongside different departments and help organize meetings, collect information for presentations and other duties. 

Ms. Jander says she’s nervous, but very excited for the opportunity. 

“The ICC is an organization that I have always hoped to work for so this opportunity will hopefully provide me with networking connections and the chance to experience what my future may potentially be like.”

Throughout her four years at StFX, Ms. Jander says she’s had nothing but positive experiences. “I love having small classes and knowing my profs by name rather than just being a number.” 

Ms. Jander is the second StFX student to intern at the ICC. The first was Sarah Jackson, who wrote an honours thesis on the ICC and then pursued a law degree.

StFX political science professor Dr. Lavinia Stan taught both students in her class, PSCI 335 Human Rights and International Justice, which is focused on transitional justice, meaning the way in which governments and international bodies reckon with the legacy of mass human rights violations. 

“The fact that a small university like ours has two students at the ICC is quite remarkable. I am told we are the only university in Canada in this situation,” she says.

StFX launches resource to emphasize respect, safety and equity

Tue, 2020-10-20 14:18

St. Francis Xavier University is excited to announce the launch of Respectful Communities– a resource for all students. This one-hour, self-directed resource introduces the ways students can contribute to a safe, equitable, and respectful environment that identifies how to practice respect and safety in our interactions with others.

In recognition of StFX’s new Sexual Violence Policy, and the university’s commitment to ending sexual violence in our community, the resource (module) emphasizes topics of sexualized violence; consent and coercion; StFX policies and reporting processes; as well as the services and supports available to our students.   

“Creating a culture of respect and addressing the care and safety of students, the campus, and the surrounding community has been and continues to be a priority at StFX. We are working to ensure that everyone within our campus community has access to information, education and supports to contribute to a safe, healthy and respectful community,” says Elizabeth Yeo, Project Lead and StFX Vice President Students. 

"Thanks to funding from the province, this resource is an important step in establishing a minimum standard of expected behavior and consent education on our campus,” adds Ms. Yeo. 

“Creating safer campuses and a culture of consent will take hard work, diligence and collaboration,” said Derek Mombourquette, acting Minister of Labour and Advanced Education. “The Sexual Violence Prevention Grant projects are helping to pave the way for a cultural shift on our university and community college campuses. We will continue to work with our partners to improve education and training around sexual violence prevention and response."

The module is available to all members of the Provincial Sexual Violence Prevention Committee, which is made up of all post- secondary institutions in Nova Scotia, as well as student groups and community organizations that address sexualized violence in the community. 

Developed by a provincial working group, this module reflects the diversity of students studying on campuses across the province and uses a combination of text, video and audio scenarios to reinforce the core concepts. Clancy McDaniel, Executive Director, Students Nova Scotia, and member of the provincial working group states that "At StudentsNS, we have long believed that in order to combat campus-based sexual violence, students need consent education before ever stepping foot on campus. This new online module - combining student feedback with expertise in the field - will ensure that no matter their background before starting classes, students will develop an understanding of consent that they can put in practice."

Funding for this resource was provided by the Department of Labour and Advanced Education and created by a provincial team which included Heather Blackburn, StFX Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Advocate, Clancy McDaniel, Executive Director, Students Nova Scotia, Dee Dooley, Coordinator of Community/Legal Education and Training, Avalon Sexual Assault Center, Jordan Roberts, Sexualized Violence Prevention and Response Officer, University of Kings College, Collette Robert, Provincial Sexual Violence Response Coordinator, Dale Gruchy, Nova Scotia Community College, Olivia Landry and Annie Chau, Antigonish Women’s Resource and Sexual Assault Services Resource Centre and Elizabeth Yeo, Vice President Students, StFX. The team was supported by Corrie Melanson, Project Manager and Instructional Designer, and Chad O’Brien, E-Learning Designer and by a significant number of students who provided input and focus group feedback at every stage of the project.

