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NCCDH collaborates with Toronto Indigenous Health Advisory Circle and MUSKRAT

Tue, 2017-12-12 13:31
Staff from the National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health, hosted by StFX, sat in circle with members of the Toronto Indigenous Health Advisory Circle to begin writing the Circle’s story. The NCCDH is co-writing TIHAC’s story with Rebeka Tabobondung and Erica Commanda of MUSKRAT, an online Indigenous arts and culture magazine

This past month, staff from the National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health (NCCDH), a public health knowledge centre hosted by StFX, sat in circle with members of the Toronto Indigenous Health Advisory Circle (TIHAC) to begin writing the Circle’s story. The NCCDH is co-writing TIHAC’s story with Rebeka Tabobondung and Erica Commanda of MUSKRAT, an online Indigenous arts and culture magazine.

TIHAC is a self-determining advisory group representing Indigenous people in Toronto. It was established through the collaboration of Indigenous and non-Indigenous health agencies in the city, including Toronto Public Health and the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network.

As an organization, TIHAC envisions a thriving, healthy Indigenous community in Toronto through the respectful harmonizing of practices, policies and resource allocation. Its mandates are to guide and advise provincial health systems in their health programs and services for Indigenous people and to influence the policies that impact the health of Indigenous people in Toronto.

The NCCDH has been in conversation with TIHAC members about this partnership for over a year.  Partners hope that telling the story of TIHAC’s success will spark similar collaborations across the country.

The NCCDH’s portion of the project is being led by Karen Fish, a knowledge translation specialist.

She says TIHAC’s story points to a community-driven, culturally inspired approach to improving the health of Toronto’s diverse and inequitably-served Indigenous population.

The story will describe the cultural and spiritual practices that have been foundational to TIHAC’s work. It will also highlight what Circle members, Youth and Elder advisors, and health system staff have learned in working toward “A Reclamation of Well Being,” the name of Toronto’s first Indigenous health strategy for Indigenous peoples in Toronto.

The story will be jointly published by TIHAC and the NCCDH in June 2018.  

Scholarship success allows biology master’s student to conduct month of field work, research in Ireland

Thu, 2017-12-07 15:16
StFX biology professor Dr. David Garbary and master's student Meredith Karcz

Meredith Karcz, a StFX biology master’s student from Burlington, ON, will spend a month in Ireland conducting field work on the impacts of rockweed (Ascophyllum nodosum) harvesting as a scholarship recipient of the Dobbin Atlantic Scholarship Programme, administered by the Ireland Canada University Foundation.

Ms. Karcz, who is supervised by biology professor Dr. David Garbary, is a successful recipient of the scholarship which supports students/faculty from eastern Canada to spend time in Ireland on a collaborative project.

Scholarships are awarded to candidates of the highest calibre, whose work relates to both Irish and Canadian interests and provides the potential to develop ongoing international links. The fund will support a month of field work for her thesis related work in Ireland. It includes travel and $1,200 per week for four weeks.

Ms. Karcz will be hosted at the National University of Ireland Galway by Dr. Dagmar Stengel, a colleague of Dr. Garbary’s, whose lab also studies rockweed harvesting.

Ms. Karcz says she is looking forward to experiencing research on an international level.

“I’m very excited to travel, and to build academic links,” she says.

“This is a marvelous opportunity for a student to have an overseas opportunity to do research associated with their thesis,” Dr. Garbary says.

“The fact this work was funded shows the importance of this seaweed (rockweed) as an economic base and a cultural phenomenon both in Nova Scotia and in Ireland.” This species of seaweed, he says, is among the most important, and more research needs to be done on it. 

The fact that StFX faculty have collaborations overseas also points to the strength of the department, he says.

Rockweed, which is harvested in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and is considered a fishery, is a growing multi-million dollar industry here, Ms. Karcz says. The seaweed is used primarily in agricultural applications and fertilizers.

Research, she says, has primarily taken a species focused approach up until this point, but to properly ensure that current harvest methods are sustainable, the impact on the entire community needs to be assessed.

She says rockweed forms a very dense canopy almost like a kelp, underwater forest. She is trying to understand the impacts harvesting has on the other algal species and invertebrates that inhabit and live underneath the rockweed canopies.

The same seaweed is harvested in Ireland, she says, but they use a different technique. In Nova Scotia, a harvesting rake is used to cut the seaweed on a yearly basis. In Ireland, the harvesting is done by hand with a blade, on the shores when the tide is out.

She’ll be researching questions such as what are the differences in biological community structures based on different harvesting methods and is one method more sustainable than the other. 

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women held at StFX

Wed, 2017-12-06 15:44
Ceremony co-hosts, l-r, third year StFX student Karen Nembhard and RCMP Cst. Deepak Prasad

Members of the StFX community took time to remember and to issue a call to action against gender-based violence during the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women commemoration ceremony held on campus Dec. 6.

“Think of an action that you can do to end sexualized violence,” RCMP Cst. Deepak Prasad, who co-hosted the ceremony with third year StFX student Karen Nembhard, said to the large crowd gathered in the Schwartz auditorium.

“You guys are the people who can make a difference,” he said as he quoted a saying noting the difference between ‘one day’ versus ‘day one.’ “Today is day one. That’s our call to action.”

Ms. Nembhard says while much has been done, gender-based violence is still very much a reality and problem in our communities.

“We look forward to continued change in our community,” she said as the co-hosts reiterated the words of previous ceremony speakers encouraging everyone to explore ways they can get involved to end gender-based violence.

December 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada. Established in 1991 by the Parliament of Canada, the day marks the anniversary of the murders in 1989 of 14 young women at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal.

As well as commemorating the 14 young women whose lives ended in an act of gender-based violence that shocked the nation, December 6 represents an opportunity for Canadians to reflect on the phenomenon of violence against women in our society.

It is also an opportunity to consider the women and girls for whom violence is a daily reality, and to remember those who have died as a result of gender-based violence. And finally, it is a day on which communities can consider concrete actions to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.

Guest speaker Dr. Robyn Bourgeois, a professor of women’s and gender studies at Brock University, and formerly of StFX’s Coady International Institute, delivered a videotaped address. In particular, she focused on the reality of violence against Indigenous women.

As an Indigenous woman herself and as the mother of two Indigenous girls, she says they live in the shadow of some disturbing statistics and a certain degree of fear every day. Indigenous women, she says, represent only about four per cent of the population, but account for almost 20 per cent of the homicide cases in Canada. Dr. Bourgeois said similarly Indigenous women are nearly six times more likely to be victims of homicide and about 2.5 times more likely to be victims of violence than non-Indigenous.

Dr. Bourgeois provided some context for this, spoke about the challenges faced, and provided strategies to end this violence, including honouring and recognizing the sovereignty, self-determination and unique knowledge of Indigenous women and involving them in any initiatives, putting pressure on government to take action to end this violence, and of supporting people and efforts working towards this goal.  

Also during the ceremony, Dean of Science Dr. Petra Hauf presented first year StFX student Claudia Fulton with both the Memorial Scholarship for Women in Engineering as well as the General Motors of Canada Ltd. Women in Science Bursary, awarded for leadership potential and academic standard.

2017 day of remembrance scholarship.jpg

Dean of Science Dr. Petra Hauf (left) presents the Memorial Scholarship for Women in Engineering and the General Motors of Canada Ltd. Women in Science Bursary to first year student Claudia Fulton

Margie McKinnon, Director of StFX’s Health, Counselling & Accessible Learning Centre also spoke, providing background on the development of StFX’s standalone sexual violence policy launched last fall. She strongly encouraged everyone to familiarize themselves with the policy, and provide input.

The key goal of all our work is to support and protect the rights of survivors, she said.

