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Rankin School of Nursing professor Dr. Donna Halperin receives two grants for vaccine research

Fri, 2019-06-14 09:14
Dr. Donna Halperin

StFX Rankin School of Nursing professor Dr. Donna Halperin is the successful recipient of two new Canadian Immunization Research Network (CIRN) grants that will help fund vaccine research. 

CIRN has recently funded two new studies with Dr.  Halperin, the co-principal investigator. The first project is funded for $300,481 over two years to research “Burden Ethnographic Modeling Evaluation Qaujilisaaqtuq (BEMEQ) RSV,” and she has been granted a further $150,010 to fund, “A multifaceted evaluation of provincial maternal Tdap immunization programs.”

Dr. Halperin says the multi-faceted evaluation of provincial maternal Tdap programs study is taking place in five provinces, which will inform the implementation of maternal Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis) programs being rolled out across the country.

“The purpose of administering this vaccine is to protect newborn infants in Canada from severe outcomes of pertussis infection. Bordetella pertussis causes pertussis (Whooping Cough), a severe respiratory infection. Unimmunized infants, including those who are too young to have completed their primary infant immunization series, are at the greatest risk of hospitalization and death,” she says. “Immunization in pregnancy is safe and protects the infant until they are ready to receive the vaccine at two months of age.”

She says the focus of this study is to determine support and resources offered to health care providers for maternal Tdap programs and to identify gaps in learning needs according to provider type. 

Also, she says knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs and behaviors (KABB) of pregnant women will be determined regarding the maternal Tdap vaccine. Three interventions will be developed; a practice intervention tool for providers and an information intervention and social marketing strategy directed towards pregnant women for maternal immunization. These three interventions will be evaluated for acceptability.

In the “Burden Ethnographic Modeling Evaluation Qaujilisaaqtuq (BEMEQ) RSV” study she says there has been the recent accelerated clinical development of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) vaccine candidates for pregnant women and children that offers the promise of RSV prevention.

“RSV is the most common cause of severe lower respiratory tract infection in young children worldwide. Exceedingly high rates are observed in the Canadian Arctic,” she says.

This study, which is situated in Nunavik (northern third of the province of Quebec) and Nunavut, will help inform public health planning by collecting data on RSV morbidity and health care use, careful modelling and economic analysis of the potential benefits of vaccines and an understanding of the acceptability of proposed interventions in target populations. 

Dr. Halperin says there are three separate studies within the broader study, which brings together 28 investigators across Canada. 

The focus of her portion of the study will be to describe the key determinants of vaccine acceptance and refusal at the demand side (values, attitudes, beliefs) and the access side (logistical, healthcare system factors impacting access and vaccine services) amongst parents, healthcare providers, educators, and public health practitioners. Sharing circles and key informant interviews will be used to collect this information in Nunavut, she says.

CIRN is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), and is a national network of vaccine researchers who develop and test methodologies related to the evaluation of vaccines as they pertain to safety, immunogenicity and effectiveness, and program implementation and evaluation.

CIRN is a network of networks, comprising eight sub-networks, composed of over 100 investigators across 40 Canadian institutions, involving experts in vaccine-related evaluative research. 


Three StFX Rankin School of Nursing students gaining experience with summer employment at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology

Thu, 2019-06-13 11:49
L-r, Layla Green, Antonia Di Castri and Laura Leppan

Three StFX Rankin School of Nursing students and recent graduates, Layla Green, Antonia Di Castri and Laura Leppan, are all employed and gaining valuable experience this summer working at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology (CCfV) in Halifax. 

The Canadian Center for Vaccinology was established to develop, implement and evaluate technologies and vaccines for infectious diseases that have a significant impact on Canadian and global health, and to train experts in these critical and evolving fields. It’s housed in the IWK Health Centre, and is a collaboration of the IWK, Dalhousie University, and the Nova Scotia Health Authority. 

The students are supervised by StFX nursing professor Dr. Donna Halperin, who holds a cross-appointment in pediatrics at Dalhousie University and is the associate director of the CCfV, responsible for the Programs, Policy and Implementation Group; and Dr. Scott Halperin, director at the CCfV and a professor of pediatrics, and microbiology & immunology at Dalhousie and adjunct professor at StFX.

Laura Leppan, of Halifax, NS, is entering her fourth year of the nursing program at StFX, in the honours stream. Her research at CCfV this summer is part of an ongoing clinical trial examining ways to protect very young infants from whooping cough (pertussis). 

“Specifically, I will be analyzing breast milk from women who were vaccinated during pregnancy to test for antibodies against whooping cough. If there are sufficient antibodies against whooping cough present in the breast milk, it could suggest that breastfeeding after maternal immunizations during pregnancy may offer additional protection to the newborn until they are old enough to receive their own vaccines,” she says 

She says becoming part of the CCfV team came from expressing interest in gaining research experience to her professor, now her honours co-supervisor, Dr. Donna Halperin, this past winter. 

“She was very keen to help me in this journey, and after discussing my interests in public health and maternal and newborn health, she consulted with Dr. Scott Halperin, also of CCfV, who suggested this project may be a great fit. I am so grateful for this incredible learning opportunity,” Ms. Leppan says. 

“So far, I have learned a vast amount about immunology, physiology behind vaccines, breast feeding, and preventable diseases, which have all further sparked my interest in these areas.”

Layla Green from Falmouth, NS, who just graduated from the honours nursing program in May 2019 is continuing the research she took part in as the subject of her undergraduate thesis at StFX, looking at the experiences and perspectives of community health experts in Nunavut with regard to maternal immunization in Inuit populations. 

“With this current position, having put in two years on this project already with my thesis, it has been great to continue on with this work past graduation and see where it goes,” says Ms. Green, who has also been added to the teams developing the protocols for two new recently funded projects. 

“I have had Dr. Donna Halperin as a prof since my first year at StFX and developed a very good working relationship with her over the course of my honours thesis project, where both she and Dr. Scott Halperin were my thesis advisors. She has definitely been a wonderful support and has opened up many doors for me in terms of research opportunities.” 

Ms. Green says the entire honours process at the Rankin School has left a strong impression on her and where she sees her career as a nurse going. “While I still thoroughly enjoy working at the bedside, having had the experience of doing research and learning to look at health care questions in a much different light has been truly eye-opening, and I hope to always keep one foot in the realm of research as I move forward in this profession.” 

Antonia Di Castri, of St. Albert, AB, graduated with a honours nursing degree from StFX in 2017 and is now a MSc candidate in the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology at Dalhousie University. This summer, her primary focus is work on her master's thesis project, a mixed methods study of the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, values, and behaviours of pregnant Inuit women and Northern healthcare providers about maternal pertussis immunization. 

She is also writing manuscripts for projects she has worked on in previous years at the CCfV. Among them is her quantitative undergraduate honours thesis project, which explores public and healthcare provider perceptions of pharmacists as immunizers in Nova Scotia. 

“I am finding it to be a very exciting time in my work because I am finally able to see the results of these studies that I have been involved with since their nascence,” she says.

Ms. Di Castri says she was first offered a position at the CCfV during the summer between her third and fourth year of the StFX nursing program.

“Working at CCfV has been, and continues to be instrumental in my career path. I have honed a diverse research skill set that has proven to be very useful in my pursuit of graduate studies in epidemiology. I have had the opportunity to be a co-author on several academic articles and to present our research studies at national conferences. I am indebted to the investigators at the CCfV for their commensurate mentorship. Any future success that I might encounter is built upon the foundation laid by these outstanding people.”

Dr. Donna Halperin says this opportunity provides students with multidisciplinary exposure to a complete range of health disciplines, as CCfV brings together researchers from multiple institutions with biomedical, clinical, social sciences, and humanities backgrounds.

She says the opportunity also aligns members of the School of Nursing with a large, interdisciplinary research group comprising members from a broad range of health disciplines with an international reputation in vaccine research, and provides an impactful mechanism to expand StFX’s footprint in the health-related research realm. 

Ethics in Nursing: StFX Rankin School of Nursing hosts 2019 ARCASN Conference

Wed, 2019-06-12 14:39
StFX's Rankin School of Nursing is hosting the 2019 ARCASN Conference

Nursing faculty and educators from schools of nursing across Atlantic Canada will converge on StFX this week as the Rankin School of Nursing hosts the 2019 Atlantic Region of Canadian Schools of Nursing’s (ARCASN) annual conference from June 13-15.

This year, the conference focuses on ethics within nursing and will bring educators together to share energies and insights as they network together for ethics and quality nursing education under a theme of “Fostering a moral climate of care and nursing research, practice and pedagogy.”

“This year’s ARCASN conference aims to explore several areas related to ethics in nursing, including highlighting ethics as a fundamental guide to nursing and health care,” says Rankin School nursing faculty Marion Alex, an ARCASN representative and the conference’s committee chair.  

