Does having a former politician or ex-governmental official provide a firm with a competitive advantage over firms that do not have such representation on their boards?
Do Canadian directors wish to have an ex-politician or a former government official serve alongside them on a corporate board in place of other prospective directors?
Those are the questions that StFX Gerald Schwartz School of Business faculty member Dr. Mark Fuller and co-author Chris Bart from the Caribbean Governance Training Institute ask and answer in a recent article just published in the open access journal Corporate Board: Role, Duties and Composition.
In researching the article, “The political duality: On the advantages and disadvantages of ex-politicians and former government officials serving on boards of directors,” Dr. Fuller says they conducted a survey of 82 Canadian board members and followed up with in-depth qualitative interviews with 10 directors.
“Obtaining perspectives on corporate governance directly from board members is notoriously difficult, and typically American-centric, so our research is rare and novel in this regard,” he says.
Their findings suggest that firms in heavily-regulated industries, firms that sell a lot to government, and firms that frequently interact with foreign governments may benefit from having a former politician or an ex-government official on their board of directors.
Nonetheless, he says, 61 per cent of their survey respondents preferred someone without political or government experience to join their board of directors.
“In addition to implications for theory, our article has implications for corporate governance. Prior research in the literature suggests that the appointment of someone with previous political or government experience to the board may affect expected future returns by the firm, and our survey respondents would agree,” Dr. Fuller says.
“Corporate political activity also has the potential to increase the perceived value of the firm. With 73.1 per cent of our survey respondents expecting the role of business to grow a little or a lot over the next decade, understanding of the impact of corporate political activity on that role is critically important.”
Over 800 participants from around the world are joining together starting today, Sept. 21, International Day of Peace, for the start of the Local Women’s Voices for Peace, a four day virtual global conference hosted by StFX’s Coady Institute, that is marking the 20th anniversary of United Nations Security Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.
“Recognizing the significance, and often under-recognized, work of women community leaders addressing diverse and complex issues related to violence, injustice, security and conflict, by using their assets, determination and knowledge, it was decided to mark this moment by listening to “Local Women’s Voices for Peace,” so that we can really see what women are doing every day,” says Dr. Robin Neustaeter, coordinator of this event
Dr. Neustaeter is also Program Teaching Staff at the Coady in the Women’s Leadership programs, including the online women’s peace courses, and an assistant professor in StFX’s Adult Education and Community Development. Her research is in women’s peace leadership learning.
“COVID-19 has amplified gender inequalities around the world, while at the same time there has been greater attention on women’s leadership and women’s community and care work. Bringing all this together, with the 20th anniversary for a moment seemed like a timely act,” she says.
This virtual global event focuses on women around the world who are active in their communities as peace-builders in diverse sectors and ways.
Peace is more than the absence of war, Dr. Neustaeter says.
Peace is about social and gender justice, eliminating poverty and gender-based violence, addressing cultural norms and practices that perpetuate patriarchy, and amplifying and supporting knowledge, practices and resources/assets foster peace.
Dr. Robin Neustaeter
StFX’s Coady Institute is coordinating this initiative with graduates of their women leader programs from around the world, and other regional organizers.
To hold a global virtual event focused on women’s leadership and peace has been a dream of Eileen Alma, Director of the International Centre for Women’s Leadership at the Coady, and Dr. Neustaeter’s for some time, she says.
Recognizing the 20th anniversary of 1325 and the new reality of virtual events due to COVID-19, and the extensive and growing Coady women leadership graduate network and the amazing work they are doing, she says they realized that now might be the moment to make this happen – with, and only with, the involvement of their graduates around the world. “Collaboration and cooperation are key.”
FLIP THE SCRIPT
“This conference aims to ‘flip the script’ by focusing on local women and the everyday work of peacebuilding.
“This is not about the formal Peace Talks that typically make the news with images of mostly men in suits. This is the everyday peace grunt work that happens every day, everywhere, over the long haul. Bringing women from different countries and regions together to share their experiences, challenges, strategies and learning with one another – and us- the participants is a unique opportunity to share, learn, and be present and open to what is possible in regards to peaceful change, in significant small and large ways.”
Dr. Neustaeter says one way they are flipping the script is by opting not to have keynote speakers and instead to have keynote listeners.
“Recognizing the significance of active listening for peacebuilding, conflict transformation, activism, and collaboration, we have invited several women of influence and expertise to take part in some of the global and regional sessions as keynote listeners,” she says.
The event consists of global sessions with speakers from different countries and regions speaking to specific issues/topics such as sexual and gender-based violence in the COVID era, women’s leadership, culture, local capacities for peace, and education, and more, with a focus on UNSCR 1325 – Women, Peace and Security.
There are also regional sessions where women in different global regions examine the issues deeper within the regional contexts. These sessions are scheduled at times convenient to the regions and, in some cases, include regional languages and simultaneous interpretation. Additionally, there are three skills workshops open to all registrants.
This event is open to anyone interested in the topic/focus.
In total with participants and speakers they have over 800 taking part. There are over 100 speakers from around the world.
All speakers are women who are leaders in their communities, and all are actively involved in addressing conflict, violence, security, and, peacebuilding.
“The speaker line-up is amazing, to see all the names of the women who are speaking and to think about what they are doing to make their communities and societies more peaceable is quite remarkable. It is exceptional,” Dr. Neustaeter says.
She says the people, the speakers, and the registrants excite her most about this event. “It is phenomenal to see that so many people are keen to connect and focus on women’s peace and security.”
StFX Immersion Service Learning is offering students a virtual immersion learning experience this year—including virtually connecting with a community in Peru as part of a credit course to be offered next semester.
During the winter term, StFX will offer Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) 305, a three credit course that can be use as part of Development Studies requirements or as an elective in any program.
“Students will develop their research, writing, and presentation skills through the completion of an academic research paper connected with a virtual immersion experience in Peru that will be incorporated as part of this course,” says Service Learning Program Manager Megan Turner.
“Students will write and present on a topic of their choice related to their Peruvian virtual immersion experience.”
Ms. Turner says Immersion Service Learning offers StFX students an intense and immersive experiential learning experience. Immersion placements typically involve groups of 10 students traveling to various destinations to learn firsthand about culture and development issues within a particular community context.
Current restrictions on travel, and the need for social distancing have led to an adaptive approach to immersion experiences that would virtually enable students to develop relationships with international partners, understand the dynamics of an international community and provide meaningful support to a not for profit organization or an NGO.
Over the semester, students will participate in virtual interactions with partners in Peru.
The goal of this experience is to support a community facing discrimination, poverty, isolation, poor nutrition and food security issues, she says.
Through the reciprocal use of podcasts and photography, students will critically engage with and gain an understanding of the realities in each community.
Students will strengthen their engagement and leadership skills while enhancing their learning about development issues and evolving their own perspectives, Ms. Turner says. Students will explore innovative adaptation strategies employed by a Peruvian non-profit civil association in partnership with the isolated communities they serve, to mitigate inequity and create sustainable solutions.
Service learning is an innovative way to integrate experiential learning, academic study, and community service. It is an opportunity for students from all disciplines to further explore and apply classroom concepts in a community setting.
Six StFX students will be adding their voices to wider discussions around systemic and institutional racism and enabling change as the inaugural recipients of StFX’s Frank McKenna Centre’s Racial Justice Leadership Grants.
The annual grants, of $4,500 each, are designed to provide Black and Indigenous students with funding and institutional resources to support projects that include research, organizing and outreach work, or advocacy and activism in racial justice.
The intent is to contribute to wider efforts in the community and at StFX to take needed, decisive action to combat racism and the systemic exclusion and disenfranchisement of Black and Indigenous students in Canadian society and in higher education.
Inaugural grant recipients include Devon Parris, Tara Reddick, Boye Matuluko, Rebecca Mesay, Aliyah Fraser and Claire Joseph. They will work on projects that range from uncovering the barriers that Black mothers and children face to developing a more critical audience for anti-racism films and discourse.
Recipients include, l-r, top photo: Claire Joseph, Aliyah Fraser and Tara Reddick. Bottom photo: Rebecca Mesay, Devon Parris and Boye Matuluko.
“I’m most excited about the opportunity to add my voice to the wider discussions about systemic and institutional racism that have reignited over the summer,” says Devon Parris, a fourth year honours English major and former varsity athlete from Kingston ON, whose project will focus on “The Anti-Racist Film Review: Separating the Performative from the Informative.”
“By the end of my project, I hope to create a more educated viewership among anti-racist film consumers. Film is one of the most influential mediums for dispersing ideas of racism and anti-racism, and the superficiality of films like Green Book and The Help can generate a misunderstanding of racism as a complex social, financial, and ideological challenge. Through explaining the issues of such films, while highlighting other works that offer more substantial critiques—like Sorry to Bother You or Blindspotting—I want to help develop a more critical audience for both anti-racist film and anti-racist discourse,” he says
“By providing Black and Indigenous students with this platform, I feel like these grants will have a profound impact in uplifting BIPOC voices throughout the StFX campus. All of this year’s recipients have fantastic projects that identify and explain various issues that BIPOC students/communities face, which can help create a more socially aware Xavierian community while allowing Black and Indigenous students a platform to be heard.”
KEEP THE CONVERSATION GOING
Tara Reddick of Antigonish, NS, a fourth year sociology honours student and proud mother to four children, one of whom also attends StFX, says this opportunity excites her because it provides a way to keep the conversation surrounding racial justice alive.
“More than ever, we need to put in motion tangible ways to help fight racial injustices and inequalities,” says Ms. Reddick whose work is entitled, “Black Motherhood: The Activism of African Nova Scotian Women.”