“I invite you to be part of this work,” she said as she issued a call to action to everyone to make a personal commitment to learn more about sexualized violence.

It’s not enough to be aware of sexualized violence, and it’s not enough to think the responsibility of sexualized violence prevention lies with this committee or other groups, she said.

“As individuals, each one of us has the power to stop sexualized violence,” she said. “Take a risk, challenge all forms of sexualized violence when you see it.”

2017 day of remembrance singer.jpg

Fourth year student Brenda Gatera sang during the ceremony 

Fourth year StFX student Brenda Gatera gave a stirring musical performance during the ceremony while Ms. Gatera and Ms. Nembhard provided a moving closing performance. 

Adult education professor invited plenary speaker at major international UNESCO forum in South Korea

Tue, 2017-12-05 14:05
Dr. Leona English

Dr. Leona English, a professor of adult education at StFX, recently returned from giving a plenary address at a UNESCO forum in Suwon, Korea. Attended by some 400 delegates from 98 countries, this UNESCO event monitored progress in adult education goals articulated at the last CONFINTEA (international adult education conference), convened by UNESCO in Brazil in 2009. 

Dr. English presented findings from the Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE III), which she worked on in 2015 at the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) in Hamburg, Germany. GRALE III represents progress in adult education goals in 139 UNESCO Member States, over a seven year period.  Attendees of the CONFINTEA Mid-Term Review were representatives of UN agencies, governments, UNESCO commissions, NGOs and ministries of education. As well as presenting GRALE III, Dr. English was a member of the writing team that drafted the outcome document from the conference, the Suwon Statement.

In 2016, Dr. English was made an honorary fellow of UIL, along with six international leaders in adult education. On that occasion, she was also part of a global Think Tank hosted by UIL to deliberate on Lifelong Learning and the Sustainable Development Goals, in light of the UN’s Agenda 2030. She is now editing a special issue of the UNESCO journal, International Review of Education, to profile the outcomes of the Think Tank. 

Mary Coyle, executive director of StFX’s McKenna Centre, appointed to Senate of Canada

Mon, 2017-12-04 14:18
Mary Coyle

Congratulations to Mary Coyle, the executive director of StFX’s Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership and former director of the Coady International Institute and StFX Vice-President, who has been appointed to the Senate of Canada by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Ms. Coyle was one of two appointments announced on Dec. 4, 2014. Also named to the Senate is Mary Jane McCallum of Manitoba.

“A long-time champion for women’s leadership, gender equality, and the rights of Indigenous Peoples, Mary Coyle has forged a distinguished career in the post-secondary education and non-profit sectors, with a focus on international and local development,” said the announcement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Ms. Coyle joined StFX in 1997, serving as Vice President and Director of the Coady International Institute, a centre of excellence in community-based development and leadership education. During her tenure, the Coady grew significantly, enhancing its global education and innovation agenda and expanding programming for women, youth, and Indigenous Peoples.

Since 2014, she has worked as the executive director of the Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership, a centre devoted to developing student leadership. She also continues to work as an advisor and facilitator for various organizations, including the Haitian Centre for Leadership and Excellence and the Friends United Indigenous Arts and Culture Initiative.

Ms. Coyle played an instrumental role in the establishment of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, and the Indian School of Microfinance for Women, the announcement says.

She holds a diploma in French Language from the Université de Besançon in France and a Bachelor of Arts in Languages and Literature with a major in French and a minor in Spanish from the University of Guelph.

After working for the Ministry of Commerce and Industry as a Cuso International cooperant in Botswana, she earned a Master of Arts in Rural Planning and Development at the University of Guelph. She subsequently worked as a rural development advisor in Indonesia and later to support two State Islamic Universities develop their community engagement strategies.

Prior to joining StFX, she spent a decade as executive director of Calmeadow. Ms. Coyle helped the organization pioneer the creation of the world’s first commercial micro finance bank, BancoSol, in Bolivia and establish the First Peoples Fund to provide micro loans to First Nations and Métis communities in Canada.

She has three daughters and six grandchildren.

 

"The Day Has Finally Come!" StFX senior class receives coveted X-Rings

Sun, 2017-12-03 16:29
StFX students celebrate after receiving their X-Rings on December 3, 2017.

Click here to watch the 2017 StFX X-Ring Ceremony!

 

St. Francis Xavier University was brimming with energy and excitement today, December 3, 2017, as almost 900 students received what’s become a global symbol of StFX pride and perseverance: their X-Ring.

“The day has finally come!” exclaimed StFX President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Kent MacDonald ’86 ’93 upon greeting students at StFX’s Charles V. Keating Centre.

In his remarks, Dr. MacDonald welcomed friends and family of students who watched the ceremony from overflow rooms on campus, as well as those joining from across the globe via live-stream.

He also spoke about his perspective on what sets StFX students apart.

“I get asked often what makes StFX students different than others,” said Dr. MacDonald. “One of the things I’m proudest of about our students is their ability think as non-conformists,” noting it was the leadership of such students that lead to the re-establishment of the December 3rd X-Ring ceremony in 1982.

“If there’s anything the world needs today, it’s people who are willing to look at problems in a different way. And that’s what we do here at StFX.”

LEARN FROM EACH OTHER

Senior class co-president Alex Corrigan addressed his fellow X-Ring recipients by recalling a conversation with a graduate from the Coady International Institute, who remarked that the most memorable learning experiences take place during discussions and interactions with others.

“In that time together, we teach each other important things,” said Alex. “We learn about new cultures and parts of the world we’ve never seen. We learn to communicate, articulate and debate both effectively and respectfully.

“I hope when you look at your X-Ring, you’ll remember these important lessons that we’ve learned from each other.”

BIGGER THAN ALL OF US

Emily Paige Mork introduced the ceremony’s guest speaker, Robyn Tingley ’96, who last month was named one of Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women by the Women’s Executive Network. In her remarks, she encouraged students to stay true to the Xaverian values that continue to make StFX strong.

“StFX is bigger than all of us,” she said. “It’s a collection of all our actions, and the idea we hold each other to a higher standard. It’s the idea that 100 years from now, StFX will still stand as the best testament to global leadership and community-mindedness anywhere in the world.

“You are now one of us, and we will always welcome you into this wonderful, connected community of ours. No matter where your journey takes you, let your X-Ring serve as a reminder not only of what your X-Ring means to you, but what you mean to it.”

Glenn Horne ’07 ‘08, president of the StFX Alumni Association, delivered the Alumni Greeting to all assembled.

“1184 days ago, most of you stepped onto this campus for the first time as students. Today, the count down for your X-Ring is over! Take a moment and breathe it in.”

He also encouraged students to embrace the meaning behind their X-Rings.  

“The X-Ring’s meaning, as a symbol of justice, community and perseverance, is embodied by everyone who wears it. It has been crafted by those who wore it before us, and it’s now yours to carry forward.”

HONORARY X-RING

Each year, an honorary X-Ring is given to a member of the StFX community who exemplifies Xaverian values. This year, the honour was bestowed on Dr. Roy Rasmussen, a professor in the department of human kinetics who – in his almost 50-year career at StFX – has consistently epitomized academic excellence and inspired both students and faculty alike. In announcing the honour, student Erin Visser described Dr. Rasmussen as a man who is always listening to students and putting their needs above his own.  

During the ceremony, Tamara Cremo offered words of welcome and Fr. Gary MacPherson ‘72, university chaplain, delivered the invocation. Evan Davison-Kotler gave an explanation of the StFX motto, while Corrina Degen read a passage from the writings of Dr. Moses Coady. Senior class co-president Rachel LeBlanc served as master of ceremonies.