Highlights from the event will include keynote addresses from Dr. Franco A. Carnevale, a nurse, psychologist and clinical ethicist from McGill University, who will lead an address and discussion focused around “Recognizing nurses as moral agents: New directions in nursing ethics;” as well as a keynote address from Kerry Prosper, Mi’Kmaq Elder from Paqtnkek First Nations and the Inaugural Knowledge Keeper at StFX, whose work is in traditional ceremonies and healing practices.

Other highlights will include a panel discussion lead by guest speakers Cynthia Baker, Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing; Christine Rieck Buckley, Canadian Nurses’ Foundation; and Dr. Claire Betker, scientific director for the National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health; and a closing address about moral agency and ethics in professional nursing from nurses Jeanne Sarson and Linda MacDonald, Speaking on Persons Against Non‐State Torture. They have recently returned from a global conference about women’s and human rights in Paris, where they continued advocating for recognition that forms of domestic violence manifest as torture.

A special part of the conference will be a dedication to the legacy of Sister Simone Roach and the Sisters of St. Martha, pioneers in nursing and health care in eastern Nova Scotia.

“In this conference about nursing ethics, here at St. Francis Xavier University’s School of Nursing, we stand upon the shoulders of a giant in nursing education and nursing ethics in Canada: Sister Marie Simone Roach. With admiration, gratitude, affection, and respect, we dedicate this conference to her memory and to her Sisters of Saint Martha,” Prof. Alex says. 

Among numerous accomplishments, Sister Simone led the four‐year integrated BScN program at StFX and served as its chairperson from 1970‐1979. As well, in the 1980s she responded to a request to direct a Code of Ethics Project for the Canadian Nurses Association. The code she authored was the first to be grounded in clearly articulated ethical values—fundamental values that remain as its cornerstone today. She received the Order of Canada for her work on Ethics and Caring Theory in 2010.  

StFX’s Dr. Agnes Calliste posthumously recognized by Canadian Sociology Association for outstanding contributions

Wed, 2019-06-05 13:39

Dr. Agnes Calliste, a celebrated academic and a sociology professor who taught at StFX for over two decades where she pioneered courses on the sociology of race and gender, has been posthumously recognized for her outstanding contributions to Canadian sociology by the Canadian Sociology Association (CSA).

Dr. Calliste was the recipient of the CSA Outstanding Contribution Award presented this week in Vancouver at the association’s annual meeting.

Dr. Calliste taught at StFX from 1984 until her retirement in 2010.

“Over the course of this time Dr. Calliste distinguished herself as one the country's leading experts in the areas of anti-racism, gender and education, and Canada's immigration and race-base employment policies during the first half of the 20th Century,” StFX sociology professor Dr. David Lynes said in the nomination letter he wrote on behalf of the Sociology Department.

“Particularly influential was Dr. Calliste's research into the experience of African-Canadian sleeping car porters and their struggle for employment equity on Canada's national railroads. Equally significant were publications on anti-racism organizing and resistance by African-Canadian women nurses, black families in Canada, and the influence of the civil rights and black power movements in Canada. Important parts of this work were undertaken collaboratively with Dr. George Dei from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.”

Dr. Calliste's commitment to these issues, however, was certainly not limited to the printed page, he says.

“As important and impressive as Dr. Calliste's curriculum vitae is, what it does not capture quite as well is Dr. Calliste's many contributions to the quality life here at St. Francis Xavier University and to the local community over the course of her 26-year tenure,” he says.

“The many courses she developed and went on to teach, including a senior seminar on African Canadian Issues in Education, and two third year courses entitled The Black/African Diaspora in the Americas, and Race, Class, Gender, & Sexuality, contributed to the strength and distinctiveness of the sociology program and continues to do so to this day. But it was the generosity of her time outside of the classroom, that was so well appreciated and perhaps best remembered, especially by the many students whose health and welfare she continuously went out of her way to defend and promote.”

Not long after arriving at StFX, Dr. Calliste participated as a member of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, as well as starting up and serving as the first chair for the local chapter of the National Congress of Black Women. From these positions, together with many other local initiatives, Dr. Calliste continually worked to encourage local young people of African descent to pursue a university education and to become more politically involved, he said.

Additionally, the annual African Heritage Month lectures that Dr. Calliste initiated are now institutionalized at StFX as the annual Dr. Agnes Calliste African Heritage Lecture.

Dr. Calliste's interest in and support for student athletes certainly stands out, reinforcing and promoting, the importance of academics in the lives of these students, many of African descent, who arrived at university with a wide range of preparation and expectations surrounding their status as varsity athletes. StFX's most successful basketball coach, Steve Konchalski, had the following to say about what Dr. Calliste meant to so many of these students, "while recognizing the unique challenges of African Canadians students in particular and guiding them through them…I had one African-Canadian student-athlete who never had a black teacher throughout his whole education until he took a course from Agnes. She took many students under her wing, taking a personal interest in their lives in addition to giving them academic supports. She would often call me to discuss the academic progress or social well-being of one of my athletes and call them into her office to offer guidance.”  

Mr. Konchalski also remembered fondly Dr. Calliste's promotion of and participation in the university's Kwanzaa celebration as part of her role as StFX African Descent Student Affairs Coordinator, and concludes by observing that Dr. Calliste "did a tremendous amount to bring many ethnic groups on campus together in a celebration that showcased some of the unique talents of our students and helped bridge the gap with faculty/student relations as well."

“Dr. Calliste's distinguished career is eminently deserving of the Canadian Sociological Association's Outstanding Contribution Award as her unique contributions continue to inspire students, community members, and academics alike,” Dr. Lynes wrote.

StFX celebrates supporters and friends, honours outgoing President Dr. Kent MacDonald, at 45th annual President’s Club Gala

Sat, 2019-06-01 22:34
Fr. Stan MacDonald, at podium, one of those recognized during the 45th annual President's Club Gala as a new 10-Year Xaverian Patron, leads a rousing, trademark 'Go X Go!' group cheer during the evening celebration.

Two words. Thank you. 

That was the simple, yet heartfelt message shared at the 45th annual President’s Club Gala, held June 1, 2019 at the Charles V. Keating Centre, both to supporters and friends of StFX and to StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald who finishes his term as StFX President and Vice-Chancellor in July.  

The President’s Club Gala annually celebrates and thanks supporters of StFX. During the evening, StFX recognizes President’s Club members who have reached new 10-year, 20-year, and lifetime milestones. 

This year, the evening also included a special tribute to Dr. MacDonald, who led StFX for the past five years. 

“Tonight, we express our deep gratitude to you, whose generosity makes it possible for StFX to remain one of Canada's finest universities,” Murray Kyte, Vice President, Advancement and the evening’s master of ceremonies, said in opening remarks as he thanked all those who so generously support StFX.

“Tonight, we celebrate your generosity, your support, and your commitment to StFX. And, we take this opportunity to pay special tribute to those of you who have reached milestones.”

StFX is so grateful for the support it receives from President Club members, he said. These donations have considerable impact on the lives of students and make StFX, and in turn society, even stronger.

He also thanked Dr. MacDonald for his leadership, and in particular his efforts and commitment to make StFX accessible to all students regardless of their financial background including initiating the Xaverian Fund.  

President Gala 2019.jpg

StFX Director of Development Wendy Langley, who led the recognition of new patrons during the ceremony, spoke of how truly blessed StFX is to enjoy the friendship and support of so many. 

“Thank you again to all of our members of the President’s Club,” she said as she noted the tremendous impact President’s Club members have had on the university—since its inception members have donated over $184 million to StFX. 

“Thank you for all that you do for StFX!” 


The night also celebrated Dr. MacDonald and the legacy he will leave following his five year tenure.  

“It is of course bittersweet that we are using this evening to laud Kent’s accomplishments,” StFX Board of Governors Chair Mike Boyd said as he paid tribute to Dr. MacDonald, who he described as the type of leader who encourages others to step into roles that might seem daunting or beyond their existing scope and then supports and guides them.

“But most importantly, he creates space for them to become something more than they thought they could be.

 “And so, while we lament his departure, we also recognize that his legacy lies in the people who remain.” 

Mr. Boyd thanked Dr. MacDonald, his wife Mary Ellen and his family and wished them well on behalf of the Board of Governors. “StFX is a better place because of your hard work and leadership,” he said. 

A number of video greetings from students, alumni, faculty, staff and Board of Governors members were played throughout the evening, each commenting on the impact Dr. MacDonald made during his tenure.  