“As soon as I learned about this opportunity, I was interested. It also helps that I was encouraged by two of my awesome professors, Dr. Norine Verberg and Dr. Katie Aubrecht of the Sociology Department. This opportunity fits nicely with my area of study and my community involvement as well as my genuine desire for change,” she says.
“Through this grant, I can uncover the barriers that Black mothers and children face. My project will provide a platform so that Black women can come together in conversations surrounding social justice.”
Ms. Reddick says these grants will not only transform racial justice strategies at StFX, but they have the potential to impact all universities in Canada as it encourages students of colour to be part of the anti-racism and racial justice strategy.
“There is no denying systemic racism and there is no denying that there are various ways to dismantle it. These grants are providing ways to do that,” she says.
“Opportunities connect people to new frontiers, and it opens the door to a new challenge. My excitement about the Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership Grant is that it is activating the possibility of connecting with people of color with a common but different shared story,” says Boye Matuluko, a fourth year development major honours student from Nigeria, who is also taking a minor in sociology.
Mr. Matuluko will host a podcast segment that will air during Social Justice Radio, where Black and minority student voices, critiques, and suggestions will be featured. Social Justice Radio is a weekly news magazine show on CFXU (93.3 FM) and is also available as a podcast (http://socialjusticeradio.onelouder.ca/). This segment will also be available and be disseminated on social media.
“I am interested in this project,” he says, “because it will activate Black and minority students’ human capacities through participation, identification, internalization, and finally dissemination. Heron (2005) suggests that student participation in social justice and activism relationships may inevitably work to shape their identities,” he says.
“The project’s activities will assist Black and minority students to increase their participation in community-based organizations and therefore advocate for equitable opportunities. These project activities will validate the disrupting and subverting arrangements that promote marginalization.”
He says the grant will help people of color develop and sharpen research capabilities and open windows of collaborations and opportunities within and outside the university environment. “I envisage more students will become more engaged in social discourse.”
LOOK AT NEEDS
Aliyah Fraser, a second year health science student and member of the X-Women basketball team, will collect data for Black and Indigenous athletes and their struggles for her project, “Black and Indigenous athletes association.” “We’re going to figure out needs of athletes, challenges they face, and what supports we need, basically forming a council made up of students where they can get support and resources that affect them.”
Ms. Fraser says she is excited about the opportunity to connect with minority students at StFX and to make a positive difference in their lives. “I was interested in participating as my coach recommended it was a good fit for me and with everything going on in the world today, I believe I can help Black and Indigenous students. I think these grants will have a huge impact as they are helping a vulnerable population and will spread awareness.”
In her project, Rebecca Mesay will focus on “But Why Can’t I Say the N-Word?”: Understanding the Experiences of Black Students at StFX University. Ms. Mesay is a recent StFX graduate with a degree in political science and development studies and a focus in international politics. She recently returned to StFX to pursue additional research opportunities. She served as StFX Students’ Union President for 2018-2019 and has worked previously with the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and the Maple League of Universities. She says the most exciting part about this opportunity is that Black students at StFX are getting a concrete and significant platform upon which to centre their voices and work in the school community. “When I read about the grant, I immediately thought that it was meant for someone like me. I knew that I could undertake a project that put a spotlight on the experiences of Black students at StFX. I hope that my project contributes to making StFX a better place for Black students to be who they are, without any repercussions.”
She says the creation of these grants mimicked a larger shift in thinking about Black people and their treatment by our institutions. “I think this is just the beginning in a lot of ways. The impact of these grants is to begin the work of identifying the barriers that face Black students at StFX and doing the work to address those issues.”
SIGNIFICANT, LASTING IMPACT
Claire Joseph, a fourth year student in the StFX Rankin School of Nursing, who has spent her time at StFX studying health policy, social determinants of health and health research, will undertaken a project, "Barriers and Facilitators to Accessing Sexualized Violence Prevention and Response Services for Racialized Students on a University Campus in Canada." She says the most exciting part about this opportunity for her is the ability to really get her work out there.
“I am so excited to have access to mentors from the McKenna Centre and look forward to the guidance, support, and connections this opportunity provides for us. I was interested in participating because I saw this grant in alignment with my values. Social justice, equity, and leadership are very central to my personal goals as well as the goals of this grant program. I hope that my research will highlight actionable areas where sexualized violence services can become more accessible for racialized students.”
For her project, she hopes the grant will have a significant and lasting impact by creating more equitable learning conditions for racialized students.
“Overall, I think these grants will allow Black and Indigenous students to feel represented in research and also allow us to benefit from the projects as they are designed to better support our education. These grants will also have a huge impact on the students who receive them, providing confidence, mentorship and also leadership experience to help us reach new heights in our own academic careers and beyond.”
Article written by Kayla Klym (email@example.com)
On September 8th, 2020 the first comprehensive assessment of Earth’s heat inventory was published. The report is based on the concerted efforts of Karina Von Shuckmann and 37 co-authors from scientific institutions across the globe. This collaborative effort supported by the Global Climate Observing System combined cutting edge climate science and a team of multidisciplinary researchers to answer the question of where heat is distributed into the Earth system using a fundamental metric called the Earth Energy Imbalance (EEI). This single number holds significant value in characterizing the current state of Earth’s climate and, along with knowledge of other metrics such as atmospheric CO2 amounts and global surface temperatures, will be critical in our race to understand and mitigate impacts of global climate change.
The EEI is determined as the changes in the global radiation balance at the top of the atmosphere as solar energy arrives at Earth and is radiated back into space. The EEI metric plays a crucial role in determining the temporal evolution of the climate on a global scale. A positive EEI means that less energy is going out than is coming in, and global warming results. As global temperatures continue to rise it is critical to understand where this excess heat is distributed among the land, oceans, atmosphere, and cryosphere and how this will impact society as the Earth system struggles to accommodate heat driven by anthropogenic and natural climate forcings.
The authors conducted a state-of-the-art heat inventory for the time period 1971-2018 that includes an assessment of ocean warming and estimates of heat gains in the atmosphere, on land, and in the cryosphere. Their findings indicate that the EEI is continuing to grow, and that it is also accelerating. Observations indicated a long-term earth system heat gain total of 358 ± 37 ZJ. This is equivalent to a global heating rate of 0.47±0.1 W m^(-2) for the full study period of the past 58 years. The EEI for the period from 2010-20 was 0.87±0.12 W m^(-2), indicating a significant increase in the past decade. The study also broke down the amount of heat gain in the various components of the Earth system for 1971-2018 (2010-2018), with the majority of heat gain reported in the global ocean at 89% (90%), 6% (5%) experienced over land, 4% (3%) available for melting of ice, and 1% (2%) available for atmospheric warming.
The study also detailed what must be done to stabilize the climate and bring Earth back towards an energy balance and quasi-equilibrium. To achieve this the EEI must be reduced to approximately zero, and the amount CO2 in the atmosphere would need to be reduced from 410 to 353 ppm to increase heat radiation to space by .87 W m^(-2).
Unsurprisingly, this reduction of the EEI to approximately zero is no easy task. Awareness of this metric for both the public and scientific community is critical in ensuring that research and observations that support its continued use will be critical to success. Climate stabilization is the central goal of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established in 1992 and the Paris Agreement in 2015, and the authors have called upon implementation of the EEI into the global stocktake as we continue to assess our progress and mitigate the damage already inflicted. We are running out of time in our race to slow global warming, and if we are to make progress in climate stabilization the public and scientific community must be aware of the useful nature of metrics like the EEI and the valuable information included in the heat inventory. For metrics like the EEI to be used effectively as a guide in our progress to mitigate global warming, there must be continued quantification and reduced uncertainties in the heat inventory. If this is to occur the global climate observing system must be maintained and evolved to fill gaps in sampling and establish an international framework for research of the Earth heat inventory.
Dr. James Hansen, prominent former NASA climate scientist and activist for the mitigation of global warming, dubbed the research team “Sentinel of the Home Planet” in a recent article and stressed the importance and attention it deserves if we are to work towards a healthier planet for future generations. He highlighted the importance of reliable monitoring of the energy imbalance, specifically in the oceans as their thermal inertia is the cause of planetary energy imbalance. Previous work by Dr. Hansen, Karina von Shuckmann, and other researchers identified a positive EEI, and the research published in this article serves as a conclusion to the theory that there is a large energy imbalance and that global warming is almost certain based on decadal timescales. This research significantly contributes to understanding aspects of climate stabilization set out in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992 and the Paris Agreement in 2015, and the results will also be included in the IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report: Climate Change set for release in 2022.
A key aspect that made this study so successful was the multidisciplinary and collaborative nature of the research. As we work to produce research to support a sustainable world for future generations, we will need accurate and reliable data that is analyzed in a collaborative manner by experts across the globe in a multitude of disciplines. Two PhD students working at the StFX Climate Services and Research Centre through the StFX-Memorial University of Newfoundland Doctoral agreement - Almudena García-García and Francisco José Cuesta-Valero, and Dr. Hugo Beltrami -StFX’s Canada Research Chair in Climate Dynamics - are contributing authors of the paper. They are responsible for the analysis of geothermal data and the evaluation of the land energy component for this assessment. Their contributions and research align with the goals of the StFX Climate Services and Research Center of tackling questions about climate and climate vulnerability using expertise in climate modelling, climate science, and other social and scientific areas of study. The Center contributes to the training of future scientists to facilitate the development of cutting-edge research included in collaborative studies such as this one.
von Schuckmann, K., Cheng, L., Palmer, M. D., Hansen, J., Tassone, C., Aich, V., Adusumilli, S., Beltrami, H., Boyer, T., Cuesta-Valero, F. J., Desbruyères, D., Domingues, C., García-García, A., Gentine, P., Gilson, J., Gorfer, M., Haimberger, L., Ishii, M., Johnson, G. C., Killick, R., King, B. A., Kirchengast, G., Kolodziejczyk, N., Lyman, J., Marzeion, B., Mayer, M., Monier, M., Monselesan, D. P., Purkey, S., Roemmich, D., Schweiger, A., Seneviratne, S. I., Shepherd, A., Slater, D. A., Steiner, A. K., Straneo, F., Timmermans, M.-L., and Wijffels, S. E.: Heat stored in the Earth system: where does the energy go?, Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 12, 2013–2041, https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-12-2013-2020, 2020.