Students Rebecca Charnock, Josh Machan, Cassandra Mann, Joshua Parsons and Yaxin Yang performed a lively musical interlude that was written especially for the ceremony. Annie Sirois, President of the StFX Students’ Union, led the senior class in reciting the Xaverian Commitment that all students sign at the beginning of their first year of study.

Jami Campbell, Jacqueline Mackay, Erin Visser and Mary Jessie MacLellan ’87, Director of Alumni Affairs, also lead the group in singing the StFX University song, Hail and Health.

As students departed the hall, they tapped their new rings against a wooden kneeler from the StFX chapel, a tradition dating back to when the ceremony was still small enough to be held in that space. 

Moments of celebration mark Fall Convocation 2017, as StFX honours renowned photojournalist Palagummi Sainath and confers over 200 degrees and diplomas

Sat, 2017-12-02 16:34
L-r, StFX Chancellor Dr. Susan Crocker, honorary degree recipient Palagummi Sainath, and StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald

From a little boy holding a large orange “Go Dad Go” sign to a proud daughter posting social media photos of her mother, graduating with a master’s degree, the Charles V. Keating Centre filled with moments of celebration on Saturday, Dec. 2 as StFX celebrated Fall Convocation 2017.

Guests gathered, over 200 graduates, including those from StFX’s Coady International Institute’s Diploma in Development Leadership program, crossed the stage, and StFX bestowed an honorary degree on Palagummi Sainath of India, a renowned photojournalist considered one of the most significant journalists of his generation.

The crowd gave a standing ovation to Dr. Sainath, a social justice advocate as well as a world-renowned photojournalist.

During the ceremony, StFX also honoured sociology professor Dr. Norine Verberg, recipient of the 2017 Outreach Award, and the Antigonish County Adult Learning Association (ACALA), this year’s Community Partner Recognition Award winner

“Today we honour and celebrate accomplishments in your studies,” StFX Chancellor Dr. Susan Crocker said as she welcomed all to the university and opened Fall Convocation.

“Do you feel the energy in this great hall?”

“This is a celebration for great work and perseverance,” StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald said during his address.

He congratulated all the graduates for their achievements, including the second cohort of the Master’s of Education Indigenous Education and the Coady graduates who have come from around the world to be with us here at StFX. “Your time with us made the learning more rich, our community more vibrant and we wish you well.”

Dr. MacDonald told the graduates that with this wonderful accomplishment also comes responsibility. He encouraged all graduates to take a moment in the coming days to think about how they will take this gift of a StFX degree and make a difference in the world.

He encouraged graduates “to try to make the world just a little bit better place.”

It was a message reiterated by Dr. Sainath in his address to the graduation class.

Universities remain the arena of ideas, he said, and the graduates today are about to move from that terrain of ideas into a world of reality, and a world far more unequal than when he entered it as a recent university graduate, he said.

“How you will engage with the world of rapidly growing inequality depends on you,” he told graduates. “What you do will affect many lives beyond your own.”

We are privileged by the university education we have received, but we are also accountable, he said.

“I say to you don’t be hesitant in engaging in the larger battleground.”

Dr. Sainath also encouraged the graduates to never stop learning.

Coady graduate Ann Marie D. Smith of Jamaica, a leadership and organizational development facilitator/consultant currently engaged with the Caribbean Leadership Project, delivered the address on behalf of the graduating class.

She invited fellow graduates as they move on to continue to follow this institution’s strong commitment to social justice in action. She also thanked all those who have supported the graduates on their journey, and offered congratulations to everyone graduating.  

Glenn Horne, president of the StFX Alumni Association, congratulated the graduates and welcomed them into the Xaverian alumni family. He encouraged the graduates to take their knowledge and skills and to lead change and inspire.

BIOS

Honorary Degree Recipient
Dr. Palagummi Sainath
World renowned photojournalist Palagummi Sainath—Sainath as he is widely known—is considered one of the most significant journalists of his generation. Since the 1980s, he has focused on social problems, rural affairs, poverty and the aftermath of globalization in India. Former rural affairs editor of The Hindu newspaper, Sainath is known for his book Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories from India’s Poorest Districts now in its 45th printing, published in 10 languages, and used in over 100 universities in India and overseas. He founded the People's Archive of Rural India, a multimedia website where over 1,000 journalists from across India report on rural culture. He has dedicated his life to solidarity with, and justice for, India’s rural poor, bringing rural peoples’ stories to audiences in India and abroad. He is in high demand as an educator and has taught development studies and journalism courses at universities in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. He also educates young people from disadvantaged communities as journalists so they have the tools to help their communities. His photography exhibit, Visible Work, Invisible Women, has been widely viewed. The first journalist to win Amnesty International’s Global Human Rights Journalism Prize, he has won over 40 international awards for his provocative journalism and for his impact on society. Sainath served as the 2015 Coady Chair in Social Justice at StFX. In this role, he also worked with the Antigonish County Adult Learning Association (ACALA).

2017 Outreach Award
Dr. Norine Verberg
StFX sociology professor Dr. Norine Verberg is described as a first-class professor whose work reaches well beyond the boundaries of campus. In line with her deep conviction that scholarship ought to be connected to the world outside the academy, Dr. Verberg has made every effort to involve herself with organizations in Antigonish, especially most recently with Syria Antigonish Families Embrace (SAFE) and StFX for SAFE. The goal of StFX for SAFE was ambitious: to raise $100,000 to help sponsor two Syrian refugee families. Dr. Verberg steadfastly believed that if “all Xaverians” worked together on the campaign, they would succeed. The goal was achieved and several refugee families are now neighbours, with two students from those families enrolled at StFX. Dr. Verberg has been involved in other outreach work, including serving on the board of the Antigonish Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving; working with families following the Westray Mine explosion on their critical commemoration of the “Westray Story”; and working with StFX students and the Antigonish County 4-H Leaders Council to develop a 4-H partnership with StFX. She has also dedicated her time to the Antigonish Performing Arts Series, the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre, and especially to her students and classes. All the while, she has made these commitments while mentoring new faculty and serving StFX in numerous capacities.

2017 Community Partner Recognition Award
Antigonish County Adult Learning Association (ACALA)
The Antigonish County Adult Learning Association (ACALA) is a not-for-profit charitable community organization that has for over 20 years delivered adult literacy, family literacy and employability programs to adult learners in Antigonish town and county. They have also long provided valuable learning opportunities for StFX students, welcoming students through collaborations with the Department of Human Nutrition, Bachelor of Education, Service Learning, as well as developing programs to support Coady International Institute participants wanting language support. Over the years, StFX faculty in the Department of Adult Education have also worked closely with ACALA as board members and recently on building an online People’s Archive of Rural Nova Scotia, documenting the unique culture of rural Nova Scotia. The opportunities for experiential learning and exposure to a range of community initiatives has supported the curriculum and professional education for StFX students and provided them with noteworthy accomplishments for their resumes and graduate school. Equally important, witnessing the leadership and engaging with ACALA activities has provided StFX students with insight into the ability to make a difference when the community works together.  

Graduating Class Speaker
Ann Marie D. Smith, Jamaica
Ann Marie Smith is a leadership and organizational development facilitator/consultant currently engaged with the Caribbean Leadership Project. In this capacity, she designs, develops and delivers leadership development programming for senior public officers from 12 Caribbean countries and supports capacity building in public service learning institutions across the region. Prior to her work as a consultant, she was employed by the Management Institute for National Development, the Government of Jamaica’s public service learning, leadership and organizational development institute, where she led the team responsible for the design, development and delivery for public service learning in Jamaica, and supported the establishment of public service learning institutions across the Caribbean region. She describes her true passion as facilitating family and youth empowerment, and anticipates that through this Coady Diploma in Development Leadership, she will be better able to support varying communities to achieve just and sustainable outcomes for their members.