President Gala 2019 Kent MacDonald.jpg

Dr. Kent MacDonald

Dr. MacDonald, who received a standing ovation both before and after delivering his remarks, spoke of the many accomplishments from the past year, and about highlights on the horizon. He updated on enrollment and new academic programs, the national Special Olympics held at StFX this year, award-winning students, accomplishments of faculty and staff, the upcoming 50th anniversary of women athletics and the upcoming opening of Mulroney Hall and the Mulroney Institute of Government.    

He also had his own thanks to share. 

In particular he thanked donors and supporters for all they do for the university, and encouraged them to continue to give time, talent or treasure to give back to StFX, a place “we all love,” he said. 

“To all of you, I say thank you.”

Dr. MacDonald also thanked and recognized Bishop Brian Dunn and members of the clergy, the Sisters of St. Martha, the Congregation of Notre Dame, alumni leaders, faculty, staff, and students, members of the Board of Governors, and the university’s leadership team, and his family for all the support and commitment.  

“What a joy and a blessing it has been to be able to serve this community.”

During the evening, Mr. Kyte also thanked Bishop Brian Dunn, Vicar of the Founder and a StFX Board of Governors member, who will also depart from Antigonish as he was recently named by His Holiness, Pope Francis, as Coadjutor Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth. “We wish you the very best in this new role,” he said. 

President Gala 2 2019.jpg President Gala 4 2019.jpg

Other special highlights during the evening included a musical performance by 2019 StFX graduate Shane Arsenault, a number of pieces of art from the StFX’s permanent collection on display, and a rousing, trademark “Go X Go!” group cheer led by Fr. Stan MacDonald, himself recognized during the evening as a new 10-Year Xaverian Patron.  

President’s Club members reaching milestones in 2018-19 included:

New Lifetime Xaverian Patrons (recognizing $100,000 and above in lifetime giving): 

Barrick Gold Corporation 

Michael and Beth Brien 

Thomas J. and Gail Hayes 

The late Leo D. Kirwan 

Lauder Foundation 

Burton MacDonald 

The Molson Foundation 

Kenneth J. Moscone 

Guy R. Savard 

Francis and Mary Shea 

Timothy Upton and Beryle Girard 

R. Howard Webster Foundation 

The Windsor Foundation


New 20-Year Xaverian Patrons (recognizing 20 consecutive years of President’s Club membership):

Michael A. and Anne Campbell

Marc and Clare Champoux

Carol Cochrane

Ian Doyle

Penny Fuller and Bill Marshall

Joan E. Gillis

Chris Keating

Roderick W. Landry

Colin P. and Irene MacDonald

Linden MacIntyre

Louise MacLellan

Alistair and Anita MacLeod

John C. McCurnin

Fran and Joe McGann

Shelly and Ed J. McHugh

Sheilagh A. Ross

New 10-Year Xaverian Patrons (recognizing 10 consecutive years of President’s Club membership): 

Richard and Jeanne Brown

Anne Emery and Joe A. Cameron

Thomas and Lois Chadwick

Peter I. Chisholm

Lt Col Brian W. Donovan

David and Sandra Gibeault

Bob Hale

Shelagh Howard

Robert and Beth Hynes

Stuart Knight

Angie Kolen

Carmen B. Lowe

Allan S. MacDonald

Rev. Stanley V. MacDonald

Mike and Mary MacKinnon

Helen D. MacPherson

Francis X. Shea

Nova Scotia nursing faculty visit the Nurse of the Mediterranean

Fri, 2019-05-31 13:54
StFX Rankin School of Nursing faculty Dr. Debbie Sheppard-LeMoine at the workshop held at the University of Malta

An intensive weeklong workshop was organized on the island of Malta, historically referred to as the Nurse of the Mediterranean. The research workshop—a collaborative effort between nursing faculty from the University of Malta and nursing faculty from Cape Breton University, Dalhousie University and St. Francis Xavier University—was designed for graduate nursing students at the University of Malta seeking to submit a dissertation in partial fulfilment of their Master of Nursing.

Participating faculty included Dr. Debbie Sheppard-LeMoine from the StFX Rankin School of Nursing, Dr. Vicky Sultana and Dr. Josiane Scerri from the University of Malta, Dr. Odette Griscti and Dr. Audrey Walsh, from Cape Breton University, and Dr. Megan Aston and Dr. Audrey Steenbeek from Dalhousie University. Various other faculties from the Department of Nursing, University of Malta, also participated in sessions and round table discussions. 

The workshop was held at the historic university campus in Valletta, the capital city of Malta. It consisted of a four day interactive dialogue between faculty and students around research designs, methodologies and student projects. By the end of the workshop, each student was able to develop a research proposal in preparation for their Master of Nursing degree.

Dr. Sheppard-LeMoine says this international nursing collaboration was a rewarding way to share nursing research talent and build further opportunities. “We were welcomed by our colleagues at the University of Malta and their graduate students and look forward to what comes next,” she says. 

Overall, all of the participating faculty and the graduate students found the workshop valuable and beneficial, the organizers say. It is planned to hold similar workshops between the three universities and the University of Malta in the future. 

MP Sean Fraser celebrates Government of Canada investment in discovery research at StFX

Thu, 2019-05-30 16:54
During a visit to StFX, clockwise around the table: Dr. Jane McMillan (Anthropology), StFX student Cheyla Rogers, Dr. Lisa Lunney Borden (Education), Jennifer Fraser (X-Chem Outreach), Minister of Science and Sport Hon. Kirsty Duncan, Dr. Truis Smith-Palmer (Chemistry), and Central Nova MP Sean Fraser

Sean Fraser, Member of Parliament for Central Nova and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, on behalf of the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, highlighted $341,000 in new support for discovery research at StFX. The funding is part of an investment of over $588 million through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) Discovery Grants Program announced by Minister Duncan on May 21. 

The funding, part of $4 billion for research committed in Budget 2018, will also support graduate scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships for students in the natural sciences and engineering. This funding will go to more than 4,850 researchers and students across the country, and includes support for nearly 500 early career researchers.

StFX is receiving $341,000 for researchers and students working in areas including earth sciences, chemistry, human kinetics and computer science. Dr. Melanie Lam in the Department of Human Kinetics has received $127,500 over five years for an exploration of the behavioural, electrophysiological, and neural mechanisms underlying joint action; Dr. Jacob Levman, Canada Research Chair in Bioinformatics within the Department of Computer Science has received $127,500 over five years to develop methods for reliable machine learning with applications in medical imaging. Dr. David Risk, Earth Sciences Department, received $51,000 for a one-year project to study thermogenic methane distribution, sources, drivers in the MacKenzie Delta region. StFX graduate student Dreenan Shea (chemistry) received a Canada Graduate Scholarship worth $17,500 over one year to support her research on nanoparticle materials for the photodegradation of pollutants and biomass waste. Sean Freeborn, a new StFX graduate student in earth sciences, has received a Canada Graduate Scholarship worth $17,500 over one year to support his research on magmatism and the evolution of mountain-building. This investment is part of Canada’s Science Vision and the Government of Canada’s commitment of more than $10 billion to science, which includes the largest-ever increase in funding for fundamental research.

“NSERC Discovery Grants, as well as NSERC scholarships and fellowships provide a critical underpinning for diverse university research and student researcher training across all science and engineering disciplines. This NSERC funding ensures that our faculty members and students are able to stay at the forefront of Canadian research efforts in the natural and physical sciences,” says Dr. Richard Isnor, StFX Associate Vice President, Research and Graduate Studies.

“As a proud StFX alum, it is exciting to see this meaningful investment in the research community on campus. These research grants are helping the faculty at StFX discover the solutions to our world’s greatest problems, and at the same time, putting people to work in our community,” Mr. Fraser said. 

Minister Duncan says the funding announced demonstrates the government’s strong and enduring commitment to science and researchers. “Our government has worked hard to bring science and research back to their rightful place, and this historic investment in the discoveries of tomorrow is just one example of how we are achieving this goal.” 

StFX education professor wins best paper of the year award from internationally respected journal

Thu, 2019-05-30 14:02
Dr. Dan Robinson

Dr. Dan Robinson, chair of StFX’s Department of Teacher Education, and an associate professor of physical education and sport pedagogy, has received a major international honour for his research work looking into what physical education teachers know about physical literary. 

A paper he co-authored with Lynn Randall, of the University of New Brunswick, and Joe Barrett, Brock University, has won the 2018 Metzler-Freedman Exemplary Paper Award for the best paper published in 2018 in the Journal of Teaching in Physical Education (JTPE)—one of the best journals in their field. 

The award, named in honour of JTPE co-founding editors, Michael Metzler and Mark Freedman, recognizes excellence in sport pedagogy scholarship. It was presented at the annual SHAPE America National Convention & Expo held in Tampa, FL.

Dr. Robinson says he and his colleagues were thrilled with the prestigious recognition for their work, particularly as they didn’t even know they were nominated.

