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Seafloor biodiversity of Canada's three oceans: StFX professor part of Canadian marine biologist team to publish study

11 hours 21 min ago
Typical marine biodiversity in Nova Scotia

StFX biology professor Dr. Ricardo Scrosati is part of a team of 14 Canadian marine biologists that today had a large study, “Seafloor biodiversity of Canada's three oceans: Patterns, hotspots and potential drivers,” published in Diversity and Distributions, a leading journal in the field.  

The study evaluated the marine benthic biodiversity of Canada's three oceans, from the Pacific, to the Arctic, to the Atlantic. 

“Using field information compiled over many years by several labs, including StFX's Marine Ecology Lab, this team used data for nearly 3,000 species to identify biodiversity hotspots across Canadian marine ecosystems,” Dr. Scrosati says.  

The team then used environmental information to investigate the most likely causes of such patterns.

Dr. Scrosati says overall, this study provides valuable information that should improve, among other objectives, the design of marine protected areas to preserve our rich and fascinating marine benthic biodiversity.

“We are happy to have the study published in this journal because it has a high impact factor, which suggests that the study will be widely seen in the scientific community around the world. Thus, on the one hand, in that way we hope to attract talented colleagues and students to do further studies on marine biology in Canada and, on the other, we would see exciting to see our approaches applied to other parts of the world towards the global synthesis that science is always seeking,” Dr. Scrosati says.

The beginnings of this project, he says, likely started from informal conversations among colleagues in the past, but it was a colleague, Dr. Mathieu Cusson from the Université du Québec, who in the end formally led this project to its successful completion. “Interestingly, the original idea behind this project has spread into new ideas and collaborations. For instance, with Dr. Cusson, we will be co-supervising a PhD student who will investigate the relationships between marine species biodiversity and the actual ecological function that such species collectively have in biological communities.” Dr. Scrosati will be going to Quebec soon to help design the studies.

StFX students mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day with education, conversation

Mon, 2020-01-27 16:23
Psychology professor Dr. Karen Blair speaks with students during the International Holocaust Remembrance Day event at StFX.

All those entering the lobby of Mulroney Hall on the StFX campus on January 27, 2020 had an amazing opportunity to learn and talk about Holocaust education with a number of StFX students. 

Students from psychology professor Dr. Karen Blair’s Psyc 441 held an all-day event for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, displaying their final projects for the course, and being on hand to speak with all those who passed through. 

Dr. Blair and the students had a visual display from Yad Vashem to hang in the art gallery space behind the replica of the Prime Minister’s office. In the lobby area, one group of students worked on a project aimed at “visualizing” six million victims, and another group working on activities to reduce prejudice. They also hosted a book display and educational materials and presented a video.

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“I’ve been talking a lot about Holocaust education, and the misconceptions many students have,” says psychology student Cassidy Swan of Ottawa, ON. She says in her conversations she’s found that a lot of students know the basics of the Holocaust, but don’t know the when and the how and the steps in between that lead up to that point. It’s knowledge, she says, that people need to know more about. 

“The knowledge is still valuable and needs to be taught.”

Fellow psychology students Alice Bruce of Pictou, NS and MacGillivray Smith of Enfield, NS, say they’ve had good response to the day, with several professors taking their classes through, and many community members and students stopping to talk. 

Ms. Bruce says they’ve found people have varying degrees of knowledge about the Holocaust as Ms. Smith added the education is important for preventing future genocides. “In our class, we talked about the build-up to that and how you need to speak up for your believes before people start getting persecuted.”


“The students in Psyc 441, which is a fourth year seminar course on the “Social Psychology of the Holocaust,” were given a final project assignment to “prevent the next Holocaust.” It was a lofty goal meant to be interpreted in abstract ways,” says Dr. Blair. 

Each student had to decide how they would define the challenge for themselves - defining what is meant by the possibility of another Holocaust. “Does this mean genocide in general? The building blocks within society that allow for genocides, such as prejudice and exclusion?” says Dr. Blair. “In the end, most of the students developed projects related to Holocaust education, believing that education is a key element to reducing prejudice. People who know the details of the Holocaust and how it came to be are much more supportive of the need for Holocaust education and tend to be less supportive of extremist and prejudiced views.”

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The students combined their efforts to create the event for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, she says.  

Some of the events they’ve put together include the visualizing six million project. This project attempts to grapple with the fact that fewer than half of Canadian adults can identify six million as the number of Jewish men, women, and children murdered during the Holocaust. This may, in part, be because it is so difficult to grapple with such a large number. It’s simply unfathomable, Dr. Blair says. 

The students have been working for months to try to cut six million pieces of paper. They actually wanted to cut 11 million to represent all of the victims of Nazi persecution. 

“Just now, as they are continuing to cut paper in the lobby of Mulroney Hall, they are about to reach one million, helping to drive home just how large these numbers are.” 

As well, Dr. Blair said each student in the course was assigned a “twin” who was a child that died during the Holocaust and shared the same birthday as the student. They researched to find out as much as they could about this person. They’ve created a visual display about each twin, hanging in the art gallery area. 

One student looked into what types of Holocaust education are provided in high schools and what people feel is lacking. The student compiled a list of facts that people commonly don’t know and has been talking to people about their Holocaust education experiences. As well, another student is building a Holocaust education website while another is working on a Holocaust education podcast and documenting the day and the course. 

The Atlantic Jewish Council and the Azrieli Foundation also provided a number of Holocaust memoirs for the group to give away to students at the event. 

"Holocaust knowledge is declining and the survivors will soon not be with us to share their stories in person. Consequently it’s a very important time to raise interest in Holocaust education to ensure that this knowledge is not lost to future generations. The universal lessons of the Holocaust can help us to understand important social issues today as well as those that we will face in the future," says Dr. Blair. 

The visual display in the gallery area will remain up all week until Friday for people to walk through. 

StFX students attract Nobel Laureate, NASA engineer, Wolf Prize and Herzberg Medal winner as keynote speakers at student-led physics and astronomy conference

Mon, 2020-01-27 15:22
Conference committee organizers include, seated, l-r: Noah Tessema, co-chairs Dean Eaton and Bryan Canam, and Katie Robinson. Back row: Dr. Peter Poole, Thomas Hujon, Mitchell Blacquiere, Catherine Boisvert, Andrew College, Daniel Winters, Sean Murphy, and Dr. Peter Marzlin. Missing: Claire MacDougall and Duncan Osmond.

When a group of StFX physics students started planning an Atlantic undergraduate physics and astronomy conference, they decided to aim big—and the results have been more than impressive.

The students have attracted 2018 Nobel Prize winner Donna Strickland; NASA engineer and advocate for diversity and inclusion in science, Renee Horton; StFX alumnus Allan H. MacDonald, winner of the Wolf Prize and the Herzberg Medal and professor at University of Texas, Austin; and Dalhousie University professor Jesse Maassen, to deliver keynote lectures when StFX hosts the Atlantic Undergraduate Physics and Astronomy Conference (AUPAC) from January 31-February 2, 2020.

The talks by all invited speakers are open to the public.

“It’s just amazing what they have accomplished,” says Dr. Peter Marzlin, faculty advisor and StFX physics professor, who praised the students who he says have organized and looked after mostly every detail for the conference.

“This is a conference that happens every year. This is the first Nobel Laureate that has showed up to speak. It’s really amazing. We’re really proud of the students,” said StFX physics professor Dr. Peter Poole, a Science Atlantic committee member.

StFX students and conference co-chairs Dean Eaton and Bryan Canam say they were thrilled, and a little surprised, they were able to attract each of the high-profile speakers they invited.

“We wanted to set the bar high,” says Mr. Eaton.

“These are the ones we were shooting for. We weren’t expecting them,” added Mr. Canam, who says they are much looking forward to the talks. “We’re more than pleased.”


Fellow students and conference committee members Thomas Hujon and Noah Tessema say they are looking forward to both the conference—a student organized event under Science Atlantic that looks to publicize and advertise research of many disciplines in physics and astronomy to undergraduate students in the Atlantic Provinces—as well as the chance to hear from the keynote speakers.