StFX staff, including Megan Fogarty, Human Rights and Equity Officer, Vishalle Wells, Residence Education Coordinator, Catherine Ashley, Manager of Conduct and Restorative Practices, Larissa Strong, Director of Internationalization, Marcus Wilmot, and Students' Union President Sarah Elliott supplemented the provincial team to tailor the content to the StFX context and support the launch of the module. Mark Kolanko provided technical advice and support.  

StFX is recipient of a second grant to complete phase two of this project for the Provincial Committee.   

Xaverian Capital: Schwartz School of Business student society hired as an internal investment manager for StFX

Tue, 2020-10-13 09:19
Xaverian Capital co-presidents Daniel Brohman and Jay McKenna

Managing real funds on behalf of a client. That’s what a group of students in StFX’s Gerald Schwartz School of Business will be doing this year. Of note, the client is their university.

StFX’s Board of Governors has approved and hired Xaverian Capital, a Schwartz School student society, as an internal investment management team to manage $500,000 of the university’s endowment funds. 

It's an unmatched opportunity, and Schwartz School of Business Dean Dr. Tim Hynes says he could not be more pleased the university’s Board of Governors hired the Schwartz School students to serve as one of their Endowment Fund investment managers. 

“This shows the board’s confidence in the abilities of our students and their support for our efforts to provide Schwartz School students with the most tangible, real-world experiential learning opportunities,” Dr. Hynes says. 

“This will not only enhance the educational opportunities for our students who hope to move on to careers in the financial markets and banking sectors, but it will give them a real leg up in launching those careers.”

Daniel Brohman and Jay McKenna are the co-presidents of Xaverian Capital, which also includes Connor MacEachern, Dominic Young, Erik Usher, Jacob Nobbe, Joseph Robinson, Josh Foster, Luke Geiger, Nick Coyles, Sam Lacey, Emily Hall, Sophie Sharp, and Zolo Osorjamaa.


“It excites me knowing the school has trusted students in managing a portion of their endowment. At the end of the day, this will provide learning experiences for students that will be second-to-none. It is definitely something that will have long-term benefits for the academic excellence of the school, as well as for the students that come through the program,” says Mr. Brohman, a fourth year advanced major BBA student from Toronto, ON who hopes to pursue a career in asset management. 

Mr. McKenna is a fourth year student from Calgary AB who is pursuing an advanced major in finance with a minor in economics and would like to begin his career in capital markets with an eye to eventually becoming an entrepreneur. 

“The job market is very competitive in the financial industry and this helps members stand out,” he says.  

“We are also gaining real world experience of managing people in teams. Most people think our experience is solely in investment management, however, leading/being part of a group like XC goes far beyond investment research.” 


Mr. Brohman says the long-term benefits for having students manage real funds on behalf of a client are numerous. 

“For one, this enriches the academic experience for students coming to StFX, knowing they will have the opportunity to gain experiential learning in the form of real-world operations and engage in practical aspects of portfolio management, investment analysis, and valuation. 

“These are all skills that we aim to achieve through critical hands-on learning experiences all while engaging in regular interactions with industry professionals.”

He says this initiative allows students to learn beneficial and practical content that may not otherwise be taught in a classroom. 

“I believe this experience will allow students to build foundational knowledge that is critical to their success as they begin their careers in capital markets. This is an opportunity that is unmatched as they will have direct access to investing $500,000 of their clients' money, an experience you don't usually get until working in a career.”   


Mr. Brohman says this initiative has been in the works for years now. The two founders of Xaverian Capital, Thomas Ciha and Cameron Chubb, he says, started the society a few years back with the hopes of securing a grant from the school to manage a student-led fund. “They saw that many other schools had similar programs, which really allowed students to gain real-world experience all while promoting the academic excellence of the school.”

They thought this would be a great opportunity for students to elevate their readiness and credibility as they move into careers in the finance world. 

“StFX has realized that this is a step in the right direction for competing with other top business programs, who have similar student-managed funds. We have all the students on the team go through an extensive training program, which enables the team to be ready for everything that comes with this initiative.” 