“Receiving a call letting us know that we had won the Metzler-Freedman Exemplary Paper Award was such a highlight for me and my peers. We know the sorts of people who have won this award before and it is certainly reaffirming to be in that company,” says Dr. Robinson, who notes he and his colleagues were ecstatic about a year before when they were able to publish their article, “Physical literacy (mis)understandings: What do leading physical education teachers know about physical literacy?” within the well-respected journal. 

Dr. Robinson says physical literacy is a concept and term that has been increasing in both popularity and usage, particularly over the last decade. “This is especially true within physical education, sport, and recreation disciplines,” he says. 

“Though the physical literacy construct has much to offer these disciplines, we have seen so many disparate messages about physical literacy that, for many, it has become difficult to fully understand what one of physical literacy’s initial pioneers, Margaret Whitehead, really meant and envisioned.” 

He says their research article highlights results from a recent study in which they aimed to understand what some of the nation’s leading physical education teachers knew about the physical literacy construct. 

“Basically, we found that many were unable to articulate conceptions of physical literacy that are in-line with contemporary perspectives. Why this is important is that without a full understanding of the concept, particularly of Margaret Whitehead’s foundations in embodiment and monism, physical education teachers risk oversimplifying something that has great potential. 

“Perhaps most simply, these oversimplifications and misunderstandings results in physical education teachers doing “more of the same”—offering old wine in new bottles—rather than genuinely reconsidering the work that they might do.”

StFX’s ExACT technology awarded U.S. patent

Tue, 2019-05-28 11:09
Actively monitoring surrounding gases in real time

Members of StFX’s FluxLab are celebrating an important milestone—in the form of a U.S. patent awarded for a gas sensor technology invented at StFX.

The patent has been issued to StFX for its vehicle-based Emissions Attribution via Computational Techniques (“ExACT”) gas leak detection technology, and to its inventors StFX earth sciences professor and university project lead Dr. Dave Risk, Dr. Bjorn Brooks and Dr. Martin Lavoie for the “Gas Emission Detection System and Method.”

“The patent recognizes our lab created a unique and valuable system,” says Chelsie Hall, the lab’s research project manager, who notes the patent process is lengthy and takes years to complete. The patented technology, which detects and maps the emissions of ground-sourced greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, was developed in 2014 and system improvements have been ongoing.

exact 2019.jpg

Research truck set up with ExACT

ExACT uses a gas sensor mounted to a vehicle which collects near-ground geochemical readings that are uploaded to a cloud-based database for real-time analysis. This survey method can cover a large area at a very fine scale, providing operators with detailed information to detect unintentional emissions before they become a regulatory issue. The ability to identify emissions in an efficient and cost-effective manner allows producers to minimize the economic cost of lost commodities and to maximize environmental protection.

In 2017, StFX signed a license agreement with Altus Group for the exclusive worldwide commercialization usage rights of ExACT, and Altus’ Geomatics division offers ExACT as a service for oil and gas providers and government regulators.


"Receiving the patent is an important commercial stepping stone, and it also symbolizes FluxLab’s hard work and commitment to developing an emissions measurement system that is fine-tuned to industry needs,” says Jennifer Baillie, a technical researcher in StFX’s FluxLab since 2014, who is also employed with Altus as their GHG Emissions Monitoring Coordinator.

“National methane emission regulations will be implemented in 2020, and we are witnessing industry push technology developers to generate novel solutions that can detect emissions efficiently and safely. Having a deployable, patented technology lets us to offer our alternative monitoring solution to oil and gas producers immediately—allowing them to reach emissions reduction targets and reduce their emissions monitoring costs.”

FluxLab members are continuing to advance ExACT technology. Lab member and MSc student, Jack Johnson, says, “Fugitive methane emissions, or leaks, coming from upstream oil and gas infrastructure are difficult to measure. Successfully measuring these invisible leaks, which come from a variety of sources, can sometimes be like trying to find a fire with a thermometer; frustrating, time-consuming and costly. The computational advantages that ExACT brings to the table will make this process much more efficient.

“While traditional measurement techniques will always have a place in the oil and gas industry, tools like ExACT will allow emissions measurement systems to keep up with evolving regulatory requirements,” he says.

Receiving this patent has solidified ExACT technology as a top competitor in the race to develop feasible emissions measurement systems for the Canadian oil and gas industry.

StFX signs Dimensions Charter as part of a national commitment to achieving increased equity, diversity and inclusion in research

Mon, 2019-05-27 13:28
Pictured at the signing of the Dimensions Charter, front, l-r: Megan Fogerty (Human Rights and Equity Advisor), Dr. Lindsay Berrigan (Psychology), Cheyla Rogers (undergraduate student researcher in anthropology), Dr. Lisa Lunney Borden (Education), Jennifer Fraser (X-Chem Outreach Director), Dr. Truis Simth-Palmer (Chemistry), Dr. Melanie Lam (Human Kinestics). Second row, l-r: Alaa Salih (undergraduate student researcher in psychology), Dr. Richard Isnor (Assoc. VP Research and Graduate Studies), Megan MacGillvray (post-doctoral research fellow in psychology), Dr. Mike Melchin (Dean of Science), Minister Kirsty Duncan, Dr. Jane McMillan (Anthropology), Dr. Karen Brebner (Dean of Arts), David Bruce (Director, Research Grants), Jennifer Swinemar-Murray (Director, Human Resources), Andrew Beckett (VP Finance and Administration)

StFX welcomed the Minister of Science and Sport, the Hon. Kirsty Duncan, to campus on May 24, 2019, as the university reaffirmed its commitment to achieving increased equity, diversity and inclusion in research by signing the Dimensions Charter, a federal initiative that invites universities across Canada to take part in a post-secondary transformation to increase equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and help drive deeper cultural change within the research ecosystem.

In a ceremonial signing Minister Duncan and StFX Vice-President VP Finance and Administration Andrew Beckett, on behalf of StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald, jointly signed the charter before a crowd of people gathered in the lobby of J. Bruce Brown Hall. 

“By choosing to endorse this charter, StFX has committed to adopting eight principles throughout our practices and culture to achieve greater equity, diversity and inclusion,” says Dr. Richard Isnor, StFX Associate VP, Research and Graduate Studies, and the event’s host. 

Dr. Isnor says the federal government recently launched the Dimensions Program, a new initiative related to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) for the post-secondary sector. The Dimensions initiative challenges universities across Canada to address the obstacles faced by, but not limited to, women, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities, members of visible minority/racialized groups, and members of LGBTQ2+ communities. The Dimensions Program and Charter reflects a made-in-Canada initiative inspired by the UK Athena SWAN (Scientific Women's Academic Network), an internationally recognized initiative that celebrates higher education institutions that have implemented practices to advance EDI in the sciences. 

All Canadian institutions have been invited to endorse the Dimensions Charter. To date, 26 universities, including StFX, have signed.

Minister Duncan visit 2.jpg

Presentation of StFX initiatives to engage youth in science and increase diversity and inclusion in research. Clockwise around the table: Dr. Jane McMillan, Cheyla Rogers, Dr. Lisa Lunney Borden, Jennifer Fraser, Minister of Science and Sport Hon. Kirsty Duncan, Dr. Truis Smith-Palmer, and Central Nova MP Sean Fraser.

Dr. Isnor says during her visit to StFX, Minister Duncan, who led the Dimensions initiative and is a key federal champion for supporting women in science, engaging youth in science, and diversity and inclusion in research, received a briefing on the Atlantic Indigenous Mentorship Network from Dr. L. Jane McMillan (Anthropology); on X-Chem Outreach from Dr. Truis Smith-Palmer (Chemistry) and Jennifer Fraser (X-Chem Outreach Director); and Connecting Math to Our Lives and Communities from Dr. Lisa Lunney Borden (Education). The Minister also learned about two new research projects being led by second year undergraduate student Cheyla Rogers, under the supervision of Dr. McMillan. Finally, Minister Duncan also met with psychology professor Dr. Lindsay Berrigan and human kinetics professor Dr. Melanie Lam, learning about their research within the Applied Neuro-Cognitive Research (ANChoR) Laboratory. 


By choosing to endorse this charter, institutions commit to adopting these principles throughout their practices and culture:

1. The post-secondary research community has the greatest potential to thrive when members experience equitable, inclusive and unbiased systems and practices. 

2. To advance institutional equity, diversity and inclusion, specific, measurable and sustainable actions are needed to counter systemic barriers, explicit and unconscious biases, and inequities. This includes addressing obstacles faced by, but not limited to, women, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities, members of visible minority or racialized groups, and members of LGBTQ2+ communities. 

3. Institutions require qualitative and quantitative data to measure, monitor, understand and publicly report on challenges and progress made. The analysis of the data should inform a comprehensive, in-depth, intersectional understanding of the contexts, manifestations and experiences that result from inequities, underrepresentation and exclusion among all post-secondary community members. 