StFX chemistry professor Dr. Geniece Hallett-Tapley is one of only 20 researchers nationally selected as a $25,000 Imperial University Research Award recipient.
Imperial Oil has awarded funds to Dr. Hallett-Tapley’s lab for the project: “Visible Light Mediated Refinery Waste Degradation using Noble Metal Nanoparticle/Niobium Oxide Composite.” The grant is renewable over two years.
“Essentially, this work will aim to design a new class of chemical solids. These materials will then be examined in waste product degradation in the petroleum industry,” Dr. Hallett-Tapley says.
She says the most important aspect of this work is that the solids can be activated by visible light, the portion of the solar spectrum that is most commonly exploited in the solar cell industry – considerably lower in cost and energy than many other light sources that are employed in past photodecomposition studies.
“My hope is to develop a more energy and cost-effective means of degrading common fossil fuel pollutants, to contribute towards and improve the environmental sustainability of the fossil fuel industry, as it currently stands.”
Dr. Hallett-Tapley says she feels the current work holds considerable environmental impacts, given the known desire to deviate from fossil fuel energy sources. “However, it is widely understood that the Canadian oil industry is a pillar of the national economy. Therefore, finding ways to make oil harvesting in the oil sands slightly more environmentally friendly and also establishing protocols that maximize use of the by-products of this industry should be of high importance.”
One of the aspects of the project that most excites her is the potential to involve StFX undergraduate students in a project that has considerable industrial applicability, as well as the opportunity to expand the “photocatalytic knowledge” she and her students have gained over the years to an industrially relevant project.
Imperial Oil awards up to 20 grants of $25,000 a year nationally from a $500,000 budget for academic research. The grants are awarded to successful applicants specifically for research projects led by full-time faculty members to support research work carried out by university students under their direction. The research interests of this fund are primarily oriented towards the fossil fuel industry and are wide-reaching with projects interested in environmental remediation, chemical transformation of fossil fuel byproducts into valuable industrial chemicals, analytical techniques associated with the petroleum industry, and several other engineering and refinery-based studies.
Dr. Hallett-Tapley says she was quite surprised to learn the news as she had received notice of the successful application during the COVID lockdown in late March. “However, I was quite honoured that the proposed work was recognized by the Imperial Selection Committee as a potential valuable contribution towards improving the environmental impacts of the petroleum industry and pleased that the application was well received given is largely contingent on contributions from undergraduate researchers,” she says.
“I feel it showcases the importance of undergraduate researcher contributions and that our primary research model here at StFX can enable meaningful contributions to both industrial and fundamental scientific research communities.”
As new students filed into the Keating Centre on Sept. 10th, the first of two Welcome Days at StFX, members of the Class of 2024 were immediately welcomed by StFX staff members with a friendly greeting, conversation, and directions on the day.
While the process for welcoming new and returning students this year looks much different than how StFX traditionally kicks off the school year, what remains constant is the warmth of the welcome.
“Despite things being quite different this year, our students will be greeted with the same X spirit, care and excitement that is the hallmark of StFX Welcome and Orientation Days,” says Elizabeth Yeo, Vice President Students.
Moving into residence
Toronto, ON mother and daughter Karen McCormick, a 1986 StFX graduate, and Katie Braid, starting her first year in human kinetics, say Welcome Day was a success.
“It was very energetic, with (the student orientation crew) O-Crew, and it was very safe, with distancing and everyone wearing masks. People were respecting boundaries. It was well organized, with all the extra measures, and lots of people were stopping to talk and say hello,” says Ms. Braid.
The first year human kinetics student says she wanted to come to StFX as her mother and other family members are graduates of the university and they always speak well of the school. She also wanted to experience the atmosphere. “The school spirit is something I was interested in being part of.”
Ms. McCormick says the communication from StFX prior to coming to Welcome Day was clear and she and Katie felt confident with the information received. “I’m very pleased and proud she is coming here,” she says.
She says the new protocols put in place have allowed students and staff to return to StFX safely. “From the masks, hand sanitizer stations, to designated seats ensuring social distancing while in class, StFX has thought of everything. While no one likes to wear the masks and we are all eager to return to a normal life, I think we can all agree we have to be vigilant in our commitment to keeping both X and the greater Antigonish community safe.”
Isaac Faubert of Ottawa, ON, who is going into his first year, says he had an amazing day on Welcome Day. He had completed his 14-day isolation off-campus. He says he chose StFX as his older brother had attended and mentioned all the great things about the university.
“I was very excited to move in and it was easily accessible to my parents and I. It was great with the staggered times, so it was very easy to move in,” he says. “The new protocols were amazing and I felt very safe the whole time. It was an amazing job from StFX.”
Pink-shirted members of O-Crew are there to greet students and help direct people, bringing their energy in a masked and physically distanced way.
Campus tours are offered, and in the evenings, residence leaders have planned activities with their communities.
Family information sessions, live Q&A sessions and welcomes from Dr. Hakin and Students’ Union president Sarah Elliot were recorded and circulated to students and families.
On September 12th and 13th, returning students will move into residence, checking in at the Keating Centre in a similar way.
September 12th is the official kick-off of Orientation.
Some StFX students returned to campus early this fall for an immersive learning experience in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Earth sciences professor Dr. Dave Risk, along with course facilitators Katlyn MacKay and Chelsie Hall, took six students to the national park for the Environmental Earth Science field course.
The students learned how to use equipment for sampling soil, water, air, vegetation, meteorology, and how to snap and analyze air photos taken by drone. They also learned how to navigate through the woods, and to work effectively as an outdoors team, Dr. Risk says.
As has been the case for over a decade, Parks Canada facilitated the visit and allowed the group to stay together at the Big Intervale field station.field course 2020 1.jpeg
“Ecosystems around the station are extremely varied and make for a unique learning experience, from deciduous-coniferous Acadian forests at sea level, to extensive boreal forest, to treeline-type Taiga ecosystems on the 500m-high plateau,” Dr. Risk says.
Even though several individuals had to sleep outside the station in tents for physical distancing, the group had no trouble staying healthy and fit.field course 2020 2.jpeg field course 2020 22.jpeg
The Environmental Earth Science field course has been flagged by students as one of the StFX's high impact courses and is offered every year to third year students taking Climate and Environment or Environmental Earth Sciences.
Dean Eaton has an exciting year ahead: the 2020 StFX graduate, who received a joint first class honours degree in physics and mathematics, is starting this September as a graduate student in the group of 2018 Nobel Prize winner Dr. Donna Strickland at the University of Waterloo.
“The part that excites me the most about joining the group is that it is quite the small group unlike a lot of other groups at the graduate level. It will have very significant effects on starting my professional career, as people will see both of our names on paper(s) we will hopefully be publishing together while I’m completing my masters here,” says Mr. Eaton of Bridgewater, NS, who received StFX’s 2020 Yogi Joshi Prize for Excellence in Physics.
StFX Physics Department chair Dr. Peter Marzlin welcomed news of the accomplishment.
“We are always very proud of our alumni and they often let us know how well they feel prepared for grad school. However, Dean has been an exceptional student, who was able to complete a fantastic honours project while also running the undergraduate physics conference AUPAC 2020. I guess Dr. Strickland, whom he met through his involvement with AUPAC, was just as impressed with him as we are,” says Dr. Marzlin.
Mr. Eaton says the opportunity came about in part as he was the co-lead organizer for the Atlantic Undergraduate Physics and Astronomy Conference (AUPAC) 2020 conference held at StFX and he was in charge of booking and liaising with guest speakers.
Along with Dr. Strickland, the conference also attracted Dr. Renee Horton, a NASA engineer and advocate for diversity and inclusion in science, and Dr. Allan H. MacDonald, Wolf Prize and Herzberg Medal recipient, professor at University of Texas, Austin and a StFX alumnus, as speakers.
“We very early identified Donna as someone we would want to come speak at our conference. We tried to set the bar high for the conference as it had never had a Nobel speaker before,” he says.
Mr. Eaton says he had tried a few emails to her executive assistants, but never received a firm answer. While waiting to hear back, he attended the Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP) congress in 2019 at Simon Fraser University. Dr. Strickland was a conference keynote speaker. Mr. Eaton says he attended a social after her lecture and was sitting at an empty table when she joined him to talk. They talked about the conference, graduate school, his current research, and he says shortly afterwards, Fraser Turner, a former graduate student of Dr. Strickland’s and fellow StFX graduate, joined the conversation. Mr. Eaton says they spoke about him potentially working for her in graduate school, which led him to visit last Thanksgiving to see the lab, talk more with Dr. Strickland in person, and to visit the campus and the city.
He says he isn’t yet sure what the focus of his research will be, as there are multiple projects he can take on for his master’s, but that it will be in the area of non-linear optics.