The entire team, he says, is thrilled that the school has trusted them to manage a portion of the endowment. 

“The main thing that excites me about this opportunity is the image that it will carry over to the entire school and all the students. This is a professional institution at the end of the day, and it allows StFX to promote the excellence of the business program by having this sort of fund operating.” 

Mr. McKenna says he gained interest in investing while in high school. Although he didn’t work in the financial industry, he began to read and follow the markets. Last summer, he worked for Mackenzie Investments where he conducted research and compared and analyzed mutual funds and ETF’s. 

Mr. Brohman worked at a private equity firm this past summer in Toronto where he dealt with researching potential buyout opportunities. He was tasked with providing valuation models and fundamental analyses of companies, which he says allowed him to continue to build the foundational knowledge of researching and looking for suitable investment options. He’s been investing real money since he was 16 and was able to create his own investment account at age 18. “I have always loved the public markets and have always found ways to make money in them,” he says. 

“I believe this experience will help me as it will elevate my readiness for real-world operations. It has helped me gain crucial valuation skills that I will be able to carry with me into my career. Aside from that, it has also taught me how to manage a team and deal with the adversity that comes with running a sizable organization. It has also taught me how to network well and build relationships in the industry that I will be able to use to my advantage as I progress through my career.”

Thank you, Antigonish!—Parents of StFX student plan local bursary as thanks for community kindness, volunteer program helping students through self-isolation 

Wed, 2020-10-07 15:10
Antigonish town councillor Mary Farrell is seen here delivering baked goods and groceries to students Bridget McCann and Mary Caplice as part of the Neighbours Helping Neighbours program.

It all started with a text message, warm words of welcome and an offer to help from Neighbours Helping Neighbours volunteer Dr. Kim Burnett to third year StFX student Sam Baker of Bowmanville, ON, returning to StFX and Antigonish to complete 14 days mandatory isolation. 

This kindness—multiplied many times over the next few weeks by some 240 volunteers—community members, StFX faculty, staff and alumni participating in the StFX Alumni Affairs program, was so impactful it prompted Sam’s parents, Lisa and Dean Baker, to create a bursary to benefit a local student.  

The Bakers, after thanking their son’s volunteer support person, felt they wanted to do something more to recognize the community as a whole for its generosity. They contacted StFX Advancement to see about creating a bursary to benefit a local student, a fund others who feel likewise could also contribute to. 

“My husband and I are so very thankful for all the volunteers and staff in the StFX and Antigonish communities who have helped him, his roommates, and fellow classmates get through this time,” says Ms. Baker noting all those who picked up groceries, dropped off baked goodies, provided calls of welcome and supported over 600 off-campus students from outside the Atlantic ‘bubble’ through isolation.

“We are very much aware that students returning to campus has created anxiety for many in the community. To still reach out and embrace these kids is an act of selflessness that is not to be forgotten.”

Ms. Baker says she knows this wasn’t easy for the community, who must be feeling anxious. “Antigonish stepped up to help. That’s pretty unique and special.”


“We’re all living through this time of COVID, and we were anxious to send him,” Ms. Baker says. “My son desperately wanted to go and with all you’re doing, he felt comfortable. The province, the school, the Atlantic ‘bubble,’ everyone, had everything in place to make me feel safe.”

She says for Sam being able to return is a gift. “It’s his second home. He loves it there and to have that available is a godsend. It’s a perfect fit for him.”Ms. Baker says before her son left home, he received wonderful messages from Dr. Burnett indicating how excited she was to welcome him back, letting him know that she was there to help, and that she was an X grad herself.  

“It made us feel less anxious.”

She says it was comforting too to know that her son could go to class, knowing that everyone had completed self-isolation, along with three COVID-19 tests.  


“It means the world, honestly, being back here,” says Sam. “This feels like home at this point. This is my third year here. I’m really impressed by everyone, by the whole province, in general, in handling the situation.”