4. When equity, diversity and inclusion considerations and practices are integral to research participation, to the research itself, and to research training and learning environments, research excellence, innovation and creativity are heightened across all disciplines, fields of study and stages of career development. 

5. To contribute to reconciliation, research with, by or impacting Indigenous Peoples must align with the research policies and best practices identified through ongoing engagement with First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples and their organizations. 

6. Advancing equity, diversity and inclusion is a shared responsibility that requires dedicated resources and strong leadership at all levels. Senior leadership demonstrates commitment through public endorsement, by ensuring the work involved is resourced and distributed fairly, and by embedding changes in institutional governance and accountability structures. 

7. Issues of institutional and individual safety, trust, belonging, privacy and power differentials must be recognized and pro-actively addressed; this will be most successful when those impacted are directly engaged in defining the actions. 

8. Achieving the overall objective of the Dimensions program—to foster increased research excellence, innovation and creativity within the post-secondary sector across all disciplines through increased equity, diversity and inclusion—involves institutional collaboration, transparency, and the sharing of challenges, successes and promising practices.

StFX English professor and CRC in Digital Humanities Laura Estill wins international award for journal essay

Wed, 2019-05-22 14:11
StFX English professor and Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Digital Humanities Dr. Laura Estill

Dr. Laura Estill, a StFX English professor and Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Digital Humanities, has won the Barbara Palmer Award for the best new essay in early drama archival research.

The award, presented annually by the Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society (MRDS), recognizes an essay published within 18 months of the deadline and “judged by the committee to be of outstanding quality” on the topic of early drama archival research. It is open to journal articles and book chapters in collections.

The Palmer Award was officially announced during the annual MRDS business meeting in May 2019, at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI.

“I was thrilled to learn that I had received this award. Archival research on early modern drama is an important and burgeoning area of research with a lot of brilliant scholars doing fascinating work, which makes it even more of an honour to be recognized with the Barbara Palmer Award,” Dr. Estill says.

The article, “The Urge to Organize Early Modern Miscellanies: Reading Cotgrave’s The English Treasury of Wit and Language” appears in the Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America (PBSA) vol. 112, no. 1 (2018): 27-73, which is published by the University of Chicago Press Journals.  

Dr. Estill says her first book, Dramatic Extracts in Seventeenth-Century English Manuscripts: Watching, Reading, Changing Plays, is about seventeenth-century readers and playgoers who copied parts from plays into manuscripts, which tells us what they took, literally and figuratively, from drama.

“I wrote one chapter on ‘dramatic miscellanies,’ a new kind of manuscript that I identified as a mid-seventeenth-century phenomenon: notebooks where people would copy parts from plays specifically, unlike other handwritten documents, where they might copy parts from plays alongside materials like poetry, recipes, and accounts,” she says.

“There is a print equivalent of these handwritten documents, John Cotgrave’s English Treasury of Wit and Language (London, 1655), where he printed selections from plays, but didn’t give his sources. As I was undertaking my research on Cotgrave’s book, I became fascinated by the marginalia (handwritten notes) that readers had included in the volume. A couple of industrious readers traced the sources of thousands of extracts to hundreds of plays; other readers added their own selections from plays; yet other readers underlined the parts they found most memorable; and some readers left no marks at all. In this article, I argue that when we read Cotgrave’s book today, our urge is to determine the source texts: modern scholars are not interested in the quotations for their wisdom or wit; rather, we care about Cotgrave’s sources (including Shakespeare) and how he used them.”

In order to prove this argument about the history of reading plays and selections from drama, she had to see every known copy of the English Treasury. She visited many in person, including, for instance, copies at the British Library, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and Dulwich College Library. In other cases, she contacted librarians and archivists who consulted copies or took pictures for her.

Dr. Estill compared all the marginalia (handwritten notes) in all known copies of this rare book, which took years of research, multiple archive trips, and the support “of wonderful scholars, librarians, and archivists” in the United Kingdom and across North America.

“This is, to date, one of the longest journal articles I have written, and one of which I am most proud. I am honoured to have this journal article recognized by the Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society’s Barbara Palmer Award.”


Association of Psychologists of Nova Scotia honour StFX’s Jessie Doyle for outstanding undergraduate achievement

Tue, 2019-05-21 14:10
Jessie Doyle

Jessie Doyle has much to celebrate. Not only did the Antigonish, NS native graduate from StFX in May with a first-class honours degree in psychology with a concentration in forensic psychology, she’s been recognized too across the province for excellence in undergraduate achievement in psychology.  

The Association of Psychologists of Nova Scotia (APNS) has selected Ms. Doyle as this year’s recipient of the APNS Gerald Gordon Memorial Prize for Outstanding Undergraduate Achievement in Psychology. 

“The committee agreed that Ms. Doyle exemplifies characteristics that render her a promising future psychologist and excellent psychology student,” APNS executive director Susan Marsh wrote in announcing the winner of the award, which recognizes excellence at the undergraduate level.

“The Gerald Gordon Prize recognizes an undergraduate student who has demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, clear aptitude for scientific research, leadership in student psychology affairs, and personal and professional qualities befitting an aspiring psychologist,” says StFX psychology professor Dr. Margo Watt, Ms. Doyle’s supervisor.

“Jessie excels in all of these domains,” she says.

“For her honours thesis, she undertook a very ambitious project befitting a masters level thesis. At the same time, as part of one of her Forensic Psychology practicum, she collated and analyzed data for a health clinic in Dartmouth designed to treat borderline personality disorder. She will be presenting findings from all of these projects at the annual convention of the Canadian Psychological Association in Halifax at the end of this month. Jessie will be starting graduate studies in clinical psychology at UNB this fall and I know that UNB are looking forward to having her join their program. Clearly, Jessie is a very bright student, but it is her diligence and determination and dedication to the field that make her such a worthy candidate of this award,” Dr. Watt says.

Ms. Doyle, who has received a $17,500 master’s level award from the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada (SSHRC) and will start the MA/PhD program in clinical psychology at UNB in September, admits she cried a little on her hearing news of the award.

“Being recognized by such an esteemed board of psychologists for work I am doing and hope to continue to do, is one of the more meaningful accomplishments for me—the people I aspire to be one day recognizing my achievement, it’s truly an honour. I was overwhelmed by emotion,” she says.

Ms. Doyle has certainly enjoyed a stellar academic career.

She’s been on the Dean’s List since her first year at StFX, ranked third overall in the BA program in her third year, and maintained a 90 per cent average since her third year. This past year, she received a prestigious $6,250 Irving Research Mentorship Award, offered through StFX’s Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership, and spent the summer involved in original research. Along with her SSHRC master’s grant, UNB will top up the award by an additional $10,000.

Ms. Doyle has also successfully received funding to attend and to present her research work at several conferences, and is a co-author on a manuscript submitted for publication to the journal, Personality and Individual Differences with StFX faculty Dr. Watt and Dr. Kim MacLean, and two graduate students.

She’s authored and presented lectures on her research to Psychology 100 students at StFX, has served as president of the StFX Psychology Society and is a StFX student affiliate and member of the Clinical Section of the Canadian Psychological Association.

She’s received the Gold Prize for best research poster presentation at StFX’s Student Research Day 2019, for her work, entitled “The Role of Anxiety Sensitivity and Influence of Anxious Attachment on Borderline Personality Disorder.” She’s been a research assistant to psychology professors Dr. Erika Koch and Dr. Tara Callaghan, and a teaching assistant to Dr. Christine Lomore, Dr. Ted Wright, and Dr. Jesse Husk. She has been employed by the Tramble Centre for Accessible Learning at StFX since 2017 by providing course notes and tutoring services.

Ms. Doyle has also developed a research project for the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), which comprised of compiling a bank of evidence-based psychometric measures to complement Mental Health Needs scale used by CSC with offenders. She is trained too to assess risk for suicidality/self-injurious behaviour with the Correctional Service of Canada, is certified by St. John Ambulance as an emergency first medical responder and is certified in Mental Health First Aid. She’s also received training in Bystander Sexual Assault Diversion Training & Supporting Survivors of Sexual Violence Program Certificate; observed proceedings at several diversion courts including: Mental Health Court (Dartmouth, NS), Wellness Court (Port Hawkesbury, NS), and Gladue Court (Wagmatcook M'ikmaq Reserve); and has received skills training  through workshops in cognitive behavioural therapy; dialectical behavioural therapy; mindfulness; and mental preparation training. She has spoken at numerous mental health advocacy initiatives and events. 

As for her time at StFX?

“I don’t think I could have had a better experience,” she says, noting how fantastic the psychology department is, including the supportive and engaged faculty. “They are so professional and so wise and care so deeply about the success of their students, and invest in their students, even when the student isn’t so invested in themselves yet.”