“These people are in the top rank of their professions,” says Mr. Hujon.

Mr. Tessema says their addresses should interest everyone, not just those with a physics background.

“There is always something to learn from people who have reached a certain success in life,” he says, noting it is inspiring to hear people speak passionately about their interests.

“You get an impression of what it takes for someone to be particularly good at what they do.”


The keynote addresses are scheduled to take place:

* Friday, Jan. 31: 7 p.m. SCHW 110, keynote speaker Jesse Maassen

Saturday, Feb. 1, 11 a.m. SCHW 110, keynote speaker Allan MacDonald

Saturday, Feb. 1, 6:30 p.m. SCHW 110, keynote speaker Donna Strickland

Sunday, Feb. 2, 11 a.m., SCHW 110, keynote speaker Renee Horton


The organizers are expecting about 105 participants from universities across Atlantic Canada and elsewhere, with 32 students slated to present their work.

Over the weekend, undergraduate students will present talks on areas from particle physics and cosmology to atomic and solid state physics. There will also be other events such as a graduate fair, where graduate programs from across Canada advertise their programs to prospective students.

The StFX student organizers say they started planning the conference in February 2018, and that almost every senior student in the physics department is involved in its organization. In planning the conference, they say they’ve had to learn new skills almost every three to four weeks, from coding for their website to delegating.

They were also successful in securing sponsors, including their proposal to StFX’s Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership for help in sponsoring the keynote speakers.

The undergraduate conference, they say, will be a great opportunity for students to showcase their own research, to attend a grad fair to learn about future opportunities, and to network and learn from students and faculty from other institutions.

Of course, interacting with the keynote speakers, people at the top of their profession, will be a key benefit.

“It’s huge, the significance of meeting and networking with the speakers,” the students say.

Dr. Donna Strickland

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Donna Strickland is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo and is one of the recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics 2018 for developing chirped pulse amplification with Gérard Mourou, her PhD supervisor at the time. They published this Nobel-winning research in 1985 when Strickland was a PhD student at the University of Rochester in New York state. Together they paved the way toward the most intense laser pulses ever created. The research has several applications today in industry and medicine — including the cutting of a patient’s cornea in laser eye surgery, and the machining of small glass parts for use in cell phones. Strickland was a research associate at the National Research Council Canada, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and a member of technical staff at Princeton University. In 1997, she joined the University of Waterloo, where her ultrafast laser group develops high-intensity laser systems for nonlinear optics investigations. She is a recipient of a Sloan Research Fellowship, a Premier’s Research Excellence Award and a Cottrell Scholar Award. She received the Rochester Distinguished Scholar Award and the Eastman Medal from the University of Rochester. Strickland served as the president of the Optical Society (OSA) in 2013 and is a fellow of OSA, the Royal Society of Canada, and SPIE (International Society for Optics and Photonics). She is an honorary fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering as well as the Institute of Physics. She received the Golden Plate Award from the Academy of Achievement, is in the International Women’s Forum Hall of Fame, and holds numerous honorary doctorates. Strickland earned a PhD in optics from the University of Rochester and a B.Eng. from McMaster University.

Dr. Renee Horton

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Dr. K. Renee Horton is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and is a graduate of Louisiana State University and with a PhD in Material Science with a concentration in physics from the University of Alabama, as the first African American to receive this degree. In her day job, she serves as a NASA Space Launch System (SLS) Quality Engineer at Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans. Throughout her academic career, she has received numerous accolades and awards including the Black Engineer of the Year Trailblazer Award in 2011. She was named a 2019 Louisianian of the Year and is honoured in a group of nine individuals who stand out in their professions, give back and represent what’s best about Louisiana. She is an advocate for diversity and inclusion in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and works diligently in the community for STEM education and STEM outreach. She believes in changing the face of STEM. She is the founder of Unapologetically Being, Inc., a nonprofit for advocacy and mentoring in STEM. She is an international inspirational speaker who brings her personal story, expertise, and personality to her award-winning presentations. Dr. Horton has spoken all over the world including South Africa, Brazil, South Korea, Canada, Jamaica and Mexico. She has served as an invited speaker for the first International Women and Girls Day at the United Nations, Dow Chemical Black History Speaker, the National Air and Space Museum, Essence Power Stage, LSU Engineering commencement, numerous youth groups, to name a few. In 2016, she was elected President of the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP) as the second woman to hold the office. She has served the physics community abroad as a member of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) Women in Physics Working Group and currently serves on several advisory boards dedicated to a more diverse inclusion in physics. In 2017, she was elevated to a Fellow in the NSBP, the highest honour bestowed upon a member and in 2018 was inducted into Sigma Pi Sigma, the prestige honour society in physics. She is the author of Dr. H Explores the Universe, a children’s series, Dr. H and her Friends, and Dr. H Explores the ABCs. She recently was named the Silver Anniversary Artie Literature Award winner for 2018, from New Orleans Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. She is a member Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., as well as the proud mother of three and grandmother of two.

Dr. Allan MacDonald

Allan MacDonald-MyStFX.jpg

Allan H. MacDonald was born in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where he spent his early years. He earned his BSc degree from St. Francis Xavier University in 1973. He earned his MSc and PhD degrees in physics from the University of Toronto in 1974 and 1978. He spent several years as a member of the research staff of the National Research Council of Canada before becoming a faculty member at Indiana University in the U.S., where he spent over a decade. In 2000 he joined the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin, where he holds the Sid W. Richardson Chair in Physics. Professor MacDonald’s contributions to the theory of condensed matter physics have spanned many topics, including electronic structure theory, the quantum Hall effect, magnetism, and superconductivity. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and was awarded the Herzberg Medal (1987), the Buckley Prize in Condensed Matter Physics (2007), and the Ernst Mach Honorary Medal (2012). He recently received the 2020 Wolf Prize in Physics for his ground-breaking work in a field known as twistronics. In 2011 he predicted that a small rotation to a ”magic“ relative orientation angle would covert graphene bilayers from weakly interacting Fermi liquids to tunable strongly correlated electronic states. A rapidly expanding field (twistronics) with an impressive range of potential applications has grown from this observation.

Dr. Jesse Maassen

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Jesse Maassen received B.Eng. and MASc degrees in engineering physics from the École Polytechnique de Montréal in 2006. He obtained a PhD in physics from McGill University in 2011 working on first-principles simulations of nanoelectronic devices. During 2012-2015, Dr. Maassen was a postdoctoral fellow in the Electrical Engineering Department at Purdue University. Since 2016, he has been an assistant professor of physics at Dalhousie University. His research interests focus on exploring novel materials and devices, using predictive first-principles modeling, with an emphasis on electro-thermal transport.

The ties that bind: African Heritage Month 2020 launched in Antigonish during ceremony at StFX

Thu, 2020-01-23 16:08
StFX student Sebastian Charles leads the crowd in the song Lift Every Voice

From the stirring rhythmic beats of the African drumming procession that opened the ceremony to the closing prayer that encouraged all to hear in their hearts the powerful words expressed, the launch of African Heritage Month 2020 in Antigonish not only shone a spotlight on the culture and contributions of African Nova Scotians to society, it recognized the strength that comes with unity. 

A large crowd of StFX students, faculty and staff, community members, and local school students filled the MacKay Room, Bloomfield Centre, on the StFX campus on Jan. 23, 2020 to unite and celebrate that February is African Heritage Month. The theme for the month is “The Ties that Bind: Faith, Family, and Community.” 

“Together, we gather to honour and celebrate the many contributions that African Nova Scotians past and present have made to our society,” said Kelsey Jones, StFX Coordinator, African Descent Student Affairs, and co-emcee of the ceremony with Lorraine Reddick, Student Support Worker, Strait Centre for Education. 

“African Heritage Month marks a time of reflection, awareness, and most importantly, education,” she says. 