Blood, sweat and tears go into every X-Ring, but especially so with Rachel Allan

Fri, 2017-12-01 10:22
Rachel Allan

As StFX Day approaches, StFX student Rachel Allan says she’ll feel overwhelmed, accomplished and a little surreal when she moves the silver ring she wears on her X-Ring finger that reads, “Be True to Your Dreams,” to another finger and slides on that distinctive band of gold with a raised black X. Here, we share Rachel’s story on what makes this day so special to her. 

Not so long ago, Rachel Allan, an honours economics and business student, didn’t believe she’d ever wear an X-Ring. At age 18, just months before arriving at StFX as a freshman student, she suffered a devastating brain trauma when she took a hard knee to the temple that knocked her out during a high school provincial rugby game. It wasn’t her first concussion.

She spent that June, her last month at St. Peter’s High School in Ottawa, on brain rest and the summer lying low. Doctors advised her not to come to StFX that September. She did.

“My whole life, I’ve been going to X,” she says, explaining her determination.  

“I was very stubborn, being a teenager.”

Her friends were coming, and StFX had been her dream since she was a child.

In Grade 2 when asked to draw four things on a flag that represented her family and future goals, she drew an X-Ring.

Not only did her family’s Thanksgiving dinner table regularly fill with generations of X-Ring wearers, every summer, when the family would stop at the traffic lights outside Antigonish on the drive from Ottawa to their bungalow in Big Pond, Cape Breton, her mother would say, ‘That’s your school. You’re going there someday.’

“My aunts would always tell me you need to get one of these (the X-Ring) just for the experiences you get there over four years, the accomplishment and hard work,” she says.

She followed her dream.

But it didn’t take long to realize things weren’t right. She remembers a walk across campus tiring her out, sleeping for four days straight with her roommate checking in that she was okay.

“I knew I was getting in too deep. I knew I was coming here forever, my friends were coming here. I tried, but no.”

“I had second impact syndrome,” she says.

“I couldn’t stay here. I was pretty brain dead. It was getting worse because I was in school.”

Things came to a head on October 15. Three-quarters of the way through a midterm she started blacking out. She saw a campus doctor who withdrew her.

She remembers Schwartz School of Business staff and faculty being very supportive, telling her to come back when she can.

More than lost dreams, she faced a daunting road ahead.

For months, she slept in a dark room with no TV, no computer and no phone.

She couldn’t put a sentence together, had no balance in her feet, everything in her head was wonky, she says.

“I couldn’t communicate my thoughts and I was left emotionless,” she says in an open and candid conversation.

“It was a very long process to get me to have a conversation with people.” She says she couldn’t form coherent sentences. She’d repeat herself.

“My brain swelled so bad after the second impact.”

Ms. Allan says she spent two years out of it, not engaged, with no control over her emotions. She started physio at the very bottom, she says.

Her doctors told her parents she’d likely have a permanent handicap and may not be able to do the things she did before. In hindsight, she says it was probably best she didn’t understand this diagnosis. She never gave up hope.  

Working with her neurologist and physiotherapist, little by little, she started to make strides.

She has holes in her brain and will always live with the damage, she says. However, her brain restored itself in the parts that were healthy.

“The healthy part has done it all on its own without any explanation,” she says.  

She works to prevent migraines and wears a heart monitor when she exercises so that she doesn’t exert herself too much.

“I’ve learned how to cope,” she says.

“I have triggers and I know my triggers. If I avoid my triggers, I do fine. Headaches will put me to bed.

“Since I’ve gone back to myself, my brain works in a different way,” she says. “I learn in a different way. Before, my learning was more oral, now it’s photographic and writing. That was a big adjustment,” she says.

Through it all she was determined to come back to school.

While her parents worried tremendously about her, they never put that stress on her or showed her their fear, she says. “They were very positive, and did everything they can to help me,” she says.

As a result, she says it was constantly in her mind that there wasn’t any reason she couldn’t do it, that she wouldn’t be able to go back to school.

Being positive and determined (she says her first words included “me do”) and being young and healthy all helped, she says.

The year after leaving Antigonish she took two economics courses at Ottawa University to see if she could apply herself and eventually return to StFX.

She started working at her old job, and she started travelling.

Ms. Allan says because of her injury she can never play sports again and she felt the loss keenly. Travelling became her new hobby. She backpacked through southeast Asia, China, Malaysia and Japan.

When she started working and travelling, she began to realize there was more to life than the game of rugby, and that she should be grateful and happy.

In fact, she says the injury has given her a whole new perspective.

“I’m so appreciative, and so curious. I so just want to live and appreciate relationships and meeting new people. I appreciate being able to connect with people, being able to sit down and talk to people and learn about their outlook. I like to learn about new cultures and things that benefit your soul and body.”

In 2015, she returned to StFX.  

Coming back the second time, she says she knew StFX was a place where she could get help. She knew how helpful people were from the health and counselling centre to her professors.

“But it was terrifying. I can’t drop out and fail again.”

She took extra courses, made the dean’s list, and picked up joint honours. Recently, she received the Tanenbaum Canada Israel Student Exchange Scholarship and spent last semester studying in Israel.  

“I thoroughly enjoy school now when before it was literally killing me.”

As graduation approaches, she’s considering a master’s of economics or an MBA. “I never thought a master’s would be in the cards.”

Rachel Allan flag photo.jpg

The flag Rachel Allan drew in Grade 2, featuring the X-Ring

When she finally slips on her X-Ring on December 3, the feast day of St. Francis Xavier, it will be surreal, she says.

She will move the silver ring she wears on her X-Ring finger that reads, “Be True to Your Dreams,” to another finger and slide on that distinctive band of gold with a raised black X.

Two words inscribe her X-Ring: “Seven years.”

“I wanted an X-Ring since I was seven,” she says.

“I don’t think it will feel real. When I left school, I felt I was never coming back. I was so depressed. My dreams were crushed. I fought to the very end to stay here.”

“This wasn’t in the view. I honestly didn’t think I was capable of it. I thought it was way out of my league.”

With family and friends cheering her on, she’ll be thinking about how much she has done to get back here and get her X-Ring.

“I’ll probably cry.

“I feel very accomplished, the amount of blood, sweat and tears I did to make this happen. I will definitely feel overwhelmed.

“I definitely want my children to get an X-Ring.”

 

New opportunities to study the Big Bang, time inversion, and the conditions for our existence, as StFX becomes part of BABAR collaboration

Thu, 2017-11-30 13:12
L-r, physics professor Dr. Hossain Ahmed and department chair Dr. Peter Marzlin

StFX is now part of a major, international particle physics collaboration that will bring about new opportunities for StFX students to study questions on such matters as the Big Bang, time inversion, and the conditions for our existence through accessing data only available to members of the collaboration.

Through physics professor Dr. Hossain Ahmed, StFX has become part of the BABAR collaboration, a particle physics experiment at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University in California. It’s an international collaboration having about 600 physicists and engineers from 75 institutions in 13 countries.

Particle physics, Dr. Ahmed says, is about trying to understand the universe at a fundamental level, which also allows researchers to develop new technology, such as the production of medical isotopes using accelerators.

The primary goal of the BABAR experiment, he and StFX Physics Department Chair Dr. Peter Marzlin say, was to study charge parity violation (CP Violation) in nature, but it also helped to deepen basic understanding of the universe, including lepton flavor violation, dark matter, and tests of new theories.

BABAR produced more than 500 journal papers, including the precise measurements of differences between matter and antimatter, which have proved the theory of Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa, resulting in the awarding of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Due to its unique collision energies, BABAR data is still in high demand to analyze and prove new scientific theories, they say.

“This data is very important to analyze physical theories,” Dr. Ahmed says. “StFX students will get the benefit of that and they will be able to contribute to the physics community, both in the BABAR collaboration and beyond.”   