The Neighbours Helping Neighbours program definitely made him and fellow students feel welcome, he says. 

In particular, he praised his volunteer support person. “She was super generous, and she went out of her way to help,” he says, noting how she picked up groceries for some housemates who didn’t yet have their support person set up, got project supplies for him from Kent and Canadian Tire, and texted him to check in to see how he was doing and if he needed anything. 

“Always being there, that was the biggest thing,” he says. 

“Quarantine would definitely have been a lot more challenging without a support person.”

He says he and his housemates knew there was debate about having students back, and he says they wanted to show they respect the rules and quarantine. 

One thing that was nice about the two week isolation is that it gave students time to settle in, prepare and be in the mindset for being back at school and starting classes, he says. 


Dr. Burnett says, “As soon as I heard about the Neighbours Helping Neighbours program, I happily signed up because I felt strongly that we all had to work together to make the return to campus succeed. For me, volunteering though was as much about helping keep the community safe as it was about helping students make it through the unenviable situation of being stuck inside for two weeks with as much ease as possible. This pandemic highlights that we really are all in this together; we all have to do what we can as a community to keep each other well. The Bakers’ generosity is a wonderful amplification of how we can work together to help our communities thrive.”

StFX Alumni Affairs Director Shanna Hopkins says the Neighbours Helping Neigbhours program was created as a means to provide a safe and responsible return to campus for students from outside the Atlantic ‘bubble.’  “We knew in creating this program, the only way it would be successful was to have the help from our amazing alumni and community members. This program allowed community members to connect with our amazing students by means of a call, a doorstep visit, a grocery drop-off, or for many of our lucky students, the delivery of freshly baked cookies or muffins. We received many positive comments, calls and emails from parents, and it truly warms my heart to see how the Bakers are going above and beyond to reciprocate the generosity from so many from the community.”  

By all accounts, it was an overwhelming success. 

Sam Baker admits he was a little nervous to return to StFX, wondering how different COVID would make the school year, and how would he learn, study, socialize. 

“It’s different,” he says, “but not as bad as I had thought. It’s not as completely foreign as I thought it may be. It still feels like StFX.” 

For those wishing to express their gratitude to the community of Antigonish for making the student return so pleasant, Lisa and Dean ask you go to this link and scroll to ‘Other’ designation box and indicate Antigonish Student X Bursary. 

“This program gives me hope”—StFX Centre for Employment and Innovation leads new program creating jobs for African Nova Scotians

Mon, 2020-10-05 16:17
Angela Bear

“This program gives me hope.”

That’s the reaction of Angela Bear, project lead, StFX’s Centre for Employment and Innovation, who says they are excited to be working with Black leaders within the Nova Scotia Works employment services system on the $2.5 million Diversity and Inclusion Program announced today, Oct 5, 2020. 

Fifteen African Nova Scotians and people of African descent will be hired at Nova Scotia Works employment services centres across the province to ensure service providers better reflect the communities they serve.

Funding for the program comes from the Canada-Nova Scotia Labour Market Development Agreement; $2.5 million will allow the permanent career practitioner positions to be created. They will work one-on one with clients to support access to quality employment and training.

The program is led by StFX’s Centre for Employment and Innovation and is guided by Black leaders within the Nova Scotia Works employment services system.

Ms. Bear says she believes this is the first initiative of its kind done in this way, across the province, with Black practitioners and leaders in a system that is meant to serve everyone. 

“As an African Nova Scotian woman, this program gives me hope. African Nova Scotians have historically experienced multiple systemic barriers to training and employment. This initiative works with African Nova Scotians and persons of African descent to open doors and create meaningful employment opportunities.”

"We know that access to quality employment services can be a barrier for African Nova Scotians,” African Nova Scotian Affairs Minister Tony Ince said in the announcement. "Employment service providers are connecting the people in their communities to training and jobs. This program will enable service providers to better reflect the communities they serve, and in turn, they’ll be able to provide increased support and outreach to other members of their communities."