She says her training, particularly by her thesis supervisor Dr. Watt, prepared her well for graduate school. Dr. Watt, she says, has taught her so much, from how to write a CV to broadening the depths of her thoughts.

Ms. Doyle says she is also happy to share this honour with Dr. Watt, who also won the Gerald Gordon Prize during her undergraduate degree at StFX.  

StFX biology master’s graduate earns numerous honours for academic accomplishments

Fri, 2019-05-17 09:42
Alex Young

While graduation day is always special, Alex Young, a 2019 MSc biology graduate from Berwick, NS, had extra reason to proud. During StFX’s 2019 Spring Convocation, Mr. Young was recognized with the Governor General Graduate Medal for the highest overall average in a thesis-based graduate program as well as the Outstanding Graduate Research Award for the highest-ranked graduate thesis.

“It feels amazing to be recognized for my research. I had no expectations to receive any awards, especially considering how great the rest of my cohort was, so I am very grateful,” Mr. Young says.

“One of the biggest factors in my success was the support I had from my supervisor, (StFX biology professor) Dr. Russell Wyeth, as well as our collaborator Dr. Daniel Jackson in Germany who I was fortunate to go work with in person in 2018. I also had a lot of backing from the other members of the Wyeth Lab, and my friends and family.”

Mr. Young says his time at StFX set up him well for success.

“Everyone says this, but one of the things that sets StFX apart from other universities is how small and tight-knit the community is. I'm going to miss all of the members of the biology department, but I know that the connections and friendships I have made here will last a lifetime.”

At StFX, Mr. Young’s research focused on the nervous system of snails, identifying the genes and cells responsible for producing different neurotransmitters Those neurotransmitters are key to the functioning of all nervous systems, as they allow neurons (cells of the nervous system) to communicate with each other.

In addition to working at StFX for just over two years, he travelled in 2018 to Georg-August-Universität in Göttingen, Germany, to spend over two months working in the lab of Dr. Jackson, conducting research as the recipient of a Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement Award from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). This extra funding added to the other scholarships Mr. Young received to support his master’s program, including a $17,500 NSERC Canada Graduate Scholarship-Master’s award and a Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarship.

Mr. Young says he has always had a research interest in genetics, the nervous system, and how different health products may work (or fail) to improve our health.

“In my research at StFX, I learned a lot about genetics and the nervous system by studying snails. I am now excited to apply what I have learned to my research in the cannabinoid field where I hope to identify cannabinoids that may be able to improve human brain health.”  

Mr. Young will pursue this new angle as part of his doctorate at Dalhousie University.

He says his PhD research will explore how the interplay between cannabinoid receptors and different cannabinoids can be exploited to improve many aspects of health, particularly in patients that suffer with neurodegenerative diseases like Huntington's disease.

“I am very excited to begin this work in the lab of Dr. Eileen Denovan-Wright in September.”

Dr. Wyeth says Mr. Young’s pattern of success as a young academic continues—he so far has received a $15,000 Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarship to start his PhD, and is waiting to hear on more potential scholarships. Dr. Wyeth says this is hardly surprising. “Alex’s record speaks for itself. He is a remarkably talented molecular biologist and an excellent young scholar. I gave him some help here and there along the way, but his success is definitely his own. It’s always tough to have great students move on, but at the same time I’m excited to see what more successes his future holds.”

Inaugural recipients of the Prof. A.A. MacKenzie Prize named

Thu, 2019-05-16 14:57
L-r, John Blackwell; award recipients Hannah Krebs and Chelsey MacPherson; Dr. Laurie Stanley-Blackwell; and StFX Celtic Studies Department chair Dr. Michael Linkletter

StFX Celtic studies students Hannah Krebs of Hensall, ON, and Chelsey MacPherson of Lochiel, ON, are the inaugural recipients of the Prof. A. A. MacKenzie Prize. This prize is awarded to the student who has earned a first-class mark in Celtic Studies 332: The Scots in North America and demonstrated a commitment to the preservation of the history of the Gael in Canada. 

This prize was recently established by Dr. Laurie Stanley-Blackwell and John Blackwell to commemorate the memory of Prof. A. A. “Tony” MacKenzie, who taught Canadian history at St. Francis Xavier University from 1967 to 1991. Dr. Stanley-Blackwell and Mr. Blackwell say the much-loved professor was not a typical academic. His business card read: “Families Researched, Folktales Related, Whiskey Tested.”  

According to Dr. Stanley-Blackwell, “Professor MacKenzie was born in New Glasgow in 1926, the son of Angus “Dux” MacKenzie and Annie MacEachern. Named after Father A. A. Johnston, he was raised on the family farm in Pictou County. His parents attended StFX after World War 1, so his connections with Antigonish and the university were strongly forged.” She further recalls, “His education took him from a one-room schoolhouse in Egerton to StFX (BA 1947) to Dalhousie University (MA 1969). His life followed many paths, including such occupations as farmer, telephone lineman, factory hand, school teacher, genealogist, author, and university professor.” 

“Professor MacKenzie was a treasure trove of local lore and believed that much of the fabric of history was home-spun,” Mr. Blackwell states. He is best known for such works as The Irish in Cape Breton, The Harvest Train, Scottish Lights, and The Neighbours are Watching. A champion of the Gaelic language and a consummate storyteller, Prof. MacKenzie could expound on everything from Chestnut canoes to dry fly fishing, British Fabian ideology and recipes for Cattawaba wine, Millionnaire’s Bannock and Sissiboo Smelts.   

“His stories were not just told, they were performed,” Dr. Stanley-Blackwell observes. “One-time president of the Clan MacKenzie Society of Nova Scotia, he treated his vast circle of friends and admirers like an extended family, or as ‘caraid dhomb fhéin,’ as he was wont to say.”  

Ms. Krebs, a recent honours Celtic studies graduate, has worked at the Highland Village Museum for the past two summers. In 2017-2018, she studied Gaelic at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and is editor of Naidheachdan is Tachartasan Gàidhlig na h-Albann Nuaidhe/Nova Scotia Gaelic News & Events. She is currently a board member of the Gaelic Council and has participated in the Daltachas and Cum Sios programs sponsored by Gaelic Affairs. 

A Celtic studies student, Ms. MacPherson has assisted at the Glengarry Pioneer Museum, organized local waulking demonstrations, and digitized Gaelic material at the Glengarry County Archives. She also edits the Gaels of Glengarry Magazine and maintains the blog, Aig Mo Mhàthair a Chuala Mi E. As the recipient of a Gaelic Language Learning Bursary from Gaelic Affairs, she is headed to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in September to study Gaelic. 


First Annual Sister Margaret MacDonell Prize in Gaelic Poetry awarded

Tue, 2019-05-14 09:37
The inaugural recipients of the Sister Margaret MacDonell Prize in Gaelic Poetry were first prize Brìan MacLeòid (pictured in the middle), second prize Goiridh Dòmhnullach (pictured at left), and third prize Deborah Moffatt (not pictured). StFX Celtic Studies Department Chair Dr. Michael Linkletter (right) presents the prize.

The Department of Celtic Studies at St. Francis Xavier University, in partnership with the Clan Donald Lands Trust, is pleased to announce an annual Gaelic poetry competition named in honour of Sister Margaret MacDonell, CND, former chair of the StFX Celtic Studies Department and lifelong champion of the Gaelic language.

The inaugural recipients of the Duais Bàrdachd ann an Ainm na Peathar Mairead NicDhòmhnaill Sister Margaret MacDonell Prize in Gaelic Poetry were Brìan MacLeòid (first prize), Goiridh Dòmhnullach (second prize), and Deborah Moffatt (third prize). They were announced as the recipients during an award ceremony held May 10th, 2019 during Gaelic Month in Nova Scotia.

StFX Celtic Studies Department Chair Dr. Michael Linkletter says the Gaelic poetry prize came about after he was contacted by the Clan Donald Lands Trust from Scotland last year. 

“They sponsor a number of prizes in the Highland Arts (piping, dancing, Gaelic poetry, etc.) around the world, and wanted to sponsor a poetry prize in North America and thought the Celtic Studies Department at StFX should be the place to host it,” he says. 

“They like to name their prizes after prominent members of Clan Donald, so I suggested Sister Margaret MacDonell. She is a native Gaelic speaker from Judique, Cape Breton, is professor emerita in Celtic Studies at StFX, and has a PhD in Celtic Languages and Literatures from Harvard University. She is well known for her publications on Gaelic poetry in North America, including her highly regarded book The Emigrant Experience: Songs of Highland Emigrants in North America.”