Along with AUPAC 2020 and the CAP congress, while at StFX, Mr. Eaton also attended the AUPAC in 2019 and the 2019 Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference (CUPC) where he presented his summer research. He held a teaching assistant position for a first year physics lab and a second year circuits lab and participated in summer research after his first, second, and third year at StFX. He was also part of the swim team his first two years at StFX and was vice-president of the volleyball society in his third year.
“StFX has definitely helped and prepared me enough for this,” he says.
“Having the smaller classes and a small department let me do more research and as a teaching assistant, than what would be possible at almost any other university in the world,” he says. “On top of having amazing professors who take the time to go above and beyond in the upper year courses to ensure we are ready for graduate school.”
A new study from StFX is shedding light on coping difficulties individuals are having against the backdrop of COVID-19 and the mass shooting in Nova Scotia in April.
The study, “Tragedy during COVID-19: A qualitative study of coping with a spree shooting during a pandemic,” was led by StFX psychology professor Dr. Karen Blair, StFX adjunct professor Dr. Rhea Hoskin, and StFX graduate and Queen’s University PhD student Laura de la Roche, who took the lead in analyzing the survey data.
Ms. de la Roche says the survey found participants discussed being overwhelmed and experiencing continuous feelings of hopelessness faced with these simultaneous crises; they worried about both their own and others' mental well-being.
“Many participants reported the shooting changed their perspective towards the COVID-19 regulations creating frustration towards them, specifically the regulations barring any socialization with family and friends. They discussed the inability to manage both tragedies, and having to avoid thinking about one, either the pandemic or shooting, in order to cope with the other,” she says.
UNDERSTANDING COPING STRATEGIES
Dr. Blair, who has been studying collective grief responses to mass shootings since 2016, including the Pulse Nightclub, Pittsburgh Synagogue, and Christchurch Mosques, says coping abilities following a spree shooting during a pandemic have never been researched and are important to understand so support systems can be established should multiple simultaneous tragedies occur in the future.
Understanding the coping strategies of those impacted by the Nova Scotia shooting during the pandemic may help us understand if and why individuals are using maladaptive or adaptive coping strategies, she says.
Ms. de la Roche, who presented the survey’s findings in early August at the online Canadian Psychological Association conference, says their preliminary analyses explored responses to two specific, open-ended questions.
The survey had asked: 1) how has the spree shooting influenced or changed your ability to cope with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and 2) how has your ability to cope with or respond to the spree shooting in Nova Scotia been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The spree shooting, they found, negatively impacted the individual’s ability to cope with the ongoing pandemic, and acted as a barrier to accessing their usual social support systems, such as family and friends, as well as their sense of connection to their community.
She said participants reported decreased adherence to COVID-19 regulations, decreased ability to cope with the ongoing pandemic and a decreased sense of connection and availability to social and interpersonal supports.
Survey participants also reported increased mental health challenges, concern for their own and others’ mental health, and need for interpersonal support, the researchers say.
Importantly, they say, these themes were present across the participant pool—simply having a heartfelt connection to Nova Scotia brought the tragedy of this event close to people and made it harder for them to cope with the pandemic, even if they were not personally connected to any of the victims or their families.
The researchers found too that when asked how COVID-19 impacted the ability to cope with the spree shooting, participants reported decreased adherence to COVID-19 regulations, decreased ability to mourn and cope socially, and decreased availability of social support.
They reported increased frustration with online updates pertaining to COVID-19 as well as the shooting, mental health challenges, emotional instability and community support. The overshadowing of the spree shooting by COVID-19 updates was upsetting to the participants and they found it difficult to cope with their emotions related to the spree shooting. Many participants discussed their increasing mental health challenges, however, the outpouring community support was discussed as a positive influence to their well-being.
For both questions, participants discussed being overwhelmed and feelings of hopelessness faced with simultaneous crises. They discussed the inability to manage both and having to avoid thinking about one to cope with the other. Feelings of anxiety, sadness, fear and stress were expressed while discussing their difficulties coping with the pandemic and shooting.
“The results of this study demonstrate the influences of simultaneous crises on individuals’ ability to cope and maintain their mental health and stability, specifically when faced with the COVID-19 regulations restricting interpersonal interactions,” says Ms. de la Roche.
Dr. Blair says despite studying this topic for four years, she never quite expected to be facing the prospect of such an event here in Nova Scotia.
“I think that fits well with what my participants express as well—there’s always the sense that ‘that won’t happen here’—and yet, here we are.
“It was very challenging to decide whether to extend my research to include the Nova Scotia shooting. On the one hand, it was another mass shooting event that impacted a very tightly knit community that shares an important identity, being Nova Scotian. On the other, it felt a bit too close to home and it is always challenging with this line of research to approach it respectfully and to not make anyone feel uncomfortable.”
Dr. Blair says in the end, based on many past participants telling them that participating in these studies has been helpful in allowing them time to sit and really think about their thoughts and feelings in response to the event, she decided to launch a similar study based on the shooting in Nova Scotia. There was the added element of the pandemic, which made the event unique compared to others she’d studied.
The researchers recruited participants through online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, making the survey available worldwide. A total of 388 participants completed the survey, 316 of whom completed the required open-ended questions specific to the current study.
Participants who completed the survey were predominantly located in Canada (96.5 per cent), specifically within Nova Scotia (82.4 per cent). The participants outside of Canada all had a connection of some sort to Nova Scotia such as family, friends, work, previous home location, and school.
QUALATIVE RESEARCH EYE OPENING
Ms. de la Roche completed her undergraduate degree in psychology at StFX two years ago, where she took multiple classes with Dr. Blair. “When an opportunity to work with Dr. Blair in her lab in a research capacity as a volunteer presented itself, I was extremely excited. I had some experience with qualitative analysis and reports from both classes and my master’s thesis work at Trent University, and therefore was able to jump into the qualitative work within the KLB Research lab,” she says.
She says while not the focus of her master’s thesis work, she has had a growing interest into how individuals cope during crises and the influence of the current social environment on individual’s well-being.
Ms. de la Roche says qualitative work is always eye-opening as you glimpse into the participants’ lives through their own words and descriptions. “This study has been no exception and has furthered my interest in including a qualitative viewpoint in my future research. No previous studies have had the ability to investigate how individuals cope when faced with a shooting in the midst of a global pandemic. I am incredibly honoured to be able to articulate and summarize the coping difficulties individuals are currently having and hopefully shed light on how the environment created by the pandemic has influenced their coping abilities.
“Working in the KLB Research lab with this study will be instrumental in furthering not only my academic-based experience, but also in directing my interest and understanding of what coping research entails when it involves sensitive topics and tragedies, such as the spree shooting and pandemic,” she says.
“StFX is the unique and special kind of place, unlike other universities, where even after you’ve graduated and been gone for two years, you continue to have lasting connections with former professors. My time at StFX and the connections made there set me up to continue having great research and learning opportunities, exemplified through this study taking place not only over the summer, but during a pandemic, that will continue to serve me as I continue into my PhD studies at Queen’s University this fall.”
A ring that means so much to so many is also now giving back to support the next generation.
The X-Ring Store, which opened on the StFX campus in September 2016, has already donated over $40,000 into helping students.
Ever since the store opened, all net proceeds from purchases of the X-Ring—iconic symbol of Xaverian pride, accomplishment and community—have gone directly into the Xaverian Fund, designed to provide student scholarships and bursaries to ensure a StFX education is available to all deserving students regardless of financial background. The Xaverian Fund also helps bring a number of top academic students to campus through a variety of scholarship opportunities.
Since 2016, the X-Ring Store has donated over $40,000 to the general Xaverian Fund, and most recently, this funding has been directed into the Senior Class Gift Fund, which annually identifies a student need and helps give back. In the past three years, the Senior Class Gift Fund has paid it forward, creating scholarships through the Student Refugee Fund, the Emergency Mental Health Fund and the Family Helps Family Fund.
The contribution from the X-Ring Store in some cases has been between 25-50 per cent of the funds raised for the class gift, all student-led initiatives. These have included:
1. Class of 2017—Funding an X-Ring bursary for a senior student who embodies what it means to be a Xaverian.
2. Class of 2018—Funding a bursary for a refugee student.
3. Class of 2019—Funding a mental health bursary for a student in crisis.
4. Class of 2020—Family Helps Family bursary for students experiencing personal loss.
Bob Hale, Director, Ancillary Services, says when the X-Ring Store opened, they wanted to positively impact the community and the idea to donate the net profits of X-Ring sales to scholarships and bursaries was seen as a terrific opportunity to invest in students and give back to the Xaverian community.
“Being able to give back to those students who are in need helps you achieve a greater sense of personal satisfaction and growth. I believe it feels good to help others. With every purchase of a ring from the X-Ring store, our students are giving back to the next generation of Xaverians. It does make a difference,” Mr. Hale says.
Class of 2020 Senior Class Co-Presidents Jonas Lawrence and Taylor Kennah, who helped establish the 2020 senior class gift, the Family Helps Family bursary, have seen the impact.
“As Senior Class Co-Presidents, we wanted to extend a huge thank you to everyone at the X-Ring Store, for this donation as well as all the other support they have given us this year. I think recent events have shown how important family is to all of us, and how impactful a family emergency or trauma can be on a student’s well-being. We know that continued Xaverian generosity like this can ensure that when these things do happen, students can rely on their StFX family to support them,” they say.
StFX students receive their X-Ring on December 3 – the feast of St. Francis Xavier, or StFX Day – each year. The ceremony is one of the most anticipated events in the StFX calendar.