The program was created by the department of Labour and Advanced Education, the Centre for Employment and Innovation, the Nova Scotia Career Development Association and several employment service providers representing African Nova Scotian and people of African descent communities, including, the Valley African Nova Scotian Development Association, the YMCA-HRM, Career Connections and the Cumberland African Nova Scotian Association.

Funding will support the positions for two years.

Nova Scotia Works centres are posting jobs individually in their communities. For information on how to apply, visit for a full list of centres.

Over 310 StFX students discuss COVID-19 and its effect on inequality during 19th annual Global Issues Forum

Mon, 2020-10-05 13:22

Over 310 StFX students, through three online sessions and 31 different breakout groups, are joining together today to discuss COVID-19 and its effects on inequality around the world as part of the 19th annual Global Issues Forum at StFX.

The forum is annually organized by a consortium of professors to give students a chance to focus in on a global issue, including ways to improve on it. 

Despite extremely complicated circumstances, including moving to make this year’s event virtual, the forum is even more ambitious this year, organizers say. 

“We are very excited at how it has come together and think it provides a wonderful example of creative pedagogy to learn the most from the current situation,” says StFX anthropology professor Dr. Susan Vincent, one of the organizers. 

“The online element of this year’s forum has made the project more scalable, but also more complex to administer,” says Schwartz School of Business professor Dr. Brad Long, another organizer. 

The students have been assigned to groups and will discuss two questions: 1. Is COVID-19, and the associated measures in various places, an equal opportunity pandemic or is it exacerbating inequality? 2. Is there hope that measures implemented during the pandemic and the measures associated will improve lives of the most vulnerable? (for example, Peru is thinking about implementing universal health care.)

Dr. Vincent says the Global Issues Forum has been held almost every year since 2001.

It has involved several courses and Coady students getting together to discuss a topic from their different viewpoints. Topics have included free trade, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and transnational migration.

“We were faced with a challenge this year since we could not meet physically as we usually do. Nevertheless, over the past couple of months, we have put together an even more ambitious event than usual—students from 14 classes meeting virtually in three separate sessions.” 

Without the possibility of including Coady students this year, organizers coordinated with Immersion Service Learning. Jodi Van Dompseler invited the ISL partner organizations from Peru, Guatemala and Ghana to prepare videos in which they present their views on the topic.

The most important benefit of the forum is that it brings people with different perspectives into a common space to share their perspectives, says fourth year development major honours student Boye Matuluko from Nigeria. Not only are participants coming to their forum with their own lens, they’re bringing all these different ideas together to become more informed, he says.

“This would not have been possible without Matt Cameron’s stupendous efforts from Continuing and Distance Education,” Dr. Vincent says. 

Event organizers also included Drs. Corrine Cash, Christina Holmes, Sutapa Chattopadhyay, Shelley Price, Kim Burnett, L. Jane McMillan, Stefan Litz, and Jonathan Langdon. 

StFX adjunct English professor celebrates two latest works in upcoming book launch

Wed, 2020-09-30 11:47
StFX adjunct professor and author Anne Simpson will be celebrating her two latest works when Red Sky Gallery hosts a book launch on Friday, Oct. 2.

StFX adjunct English professor and author Anne Simpson will be celebrating her two latest works, her most recent novel, Speechless and her book of essays, Experiments in Distant Influence: Notes and Poems, when Red Sky Gallery hosts a book launch on Friday, Oct. 2 from 7-9 p.m. at Justamere Café & Bakery. 

Ms. Simpson’s novel, Speechless, was published in May 2020. It was a book, she says, that was 10 years in the making. She has written a story in which A’isha Nasir, a Nigerian teenager, has been charged with adultery. Sophie MacNeil, a young Canadian journalist who is living in Nigeria, publishes an impassioned article about her plight. When the article sets off a wave of outrage, Sophie must come to terms with the naivete with which she approached the article. 

Speechless is a novel about justice, witness, and courage in which Ms. Simpson explores the power of words, our responsibility for them, and the ways they affect others in matters of life and death.