African Heritage Month is a great opportunity to learn about the contributions, history and culture of African Nova Scotians, Ms. Reddick says. It is equally important that this knowledge be integrated into learning throughout the year, she noted.

Ms. Jones says we must recognize the contributions of those who came before us and who laid the foundation, and we must honour their legacy and continue to fight for justice and equality.

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During her remarks, she challenged non-African Nova Scotians to ask themselves, ‘what am I doing to help dismantle the white supremacy society we live in?’ 

“We need you in solidarity, and we need action,” she said. “We need to work together for a better tomorrow. I, for one, am excited to see what the future holds.” 


The theme of “The Ties that Bind,” reminds us that we can facilitate a greater bond of all cultures in Nova Scotia, said Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher, who noted both the importance of inclusion and of paying tribute to the rich history and many contributions of African Nova Scotians. Mayor Boucher noted how pleased she is to see how this ceremony has grown over the years and to see the ever-growing crowd in attendance each year. 

African Heritage Month 2020 3 .jpg

Antigonish County Warden Owen McCarron noted he looks forward to this ceremony every year for the wonderful feeling of energy, community and culture in the room. “We need to work harder to spread that feeling of today, and to celebrate all the cultures that make our community,” he said. 

In remarks that received several rounds of applause, StFX President Dr. Kevin Wamsley noted that all around the world today we’re dealing with a plague of white nationalism. “We have to deal with that head on,” he said.

“We do that through education and understanding.”

There is hope, too, he said. For inspiration, one need only to look at StFX at the students, faculty, and staff of African descent who are here and who are succeeding. For all non-Black people, he challenged them not to let other people do the work for them. “You need to know the history of African Nova Scotians, and you need to stand up and be heard.” 

The way forward is not about fighting, it is all about building bridges, he said. 

In his remarks, Antigonish MLA and Minister of Health and Wellness and Minister of Gaelic Affairs, the Hon. Randy Delorey, also reiterated African Heritage Month isn’t about one month, it is about changing ourselves to incorporate it into our everyday life. 

Father Stanley MacDonald, who offered a blessing during the ceremony, encouraged everyone to be sure to take in the powerful words shared. “It needs to be heard in our hearts,” he said. “Think about it. Let it go deep.” 

Also bringing remarks were Janice Gough, Strait Regional Centre for Education, and Natasha Gray, African Nova Scotia Affairs. Remarks were also read from Central Nova MP Sean Fraser, who was unable to be in attendance. 

Rev. Richard Adesola helped open the ceremony with a prayer while Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School student Keira MacDuff sang O Canada and StFX student Sebastien Charles led the crowd in Lift Every Voice. 

Dr. John High Gillis Regional High School student Marcel Desmond brought in the African Heritage Month flag for a symbolic flag raising. The flag will fly in Alumni Plaza at StFX and also in the Town of Antigonish. A flag raising ceremony will be held at Town Hall on Feb. 3 at 11 a.m. 

The launch also included a libation ceremony, led by Ms. Reddick, to honour ancestors; the unveiling of the African Heritage Mount 2020 poster; presentations from Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School students; and lunch catered by Jamaica Lee Style Cuisine and Sodexo. 

The event is a partnership of StFX, the Town of Antigonish, the County of Antigonish, African Nova Scotian Affairs, Black Educators Association of Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Gaming Support 4 Culture, and Strait Regional Centre for Education. 

StFX international students, local community, connect for Home for the Holidays

Tue, 2020-01-21 14:46
StFX students Anamika Saxena (left) and Eshitha Chitla (right), both of India, are pictured with StFX Gerald Schwartz School of Business professor Rhonda McIver (second right) and her family during the Home for the Holidays program.

Getting together for a meal with friends and family over the holidays is a time-honoured tradition. This year, that circle grew a little wider as a group of StFX international students and members of the local community connected over Christmas through a new program at StFX called Home for the Holidays. 

The StFX Office of Internationalization arranged the inaugural Home for the Holidays program to connect international students studying at StFX with families living in the Antigonish community during the holiday season. StFX is home to students from over 40 countries around the world, and many are interested in learning more about Canadian holiday culture, says Donald Rasmussen, StFX’s International Student Advisor.

This year, he says 17 students were matched with eight host families, and reaction to the experience has been positive from all involved. 


“I was super excited. I really wanted to engage, and I was a little emotional as I was missing my family,” says Anamika Saxena of India who was one of three international students to spend time with StFX Gerald Schwartz School of Business professor Rhonda McIver and her family, enjoying a meal and a visit at their home. 

“It meant a lot for me, to rebalance my emotions, and to have people around me.”

Eshitha Chitla, also of India and taking a master’s in applied computer science, says it was a great chance to meet people, to learn more about Canadian culture and for people here to learn more about her culture. 

Both students said they really enjoyed the meal, and the fact their hosts took the time to prepare something that would appeal to their Indian heritage with lots of spices, as well as the chance to spend time with “the sweet little children,” who played games and showed the visiting students their paintings. 

“It was really nice. We really enjoyed it,” Ms. Saxena says. 

Home for the Holidays-01-MyStFX.jpg

Home for the Holidays-03-MyStFX.jpg “We loved it,” says Prof. McIver.

She says her family was interested in getting involved in the program as they wanted to know some of the international students better, to learn about their culture, and to help the students feel more at home on campus

“Part of it is making sure students are fitting in and feeling comfortable and at home and that they have some allies. I have a son at university. I know what it is like,” she says.

She says her family hopes to connect again with the students over the term. 

Mr. Rasmussen, who the students praised for his strong support of international students, says the program was promoted online and through the local Antigonish radio station and their office received immediate interest from faculty and staff members at StFX, as well as members of the broader Antigonish community. 

In most cases, students were invited to their host family’s home during the holidays to enjoy a meal, meet family members, and experience Canadian holiday festivities. Some groups also got outside for winter hiking and snowman-making. 

He says the office plans to run the program again next year.  


StFX signs MOU with Maritime Launch Services for research, rural economic diversification

Fri, 2020-01-17 15:34
L-r, Dr. Richard Isnor, StFX Vice President of Research and Graduate Studies, and Steve Matier, President and CEO of Maritime Launch Services

St. Francis Xavier University has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Maritime Launch Services Ltd. 

The signing of the agreement took place January 17, 2020 at StFX in the Joyce Family Atrium, Mulroney Hall before a large crowd that included the Hon. Randy Delorey, Nova Scotia Minister of Health & Wellness and Gaelic Affairs and Antigonish MLA; Mary Preville, Director General of Policy for the Canadian Space Agency; as well as representatives from ACOA, Nova Scotia Business Inc., local municipal governments, the local chamber of commerce, and the aerospace industry.

Maritime Launch Services (MLS) has proposed to construct and operate a private commercial space launch site for launching satellites into low Earth orbit. The purpose of the project is to establish a commercially-controlled, commercially-managed launch site that would provide options in North America in support of the growing commercial space transportation industry.

In support of the project, StFX is committed to the pursuit of research and creative works, ultimately contributing to academic discovery and dissemination of new knowledge, providing a lasting positive impact to the community. 

“It is StFX’s vision to be a leader among Canada’s undergraduate universities for its research and creative contributions to student experience, community collaboration, social responsibility and growth opportunities,” says Dr. Richard Isnor, StFX Vice President of Research and Graduate Studies. “This agreement certainly fits within that vision. Our faculty and staff will explore new and exciting research.  We are also enthusiastic about the new opportunities that this presents for student employment here in rural Nova Scotia in knowledge-based careers that diversify the rural economy.”

Dr. Isnor says he is enthusiastic about opportunities that agreements like this can create and how it’s supportive of the One Nova Scotia Coalition and Ivany Report, which challenged post-secondary institutions to look for opportunities to collaborate with companies being established or trying to contribute to society and the economy in the province. 

Minister Delorey and Ms. Preville of the Canadian Space Agency also spoke during the event, offering their congratulations. 

This one initiative has so many far-reaching positive implications, Minister Delorey said as he noted possible research opportunities and opportunities to support the local area. 