A COVID-19 Pandemic: LGBTQ+ Experiences report, led by StFX psychology professor Dr. Karen Blair, Dr. Diane Holmberg, Acadia University, and Dr. Kathryn Bell, Acadia University, has found that LGBTQ+ Canadians were faring worse during the COVID-19 pandemic than their cisgender and heterosexual counterparts.
In the study, funded by the Nova Scotia COVID-19 Health Research Coalition, LGBTQ+ participants reported lower levels of social support, income, mental and physical well-being, more engagement in avoidant coping, as well as lower ability to engage in World Health Organization recommendations regarding COVID-19.
LGBTQ+ participants’ responses also indicated that they were experiencing identity specific struggles, such as decreased access to community supports and gender affirming care, that may play a role in their lower levels of mental well-being.
“I found it surprising at first that LGBTQ+ Canadians reported less engagement in World Health Organization recommendations regarding COVID-19, such as staying home, regular hand washing and avoiding contact with others,” says StFX alumnus and past StFX Gender and Sexual Diversity Advisor Bre O’Handley, who is a current graduate student supervised by Dr. Blair and authored the LGBTQ+ Experiences report.
“However, LGBTQ+ participants reported that following these recommendations wasn’t feasible for them, which makes sense looking at other findings from the report where LGBTQ+ Canadians, especially transgender and non-binary Canadians, were more likely to be working in spaces where it was difficult to avoid close contact with others and in jobs that did not allow them to work from home.”
Dr. Blair noted the study provided paid and volunteer experience to over 25 students this summer from a variety of institutions including Acadia, StFX, Trent, University of Victoria, University of Ottawa and Queen’s.
Dr. Blair says the findings of the COVID-19 Pandemic: LGBTQ+ Experiences report will be shared directly with Canadian organizations focused on serving LGBTQ+ communities, such as EGALE Canada, The Youth Project (based in Halifax, NS) and the StFX Gender and Sexual Diversity Office, among others.
The findings of the report will also be shared widely through social media, such as Twitter and Instagram, and the report can be found on Dr. Blair’s website.
“The LGBTQ+ Experiences report may prove helpful for these organizations and for Nova Scotia public health in highlighting the unique experiences of LGBTQ+ Canadians during COVID-19,” says Bre O’Handley.
“In knowing that LGBTQ+ Canadians are experiencing increased mental distress and less social support than non-LGBTQ+ Canadians, as well as a loss of LGBTQ+ affirmative community and reduced access to gender affirming medical services, LGBTQ+ organizations and Nova Scotia public health can better determine how to support LGBTQ+ Canadians during COVID-19. LGBTQ+ organizations may choose to focus on offering socially distanced or online community spaces for LGBTQ+ individuals to help fill the gap of LGBTQ+ affirmative social support. Nova Scotia public health may choose to consider how they support transgender Nova Scotians in accessing gender affirming medical services, such as hormone replacement therapy, during the pandemic.”
The report is part of a larger study, “The Ties that Bind: Interpersonal relationships as a source of risk and resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
This study compared Nova Scotians’ wellbeing and coping during the COVID-19 pandemic with other jurisdictions, assessed LGTBQ+ Canadians’ wellbeing and coping during the pandemic relative to non-LGBTQ+ Canadians, and examined Nova Scotians’ experiences with intimate partner violence during the pandemic in comparison to other jurisdictions.
Dr. Blair said this study will address a gap in the knowledge about the risk and resiliency of Nova Scotians and LGBTQ+ Canadians during a time of physical distancing and stay-at-home orders and will offer insights into appropriate mental health and policy solutions.
The participants included in the LGBTQ+ Experiences report included 2,266 Canadians who participated in the COVID-19 Interpersonal Coping Study during the months of May and June. Seven hundred and ninety-four of these participants identified as part of the LGBTQ+ community (228 of which identified as transgender) and 1,468 did not (four participants did not provide enough information to determine which of these groups they belong to). Of the participants, 39.3 per cent were currently located in Nova Scotia, 29.8 per cent in Ontario, 10.2 per cent in British Columbia, and the remainder were dispersed among the other provinces and territories.
The sample of LGBTQ+ Canadians in the LGBTQ+ Experiences report were younger, more likely to be racialized and reported lower income than the non-LGBTQ+ Canadians included in the report. Analyses were run to control for these differences in demographics between the two groups.
Other results from the survey will be coming out soon. A report summarizing the data collected from the survey focusing on factors that influence mask wearing, a report focused on Canadians’ experiences of intimate partner violence, and a report focused on Nova Scotians’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic will all be coming out in early September.
Four research projects at StFX, that range from optimizing care of infants during painful procedures to work on marine biofouling, are receiving over $400,000 in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) for the tools the researchers need to stay ahead and to excel.
The Government of Canada, through the CFI, is giving more than $96 million in funding to support 377 new research infrastructure projects at 55 institutions from coast to coast. This total includes more than $22 million under the CFI’s Infrastructure Operating Fund to assist institutions with the incremental operating and maintenance costs associated with the new infrastructure. This funding—made through the CFI’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF)—helps universities attract and retain top research talent from around the world by providing researchers with the highly specialized infrastructure they need to be leaders in their field.
At StFX, the CFI is supporting four projects with a combined research infrastructure funding total of $411,615. Research Nova Scotia (RNS) is an important funding partner for CFI-approved projects at Nova Scotia's post-secondary education institutions. RNS is providing 1 to 1, dollar for dollar, matching funds to support the projects awarded to Drs. Rodela, Wyeth, Bishop, Toxopeus, and Bertin, totalling at $349,049. These contributions help ensure the viability of the projects.
The four projects funded by CFI include:
• Dr. Tammy Rodela (Biology), Comparative and Environmental Physiology Facility (CEPF), $74,065
• Dr. Erwan Bertin (Chemistry), Pulsed Laser Ablation in Liquids – A New Green Technique to Prepare Electrocatalysts, $74,984
• Drs. Russell Wyeth; Cory Bishop; and Jantina Toxopeus (Biology), Laser Scanning Confocal Microscope for Cellular Studies, $200,000
• Dr. Britney Benoit (Nursing), Optimizing the Measurement and Management of Infant Pain: A Translational Clinical Program of Research, $62,566
ADVANCE RESEARCHBritnet-Benoit-2-MyStFX (002).jpg
Dr. Britney Benoit
“I am very grateful to receive this funding to establish a dedicated lab to advance research for the care of infants and families,” says Dr. Benoit, whose research program aims to optimize care of infants during painful procedures through understanding the effect of parent-led pain management interventions (such as breastfeeding and parent-infant skin-to-skin contact), advancing understanding of how to best measure newborn pain, and translating this evidence into hospital and community care of infants.
“This equipment will specifically allow for the completion of research aimed at understanding and supporting best-practice strategies for assessing and managing pain in newborns when they are undergoing painful procedures required as part of routine clinical care. This infrastructure will enable the completion of interdisciplinary work that engages researchers, healthcare providers, trainees, and parents to generate findings that can have a direct impact on health outcomes for infants and their families,” she says.Russell-Wyeth_MyStFX.jpg
Dr. Russell Wyeth
Cory Bishop.png Dr. Cory Bishop
Dr. Jantina Toxopeus
Drs. Wyeth, Bishop and Toxopeus are also looking forward to the research the funding will help enable. “We in the Biology Department are really excited about being able to replace our aging confocal microscope with such a modern sophisticated device. It will be used by several faculty (and their students) in the department and by others on campus,” they say.
This project acquired a laser scanning confocal microsope in support of several research programs in Biology. The microscope will allow detailed analysis of cellular and subcellular structures to better understand biological processes at those size scales. The projects include work on marine biofouling (the growth of organisms on surfaces) by Drs. Wyeth and Bishop, investigation of the structure of the nervous systems in slugs and snails by Dr. Wyeth, investigation of a symbiosis between a single celled algae and amphibians by Dr. Bishop, and a project initiated by newest faculty member, Dr. Toxopeus, that tackles the cellular mechanisms that allow insects to tolerate being frozen.Erwin-Burton-MyStFX (002).jpg
Dr. Erwan Bertin
In the Chemistry Department, Dr. Bertin says the CFI-RNS grant will allow his group to investigate a novel technique, pulsed laser ablation in liquids (PLAL in short), to prepare nanoparticle electrocatalysts. “PLAL has the advantage of being both an environmentally friendly synthesis technique, and a fairly easy one to scale up. The nanomaterials produced can be used in a variety of applications, ranging from medical contrast agents to catalyst in fuel cells for tomorrow’s hydrogen cars,” he says. “In this project, we are interested in preparing catalysts for a CO2 electrolyzer, a device that will convert, using electricity, CO2 into more useful products.”
Dr. Tammy Rodela says this timely investment in infrastructure from CFI and Research Nova Scotia will support integrative studies to understand how fish structure their biological responses to multiple environmental stressors. “Funds will be used to create state-of-the-art zebrafish facilities that enable the precise control of environmental conditions and purchase specialized laboratory equipment. This CFI and Research Nova Scotia support expands the depth and breadth of facilities at StFX and creates excellent research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students.”
An exciting new collaboration between Nova Scotia Health and St. Francis Xavier University is expected to positively impact health and healthcare in Nova Scotia communities.
Dr. Britney Benoit has been appointed the inaugural Nova Scotia Health Health Sciences Research Chair at St. Francis Xavier University’s Rankin School of Nursing. The role of this research chair is to build capacity for research that is relevant to provincial health priorities.
“In particular, there is a strong focus on conducting research that leverages academic and health systems partnerships to support knowledge generation and translation for the care of children and families across the province, with a focus on eastern Nova Scotia,” says Dr. Benoit, a StFX graduate, a registered nurse and a researcher who works to improve care for patients with a primary focus on maternal child health and care, assessing and managing infant pain and finding interventions that have strong evidence for optimizing health outcomes.