Alexander MacLeod calls Speechless “a global narrative about gender and race, about words and actions and reactions, with tough female characters who will not back down and instead stand together against injustice. Simpson is a beautiful writer and this is a bold, brave book.”

Experiments in Distant Influence: Notes and Poems is a book of essays that investigate such issues as collaboration, courage, and community. Ms. Simpson says she approaches her subjects with intense curiosity and a deep empathy for both the human and non-human phenomena she encounters, recognizing the complex ecology of our communities and how, through practicing the attentiveness poetry fosters, we might help each other flourish.

Along with her book of essays, Ms. Simpson is the author of five collections of poetry, one of which, Loop, won the 2004 Griffin Poetry Prize. She also writes fiction. Her recent novel, Speechless, was preceded by Falling, longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and winner of the Dartmouth Book Award. Her mentorship of other writers has taken her to libraries and universities across Canada.

For more on the Oct. 2 book launch, please contact or phone (902) 863-8000. 


StFX’s Dr. Laura Estill named an inaugural member of new, national digital research council

Fri, 2020-09-25 16:14
Dr. Laura Estill

Dr. Laura Estill, Canada Research Chair in Digital Humanities and a professor of English at StFX, has been named one of the inaugural members of a new national Research Council for the National Digital Research Infrastructure Organization (NDRIO). She is one of two Atlantic Canada researchers successfully nominated to the council.

The NDRIO announced the selection of 22 multi-disciplinary researchers to its first Researcher Council, a critical component of NDRIO’s commitment to involve the research community as it designs and delivers a new service delivery model to support Canada’s national Digital Research Infrastructure (DRI) Strategy.

At StFX, the appointment was welcome news.

“Dr. Estill’s appointment to the new Research Council of NDRIO is important in that she represents the interests of researchers and scholars making use of advanced research computing technologies in the social sciences and humanities, as well as her ability to represent the interests of researchers from dozens of smaller undergraduate-oriented universities in Canada similar to StFX,” says Dr. Richard Isnor, StFX Associate Vice President, Research and Graduate Studies, who nominated Dr. Estill on behalf of StFX and ACENET. Dr. Isnor serves on the board of ACENET, which participates in interactions with NDRIO. 

“This is also an important research leadership step in terms of the development of Dr. Estill’s Canada Research Chair program in Digital Humanities and her efforts to build research networks in this area both regionally and nationally,” Dr. Isnor says. 

Dr. Estill says it is an honour to be a part of this team of incredible researchers and she looks forward to working to make Canada's digital research infrastructure as strong and accessible as possible.

“The Researcher Council's role is to make sure that the digital research infrastructure (DRI) needs of researchers across Canada are being met: this means accounting for diversity from a number of perspectives, including disciplinary, EDI, geographical, and more. I am one of two researchers who have been selected from Atlantic Canada; I am also one of two researchers from small, undergraduate-focused institutions,” she says.  

Greg Lukeman, ACENET Chief Executive Officer, says the Researcher Council will play a critical role in ensuring the design and delivery of Digital Research Infrastructure services under NDRIO reflects the needs and diversity of Canada’s research.

"I am thrilled to have Laura as one of our two voices from Atlantic Canada on the council. ACENET has been lucky to work closely with her these past few years supporting the goals of her Canada Research Chair. This work is yielding an exciting expansion of ACENET's support to the Humanities and Social Sciences. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with Laura to make sure StFX and Atlantic Canada have the best possible digital research services and support."

Janet Davidson, OC, NDRIO Board Chair, says this impressive group of appointees is composed of strategic thinkers and visionaries who represent years of diverse research experience and expertise in advanced research computing, research software and data management.

“The contributions of this researcher-led group will be invaluable to the NDRIO Board and management as we work together on our researcher needs assessment, NDRIO’s first strategic plan and the growth of NDRIO.”

Researcher Council members will serve terms of up to three years with a maximum of two terms, subject to renewal after one year. 