“We are pleased to partner with StFX,” says Steve Matier, President and CEO of Maritime Launch Services, who noted the MOU is a logical next step as their initiative ramps up and with their focus toward the development of the most critical element of their needs to grow, retain and challenge the local talent and expertise here in Nova Scotia.

Possible opportunities for research are in the areas of computer sciences, chemical analysis, environmental monitoring and aquatic resources to name a few.  

The proposed site for MLS is located in Canso, Nova Scotia, about an hour’s drive from StFX.  

Acclaimed author, activist and educator to deliver 10th Annual Dr. Agnes Calliste African Heritage Lecture Series

Tue, 2020-01-14 15:47
Robyn Maynard

Robyn Maynard, the award-winning author of Policing Black Lives and a Vanier Scholar at the University of Toronto, will be at StFX Feb. 6, 2020 to deliver the 10th Annual Dr. Agnes Calliste African Heritage Lecture Series, organized by the StFX Department of Sociology.  

The lecture series, named in honour of the late Dr. Agnes Calliste, a celebrated academic and sociology professor who taught at StFX for over two decades, was established to honour Dr. Calliste’s legacy and to continue her work of bringing esteemed speakers to campus during African Heritage Month to speak on issues of race and racism.

Ms. Maynard, an acclaimed author, activist and educator, will speak on the topic of ‘Black Life, Black Liberation and the Climate Crisis.’ The event begins at 7 p.m. in the Schwartz Auditorium. 

The presentation of the StFX Black Leaders Awards will also highlight the evening. A reception will follow, and all are welcome to attend. 

Kelsey Jones, StFX’s Coordinator, African Descent Student Affairs, will provide opening remarks.  

StFX faculty member Dr. Ornella Nzindukiyimana will introduce Ms. Maynard, who during her time on campus, will also take part in a lunch with black student leaders and a workshop with local youth via X-Project.


Robyn Maynard is the acclaimed author of Policing Black Lives: State violence in Canada from slavery to the present (Fernwood 2017). The book is a CBC national bestseller, currently in its third printing, designated as one of the “best 100 books of 2017” by the Hill Times, listed in The Walrus‘s “best books of 2018,” shortlisted for an Atlantic Book Award, the Concordia University First Book Prize and the Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-fiction, and the winner of the 2017 Annual Errol Morris Book Prize. The work has received glowing coverage and has been published in French. 

Ms. Maynard’s writing on race, gender, and discrimination is taught widely in universities across Canada and the United States. Her expertise is regularly sought in local, national and international media outlets and she has spoken before Parliamentary subcommittees, the Human Rights Committee of the Senate, and the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent. She has a long history of involvement in community activism and advocacy. She been a part of grassroots movements against racial profiling, police violence, detention and deportation for over a decade and has an extensive work history in harm reduction-based service provision serving sex workers, drug users, incarcerated women and marginalized youth in Montreal.  She is currently a PhD student and Vanier scholar at the University of Toronto and is working toward the completion of a new book manuscript.

Ms. Maynard, who won “2018 author of the year” by Montreal’s Black History Month, has published writing in the Washington Post, World Policy Journal, the Toronto Star, TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, Canadian Woman Studies, Critical Ethnic Studies Journal (forthcoming), Scholar & Feminist Journal (forthcoming), as well as an essay for Maisonneuve Magazine which won the acclaim of  “most-read essay of 2017.”

Opportunity to shine at StFX, says Mauritius student Gilles Perrine

Fri, 2020-01-10 11:38
Gilles Perrine celebrates receiving his X-Ring during the ceremony held Dec. 3, 2019.

Four years ago, Gilles Perrine left home in Rose-Hill, Mauritius to travel almost halfway across the world to attend St. Francis Xavier University.

Now, as the fourth year StFX environmental science student approaches graduation, he says not only did he flourish, he’d recommend the same choice to others. 

“If you want way more than an education, and you will get an education,” he says, “if you want a really good and smooth transition, StFX will be ideal. There are so many resources available. 

“You will see yourself shine way more than you thought you could,” says Mr. Perrine, a graduate of St. Andrew’s School who says the idea of coming to Canada for university had appealed to him, but he hadn’t thought about any particular university until he met a StFX recruiter.

“Once she did her presentation, I was dazzled. I couldn’t say no,” he laughs. “The next thing you know, I’m filling out the form to apply.”

Now, four years later, he wears a distinctive band of gold with a raised black X on his finger, StFX’s renowned X-Ring, which he received, along with his senior year classmates, on December 3, 2019, during the university’s annual and much-anticipated X-Ring ceremony. 

“When I look at this ring, I think of all four years, where I came from, where I am now, what really awaits for me. When I look at the ring, I think if you really work hard, there’s nothing that can stop you.”


What impressed him so much about that presentation back in high school? 

Mr. Perrine says he liked the idea of coming to a small university, where he could meet and interact with his professors, be taught by faculty with PhDs, and learn in small classes.

He said upon arriving on campus, he found this not only to be true, but to be even better than what he’d been told. 

“The professors will push you to do your best, and they will help to ensure you’re getting there.”

They provide an atmosphere where you really want to go to class and do well in class, he says.

“At StFX, everybody makes this so much easier for you. Everybody will make sure you feel prepared. School here is not only being at school, it’s also being part of a community that’s looking out for each and everyone.” 

From his professors in class to staff at meal hall who greet him by name, StFX, he says, makes you feel comfortable. 

StFX also presents many opportunities, he says. Mr. Perrine spent two summers doing research with faculty member Dr. Andrew MacDougall. He became a residence leader, working first as an RA and then as a house director. He was involved with various societies, and was focused on trying to leave a positive impact on campus. 

Coming to live in a small town far away from home is not without its challenges. But Mr. Perrine says the adjustment didn’t take long.

“It’s so easy to get into life in Antigonish, and to interact with people.”

He says he learned a lot about the many things happening in town just by chatting with local people. 

“That’s how I got involved in the Boy Scouts,” he says on the organization he had been involved in at home and joined here again as a leader. He also played soccer in the summer months with the local Celtics club. 

After graduation, Mr. Perrine says he wants to stay in Nova Scotia, to work for a few years before applying to attend law school. 

On StFX, he says, “There are so many opportunities to get involved. It’s up to each person what they want to do.”

StFX to delay opening until 4PM today, Thurs Jan 9

Thu, 2020-01-09 05:38

Please be advised that StFX will delay opening until 4:00 PM today, Thursday, January 9th as the university continues to clear accumulated snow and ice across campus.  Essential services will be maintained (Morrison Hall, Security, Facilities Management). 

StFX University closed today, Wed Jan 8th

Wed, 2020-01-08 05:56

Please be advised that StFX will be closed today, Wednesday January 8th due to the impending storm. Essential services will be maintained (Morrison Hall, security, cleaning, snow removal). 

The university will resume regular operations at 6:00 A.M. tomorrow, Thursday, January 9th.  

StFX Rankin School of Nursing faculty celebrated

Fri, 2019-12-20 09:08
L-r, Dr. Debbie Sheppard LeMoine, Dr. Patti Hansen Ketchum and Dr. Cathy MacDonald

Three nursing faculty from StFX’s Rankin School of Nursing (SON) were recently celebrated for their continued dedication to the SON.

Dr. Cathy MacDonald was warmly acknowledged for her many contributions to the SON in her role as acting director. “Her compassion for others and tireless hard work have made long lasting impressions within the SON, across the university, and within the broader nursing community,” said assistant director Dr. Debbie Sheppard LeMoine.

The school celebrated and welcomed Dr. Patti Hansen Ketchum as the incoming director starting in January 2020. 

Dr. Sheppard LeMoine was congratulated as well for receiving tenure and promotion and for her hard work and impact on the ongoing success of the Rankin SON in her role as assistant director, Dr. MacDonald said.  