A core focus of this three-year research chair appointment is to build collaborative partnerships that not only include health researchers and research centres, but also health system leaders, decision-makers, clinicians, and families with a particular focus on network development in eastern Nova Scotia. The research chair appointment spans both StFX and NSH, provides dedicated protected research time, and also has dedicated mechanisms to support provincial heath research partnerships, such as engagement in the NSH Community of Scholars Network.
While this type of embedded clinician-scientist model is more commonly seen in urban settings with tertiary level health centres, it is unique and novel to hold this position in a rural community in Nova Scotia.
“I see this as an incredible opportunity to build capacity for province-wide embedded health scientist models,” Dr. Benoit says.
“I am so pleased to have Dr. Benoit in this important role,” Dr. Gail Tomblin Murphy, vice president of the Nova Scotia Health Research, Innovation & Discovery team, had said in an article published in Nova Scotia Health Research and Innovation annual report 2020. “This is an incredible opportunity to support research and collaboration across our province and to leverage resources and knowledge at a local level.”
The role of the Nova Scotia Health Health Sciences Research Chair is to build capacity for research that is relevant to provincial health priorities. This feat can only be accomplished by fostering collaboration and leveraging expertise across academic and health systems, she says.
EXCITED BY OPPORTUNITY
“I am excited by the opportunity to create meaningful partnerships to do research that is responsive to health system needs – and to see the impact of research on care delivery and outcomes for families. Having the dedicated time to work to advance research that can impact on health and healthcare in communities across Nova Scotia is an absolute privilege,” says Dr. Benoit.
Dr. Benoit, who holds a PhD in nursing from Dalhousie, a MSc in nursing from McGill, and a BSc in human nutrition from StFX, says she has specific designated activities that she will be working toward to achieve the objectives of the chair position.
“As a new independent health investigator, a considerable amount of my initial focus in this position has and will be on building collaborations with both academic and health systems partners across the province. In my view, close collaboration with interdisciplinary health researchers, health systems leaders, clinicians, and families is crucial to ensuring that we are asking and answering research questions that are relevant to health and healthcare needs.”
Dr. Benoit says the research and knowledge mobilization objectives of this chair appointment have a strong focus on establishing a productive and independent program of research. “This of course includes submitting for and securing grant funding to support research completion, disseminating of research findings through traditional means, such as publications and conference presentations, while also working closely with health system partners to ensure research findings are integrated into healthcare planning and policy to impact on the care of Nova Scotians.”
MENTOR AND SUPPORT
As an assistant professor in the Rankin School of Nursing at StFX, she continues to teach in the nursing program. Dr. Benoit’s teaching expertise is largely in maternal-child nursing care and nursing research and she will be continuing to teach in these areas across the tenure of this research chair appointment.
“I also view this research chair as an opportunity for dedicated time to mentor and support student involvement in research and look forward to the opportunity to work with StFX nursing students and other interdisciplinary students interested in health research. It’s also an excellent opportunity to showcase the diverse opportunities that students can pursue in a nursing career and the important role of nurse researchers in health science,” she says.
She is also happy to be back at her alma mater.
“I’m thrilled to be back at StFX! When I was a trainee in the Human Nutrition Department, I did honours research under the supervision of Dr. Doris Gillis. This positive mentorship experience and introduction to research was what prompted my pursuit of graduate training. My hope is that I can have that type of positive impact on the students I work with at StFX. Holding this research chair appointment that spans StFX and NSH provides the ideal setting to work closely with university and health system colleagues to provide students the opportunity to complete embedded health research that can have an impact.”
Building capacity for Indigenous-led and supported community-based health research is the aim of a dynamic, diverse, interdisciplinary and inclusive network of Indigenous and academic partners who have come together to form the Wabanaki-Labrador Indigenous Health Research Network.
The network is led by Indigenous communities and regional partners, with the Labrador Institute of Memorial University, St. Francis Xavier University and Dalhousie University, and includes Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik, Passamaquoddy, Inuit, and Innu community members, organizations, health professionals, students, academics, traditional healers and allies from the four provinces of Atlantic Canada.
“This transformative initiative is funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research for up to 15 years, with a maximum funding amount of $700,000 per year. Through a Two-Eyed Seeing, co-learning, and relational approach, this network prioritizes community-initiated and directed research to improve Indigenous health in Atlantic Canada, based on the health priorities of Indigenous peoples,” says Dr. L. Jane McMillan, a StFX faculty member and a co-principal investigator (PI).
Along with Dr. McMillan, co-PI’s in the project include Debbie Martin, Dalhousie University/NunatuKavut (named principal investigator); Margot Latimer, Dalhousie University; John Sylliboy, McGill University/Eskasoni and Millbrook First Nation; and Ashlee Cunsolo, Labrador Institute at Memorial University.
Also involved at StFX are faculty members Drs. Katie Aubrecht, Ann Fox, Cathy MacDonald and Joanne Whitty-Rogers.
“The objectives of the Wabanaki-Labrador Indigenous Health Research Network are to enhance capacity for undertaking meaningful, relevant and respectful Indigenous health research in the region; shift the balance of power in the research relationship from academic institutions to Indigenous communities in the region; support communities to address their health research priorities through top-tier research and research capacity-building; and share the experiences of the network widely and foster its sustainability,” Dr. McMillan says.
She says the name for the network comes from the reference to this vast and diverse region as Wabanaki-Labrador, since Wabanaki refers to the easterly location, where the sun rises first, of the Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy, and Wolastoqiyik and Labrador encompasses the northern and sub-arctic territory of the Inuit and Innu.
The team is directed by the Wabanaki-Labrador Advisory Committee and Elders and Knowledge Keepers from across the Atlantic region and include members of Nunatsiavut Government, Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI, Ugpi’ganjig Health Centre, Eel River Bar FN, Madawaska FN, NunatuKavut Community Council, the Atlantic Policy Congress of FN Chiefs Secretariat, Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre in Halifax, Eskasoni Community Health, Millbrook FN, Union of Nova Scotia Indians and the IWK.
“I am most excited about the principles and the activities of the Wabanaki-Labrador Network,” says Dr. McMillan, noting that the network is guided by the principles of protecting Indigenous knowledge, cultures and ceremonies; increasing sovereignty over research (and the data that results from it); moving forward in a relational way (considering research ethics from the perspective of ‘all our relations’); centering, enhancing, innovating and strengthening Indigenous knowledge in health research; and building capacity for research done in a ‘good way’ through mentorship.
StFX researchers also involved in the network are looking forward to its impact.
“It is exciting to be part of this significant research initiative, which will certainly be impactful on the health and wellbeing of Indigenous peoples of Labrador. The research team certainly has the expertise in Indigenous research with Indigenous communities to make this initiative a reality,” says Dr. Cathy MacDonald.
“I hope that learning with and from a community of people committed to land-based learning and research respects traditional knowledge and helps achieve shared goals,” says Dr. Ann Fox.
Dr. Katie Aubrecht says she is humbled to join John Sylliboy as a Sex and Gender Champion and to learn and work with communities and researchers to decolonize disability, gender and sexualities, and mobilizing to center the knowledges and experiences of Indigenous women, girls, LGBTQ and Two-Spirit People within health research.
Dr. McMillan says the activities of the Wabanaki-Labrador Network include Research and Innovation Co-Learning Lodges, to build capacity in community to direct, lead, and independently oversee the roll-out of community-based health research from design to dissemination.
As well, activities include Systematic Investments in Research Ethics and Governance, including hiring an Indigenous research ethics coordinator to help strengthen the capacity for community-led ethics review processes, enhance Indigenous-specific ethics review processes in academic and governmental institutions, and create a virtual Co-Learning Lodge that provides appropriate ethics materials for researchers; and a Community-Based Research Program that supports workshops and research awards that address community health research priorities.
Additionally, activities include a Trainee Program that builds off the successes of the Atlantic-Indigenous Mentorship Network; Strategic Communications and Knowledge Exchange, to ensure that the work of the Network are shared both strategically and widely; and Knowledge Gardening: Sustainability and Evaluative Activities, such as surveys, the distribution of annual reports, and hosting annual face-to-face meetings to foster shared learnings.
StFX Education professor Dr. Chris Gilham receives $25,000 Standing Together grant to evaluate school-based programming that could help disrupt cycles of domestic violence
StFX education professor Dr. Chris Gilham has received $25,000 in funding from the Nova Scotia government through its Standing Together To Prevent Domestic Violence Connect Grants. The Connect Grants provide one-year funding to support already funded, ongoing projects that help community groups and organizations develop and test new ways to prevent domestic violence, support victims and their families, and share the story of what they are learning about how to address this complex issue. The current grant brings people together to share results, build stronger networks and future plans.
The government will use the learning and evidence gathered from these projects to inform plans for ending the cycle of domestic violence in Nova Scotia.
Dr. Gilham has received this funding for a project entitled, Guys’ Work 7/8: Gendered Healthy Living Classes Nova Scotia, a partnership with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Education, Bridges Counselling, Family Services of Northeastern Nova Scotia, and five Regional Centres of Education. Dr. Gilham is working closely with Moe Green, who has been facilitating and training facilitators for high school guys groups across the province for many years now.
Schools across the province will be implementing Healthy Living classes and groups for male identified youth in Grades 7 and 8. Once that project is complete, the Connect grant will allow for the next phase of the project, which will involve sharing the results with guys group facilitators and community organizations, to discuss lessons learned, facilitator experiences, and how the work can continue to move forward effectively.