Dr. Linkletter says the Clan Donald Lands Trust donated the prize money—$500 for first place, $250 for second, and $100 for third—as well as a hand-crafted targe, a type of round, leather-wrapped Highland shield, as a trophy for the top prize. They also donated money to help host the awarding event. 

He says they received over 20 submissions from poets in Canada, the USA, and Scotland with the majority coming from Nova Scotia. A selection panel adjudicated the poetry anonymously.  

In first place was “Chunna mi ’n deò ri teàrnadh ’sa ghleann” (I saw the spirit descend through the glen), by Brìan MacLeòid of Baddeck, CB and Antigonish. Mr. MacLeòid just graduated with an MA in Celtic Studies at StFX and was accepted into the PhD program at the University of Edinburgh starting in September with two scholarships to fully support his studies there. He also published a collection of his own Gaelic poems in 2008 entitled, An t-Òran Sìth-bhuan

In second place: “Cumha do Dhùghlas Dòmhnullach” (Lament for Douglas MacDonald), by Goiridh Dòmhnullach of Bràigh na h-Aineadh, CB, an alumnus of StFX who currently works for the NS Office of Gaelic Affairs and teaches Gaelic teaching methodology for students in the BEd program in Gaelic at StFX. He is a well-known as a local singer and composer of Gaelic songs.

Deborah-Moffat-MyStFX (002).jpg Deborah Moffatt 

In third place: “An Drochaid” (The Bridge), by Deborah Moffatt, originally from Norwich, Vermont, now of Fife, Scotland. Ms. Moffatt is a poet in both English and Gaelic, and twice won the MacDonald of Sleat Prize in Gaelic Poetry in Scotland, a prize also sponsored by the Clan Donald Lands Trust.

StFX adult education professor an invited speaker at international conference in Iceland

Mon, 2019-05-13 13:32
Dr. Adam Perry

StFX adult education professor Dr. Adam Perry is recently returned from Iceland where he was invited to present his research at the Mobilities and Transnationalism in the 21st Century conference hosted by the University of Iceland in Reykjavík. Dr. Perry joined the StFX Master of Adult Education program in 2018.

Dr. Perry was joined by his fellow researchers from the On the Move: Employment-related Geographical Mobility in Canada and Beyond, a SSHRC Partnership project based at Memorial University of Newfoundland and led by Professor Barb Neis. Dr. Perry is a co-investigator on this project. 

Dr. Perry’s research examines how processes of informal learning influence the life trajectories and geographical mobility decisions among migrant workers in Canada. For this conference, he was invited to talk about how friendship formation among migrant workers in low-wage jobs, such as jobs in the fish processing and fast-food industries, may provoke forms of inter-relational learning that to a limited extent address a gap in formal adult education assistance, such as English as a Second Language and other immigrant settlement services. 

In the coming months he will be co-editing a Special Issue derived from this panel on the topic of state-managed transnational labour migration. The issue will be published in the journal International Migration on behalf of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Migration Agency.


Celebrating new horizons: StFX graduates over 900; awards honorary degrees to Dr. Stan Kutcher, Congrégation de Notre-Dame 

Sun, 2019-05-05 17:18
Several members of the StFX Class of 2019 celebrate achievement at Spring Convocation on May 5

Work hard. Have fun. Try to make the world a better place.

That was one of the messages shared with members of the Class of 2019 on May 5 as StFX graduated over 900 students during morning and afternoon ceremonies at Spring Convocation held at the Charles V. Keating Centre.  

Family, friends, and fellow alumni—some proudly waving flags, clapping and cheering and sharing shouts of joy—filled the Keating Centre as StFX saw its alumni ranks swell by over 900, new graduates receiving degrees and diplomas, all poised to experience new horizons. 

StFX also awarded two honorary degrees. In the morning ceremony, Dr. Stan Kutcher, a leading psychiatrist and professor, and member of the Senate of Canada, was honoured for his work in helping manage major mental illnesses in youth, while during the afternoon ceremony, the Congrégation de Notre-Dame (CND) was recognized for its work in the value of liberating education to create a more just society.

A number of faculty were also honoured with major awards, including the designation of Professor Emeritus bestowed upon StFX psychology faculty Dr. Peter Henke and Dr. John Edwards; Outstanding Teaching Awards presented to education faculty Dr. Jennifer Mitton-Kükner and Dr. Chris Gilham, and psychology professor Dr. Karen Blair; and the President’s Research Award to English professor Dr. Mathias Nilges. Bios of all follow below. 


“To the Class of 2019, what can I say, you have been an exceptional group of students,” President Dr. Kent MacDonald said as he extended a warm StFX welcome to all guests, gathered to celebrate the newly minted graduates. “It’s a monumental moment in your life. We wish you nothing but the best.”

Along with congratulations, Dr. MacDonald gave graduates a final homework assignment: to pay the StFX tradition forward, to take five minutes of their life as they become part of Canada’s most connected alumni network and to share the good word about StFX with that person who they think would benefit from this special place; and to always consider StFX their home. “And come back on a regular basis.” 

In officially opening convocation, StFX Chancellor John Peacock extended his sincere congratulations to the Class of 2019. “You have undoubtedly worked hard to achieve your degrees. You deserve to savour the moment,” he told graduates. 

“My message to you today is enjoy this moment. Your accomplishments warrant a period of celebration. However, as you enjoy this moment, you need to also reflect on the fact that with education comes responsibility. Today, maybe more so than in recent history, the world is consumed with significant challenges we must confront and overcome,” he said. 

“My hope is that in addition to whatever occupation you take up, you give thoughtful consideration to how you too can make a difference in helping with some of the challenges we face in society today. 

“You each have the ability to make a contribution, and if you want the world to be a better place, you must be involved in its reconstruction.” 

The message of serving others was a theme repeated several times throughout the ceremony. 

“It is a privilege to receive this honour and I am humbled by it,” Dr. Kutcher said as he noted that StFX is “an institution that has forged its reputation on the call to serve others.”

He reminded graduates about the importance of serving others, in whatever form that takes. 

“Each one of you can help make a better world for all,” he said. “It is through service to others that we grow in ourselves.”

Dr. Kutcher told the graduating class he had a simple theme to share: a ship in the harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are for, and ships are safe in the harbour, but that is not where the fish are. 

“We cannot flourish or prosper if we do not venture out beyond our zone of safety,” he said as he encouraged graduates to embrace uncertainty, to take challenges, and to know that it is only when they leave the safety of the harbour, that they can grow.

He suggested they take two things with them as they venture out. “First, choose the right partner. It makes all the difference…and second don’t fear failure. Failure is an opportunity for learning.” 

Dr. Kutcher concluded his remarks by sharing the motto of his research team, a motto he told the graduates they are free to adopt: “Work hard. Have fun. Try to make the world a better place.”

Sr. Rebecca McKenna delivered the address to the graduates on behalf of the CND.

“It is indeed a great joy and privilege to accept this distinguished honour on behalf of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame,” she said as she congratulated the 2019 graduates. 

This award acknowledges the lives of the sisters truly made a difference, and contributed to the common mission at StFX, Sr. Rebecca says. It recognizes the part the CND played in the larger story, especially in expanding the parameters of education for women. 

“We urge you as new graduates to take on the great work that is uniquely yours,” Sr. Rebecca said.

As you leave here and go out in the world, recognize the places of greatest need and suffering and offer your unique capacity of heart and mind, she advised. “This is the work that the world desperately needs, and which it calls forth from you.

“What you do with your life truly does matter, and so Godspeed on your journey.”


“My hope is we left this place in a better condition than we first arrived,” morning senior class speaker Sarah Comandante of Calgary, AB said as she addressed fellow graduates. 

She says as her time at StFX draws to a close, she frequently reflects on what has made StFX Canada’s premier undergraduate experience. Two things that stand out are the wealth of knowledge gained and the many opportunities for connection. “We have been taught the meaning of community so deeply.” 

“Congratulations,” said afternoon senior class speaker Karen Nembhard of Jamaica.

“We’re not just collecting degrees today, we’re collecting memories,” she told fellow classmates. 

“As we sit together reflecting on these things, please don’t forget that in this very moment we aren’t waiting but we are creating new goals and I hope that on your journey to them, you create memories even better than the ones we had here,” she said. 

“Remember this is a place that we’ve called home.” 

“Congratulations on your tremendous achievement and welcome,” said Laurie Oakes, speaking on behalf of the StFX Alumni Association. “We are here to welcome and support you.”

The Most Rev. Brian Dunn, Vicar of the Founder, offered the benediction. 

StFX Chancellor John Peacock also took a moment to recognize and thank Dr. Kent MacDonald, presiding over his last convocation as president, for his leadership and numerous contributions.  

University medals presented at Convocation included:


These medals are awarded to the student with the highest average in the final three years of an honours, advanced major or major degree program or the final two years of a diploma or education degree program. 