StFX Rankin School of Nursing hosts curriculum planning day with NSHA partners

Wed, 2019-12-18 14:09
Participants at the StFX Rankin School of Nursing curriculum retreat at Keppoch Mountain, held with NSHA partners

The StFX Rankin School of Nursing recently held a curriculum retreat at Keppoch Mountain and they were honoured to collaborate and have their partners from the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) facilitate the day. 

Along with faculty and staff from the Rankin School, in attendance were Cindy MacQuarrie , NSHA senior director of interprofessional practice and learning; Nancy McConnell Maxner, NSHA director; and Sherri Roach, NSHA provincial manager of student placements.

Rankin School assistant director Dr. Debbie Sheppard-LeMoine said the group spent the day examining steps for further evaluation and implementation of the School of Nursing curriculum. 

“It was significant to have our NSHA partners with us. They are very committed to supporting our program goals,” she says.



"I Can't Believe It's Happening!" Over 900 StFX Students Receive Coveted X-Rings

Tue, 2019-12-03 16:05
Excited StFX students prepare to receive their X-Rings.

It’s a moment that members of the StFX family say they will cherish forever, and one that aspiring Xaverians look forward to for years.

Today, December 3, 2019, the moment became real for over 900 senior St. Francis Xavier University students, who received their coveted X-Rings during a ceremony in StFX’s Charles V. Keating Centre.

“It doesn’t feel like it’s actually happening!” exclaimed one excited student as she entered into the Keating Centre at the start of the ceremony, alongside other senior students all clad in black ceremonial gowns.

One by one, students processed towards the main stage and received their X-Rings, and the Keating Centre could hardly contain the excitement of the moment. Indeed, the students’ enthusiasm was felt all over campus.

StFX President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Kevin Wamsley began his remarks by noting a bit of irony: he himself does not have an X-Ring.

“I feel naked,” he joked. “But after four-and-a-half years at StFX, I think I have an idea of what makes this place tick.”

“You are students who are engaged in your university experiences. You are engaged in social justice activities, and in helping other students as well as members of our broader community.”

He said this is power represented by the X-Ring.

“The X-Ring is the symbol of your experience here at StFX. The X-Ring is the symbol of your commitment to community. So give back to your community like the graduates before you, and give back to StFX. Honor your X Ring by serving others.

“The world needs it, badly.”

Dr. Wamsley also extended thanks to all of the family and friends who travelled great distances to be on-campus for the ceremony, as well as those who watched via livestream.


The ceremony’s guest speaker was Maggie MacDonnell ’02, a StFX alumna who won the 2017 Global Teacher Prize over 20,000 nominees from 179 countries. In her remarks, she offered a reflection on her takeaways from her time as a student, and how they are all encapsulated in her X-Ring.

“When I think about my time at StFX, I realize that while I did graduate with a degree in Human Kinetics, what I really graduated with was an unofficial degree in community building,” she said. “When I remember StFX’s culture, and all of the activities and programs, there were so many times for us as students to practice learning how to connect with each other and how to build community.

“To me, that’s what the ring symbolizes. It conveys something tangible to somehow represent and symbolize all of those meaningful, but intangible, lessons that StFX has taught us.

“So today, when you get your ring, know that it’s your reminder that you come from a special place. A place that values community, and those soft skills that make the world go around.”

Senior class students participated throughout the ceremony. Jonas Lawrence, co-president of the senior class, served as master of ceremonies, while Nicholas Latulippe greeted the excited students and the approximately 2000 family and friends who watched from the Amelia Saputo Centre for Healthy Living.

Senior class co-president Taylor Kennah gave opening remarks, speaking about the unique bond that’s shared by all X-Ring recipients – one that cannot be fully understood by those who are not part of the StFX family.  

Samantha Bardwell gave an explanation of the StFX motto, and Maxwell Gauthier read from the writings of Dr. Moses Coady. 

Joanna Alphonso introduced the guest speaker and Emma Kyte gave the response. 

Students’ Union president Cecil VanBuskirk led the Xaverian Commitment. 


The honorary X-Ring is presented annually to someone who personifies the Xaverian spirit of community, leadership, and service.  This year’s honorary X-Ring was awarded to Dr. David Cudmore, a general practice physician in Antigonish who has served as the medical leader of the StFX Athletics sports medicine team for over 30 years. During the ceremony, Dr. Cudmore was lauded for his compassion, professionalism, and his outstanding concern for the wellbeing of StFX student athletes.


“There are over 50,000 graduates cheering you on right now, whether they know you or not,” said StFX Alumni Association president Marc Rodrigue ‘08. “They’ve been cheering you on since you arrived at StFX, and now they’ll encourage you to join them in cheering on those who follow in your footsteps.

“No matter what this ring means to you, I encourage you to think of it as being part of something bigger than just ourselves.”

Coady Institute Celebrates 60th Anniversary with Funding Announcements of more than $1 Million

Mon, 2019-12-02 16:17
Eileen Alma, Coady Director of Women and Indigenous Programming, Elder Kerry Prosper, Indigenous Knowledge Keeper on campus, and StFX President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Kevin Wamsley chat at 60th anniversary celebrations for the Coady International Institute.

A strong history and a bright future.

That was the sentiment at a celebration of the Coady International Institute’s 60th anniversary, held December 2, 2019 – exactly 60 years to the day from the Institute’s opening.

Special guests and community members gathered for a reception in the Coady International Institute’s Antigonish Community Foyer, where they reminisced about the Institute’s incredible global legacy of sustainable, community-centered growth and development.

With a mural of Monsignor Moses M. Coady, founder of the Antigonish Movement and namesake of the Coady Institute, overseeing the festivities, attendees shared stories from the Institute’s past and shared hopes for its future.

Their hopes are high – and for good reason.

During the ceremony, Gord Cunningham, Executive Director of the Coady International Institute, announced over $1 million in funding from four groups to support and strengthen Institute programs over the coming years.

The funding includes $477,000 over four years for Coady’s work with the Supporting Transition, Retention and Training for Girls (START4GIRLS) program in Zimbabwe. Lead by CARE Canada, and funded through Global Affairs Canada, the project will work with girls, adolescent women, and their communities to promote vocational skills training. It will also place a special emphasis on married girls and teenage mothers who have dropped out of school.

Further funding of $125,000 USD from the Ford Foundation will support Coady’s work with partner group The Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India. The three-year project will design participatory tools to measure how and where economic vulnerability affects women and their ability to participate in formal and informal employment.

Finally, a $300,000 contribution from the Comart Foundation will strengthen Coady’s ability to work alongside Indigenous peoples and African Nova Scotians, right here in our own province. The funds will be matched by the Jeannine Deveau Educational Equity Endowment, for a total investment of $600,000. The combined investment will strengthen Coady’s capacity to work more closely with Indigenous and African Nova Scotian students, whether through scholarships that bring students to the Institute or by bringing Coady programs into the community.

The diversity of funding announcements reflects Coady’s commitment to work closely with partner groups around the globe, and increasingly, closer to home here in Canada.

“The Coady Institute continues to be a place where change leaders – whether from other parts of the work or here in Nova Scotia – discuss issues, share innovations and develop real, tangible solutions,” said Gord.

“Local leaders are making change happen.”

Among the local programs celebrated at the event was the Centre for Employment Innovation (CEI), an initiative of the Coady Institute and StFX’s Extension Department. Alongside partners within the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education, CEI has worked with more than 100 people from underrepresented groups, helping them gain access to meaningful employment as well as training and professional development opportunities.

It was also noted that Coady’s Global Change Leader program, one of almost two dozen programs that will be offered in 2020, recently received over 1,900 applications for just 20 spots. It’s a figure the Coady Institute says supports the need for such programming, and affirms the Institute’s positive reputation around the world.

In addition to remarks from Mr. Cunningham, speakers at the event included Jamie Smith, Director of Social Innovation; Eileen Alma, Director of Women and Indigenous Programming; Anthony Scoggins, Director of Education Programs, StFX President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Kevin B. Wamsley, and two recent graduates from the Coady Institute: Sheila Pelly and Andrea Curley.