“Moe has so much experience, wisdom and thoughtfulness for this work. It’s been an absolute privilege to work with and learn alongside him,” Dr. Gilham says. “We’ve already trained more than 50 school-based guys groups facilitators across the province and the feedback on that training has been overwhelmingly positive. This is mainly because of Moe’s exemplary facilitation skills. COVID-19 has put a pause on the project but we do hope to get back to this work in the fall,” he said.
“Having already received funding last year to evaluate the effectiveness of the guys’ groups, this additional funding will really help us collectively envision and enact a plan to sustain the guys’ groups longer-term, if not expand them significantly” he says.
“The commitment and support of the province, via the Status of Women has been tremendous. This work allows us to do important upstream work with young guys, to help rewrite traditional scripts that say they can’t seek help for themselves or their friends, and especially those messages young guys receive about what it means to be men, and what it means to be in healthy relationships with others.”
StFX X-Women basketball head coach Lee Anna Osei hasn’t let the pandemic slow her down. In fact, she established and founded the Black Canadian Coaches Association (BCCA), a newly formed not-for-profit organization committed to providing a platform for Black Canadians in sport.
“I wanted some way of filling the voids for People of Colour in our sport community at the grassroots, collegiate, and high-performance levels,” comments Osei, who recently completely her second full season as head coach of the X-Women.
“It is also difficult to support and communicate with one another, and with the tragic events of racial violence that took place earlier this year, I think it really became clear to many people across our country, and in our sports community, that there is a lot of work to be done.”
Creating a tangible platform - a website to disrupt the negative narratives and instead celebrate the stories and accomplishments of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour [BIPOC] in the sports industry was the first step. “It is about coming together, along with our allies, as one broader sport community to identify, understand, and make a commitment to eradicate systemic and institutional oppression,” Osei noted.
It is also about celebration. Osei looks to the Black Business & Professional Association (BBPA) Harry Jerome Awards, an annual gala established in memory of Harry Jerome, an outstanding African Canadian Olympic athlete, scholar and social advocate, as the gold standard for celebrating Black excellence.
She notes, “Harry Jerome’s role in Canadian sport gave him that platform, but I think we have fallen short in celebrating people of colour in the many facets of our sport industry - like our Olympians, our small business owners, our up-and-coming prospective and current athletes - who are all forging new and historic paths for People of Colour to aspire towards.”
“Looking at this past decade there has been some monumental Black role models in sport, including Olympian performances by athletes like Andre De Grasse, the appointment of Rowan Barrett as general manager of Basketball Canada, and the establishment of the Michael Pinball Clemons Foundation to support marginalized communities through educational and recreational programming,” continues Osei. “Visibility is important, and it further promotes sport as a tool for social, cultural, educational and physical advancements, especially amongst racialized communities and our youth.”
It is these individuals who inspire her and others to move forward with this initiative and to find ways for People of Colour and allies to come together not just in times of tragedy, but to work together towards a more inclusive and equitable society.
Osei stresses that the BCCA is not just for BIPOC stakeholders, it is for everyone who supports the goal of attaining racial equity in our Canadian sport community. The three objectives of the Black Canadian Coaches Association are celebration, advocacy though allyship, and networking.
In meetings with her fellow coaching colleagues across the country, it became clear that although these conversations are important and necessary, the focus should also be on addressing how to identify systemic anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism within Canadian post-secondary athletic institutions and other high-performance streams, and to implement structural changes.
Osei links the structural changes needed to collecting evidence-based research, something that has never been done on a large scale for BIPOC members in Canadian sports. “Working alongside our sport governance and member institutions can bring about historic, positive change,” she says.
The group has launched an initiative called ‘The Charter for Racial Equity in Canadian Post-Secondary Athletic Institutions.’ The Racial Equity Project involves the enlistment of a top Canadian diversity and inclusion firm, leading academic researchers specializing in race and sport, and the creation of an ad-hoc task force to distribute questionnaires to former and current Black and Indigenous student-athletes, coaches and executives in 2020-21. From the project the group will create a list of recommendations that address how to ensure the ongoing safety, support, and empowerment of BIPOC members within Canadian intercollegiate sports.
Osei has reached out to members at both U SPORTS and the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) with the goal of working together to help reshape policies and practices both at the national and conference level. She says the call to action was well received, and now the challenge is fundraising to get the project officially started.
Within their the call to action the BCCA recommends that every institution have a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) committee, professionally mandated training for sport coaches and executives, as well as a reshaping of policies such as hiring processes and ensuring candidates of racialized backgrounds are at the very least interviewed.
Another consideration for change would be to look at athletic financial award (AFA) policies, which currently have minimum grade standards for both entering and returning student-athletes in order to receive financial assistance. Osei comments that, “The AFA policy is a perfect example of systemic anti-Black racism at play, where a policy that was meant to assist student-athletes, actually marginalizes those who are most vulnerable. It is only compounded by low socio-economic status, a lack of structural support policies, and learning disabilities.”
StFX’s Faculty of Education is honoured to welcome Jane Meader as their Elder-in-Residence for the Master of Education and Master of Adult Education summer programs, which run from July 6 to July 30.
Ms. Meader originates from the traditional lands of Una’maki, now commonly known as Cape Breton, and resides in Membertou, a Mi’kmaw community. She holds many leadership roles within her community of Mi’kma’ki and the larger Indigenous community throughout Canada. She has a long career as a teacher of Mi’kmaw language and culture and is widely sought for her deep teachings on her culture, protocol, and ceremony.
She is a well-respected Knowledge Keeper and her expertise is helping to guide Treaty Education in Nova Scotia. She is also on the national Board of Elders of the Turtle Lodge Center of Excellence in Indigenous Education and Wellness, a place for reconnecting to the earth and sharing Indigenous ancestral knowledge.
She also has many connections to StFX. She is a graduate of both the BEd and MEd programs. Since 2015, she has been teaching on a part-time basis with MEd cohorts specializing in Indigenous Education and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy. She teaches face-to-face classes during the summer program and also teaches online courses. Ms. Meader says she feels privileged and honoured to be in a position to be able to share her knowledge with others.
Eight StFX students—recipients of the Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership’s inaugural Xaverian Leaders Micro-Grants—are spending their summer working on initiatives designed to bring the Xaverian community together during a particularly isolating time.
In all, the McKenna Centre awarded eight grants of $2,500 each to returning StFX students for projects that will help bring the community together and will help build a more compassionate student body in a time of physical distancing brought on by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The projects, part of the newly formed “The Xaverian Leaders Media Network,” range from a wellness initiative designed to counteract adverse effects that the COVID-19 pandemic life can have on mental health and physical wellbeing to an online podcast sharing stories and community.
Grant recipients include Preet Banga; Abby Fraser; Hannah MacDonell, Lauren Sobot, and Grace Moffat; Gabriel Richards; Sophie Hadley; and Kennedy Nangle.
“With the introduction of the Micro-Grants, the McKenna Centre wishes to contribute to ongoing efforts to help our community deal with the significant challenges that the COVID-19 crisis poses for all members of the StFX community,” the McKenna Centre team says.
“The Xaverian Leaders Micro-Grants find innovative ways to maintain the Xaverian community in a time of crisis, to develop ways to be there for each other, to take care of each other, and to allow us to think and feel together despite the fact that we are physically distant from each other.”
StFX Student Services will also collaborate with the grant recipients and is excited by the potential to connect the work of the students, says Elizabeth Yeo, Vice President Students.
“We are building community with new students through the summer and will be guiding our new students to engage with and learn about their new community through the different McKenna Center projects,” says Ms. Yeo.
“This fall, we see great opportunity to connect the work with new approaches to programming for students that we will be offering such as new stress reduction/wellness programming, arts/creative programming, and supporting students to engage with the community through online connections which the projects will do so well.”
Ms. Yeo says being able to combine efforts and bring students into the community through these projects will help to make sure that students will be well taken care of and that they’ll have a great experience supported with the opportunities offered by the micro-grant students’ projects.
“We are very grateful to these students for bringing their unique talents and understanding of StFX to build community and serve their fellow students.”
More information on the grant recipients and their projects follow:
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Recipient: Preet Banga. Preet Banga of India is taking a psychology degree at StFX. In her first year, she worked as a writing tutor at the Student Success Centre and volunteered with the Nova Scotia Health Authority. This fall, she will join the Xaverian Weekly as the news section editor.
Project: Stories of Hope. “Welcome to the "Stories of Hope," where we share experiences and thoughts around the pandemic, the psychological and emotional stress many of us faced, and how we converted it into hope and opportunity for ourselves and those close to us,” she says. “We highlight the challenges that manifest across different social contexts and the solutions created by local communities to enhance social solidarity. These narratives are motivating and inspirational and show the way to live the new normal. For those still trying to navigate the tough times, this is also a platform to seek advice and connect with the community.” All are invited to share their experiences. “Come, join the ‘Stories of Hope’ to take your message to the world.”
Abby Fraser Headshot.jpg Recipient: Abby Fraser. Abby Fraser, of Cape Breton Island, is entering her second year at StFX, where she is taking a psychology degree. During her first year, she became a part of several campus groups, including the Relay for Life executive committee, Burke House Council, and Theatre Antigonish, while also serving as president of the Nova Scotia Secondary Schools Students’ Association (NSSSA).