“The inclusion of StFX in the BABAR collaboration gives Dr. Ahmed and his students access to the data that has been gathered in the experiment,” Dr. Marzlin says. “This will provide physics students with a unique opportunity to get involved in analyzing data of a major scientific experiment, which is only accessible to institutions that are part of the collaboration. Hence, for the first time, StFX students can get involved into experimental elementary particle physics.”

Dr. Ahmed, the first to work in particle physics at StFX, has been working with BABAR since 2009, both as a post-doctoral fellow and as a faculty member while at other institutions. He says when he came to StFX he thought about how the collaboration may work here and decided to approach the collaboration board, presenting a proposal of the benefits of including StFX as a collaborator.  

Dr. Marzlin says being accepted as a collaborator is a big deal.

“It’s not that easy to get into that big of a collaboration. It’s by no means automatic. It speaks for Dr. Ahmed’s qualities as a researcher that StFX was so quickly accepted into that collaboration,” he says.

They say they are now working on providing opportunity for StFX students to become involved, including looking at options for students to visit the SLAC lab.

 

Understanding the legalization of cannibas topic of latest StFX President’s Colloquium

Tue, 2017-11-28 15:32
StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald opens the 6th President’s Colloquium with remarks around the importance of having tough conversations around issues that affect the campus community and beyond.

StFX’s tradition of bringing timely and important conversations into its residence spaces continued on Nov. 27 when StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald hosted the latest President’s Colloquium focused on understanding the legalization of cannibas.

The university community conversation was held on the fourth floor of the Riley Hall residence and included a panel of experts, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia Chief Medical Officer; StFX psychology professor Dr. Kara Thompson; and Ivan Drouin, registered psychologist and clinical therapist at the StFX Health and Counselling Centre.

The wide-ranging discussion focused on a number of issues including how will the current laws change when cannabis is legalized in Canada, What do these changes mean for StFX students? And what are the health implications that the university community needs to explore?

Dr. Strang delivered a presentation on the issue and fielded questions from those gathered. Dr. Thompson said more research of cannabis is needed but she feels the legalization of cannabis will make it easier for research to continue.

“This is one more example of us trying to have a discussion in our residence that is both interesting and helpful to the community,” said Dr. MacDonald. This conversation allows us to prepare for the pending legislation change, he said. Dr. MacDonald also added that this discussion gets the campus community thinking about how it will respond, taking into consideration the health and safety of students, faculty and staff.

The evening marked the 6th President’s Colloquium, an event initiated by Dr. MacDonald and designed to provide a space in residence—living, learning communities—for students, staff, faculty and community members to come together to have discussion around important issues. 

StFX to honour renowned photojournalist Palagummi Sainath, confer over 200 degrees and diplomas during Fall Convocation 2017

Tue, 2017-11-28 11:09
StFX will honour world renowned photojournalist and social justice advocate Palagummi Sainath of India and confer over 200 degrees and diplomas during Fall Convocation 2017, which takes place on Dec. 2. Here, StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald congratulates a graduate during the 2016 ceremony.

StFX will bestow an honorary degree on world renowned photojournalist and social justice advocate Palagummi Sainath of India, considered one of the most significant journalists of his generation, and confer over 200 degrees and diplomas, including to graduates of StFX’s Coady International Institute’s Diploma in Development Leadership program, during Fall Convocation 2017.

The ceremony takes place this Saturday, Dec. 2 at 3 p.m. at the Charles V. Keating Centre.

During Convocation, StFX will also honour sociology professor Dr. Norine Verberg, recipient of the 2017 Outreach Award, and the Antigonish County Adult Learning Association (ACALA), this year’s Community Partner Recognition Award winner.

Coady graduate Ann Marie D. Smith of Jamaica, a leadership and organizational development facilitator/consultant currently engaged with the Caribbean Leadership Project, will deliver the address on behalf of the graduating class.

BIOS:

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Palagummi Sainath
World renowned photojournalist Palagummi Sainath—Sainath as he is widely known—is considered one of the most significant journalists of his generation. Since the 1980s, he has focused on social problems, rural affairs, poverty and the aftermath of globalization in India. Former rural affairs editor of The Hindu newspaper, Sainath is known for his book Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories from India’s Poorest Districts now in its 45th printing, published in 10 languages, and used in over 100 universities in India and overseas. He founded the People's Archive of Rural India, a multimedia website where over 1,000 journalists from across India report on rural culture. He has dedicated his life to solidarity with, and justice for, India’s rural poor, bringing rural peoples’ stories to audiences in India and abroad. He is in high demand as an educator and has taught development studies and journalism courses at universities in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. He also educates young people from disadvantaged communities as journalists so they have the tools to help their communities. His photography exhibit, Visible Work, Invisible Women, has been widely viewed. The first journalist to win Amnesty International’s Global Human Rights Journalism Prize, he has won over 40 international awards for his provocative journalism and for his impact on society. Sainath served as the 2015 Coady Chair in Social Justice at StFX. In this role, he also worked with the Antigonish County Adult Learning Association (ACALA).

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2017 Outreach Award
Dr. Norine Verberg

StFX sociology professor Dr. Norine Verberg is described as a first-class professor whose work reaches well beyond the boundaries of campus. In line with her deep conviction that scholarship ought to be connected to the world outside the academy, Dr. Verberg has made every effort to involve herself with organizations in Antigonish, especially most recently with SAFE and StFX for SAFE. The goal of StFX for SAFE was ambitious: to raise $100,000 to help sponsor two Syrian refugee families. Dr. Verberg steadfastly believed if StFX for SAFE reached further, they would succeed. The goal was achieved and several refugee families are now neighbours, with two students from those families enrolled at StFX. Dr. Verberg has been involved in other outreach work, with Mothers Against Drunk Driving; her recognized work with families coping with trauma and loss following the Westray Mine explosion; her involvement with the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre; her assistance of students in their ‘Pause for the Cause’ campaign; and co-founding the 4-H Chapter on the StFX campus. She’s also dedicated her time with the Performing Arts Series, to theatre on campus, and especially to her students and classes. All the while, she has made these commitments while mentoring new faculty and serving StFX in numerous capacities.

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2017 Community Partner Recognition Award
Antigonish County Adult Learning Association (ACALA)

The Antigonish County Adult Learning Association (ACALA) is a not-for-profit charitable community organization that has for over 20 years delivered adult literacy, family literacy and employability programs to adult learners in Antigonish town and county. They have also long provided valuable learning opportunities for StFX students, welcoming students through collaborations with the Department of Human Nutrition, Bachelor of Education, Service Learning, as well as developing programs to support Coady International Institute participants wanting language support. Over the years, StFX faculty in the Department of Adult Education have also worked closely with ACALA as board members and recently on building an online People’s Archive of Rural Nova Scotia, documenting the unique culture of rural Nova Scotia. The opportunities for experiential learning and exposure to a range of community initiatives has supported the curriculum and professional education for StFX students and provided them with noteworthy accomplishments for their resumes and graduate school. Equally important, witnessing the leadership and engaging with ACALA activities has provided StFX students with insight into the ability to make a difference when the community works together.  

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Graduating Class Speaker
Ann Marie D. Smith, Jamaica

Ann Marie Smith is a leadership and organizational development facilitator/consultant currently engaged with the Caribbean Leadership Project. In this capacity, she designs, develops and delivers leadership development programming for senior public officers from 12 Caribbean countries and supports capacity building in public service learning institutions across the region. Prior to her work as a consultant, she was employed by the Management Institute for National Development, the Government of Jamaica’s public service learning, leadership and organizational development institute, where she led the team responsible for the design, development and delivery for public service learning in Jamaica, and supported the establishment of public service learning institutions across the Caribbean region. She describes her true passion as facilitating family and youth empowerment, and anticipates that through this Coady Diploma in Development Leadership, she will be better able to support varying communities to achieve just and sustainable outcomes for their members.