Mr. Kerry Prosper, Indigenous Knowledge Keeper on campus, offered a territorial acknowledgement, in recognition of the fact that the Coady Institute is located on Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and un-ceded territories of the Mi’kmaq people.

"A Celebration of Achievement and Triumph Over Challenge:" StFX Confers Degrees, Diplomas at 2019 Fall Convocation.

Sun, 2019-12-01 16:58
StFX welcomed over 200 new graduates to the Xaverian Family at the 2019 Fall Convocation ceremony, held Dec. 1.

Spirits were high in the Charles V. Keating Centre as family, friends and loved ones gathered to watch the newest group of StFX graduates receive their degrees and diplomas at StFX’s 2019 Fall Convocation, held December 1.

StFX conferred over 200 degrees and diplomas during the ceremony, spanning programs at the diploma, bachelor, and masters level. The hard work and perseverance displayed by graduates over their course of studies was noted by Dr. John Peacock ‘63, University Chancellor.

“I have no doubt that each of you bring a unique story of struggle, challenge and achievement. I hope as you reflect on your journey, you will also reflect on those who provided you with support, encouragement, and love while you worked to get here. I hope you take the time to thank them.”

He also challenged graduates to consider how they will make the world “a better, safer, and happier place.”

“Your generation is fighting against the destruction my generation has caused,” said Dr. Peacock. “Climate change, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia. I urge you to think carefully about the role you’ll play.

“And I hope that StFX has formed you into the type of person who won’t run away from a challenge.”

Dr. Peacock’s comments were seconded by Dr. Kevin B. Wamsley, President and Vice-Chancellor of StFX, who noted, of all the events that take place each year at StFX, Convocation is his favourite.

“Convocation is a celebration of the belief that an academic degree means something. That the creation and dissemination of knowledge provides hope for future, and prepares us to take on the challenges that confront us.”

Dr. Wamsley also noted many of the new graduates who already don an X-Ring, and implored them to “remember what the ring celebrates.”

“Use your StFX degree to build bridges between people to solve problems in this great country. We are at a time of great polarization and disagreement. Build bridges to help us find our way.”

StFX awarded an honorary degree to Dr. Helen Vari, a Canadian philanthropist and the President of the George and Helen Vari Foundation. Dr. Vari has been a lifelong supporter of education, academic research and the preservation of cultural heritage.

In her remarks to students and guests, Dr. Vari, who identified herself as a “Hungarian refugee,” recalled an act of kindness on behalf of StFX that forever shaped her family’s life.

In the fifties, StFX established a Hungarian Refugee Fund to support newcomers from the country who were arriving in Canada. The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney ‘59, then a StFX student, travelled to Montreal on behalf of the university to disperse the funds to Mr. George Vari, Helen’s husband – and a refugee newcomer himself. In addition to the funds, Mr. Mulroney also took his own winter coat and gave it to Mr. Vari, recognizing he did not yet have one of his own.

It was a small act of kindness that made an enormous impact on the Vari family.

“This is not only generosity – this is humanity,” said Dr. Vari. “This is your university, and this is our wonderful Canada. I cannot thank you ever enough.”

She also encouraged the new graduates to exemplify this same kind spirit in their own lives.

“Be good. Do whatever you can for other people, whether a smile or a dollar. And know that, in our wonderful country of Canada, everything is possible. Whatever you decide, you can do it!”

Also honoured during the ceremony were StFX biology lab instructor Regina Cozzi, recipient of the 2019 Outreach Award, and Lindsey Arnold, Instructor with StFX’s Continuing & Distance Education department and Student Success Centre, who received the 2019 Outstanding Staff Teaching Award.

S.A.F.E. (Syria-Antigonish Families Embrace) received the 2019 Community Partner Award in recognition for their tireless work to give Syrian families displaced by conflict the opportunity to rebuild their lives in Antigonish. StFX and S.A.F.E. are proud to have a strong partnership, which has created many opportunities for learning and the exchange of ideas and talents. 

New graduate Kyle Sarka, who is originally from Inverness, N.S. and received his Master of Education at the ceremony, delivered the graduating class address. He noted that when he enrolled in StFX as an undergraduate student, many of the new student facilities developed in recent years were still a dream.

“But the culture of this university is timeless, and what I learned from being part of this culture is that Xaverians are a family. And as you look back, remember that it was all worth it.”

Marc Rodrigue, president of the StFX Alumni Association, extended congratulations to the new graduating class on behalf of entire StFX alumni network. He also encouraged them to use their experiences at StFX to make the world a better place and to inspire positive change, wherever and whenever possible.


2018 Honorary Degree recipient

Dr. Helen Vari

Helen Vari is an eminent Canadian philanthropist and the President of the George and Helen Vari Foundation. Throughout her life, she has supported student scholarships, academic research and the preservation of cultural heritage. Mrs. Vari was educated in both Austria and Hungary. She came to Canada, where she married her late husband The Honourable George W. Vari. Mr. Vari established the engineering and construction company SEFRI Construction International. She has been a lifelong supporter of education, committed to ensuring students of all abilities and backgrounds have opportunities to study. The George and Helen Vari Foundation was created in 1984 to promote education in Canada and cultural and educational exchange, and it has provided philanthropic gifts to a number of institutions. Mrs. Vari is also a primary financial contributor through the Vimy Foundation to the construction of the new Visitor Education Centre at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France. She has been a member of many organizations, including the Vimy Foundation; The Canada Council for the Arts, Alliance Francaise de Toronto, Maison des étudiants Canadiens at the University of Paris, the Ontario Heritage Foundation, and the Leukemia Research Foundation of Canada, among many others. She is the Founding President of the World Monuments Fund in France, a Foundation dedicated to the preservation of cultural heritage worldwide. Mrs. Vari's contributions have been widely recognized. She is a member of the Order of Canada. She has received prestigious honours, including: Commander, Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur (France), Dame Commander of Merit of the Order of Saint-John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta; Queen Elizabeth II 50‘Anniversary Golden Jubilee and 60" Anniversary Diamond Jubilee Medals; Officier du Mérite National (France); and honorary doctorates from York University, Ryerson University, Victoria University, University of Toronto, and the University of Ontario Institute and Technology.


2019 Outreach Award

Regina Cozzi

Lab Instructor, Biology

Regina Cozzi has been a member of the StFX community since 2000, first as a research assistant and now as a laboratory instructor in the Biology Department. Mrs. Cozzi is extremely dedicated to her outreach work for both the department and the local community. Her efforts have engaged and educated thousands of children in the region. For years she has promoted ocean literacy to youth and adults through numerous outreach workshops, both in English and in French. Since 2013, Mrs. Cozzi has organized the department’s annual World Oceans Day (WOD) event, which promotes ocean awareness to the general public, especially to younger generations. This highly anticipated educational event draws over 1,000 people annually and has lasting impacts. Mrs. Cozzi also launched the Bio-Outreach website for the Biology Department and created an organized online data entry to keep track of the department’s outreach activities, currently benefiting approximately 2,000 youth annually. In addition, she volunteers as a judge at regional science fairs and at the StFX Student Research Day. She contributes to women in STEM, volunteers with the West River 4-H Club as waterfowl leader, collaborates with X-Chem to facilitate ocean literacy activities during Science Literacy Week and helps facilities summer camps and school visits. Ms. Cozzi’s strong community involvement can also be seen through her blog, Country Parent, promoting local activities for children, since 2012. Mrs. Cozzi holds a MSc in environmental immunotoxicology from the Université du Québec.