Project: StFX Art ConneXions. “These unique circumstances have presented us with an urgent need to find new, innovative, and engaging ways to connect with each other when we cannot do so physically. StFX Art ConneXions is a platform where Xaverians can connect with each other using the arts. StFX Art ConneXions will be collecting submissions of any kind of art from StFX students, staff, or alumni.” Expertise is not a requirement. “Use your art to show how you are dealing with the pandemic and to communicate your thoughts and feelings with other Xaverians who may be feeling isolated. This website will be also be a place where you can view art created by Xaverians all over the world. We are all in this together, and this platform will give us a space to think, feel, and share together as a community. This archive of artistic content created by everyday people during a time of crisis will also serve as a form of documentation of this moment in history.”
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Grace Moffatt Headshot.jpg
Recipients: Hannah MacDonell, Lauren Sobot, and Grace Moffat. Hannah MacDonell is from Ottawa, Ontario and is in her final year at StFX pursuing a bachelor’s degree with a double major in computer science and the climate and environment program. This summer, she is working as a researcher at Carleton University developing a climate modelling software. Lauren Sobot is a fourth year student pursuing a joint honours degree in biology and psychology. She has been a campus tour guide since first year, and this summer she is working in a microbiology lab at Dalhousie University. Grace Moffatt is a fourth year student pursuing a major in biomedical health sciences and a minor in social determinants of health. She is the president of Enactus StFX and is director of communications and marketing for the Xavierian Leaders at large.
Project: The Xaverian Files. “Are you feeling homesick for StFX? You're not alone. Join your hosts Hannah, Lauren and Grace, who have teamed up to produce The Xaverian Files, a podcast that aims to get you through the ‘StFX withdrawal’ you may be experiencing as a result of COVID-19,” they say. “The podcast will tell stories of melancholy memories, embarrassing recounts, some heartbreak, and lots of laughter. The StFX community is at the centre of the podcast and each episode, we will choose a new theme ranging from meal hall crushes to campus myths and conspiracy theories.” The trio are inviting all to join them every second Tuesday as they embrace the new normal.
Recipient: Gabriel Richards. Gabriel Richards just finished her second year at StFX, studying political science and history. She is currently looking towards investigative journalism as a career path while working for her second year as the features editor for the Xaverian Weekly and the social media coordinator for the Environmental Society At X. While she was looking forward to going on exchange for the 2020-21 academic year, she is now excited to help bring together a Xaverian version of The Quarantine Diaries.
Project: Xaverians in Quarantine. “Here, in this diary, we will showcase how members of the Xaverian community are tackling their lives within the confines of the new realities,” she says. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many obstacles such as isolation, loss of income, and loss of opportunities. It has also brought about growth, triumph, and fight to make change. Many people are trying new things, like cooking or sewing. Others are learning about new problems, or problems that they were previously unaware of and how to deal with them, such as the massive outpouring of support for the Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ movements. And others still are learning about themselves and how to be the people they want to be. Each week, Xaverians in Quarantine will showcase the diary of a community member that shows how they are managing, growing, or thriving in these circumstances. “In a storybook fashion, we will explore the ups and downs and twists and turns of their current life. It will allow us to stay connected and involved in each other's lives, while also staying up-to-date on how the community as a whole is dealing with these new circumstances.” Each week, they will also present recommendations from the Xaverian community about books to read, movies to watch, podcasts to listen to, etc.
Recipient: Sophie Hadley. Sophie Hadley grew up in Guysborough, NS, and is now in her fourth year at StFX pursuing a history degree with a minor in religious studies. She has been active in the campus community, including currently serving as co-president of the History Society, and participating in the Immersion Service Learning trip to Germany and Poland for Holocaust education.
Project: Narratives of the Nish. “Being away from the things that we know and things that feel so familiar to us as Xaverians feels very salient. During trying times, connecting with others and feeling a sense of community is important,” she says. “Narratives of the ‘Nish” will focus on the people. “Small businesses at this time have been struggling particularly badly with the strains that COVID-19 has put on the economy. Now more than ever, it is important for the public to understand how we can best support the businesses we enjoy during this difficult time. I will be interviewing the many small business owners surrounding StFX and seeing what has changed for them since the pandemic has started.” She will feature stories on how businesses have changed due to COVID-19 as well as fun stories about how the businesses got started. “On “Narratives of the ‘Nish,” you will also find stories from fellow Xaverians, and alumni about their time at StFX. My goal is to house as many unique stories and perspectives regarding the town and X as possible, in hopes of creating an archive of this unprecedented time.”
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Recipient: Kennedy Nangle. Originally from Ottawa, ON, Kennedy Nangle is a fourth year StFX student pursuing an honours degree in biology with a concentration in health sciences. A third generation StFX student, she has been active on campus and in the community, including volunteering at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital.
Project: X-Moves: Community Wellness Resource. “As a result of the current pandemic, everyone has experienced immense change, rattling the foundation on which their everyday stands,” she says. “From daily interactions to changes in routine, the old day-to-day is no more. These drastic changes can mean many things, including the unfortunate adverse effects that quarantine life and physical distancing may bring about, like mental health challenges. This is where we come in! X-Moves strives to connect, unite, and inspire members of the Xaverian community to get outside, get active, and counteract these adverse effects that pandemic life can have on one’s mental health and physical well-being.” X-Moves, she says, is an online activity resource providing information through multimedia content such as blog posts, and videos that encourage and inspire physical activity during COVID-19. This community-oriented platform will serve as a resource and encourage community members to give their own multimedia input and experience with all types of physical activity, ranging from gardening to running. X-Moves serves as a community-focused platform for anything activity-based and as a hub for positivity, encouragement, and inspiration, in hopes of combatting the negative effects of pandemic life as we move together, apart, she says.
A unique collection of art works created behind the barbed wire of a German Nazi concentration camp and extermination centre has received support from a group of StFX students.
Earlier this year, 12 StFX students, accompanied by faculty leader and psychology professor Dr. Margo Watt, participated in an Immersion Service Learning experience to Germany and Poland, where among other places, they visited Auschwitz-Birkenau. The Auschwitz Museum possesses among its holdings a unique collection of works created behind the barbed wire of a German Nazi concentration camp, where art took on extraordinary significance.
The students, who had fundraised in advance of the trip, decided they wanted to donate the money to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, specifically the art exhibit and workshop they attended.
“In February, as a part of an Immersion Service Learning trip, we had the chance to travel to Germany and Poland and visit important historic sites relating to WW2 and Nazi concentration camps,” says Tolmie Belyea, one of the students along with Emma Munroe, Gracie Grieve, Sarah Hopper, Sophie Hadley, Cole Curnew, Alice Bruce, Gregg Anderson, Katie MacIntosh, Madison MacInnis, Marissa MacInnis and Emily Henry.
“Following our trip, we decided as a group that the money we had fundraised earlier in the year should be donated rather than used to cover our expenses. After careful consideration, we chose to donate the funds to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum located in Oświęcim, Poland, specifically we requested that our donation be directed to supporting the art exhibit in which we had the opportunity to participate in a workshop.”
Ms. Belyea says the exhibit featured works made secretly and illegally; works made on orders from the SS to exploit prisoners’ talents; works made by prisoner artists for the Lagermuseum that the Germans set up; and works made after the war by former prisoners.
“The workshop was particularly impactful to our group as it demonstrated the reality about life in the camps, illustrated the need for emotional and aesthetic experiences and portrayed the emotions and internal feels of the victims. We felt these works of art truly represented the emotions that accompanied the prisoners every day and are an important document in history.”
Ms. Belyea says learning about World War Two and the Holocaust from reading a textbook, watching videos, or listening to lectures does not compare to learning while walking through various concentration camps. “Seeing the camps right in front of me added a whole new perspective and set of emotions to my understanding of the horrific events. Personally, this experience made the horrors of the Holocaust real and made me question: What possessed ordinary people to commit such evil acts? What would I have done? How can I be more like those who helped?”
Fellow participant Sophie Hadley, who is entering her senior year of a history degree at StFX, says The Centre for Dialogue and Prayer were amazing hosts during their time at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
“They really help you unpack what you have witnessed and make an effort to ensure that your stay is as comfortable as it can be given the proximity to the camp. I think the camp was impactful in a lot of ways. Some parts are in ruins and others have been preserved so as to help people understand what happened there. The Art Workshop we attended seemed like an interesting new way to understand history that I had previously not encountered before. Many of the paintings – some done by people while they were in the camp, and others when they survived the camp – were very informative about the time. Some of the interned people at the camps commissioned by the Nazi officials to create paintings, which I had not known before the workshop.
“I think this way of helping people understand history was different and I would hope more people get to experience a workshop like that, hence our contribution to the workshop.”
Ms. Hadley says they had all paid for the trip in full and as nice as it would have been to get even a small portion of that back through their fundraising efforts (something they initially considered), they discovered throughout their time in Germany and Poland that many of the museums accepted donations to keep up the exhibits and curate new ones. “We felt that as a slightly more unconventional service learning trip, where a bigger part of our trip was learning rather than service, this would be the best way to incorporate the service aspect.”
Ms. Hadley says the experience had a huge impact on her.
“My focus in history is now on European studies and moving forward I would like to continue my research in Holocaust Education and WW2. I feel like the trip not only provided me with a lot of opportunities to grow academically, but also as a person. I made a lot of new friends, and the connections made with even just our tour guides was so amazing.
“My minor is in religion as well so I am fascinated by culture – you can guarantee I will be back to explore the two countries even more.”
Agnieszka Sieradzka, an art historian and curator at The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, wrote Dr. Watt to thank the StFX students for their donation. “We are very grateful for making a donation when the museum is going through a financial crisis caused by the coronavirus. We will use these funds directly to protect original objects and improve storage and presentations of works of art from our collection.”