StFX French students learning language skills, history in translation project

Tue, 2017-11-21 15:23
Students in French 327, taught by Dr. Edward Langille, pictured on right, are translating a 1,000-word article and submitting it for publication with the Encyclopédie de Diderot et D’Alembert collaborative translation project at the University of Michigan.

With laptops and notepads spread open in front of them, students in Dr. Edward Langille’s French 327 class are hard at work completing an assignment they term challenging, cool and helpful.

The 15 students in the class are each translating a 1,000-word article and submitting it for publication with the Encyclopédie de Diderot et D’Alembert collaborative translation project at the University of Michigan. The Encyclopédie was a 20-year effort (1751-1752) and one of the crowning achievements of the French Enlightenment, comprising over 20,000 individual entries.

Each student was asked to choose a 1,000-word article from the French original that hadn’t previously been translated and transcribe it into English.

“I believe that learning to write in a second language is good practice for writing in one’s own language. It’s a question of precision of thought and translation is an obvious means to acquiring skills in two languages,” Dr. Langille says.

“As a scholar of the French Enlightenment, I was aware of the Encyclopédie translation project. I thought it might give the writing class an interesting focus to participate in it.”

“It is interesting,” says Gilles Perrine, a second year environmental sciences student from Mauritius and a graduate of St. Andrew’s School - Rose Hill, who says he is enjoying the translation and how one must really stick to the subject and to each word and how it was applied back then.

“To me, that is a true research project. It’s not easy at all,” he says.

“This course is one of the best French courses I’ve ever taken,” he says, explaining he likes the tips and techniques given, being able to write an assignment every single week and being able to pinpoint mistakes and correct then.

“It’s really focusing on the small details and the correct way of trying to translate them. It’s interesting,” says Renee Morrow, a third year French student from Pomquet, NS, and graduate of l'École acadienne de Pomquet. “It’s really focused on one word, not just the definition, but learning the history of the word, the historical aspects of it. It’s pretty cool.”

She says it’s a little different for the students as they are more used to translating English into French.  She says the project is definitely helping her language skills as well as introducing her to many old French words.

Becca Ross, a fourth year French student from Pictou County and graduate of Northumberland Regional High School, says at times some of the words weren’t spelled correctly and she had to figure out the words in order to translate.

Amber Benoit of Antigonish, NS, also a graduate of l'École acadienne de Pomquet, and a third year psychology student at StFX, agrees it’s interesting to work with a French piece to translate it into English. “It is challenging,” she says, “but helpful.” It’s much easier just to talk in French, but it’s different to sit down and do some writing and to focus on grammar and the translation, she says, and that process helps a lot.

 

StFX’s Mulroney Institute launches new research series focused on Arctic operational histories

Mon, 2017-11-20 13:52
StFX launches new research series, the Arctic Operational Histories

StFX is proud to announce the launch of a new research series, published and managed by the recently opened Mulroney Institute of Government. Edited by Irving Shipbuilding Chair, Dr. Adam Lajeunesse, and supported by Irving and a $10,000 grant from the Canadian Defence Engagement Program, the Arctic Operational Histories offers open access e-books consisting of operational narratives generated from firsthand accounts and official government histories.

“This series is designed to support academic research by opening new material to researchers, while supporting policy makers in the Canadian government and armed forces,” Dr. Lajeunesse says.

“By examining some of Canada’s most pressing security questions from a historical perspective, these volumes provide a unique insight and vital context, crucial to evidence-based decision making.”

In support of this new series, he says StFX students are now working as research assistants, editing, transcribing, and laying out volumes for publication.

The first volume – now available – is a history of the HMCS Labrador, Canada’s first icebreaker and Arctic patrol craft.

For three years in the mid-1950s, the Labrador was Canada’s eyes, ears, and muscle in the Arctic. It conducted some of the first modern surveys of the Northwest Passage, assisted in the construction of the vital Distant Early Warning Line, and kept a close eye on American naval activity in Canada’s Arctic waters.

Forthcoming volumes in this series will examine the historic voyage of the RCMP vessel St Roch, the recovery of a crashed Soviet nuclear satellite in the Northwest Territories during the Cold War, and the history of the Royal Canadian Air Force in the sub-Arctic.

The series can be found at: www.operationalhistories.ca

Psychology students attend, present research at national conference

Fri, 2017-11-17 16:05
Breanna O'Handley during her presentation

Once again, several StFX psychology students were able to attend and to present their research at a national conference.

StFX psychology professor Dr. Karen Blair, students Breanna O’Handley, Emilia Lorenz, and Ashley Hoskin and Dr. Blair’s master’s student Kay Jenson of Acadia attended the recent Canadian Sex Research Forum (CSRF) Annual Meeting & Conference in Fredericton, NB.

The students had to submit abstracts in the spring and their submissions were accepted for presentation.

The conference follows on the heels of the Canadian Psychological Association national meeting, which Dr. Blair and seven students attended in June.

Once again, the students were supported by the Jules Léger Fund to attend the conference, and once again they were some of the only undergraduate students in attendance, Dr. Blair says.

Ms. O’Handley, a Guysborough, NS native who graduated with an honours psychology degree in May, presented her thesis research, which she conducted at StFX with Dr. Blair, in the form of an oral talk to an audience of 83 people. The talk also touched on the research work of Dr. Blair’s current honours student Emilia Lorenz.

“Her talk was extremely well received by some of the top sex researchers in Canada and she did a great job of answering questions from many of these researchers,” Dr. Blair says.

Ms. Hoskin and Ms. Jenson presented a poster on research that they have worked on together.

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INCREDIBLE EXPERIENCE

“It was an incredible experience to have the opportunity to attend and present at CSRF,” Ms. O’Handley says. “It was fantastic to be able to attend another conference, especially one so relevant to my current work. While I still conduct research with Dr. Blair, I now work with Student Life at StFX as the Gender and Sexual Diversity Student Advisor, therefore many talks at CSRF were relevant to my new position at StFX.”

She says she was able to attend talks concerning sexual consent, non-binary dating experiences, and campus sexual assault, “all of which provided me with valuable information to bring to my work here at X. Attending academic conferences and staying up-to-date with related research is proving to be an invaluable experience in helping to bring the best services possible to current StFX students.”

Ms. O’Handley’s undergraduate research examined the psychophysiology of sexual prejudice. “The data I presented on the indistinguishable salivary a-amylase responses of heterosexual men to male same-sex kissing images is just one piece of a larger project happening in the KLB Research lab,” she says. “The larger project is trying to understand whether people may show physiological or emotional signs of their prejudice, which may then be interpreted as signs of danger/threat by same-sex couples, who in turn, may then be more reluctant to share affection in public.”

Currently, Ms. Lorenz is working to analyze the facial expressions of participants that viewed same-sex PDAs, in order to pinpoint what emotions participants felt.

Ms. O’Handley says she was the only undergraduate student to give an oral presentation at the conference. Having the chance to gain experience presenting at conferences like CSRF and CPA has been wonderful, says the Guysborough Academy graduate.

“Few undergraduates have the same opportunities afforded to them – especially at larger institutions,” she says. “The small school experience at StFX has made it easy to get involved with research at the undergraduate level and the Jules Léger Fund has made trips to CSRF and CPA possible for me.

“Additionally, attending such a small university allows for students to have more connections with their professors, such as Dr. Blair. Dr. Blair has given her students, not just her own honours thesis students, opportunities to attend academic conferences and become immersed in research that they would not have otherwise. We are lucky to have professors at StFX that care about their students, know them on a first name basis, and are willing to go the extra mile to foster their academic growth.”