2019 Outstanding Staff Teaching Award

Lindsey Arnold

Instructor, Continuing & Distance Education and Student Success Centre

Lindsey Arnold joined StFX in 2017 as an instructor for the Student Success Centre and for Continuing and Distance Education. She brought with her a student-centered and inclusive teaching philosophy that grew out of research she did in earning her Master of Arts in education at the University of Toronto OISE, and also out of her diverse contributions to the field of education, including running a vibrant tutoring business and developing transformative curriculum overseas. Her accomplishments at StFX include developing and delivering various face-to-face and online workshops and courses as well as one-on-one instruction. Her pedagogy emphasizes student-centered, active and holistic learning alongside direct instruction delivered through multiple modes in order to ensure accessibility, inclusivity, and engagement. As an essay writing and learning skills instructor, she teaches students from different disciplines and backgrounds, many of whom are struggling to succeed at university. One of her colleagues describes the “positive influence” she has on her students and states that, “Lindsey is a particularly favoured instructor at the SSC, and students actively seek her out to work with them. This is because Lindsey is a caring and compassionate instructor who advocates for the academic and personal success of all students who visit the centre.” Her contributions to the intellectual life at StFX and the academic skills of StFX graduates have earned her recognition as an outstanding teacher.

2019 Community Partner Award

SAFE (Syria-Antigonish Families Embrace)

Since its inception, SAFE (Syria-Antigonish Families Embrace), which works to give Syrian families a chance to rebuild their lives in Antigonish, has inspired countless people with the power of community relationships. From the start, StFX and SAFE have had a strong partnership that has created many opportunities for the exchange of ideas, talents and learning. Together, SAFE and StFX have organized or co-sponsored several events for sharing knowledge, creating awareness and building community. These included the presentation of To Eat an Almond, the organization of StFX Refugee Awareness Day, X Talks: Hope and Education and the President’s Colloquium: People in Crisis. What can we do. The work of SAFE and the issues it highlights have been brought into the classroom and into students’ academic, social and personal learning. Presentations have provided unique opportunities for students to learn more about refugee issues. Students involved in fundraising, advocacy and peer education have learned leaderships skills while mobilizing the student body to achieve a goal. Several research studies have come out of SAFE’s work as a sponsorship group and the arrival of refugees in the community. The work SAFE has done on campus, co-sponsoring events such as the Peace for Syria Walk and the Affirmation of Peace/Salam has helped StFX create a more diverse and inclusive campus where students have opportunity to learn from those who have a different religion and life experience.

Fall Convocation Grad List Is Here!

Thu, 2019-11-28 18:04

The 2019 Fall Convocation Grad List is here. Congratulationss to all receiving their degrees this weekend!

Fall-2019-Program Web.pdf Fall-2019-Program Web.pdf






Celtic Studies professor unearths centuries-old medicinal recipes, publishes article

Thu, 2019-11-28 11:29
Dr. Ranke de Vries

While researching another project, StFX Celtic Studies professor Dr. Ranke de Vries came across a fascinating text that talked about the use of animal dung in medieval medicine—to treat common ailments like baldness and snake bites.

Intrigued by the information she found, Dr. de Vries has published the text, with translation and notes, in a new article in the North American Journal of Celtic Studies. The text has never before been edited. 

“Nobody has looked at this text up to now, which means that these recipes have been hidden away in this manuscript for roughly six centuries,” she says. 

She says she came up with the idea for the article quite by accident. “I came across the text as I was doing some research for a completely different article about medieval medicine. When I was looking through the manuscript description for TCD MS 1343, I saw that it contained this short text on medicinal uses for animal dung, which I found intriguing,” she says. 

“What type of animal dung was used, and what on earth would that be good for? Did doctors use fresh dung? As it turns out, most of the Irish recipes involve dried and burnt goat dung, which was considered beneficial to cure a range of afflictions, from alopecia (localized hair loss) to bites from venomous animals – but dung from sheep, cows, mice, and birds are also present.”

She says one of the things she did not realize before she did research for this edition was that animal dung was used in medical recipes long after the Middle Ages. 


What interested her about the research?

“First of all, I find medieval medicine as a field is utterly fascinating, as the principles behind it are so fundamentally different from modern medicine. To us, most of it may seem idiosyncratic at best, and downright lethal at worst. A modern reader might wonder what the value of studying medieval medicine might be, when so much progress has been made in the field of medicine since then. And that is a valid question. 

“When you look at medieval medical recipes, many of them contain highly toxic ingredients, mercury, for example, or various kinds of lead, and you should absolutely never try to make them at home, or use them in any way whatsoever. But there are some recipes, like a recipe for eye salve found in the Anglo-Saxon Bald’s Leechbook from the ninth century, that have been shown to be quite effective against MRSA, caused by a bacterium that is resistant to many types of antibiotics.”

She says in a time when antibiotics are becoming less effective, the thought of maybe coming across a recipe that can be used to cure modern disease is alluring.

She says the topic of medicine in medieval Ireland is something that has not been studied very much until relatively recently, even though there are around 100 manuscripts containing medical material, dated to the 14th century and after, and new texts are found periodically

Part of the relative lack of research has to do with the fact that the texts themselves are quite challenging – they are filled with technical terms, and the manuscripts contain lots of abbreviations as they were written for use by medical families, who of course knew the material very well. 

“I really liked the challenge of editing such a text, and it is always exciting to be able to work on something that nobody has ever looked at before – these recipes have not been studied for 600 years,” she says. 

“Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the recipes themselves are also quite interesting – mouse pellets, for example, were thought to help against kidney stones. You have to wonder whether that has anything to do with the size and shape of the pellets…”

Dr. de Vries says she is delighted that the article has appeared, and hopes that students and scholars alike find it useful, and that it will inspire people to take up studying medieval medicine.


Found in a 15th-century manuscript written in Irish Gaelic, the manuscript, titled TCD MS 1343, is currently held at Trinity College, Dublin. The text is essentially a collection of medical recipes that contain various kinds of animal dung, along with an explanation as to what ailment each type of dung cures. 

For the edition, she says she first looked at the original text in the digitized manuscript, which can be found on the Irish Script On Screen project. 

“As texts in medical manuscripts tend to use a lot of abbreviations, I first had to determine what the abbreviations stood for, which took a while—one particular symbol had me stumped for a couple of months. I then translated it and attempted to explain any particularly tricky or unclear sections. The Irish Gaelic text refers a number of times to Avicenna, a very famous medieval Persian physician who lived in the late 10th and early 11th century. Avicenna wrote, among many other things, a work called the Canon of Medicine. The Irish writer of our text likely did not use the original Arabic text, but a Latin translation of the Canon. This meant that in order to be able to compare the two versions, I had to translate a few paragraphs from the Latin translation as well. I am very grateful to my StFX colleagues Professor Ed Carty and Dr. Donna Trembinski, who were kind enough to assist me in that translation.”


Incidentally, she says, the manuscript has a lot of other interesting material. She is currently working on a few fragments from the same manuscript that deal with mandrake, the number of bones in the human body, rhubarb, and different units of measurement. 

Dr. de Vries says she actually took her transcriptions for these latest fragments into the medieval medicine course she is currently teaching, and students helped her find background information for the various sections, which was really useful. She also received help in transcribing the fragments from students in her Selected Topics course on medieval manuscripts.


Learning in action: StFX public policy and governance students meet with Nova Scotia politicians and policymakers

Fri, 2019-11-22 14:13
StFX public policy and governance students are pictured with the Hon. Randy Delorey during their recent visit to Halifax.

Public policy and governance students from StFX had the opportunity to experience their studies firsthand when they travelled to Halifax Nov. 8, 2019 to meet and engage with provincial politicians and policymakers. 

The field trip came about after Dr. Peter Kikkert, Irving Shipbuilding Chair in Arctic Policy at StFX’s Mulroney Institute of Government, asked Antigonish MLA and Minister of Health and Wellness Randy Delorey if arrangements could be made to bring the group of students to Halifax. 

Minister Delorey arranged meetings for the students with officials in several departments, including finance, executive council, health, and environment. 

“This was all about exposing the students to the different career pathways that public policy can take them on,” Dr. Kikkert says, “and to hear from the actual practitioners on the skills they should be working on as they complete their undergraduate degree.’

He says the experience also gave the students the chance to ask relevant and timely questions on issues and themes they’re currently studying. 