The first meeting of the Researcher Council is expected to take place in early October 2020. 

Athletic training and coaching made smarter from new spin-out company from St. Francis Xavier University

Fri, 2020-09-25 13:30
StFX student Mbongeni Ndlovu (centre), recipient of a MITACS Accelerate Entrepreneur award, is pictured with Andrew Kendall, StFX’s Manager of Industry Liaison and Technology Transfer (left) and computer sciences professor Dr. James Hughes.

Mbongeni Ndlovu, a StFX student, has combined his entrepreneurial and business interests with his love of athletics and weight training.

Mr. Ndlovu of Zimbabwe (he likes to be called ‘Bo’) has formed his own company to commercialize a high-tech Artificial Intelligence app for exercise that he has created, and is now supported by a prestigious and significant MITACS Accelerate Entrepreneur award, which funds student entrepreneurs to further develop the research or technology at the core of their business when hosted by an incubator facility.

He is now taking a masters in computer science at StFX, and completed his undergraduate degree from StFX last May with an advanced major in enterprise systems (business). His newly incorporated company, OlyUp Technologies Inc.—OlyUp for short— will advance his AI exercise app to give coaches and athletes better training tools and systems, that ultimately makes their athletic training tailored specifically to their needs and far more convenient and efficient. 

The company will be hosted by the StFX Extension Innovation and Enterprise Centre business incubator. Mr. Ndlovu is supervised and mentored by computer science professor Dr. James Hughes and has received encouragement and advice to commercialize the exercise app from Andrew Kendall, StFX’s Manager of Industry Liaison and Technology Transfer. 

“Bo is amazing,” says Mr. Kendall. “He has an infectious enthusiastic entrepreneurial spirit that combines athletic training with cutting-edge artificial intelligence computer science to create this app and OlyUp Technologies. There are real commercial growth opportunities with Bo and OlyUp. I’m hoping Bo can make Nova Scotia his home and be a part of the high-tech business ecosystem that we are building here.”

Dr. Hughes agrees. “Bo has an intuitive grasp of artificial intelligence. His use of AI in this app will give this training tool a huge advantage over the competing technologies out there.”

The idea for the company came out of Mr. Ndlovu’s experience as a strength and conditioning intern at StFX for the past four years and from the Olympic Weightlifting Society he’s run at the university for the past two years. 

“Last year I noted that making individualized training programs for athletes took too much of my time. I also have a lot of experience developing mobile and web-based apps. I have been studying Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the last 2.5 years now. I wanted to use all this experience I have to make a software application that uses AI, which helps assist strength coaches by making training programs for their athletes, based on their sport, position and individual unique characteristics,” he says.

The primary goals of the project are to make it more convenient for coaches to produce training programs and monitor the health and performance of their athletes; to improve the athletic performance of athletes in their respective sports and positions; and to reduce athletic injuries. Each exercise you do in the gym, he explains, is tied to specific muscles in the body. The goal is to track all the muscles affected by each exercise in a training program and have the AI develop a better fatigue and injury recovery management system.

Coaches will be able to save time and work on other duties that are more important and make things easier working with therapists, he says. The company will be working very closely with coaches and therapists alike during the development of the project, so as to identify the best user experience.

“This award will allow me to keep up with the costs, labour and financial, of developing the project. In order for me to receive the award I had to make a project timeline with deliverables and milestones and I’m very grateful for this because its given me a good sense direction of how I’m going to make this project become a reality.”

MITACS funding helps student entrepreneurs to take meaningful advantages of the supports provided by the incubator, with the goal of commercializing the technology, product, or service rapidly. Essentially, the student entrepreneurs get paid to grow their company and get to market faster. 

“I was pretty happy about receiving the award, after hearing the news I stopped everything I was doing at the time and went to the gym to train. I do a lot of Olympic Weightlifting, so I went pretty heavy that day, just to contain my happiness.” He says it is great to get the opportunity to significantly advance the progress of his research.