In addition to her work at StFX, Ms. O’Handley continues to work with Dr. Blair in the KLB Research Lab and together they are launching a new study soon looking at memories of coming out from both an LGBTQIA2S+ person’s perspective as well as a parent perspective.

 

 

 

 

 

Potential international marine ecology student collaborations focus of faculty visit

Thu, 2017-11-09 13:48
Dr. Ricardo Scrosati (left) and Dr. Augusto Flores surveying the Nova Scotia coast

Potential international collaborations involving biology and marine ecology students was the topic of discussion at StFX last week when StFX biology professor Dr. Ricardo Scrosati hosted Dr.  Augusto Flores, a professor of marine ecology from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, to his Marine Ecology Lab.

“Dr. Flores is an expert in the ecology of marine invertebrate larvae, and his expertise will combine well with our expertise in the ecology of rocky intertidal systems,” Dr. Scrosati says.

“For a few days, we examined together some of our long-term study locations along the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia,” he says with the thoughts of future student exchanges in mind.

“We hope to collaborate on a number projects involving student co-supervisions in the upcoming years,” he says.

Following those field trips, the two drove to the University of Quebec at Rimouski (UQAR), where they were hosted by Dr. Réjean Tremblay, who is also a marine ecologist and has overlapping research interests.  

Dr. Flores and Dr. Scrosati each gave a seminar for UQAR faculty and students.

Dr. Scrosati’s seminar discussed, on the one hand, his lab's recent findings on the ecological influence that coastal pelagic processes have on rocky intertidal organisms along the Nova Scotia coast and, on the other hand, the various nonconsumptive effects that predators have on marine prey.

Education professor’s legal book provides guidance for teachers and administrators

Wed, 2017-11-08 09:15

StFX Faculty of Education professor Dr. David Young has edited a new book that provides a comprehensive examination of the many legal matters that impact public education in Canada’s provinces and territories. 

Education Law in Canada: A Guide for Teachers and Administrators was published in October 2017 by Irwin Law. 

“The significance of this book is that it provides pan-Canadian coverage of the issues that impact education in this country, and thus will be of particular interest to those who work or have an interest in schools and schooling,” Dr. Young says. 

With informative and easily accessible contributions from members of the legal and academic community, he says the various chapters in this collection address the following: the value of education law; the legal and administrative framework of education; the role of the courts; teacher rights and duties; student rights; negligence and liability; issues of misconduct; bullying and cyberbullying; special education; and copyright.

Dr. Young, who is the Chair of the Department of Curriculum and Leadership at StFX, says he has always had a deep interest in the impact law has on education. He completed his doctorate in education law, and most of his research involves the intersection of law and education. 

He also teaches a graduate course on the legal aspects of education, so this book comes as a natural extension of both his background as well as his teaching and research interests. 

Dr. Young’s writing has appeared in a wide variety of publications including Capsle Comments, the Education & Law Journal, the Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, and the Journal of Educational Administration and Foundations. 

Education Law in Canada: A Guide for Teachers and Administrators is Dr. Young’s second book. His first, Teaching Online: Stories from Within, was published in 2014. 

StFX English professor invited to deliver prestigious Rheney Lecture at Vanderbilt University

Tue, 2017-11-07 11:48

StFX English professor Dr. Mathias Nilges was recently invited to deliver a prestigious series of lectures and workshops at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee as the university’s 2017 Rheney Lecturer.

The annual Rheney Lecture is a series of events organized by the graduate students. The intention of the endowed lecture is to enable students to invite a prominent, early-career scholar, who can not only talk about his/her research, but also advise graduate students about career development.

Each year, EGSA nominates a slate of two to three potential Rheney lecturers, and after consulting with the Chair and DGS as well as other faculty, proffers an invitation. The Rheney speakers typically visit for two days, give a public lecture on their current research, and conduct one to two additional smaller sessions with graduate students on a range of subjects concerning professionalization and career, in addition to attending various social occasions with the students.

“The lecture, workshops, and the overall event went extremely well, and it was a very enjoyable and productive visit,” says Dr. Nilges whose lecture focused on “The Novel of the Long Now.”  

“The days I spent at Vanderbilt provided me with a wonderful opportunity to share my research with their graduate students and faculty, to learn about Vanderbilt’s doctoral students’ own exciting research projects, to discuss strategies for publishing and professionalization with them, and I also had a fantastic, energetic discussion during a colloquium that focused on one of my recent articles.”

Along with delivering the Rheney Lecture, Dr. Nilges also led workshops on academic publishing, professionalization for young academics, and a colloquium in which he and the doctoral students discussed one of his recent articles called “Critical Theory and Literary Theory.” In the Rheney Lecture itself he presented an account of the novel’s historical relationship to our ability to imagine and to “tell” time (as narrative), which led up to an argument for the importance of the novel as both an artform and a form of thought in our time.

Attitudes of Clinton, Trump and 3rd party/undecided voters subject of new study by StFX psychology professor

Fri, 2017-11-03 13:40
Dr. Karen Blair

“Did Secretary Clinton lose to a ‘Basket of Deplorables’?” That’s the question StFX psychology professor Dr. Karen Blair asks in a recently published article in the journal Psychology & Sexuality that examines Islamphobia, homophobia, sexism and conservative ideology in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Dr. Blair’s article compares attitudes of Clinton, Trump and 3rd party/undecided voters that were measured two years before the 2016 presidential election. Thanks to a quick response time from the StFX Research Ethics Board, she was able to file an amendment to an existing study in October 2016 that allowed her to ask past participants who they were planning to vote for.

“The study concluded that 3rd party and undecided voters, from a non-representative sample, were more similar to Trump voters than to Clinton voters, and that one of the strongest predictors of not voting for Clinton was an individual’s previously measured levels of ambivalent sexism, the ability to view women in simultaneously hostile and benevolent ways,” she says.

Dr. Blair says about 13 months ago she was watching the first debate between Clinton and Trump and, like many, she was wondering how the election was going to turn out.

“A lot seemed to be at stake, and the entire election campaign seemed to be revolving around hot-button issues and various prejudices, much more so than legitimate policy questions.

“Every week there was a new scandal, riot, or unthinkable comment. At the same time, there was a lot of discussion of whether sexism was playing a role in the election, with many people arguing that it really had nothing to do with it and that there were plenty of legitimate reasons to oppose Clinton besides the fact that she was a woman. Knowing how prejudice works, and how we can sometimes be unaware of our own prejudices, I was naturally skeptical of these claims.”

Partway through that debate, Dr. Blair realized she already had empirical data that could help better understand exactly how various forms of prejudice may or may not be operating within the electorate.

During her CIHR post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Utah, she had conducted a study on responses to same-sex public displays of affection. However, to recruit a sample that would vary in their views towards same-sex couples, the initial online survey was cast as a broad study of ‘Attitudes and Opinions,’ she says. Attitudes towards sexual and gender minorities were measured alongside a variety of other attitudes, so as to not make any one attitude stick out as the main focus of the study.

As a result, hundreds of American voters had completed a survey in 2014 detailing their views of Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and ambivalent sexism. There were also measures of religious orientation and world views. The survey had also included measures of authoritarianism and protestant work ethic, both of which are associated with conservative ideologies.

Dr. Blair began working on an ethics amendment to request permission from the StFX Research Ethics Board to re-contact the previous participants and ask follow up questions, namely, who were they planning to vote for, if they could vote that day, who would they vote for, and how likely they were to vote in the upcoming election.

She says she had originally been overly ambitious and hoped that the article would be published before the election. She also thought that the article would be “dead in the water” and of little interest after Clinton won the election. But she lost, which gave the paper a whole new perspective.