Students say the experience was terrific. 

public policy 2.jpeg “The trip was a really meaningful opportunity to witness firsthand potential career opportunities and paths I can follow with my undergraduate degree in public policy. It opened my eyes to the broad scope of work within the government and bureaucracy and the possibility I have to work in a position and department that I feel extremely passionate about,” says second year public policy and governance student Chloe Walker from Ottawa, ON.

“A few highlights for me were definitely meeting with the Ministry of the Environment and connecting with my fellow classmates. I left the trip feeling excited about my future as a graduate from StFX’s public policy program and a clearer understanding of how I will apply my knowledge from StFX to life beyond the classroom. Special thanks to both Professor Kikkert and Professor (Adam) Lajeunesse, as well as Minister Delorey and all the others we met for making this experiential learning opportunity possible.”

Hannah Peters of Herring Cove, NS, a third year student in public policy and governance, agreed the field trip was an excellent experience. 

“Being from Nova Scotia and getting an inside look into how various departments in the provincial government work was fascinating. Meeting the departments of environment, finance, health, and the executive council was exciting to see how the different areas process their policies,” she says. 

“We had lunch with Minister Randy Delorey. It was interesting to sit down and talk to him about various issues, and his background on how he became the Minister of Health. It was intriguing to hear the different experiences and education of individuals in the policymaking fields in the departments.” 

public policy 1.jpeg “To me, the trip was a great eye-opening experience,” says second year honours public policy and governance student Matthew Stepien from Stoney Creek, ON. “Since so often in the PGOV program we are taught about 'the government' and the policies that it implements, but I never truly understood the people who are involved in making the government operate on a day-to-day level. This trip really went a long way to showing how the hard work of government is done by a number of dedicated and hardworking individuals. 


Minister Delorey says he was happy to help coordinate the experiential learning opportunity for students of StFX’s Public Policy and Governance program with the Government of Nova Scotia, as having the opportunity to hear directly from front line public servants complements the academic learning that takes place in the classroom, helping provide additional context and reference points for past and future coursework, and adding another layer to the learning.  

“I believe the meetings also provided practical value for students by providing insights into the specific work being done by policy staff within the public sector as well as the diverse range of backgrounds serving in these important roles.”

Minister Delorey says he was also pleased to have the opportunity, both as local MLA and as Minister of Health and Wellness, to join the students for a Q&A session, along with a number of department employees who are StFX alumni. The alumni provided introductions including comments on their studies at StFX and their work experience with the province. 

“These discussions provided insight into the variety of career opportunities despite seemingly unrelated undergraduate studies, which hopefully put students at ease to know that there remain many career path options once they successfully complete their studies at StFX,” he says.

“Finally, I would like to acknowledge the willingness of the many public servants who participated to make this experience possible. Every department approached agreed to participate and the Executive Council Office jumped at the opportunity and offered to facilitate the detailed coordination between departments and StFX. The feedback from all who participated was very positive—students seemed to genuinely appreciate the insights and employees valued the interest students placed in their work.”


First year students present health research at national conference

Fri, 2019-11-22 13:54
L-r, Madison Pendleton, Dr. Michael Cardinal-Aucoin and Sophie Sawler

As first year StFX students, Madison Pendleton and Sophie Sawler were immediately on board when their ‘Intro to Biology’ professor Dr. Michael Cardinal-Aucoin gave his students the opportunity to participate in an optional class project last year, providing an opportunity for the students to do extra work outside class time to gain experience doing health-related research.

The project proved so successful that their research, “Let’s talk about sex: A mixed-methods study of student awareness of and access to sexual health primary care resources at a residential university in Canada,” was accepted for presentation at both a national and international conference. 

From Oct. 30-Nov. 2, 2019, Dr. Cardinal-Aucoin, Ms. Sawler and Ms. Pendleton travelled to Vancouver, BC to present their research at the Family Medicine Forum, a national medical-related conference. The two StFX students were by far the youngest presenters in attendance. 

“Being able to have this opportunity is beyond what I expected coming to StFX,” says Ms. Sawler, now a second year health student. 

“I can’t describe the feeling. It’s amazing,” agrees Ms. Pendleton, now a second year biology student, who says building these types of relationships and experiences early in their undergraduate degree is invaluable. 

Both students say they want to become doctors in the future and the chance to be around people at the conference who have recently gone through the healthcare field was a one-of-a-kind experience to talk and network. 

“Being around people you aspire to be like was awesome,” says Ms. Sawler.

Dr. Cardinal-Aucoin says the idea behind the research project was so the students could present at a local conference, the Dalhousie University Primary Healthcare Research Day in Halifax, NS, in the spring. He says that experience went so well that they decided to apply to other conferences. 

They were accepted and attended the Family Medicine Forum in Vancouver. Both students received funding from StFX’s Dr. W.F. James Student Research Conference Travel Support Program to attend and present their research findings.

Their work was also accepted at the international North American Primary Care Research Group conference, held in Toronto, where a colleague of Dr. Cardinal-Aucoin presented their poster.  

Dr. Cardinal-Aucoin says the idea to offer the opportunity to the students was important to him. 

“I just want to try, at least, not just to teach the facts of biology or science, but also how it’s done, and that’s research. One of the best ways is to dive in and do some research. That can be difficult, especially in first year courses.”

Dr. Cardinal-Aucoin says he didn’t want to make the project obligatory as not everyone would be interested or be able to devote so much time and effort to it. 

For Ms. Sawler and Ms. Pendleton, both say the opportunity to do research and to expand their knowledge appealed to them. They say Dr. Cardinal-Aucoin did everything he could to help and support them in this experience. 


StFX doctoral student’s research aims to help older women reclaim a presence in the community

Thu, 2019-11-21 15:58
Kelly O'Neil

Helping older women reclaim a presence in the community and in society is the aim of research undertaken by Kelly O’Neil, a StFX PhD student, who plans to focus her studies on older women becoming agents of change through a community radio project. 

Ms. O’Neil, of Halifax, NS, is in her first year of the Nova Scotia Inter-University Doctoral Program in Educational Studies and is supervised by StFX adult education professor Dr. Carole Roy. 

Already, her work is having impact. On Nov. 18, CBC’s Information Morning interviewed Ms. O’Neil on her master’s thesis, which focused on older women and housing insecurity in Halifax. 

One of the key findings in that research and something that carries over into her upcoming project is the feeling of older women feeling invisible, she says. 

“Throughout this research, I heard about a strong sense of imposed invisibility, that their value is no longer seen and it’s perceived they don’t have a lot to offer,” says Ms. O’Neil who received the best thesis award while completing her master’s in family studies and gerontology at Mount Saint Vincent University under supervisor Dr. Janice Keefe.

With a background in community work and a degree in social work, Ms. O’Neil says she has worked with people in poverty previously and has seen how people are marginalized with no social or political power or presence. Add in the fact of being older, and also as a woman, and it can present a particular set of barriers. 

An older woman herself, she says it is a group too that isn’t always represented in research. 

Ms. O’Neil says for her PhD research she was thinking about ways that women can challenge and resist that, and how they can use this invisibility to become an instrument of power. She wanted to create an avenue where the women would be given a voice—the opportunity to speak for themselves. 

“The community needs to the be spokesperson for the community,” she says. 

“The project, as I envision it, is for older women, aged 55 and up, who are economically marginalized and living within the Halifax Regional Municipality, to come together to train as citizen journalists.” 

She says she’d like to develop a radio podcast program, something ideally that would continue after the research is complete. 

Ms. O’Neil, who is currently completing course work and a literature review, notes she is still about a year away from starting the research. 

It’s a topic of research already gaining traction. Her master’s work—which included an illustrated infographic summarizing key findings of her thesis in a visual way—not only drew media attention, she also sent the infographic to a number of stakeholders including various elected officials. She was subsequently invited by some MLAs to talk about her research and its implications. 

“The key for me is that it (the information) is accessible, interesting and in the community. Whatever I do, it belongs in the community, that’s really important for me.”