Dr. Blair says it is important to study this issue as people are not always aware of how their attitudes and prejudices influence their behaviour, in this case, voting behaviour.

“In many cases, we are not even aware that we hold prejudicial views. Because of this lack of awareness, it can be difficult to really sit back and assess where our behaviours come from or why we are voting for one candidate over another.”

Attitudes may have been colouring people’s voting decisions. But the same thing happens on a day-to-day basis in all areas of our lives, she says.

“Attitudes and unacknowledged prejudices colour the evaluations that students give to their professors, the hiring decisions that companies make, even the decisions that we make about who we date or who we want our family members to date, or not date, are influenced by our attitudes and prejudices, whether we realize it or not.” 

Demonstrating the link between attitudes and behaviours, and in this case, outcomes as important as the U.S. presidency, can perhaps help people realize that attitudes really do matter, and that even if you don’t think they are influencing you, they still might be, she says.

She says this was particularly true for the case of ambivalent sexism in the current study. Ambivalent sexism refers to the ability to simultaneously hold benevolent and hostile views of women.

“It is what allows someone to say, “I’m not sexist, I think women should be cherished!” or “I’m not sexist, look at how I treat my wife and my daughters.” And yet, at the same time, someone can say those things, but then lash out with quite a bit of hostility against other women, especially women who are seen to be straying from traditional gender norms. This is something that plagues all women who enter the arena of politics. We see it as a deviation from traditional gender norms when a woman asks for something, and especially when she asks for power, or asks for our votes,” Dr. Blair says. “In general, people are much more satisfied and happy with female politicians once they are in power, but they really dislike them before they have power, when they are campaigning and asking for power. In the case of the 2016 election, at least within this sample, ambivalent sexism was the strongest predictor of not voting for Clinton, meaning the higher people were in ambivalent sexism, the less likely they were to vote for Clinton.” 

Dr. Blair says key findings in the study included:

* Trump and Clinton voters differed significantly on every attitude measure included in the study, including Islamophobia, social dominance, ambivalent sexism, homophobia, transphobia and modern racism, among others. In all cases, Trump voters displayed more of the attitude or prejudice in question.
* The same pattern of results was found when comparing 3rd party/undecided voters to Clinton voters, but with one exception: 3rd party/undecided voters were more similar to Clinton voters in terms of levels of Islamophobia than were Trump voters. Trump voters were the highest in Islamophobia. This may have contributed to why some of the voters were undecided or considering a 3rd Party vote - Trump was perhaps too extremist in his Islamophobia views, and yet, at the same time, Clinton was perhaps too liberal on the other attitudes, plus, ultimately, she was a woman, and the 3rd party/undecided voters had significantly higher levels of ambivalent sexism than the Clinton voters. 
* Beyond comparing groups, they also tried to predict voting choice. Islamophobia, homophobia, social dominance and ambivalent sexism were all strong predictors of voting for Trump vs. Clinton, with ambivalent sexism being the strongest predictor. Similar results were found when predicting 3rd party/undecided votes, with the exception of Islamophobia not being a significant predictor of 3rd party/undecided votes relative to Clinton. 

StFX physics department spearheads collaboration, as university joins effort to revolutionize material discovery in Canada

Fri, 2017-11-03 13:27
StFX physicists and chemists are collaborating with Lumiant Corporation, a Canadian materials science company, to test a new artificial intelligence computing platform expected to revolutionize how materials are discovered. Among those involved in the project at StFX are l-r, Dr. Gurpreet Matharoo, research consultant at ACENET; StFX Industry Liaison Manager Andrew Kendall; StFX physics professor Dr. Brandon van Zyl, a lead investigator bringing this state-of-the-art collaboration; Greg Lukeman, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Technology Officer, ACENET; and StFX chemistry professor Dr. Shah Gulam Razul.

St. Francis Xavier University’s physicists and chemists are collaborating with Lumiant Corporation, a Canadian materials science company, to test a new artificial intelligence (AI) computing platform that is expected to revolutionize how materials are discovered.

Today, the vast majority of research into materials involves modifying known chemistries, rather than the costly and risky pursuit of searching for entirely new materials. The traditional Edisonian process of trial-and-error discovery typically takes decades. Meanwhile, industry needs groundbreaking solutions now – ranging from better solar and battery materials to lighter-yet-stronger alloys, and more efficient catalysts.

Lumiant’s Xaedra™ platform transforms the discovery and development process by combining AI and quantum physics into a system that predicts material properties from atomic structure information. In a matter of seconds researchers using Xaedra can identify a number of potential materials that solve a particular need, replacing educated guesswork.

Lumiant and St. Francis Xavier University are working together so that the university’s physicists and chemists can test Xaedra before its release by using the platform in their research. Other academic researchers across Canada are also participating in this beta testing program.

“Through our collaboration with Lumiant, StFX researchers and students have a great opportunity to be at the forefront of new material research with a technology that promises to fundamentally alter how materials are discovered,” says Dr. Kevin B. Wamsley, StFX Academic Vice-President and Provost. “This work will enable our science students to gain valuable insights into the rapidly evolving world of material science.”

StFX physics professor Dr. Brandon van Zyl, a lead investigator bringing this state-of-the-art collaboration, along with StFX Industry Liaison Manager Andrew Kendall and Lumiant Business Development Manager Charles Robison, agrees. “My physics students are excited about using this quantum mechanics-based computing platform to solve real-world problems – to possibly discover new materials. This is valuable hands-on experience that will prepare them for the professional science careers that are out there,” he says. “We are also very fortunate at StFX to have full access and on-site technical expertise to the ACENET and Compute Canada high performance computing (HPC) systems. With this infrastructure, Lumiant is able greatly to accelerate Xaedra’s development as well as provide free access to universities and public research institutes.”

“Lumiant is grateful for the enthusiastic participation of StFX. When the Xaedra platform is formally launched, we have no doubt that it will benefit academia, industry and society by revolutionizing how new and superior materials are discovered and developed for solving many of today’s challenges,” stated S. Richard Holloway, CEO and founder of Lumiant Corporation. “The future of material science is truly exciting and we depend on our universities to produce the scientists who will continue the journey of material discovery.”

StFX computer science student in the top three once again at Science Atlantic

Fri, 2017-10-27 14:04
StFX student Katie MacEachern (left) receives her award from UNB professor Dr. Patrick Reynolds, a StFX alumnus and conference organizer

Katie MacEachern, a third year honours computer science student from Dundee, NS and graduate of SAERC high school, received the third place Research Award - Mathematics and Statistics, for her presentation Peaceably Coexisting Armies of Queens Game, and a Variation during the recent Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, Science Atlantic meeting held at UNB Fredericton, which drew over 210 participants. 

Ms. MacEachern’s presentation was based on her work as a summer research assistant under the supervision of StFX faculty members Dr. Stephen Finbow and Dr. Martin van Bommel.

This is the second year in a row that Ms. MacEachern has placed in the top three for her research at the Science Atlantic conference. “Katie’s presentation was simultaneously engaging, enlightening and energetic. It was a great talk that deserved recognition,” Dr. Finbow says.

Six students and three professors from StFX attended the conference held over three days from Oct. 13-15.

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StFX students attending the Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, Science Atlantic meeting held at UNB Fredericton included, l-r, Darwin Groskleg, Cynthia Forgeron, Dylan Coakley, Katie MacEachern and Bryan Ewenson. Absent from the photo is Dwain (Andy) O’Brien. 

The StFX students in attendance included Ms. MacEachern, Dylan Coakley, Bryan Ewenson, Darwin Groskleg, Cynthia Forgeron and Dwain (Andy) O'Brien. Faculty in attendance at the conference included Drs. Finbow, Darien DeWolf and Jacob Levman.

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