• Bachelor of Science to: Katie Terese MacEachern, West Bay, NS 

• Bachelor of Science in Nursing to: Emily Claire MacKay, Inverness, NS and Holly Lauren Parsons, Kinburn, ON

• Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition to: Anna Joelle Neufeld, Mission, BC 

• Bachelor of Arts/Science in Human Kinetics to: Erin Margaret Samson, Louisdale, NS 

• Diploma in Engineering to: Luis Fernando Gomez de Alba, Queretaro, Mexico 

• Bachelor of Education to: Lauren Dalla Utter, Salt Spring Island, BC 

• Bachelor of Arts to: Kirsten Alexandra Gallant, Antigonish, NS 

• Bachelor of Music/Bachelor of Arts in Music to: Robyn Claire Gale, Canning, NS 

THE GERALD SCHWARTZ SCHOOL OF BUSINESS The following medals are awarded to the students with the highest average in the final three years of a Bachelor of Business Administration or Bachelor of Information Systems program. 

• The ONEX Corporation Gold Medal Bachelor of Business Administration: Liam Stuart Elbourne, Halifax, NS


• The Governor General Undergraduate Medal for the highest average in the final three years of study to: Katie Terese MacEachern, West Bay, NS 

• The Governor General Graduate Medal for the highest overall average in a thesis-based graduate program to: Alexander Patrick Young, Berwick, NS 

Honorary degree and award recipient bios:  

Dr. Stan Kutcher, Honorary Degree recipient

Dr. Stan Kutcher is a leading psychiatrist and professor who has helped young people successfully manage major mental illnesses. In December 2018, he was appointed to the Senate of Canada. Dr. Kutcher studied history and political science before earning a medical degree from McMaster University. He continued his education in Toronto and in Edinburgh, Scotland before joining the University of Toronto, where he made the first of many major contributions to Canadian health care, taking Sunnybrook Hospital’s adolescent psychiatry division and transforming it into an innovative clinical and research facility. He also pioneered research into the causes of and treatments for youth with major mental illnesses. Dr. Kutcher then became Head of the Psychiatry Department at Dalhousie University followed by appointments as Associate Dean for International Heath and the Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health. He has published over 400 articles and authored, co-authored or edited numerous books, and has shared his expertise with organizations in over 20 countries. Dr. Kutcher is also involved in his community. He’s served on the boards of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and the Spryfield Boys and Girls Club. He led the development of a national youth mental health framework for Canada as a member of the Child and Youth Advisory Committee of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Among numerous honours, he’s received the Order of Nova Scotia, the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s Naomi Rae-Grant and Paul D. Steinhauer Advocacy awards, the McMaster University Distinguished Alumni Award and the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada’s John Ruedy Award for Innovation in Medical Education. Dr. Kutcher is married to Jan Sheppard Kutcher. They live in Herring Cove, NS, and have three adult children and six grandchildren.

Congrégation de Notre-Dame, Honorary Degree recipient

The Congrégation de Notre-Dame (CND) has always believed in the value of liberating education. Such an education empowers students, providing them with the tools to become agents of their own transformation, to create a more just society. The CND’s long and valued association with StFX stretches back decades. The “convent school” founded in 1883 at Mount St. Bernard was affiliated with Saint Francis Xavier College as early as 1897 when arts degrees were conferred upon four women. Over the next decade, there would be 23 graduates; by 1930, over 200. The CND had a great desire to respond to the needs of women seeking post-secondary education. The vision and persistence of these women along with the support of Bishop John Cameron and his co-workers at StFX made this dream a reality. In the 1920s, courses designed specifically for women were established: pedagogy; domestic science (a program introduced by the CND); social work; advanced work in music, art and elocution; and language. The first two degrees in household arts were granted in 1932. The CND remained the only faculty for home economics until the 1970s. As more women, including sisters, gained access to higher education, their vocational/professional possibilities expanded. Sister St. Veronica (MacDonald) joined StFX as a history professor in 1937. She was the first CND and the first woman to be a StFX faculty member. By 1971, 20 sisters were full-time staff. They taught in many departments—home economics, music, art, education, theology, English, business, classics, French and Celtic studies, where Sister Margaret MacDonell became chair in 1977. Throughout, the CND contribution to StFX has been exceptional.

Dr. Peter Henke, Professor Emeritus  

Dr. Peter Henke served as a faculty member in StFX’s Psychology Department for 44 years. He came to StFX in 1972, joining a small group creating a more research focused department with an entirely new curriculum. He was an instrumental part of this process, including putting in place the department’s first formal laboratory-oriented course. His career as a researcher included over 80 publications in prestigious academic journals and in prominent books on neuroscience. Many are acknowledged as important contributions to neuroscience. For three decades, he maintained research funding, from NSERC primarily, but also from the Medical Research Council of Canada (now CIHR). As a teacher, he inspired a generation of students who went on to successful careers. Over his career, Dr. Henke served as department chair, and was a member of virtually all department and major university committees. More broadly, he served on the editorial board of Experimental and Clinical Gastroenterology, on the scientific advisory board of the International Brain-Gut Society, and on NSERC’s Scholarships and Fellowships (Life Sciences) Committee. He holds a PhD from the University of Georgia and an MA and BA from Florida Atlantic University.

Dr. John Edwards, Professor Emeritus 

Dr. John Edwards joined the StFX Psychology Department in 1977. He retired in 2015 and is currently a Senior Research Professor. Throughout his career, he served with dedication and distinction, and established himself as an outstanding and prolific scholar. In 2000, he was elected into the Royal Society of Canada, the highest honour available to scholars in Canada. Among his many other achievements, Dr. Edwards is also a fellow of both the Canadian Psychological Association and the British Psychological Society; he is a recipient of both of StFX’s awards for excellence in research, receiving the President’s Research Award in 1995 and the University Research Award in 2008; he has authored, co-authored or edited 21 books, and around 500 journal articles; he has received invitations to present his research findings and related views at conferences and universities in dozens of countries around the globe; he served for decades as the editor of The Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, as well as the editor of the series, Multilingual Matters. He holds a PhD and MA from McGill University and a BA from the University of Western Ontario. 

Dr. Mathias Nilges, 2019 President’s Research Award

Dr. Mathias Nilges, a StFX English professor since 2008, has in just over a decade, established a laudable record of achievement, positioning him as one of the pre-eminent literary and cultural critics of his generation. He holds a PhD in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he won the 2009 University of Illinois at Chicago Outstanding Dissertation Award. He has been appointed an Obama Fellow, Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany, May/June, 2019, and is a Jules Léger Scholar in the Humanities and Social Sciences at StFX. In 2018, he was named director of StFX’s Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership. A frequently invited keynote speaker, he was the prestigious Rheney Lecturer at Vanderbilt University. He was also the driving force behind The Examined Life Lab, a student-led online lab at StFX. He is the author of three monographs, including one in preparation, and numerous edited collections, edited journal volumes, articles, book chapters, reviews, and translations. He has been actively involved in the StFX community, from serving as the Chair, Faculty of Arts to an Immersion Serving Learning faculty leader.  

Dr. Karen Blair, Outstanding Teaching Award

Dr. Karen Blair, assistant professor of psychology, joined the StFX faculty in 2015. Already she’s had significant impact. Dozens of student nominators praise her extensive knowledge, innovative use of technology in the classroom, approachability and teaching style. “The quality I most admire is her ever-present desire to go above and beyond what is expected, with the sincere intent to enrich her students’ educational experience,” writes one. “I am a better critical thinker, writer and person because of learning from her,” says another. Dr. Blair incorporates service learning in her classes and led an Immersion Service Learning experience to Europe to learn about the Holocaust. She’s also provided opportunities for students to present their research at national conferences. Dr. Blair completed a CIHR Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Utah, and holds a PhD in social psychology from Queen’s University, a Diploma in Instructional Design from Athabasca University, a MSc from Acadia University and a BA, University of Guelph. She’s been successful in obtaining research funding, and is chair of the Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Issues Section of the Canadian Psychological Association. 

Dr. Chris Gilham, Outstanding Teaching Award

StFX Faculty of Education associate professor Dr. Chris Gilham has worked as an educator for over 20 years. At StFX, he co-directs and teaches in the Master of Education with a focus on mental health education. He also teaches inclusion and mental health education in the Bachelor of Education program. Prior to this, he taught grades three to nine in regular and special education settings in Japan, Ontario, and Alberta, and has worked as a behaviour and mental health consultant for the Calgary Board of Education. Dr. Gilham is involved in several mental health literacy projects with as well as a project investigating girls’ developmental assets, with partners at New Brunswick Community College and the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre. He is described by his students as a professor, mentor and role model who has an ability to foster a sense of community in his class, and through focused leadership, influences and supports his students to work at their personal best.

Dr. Jennifer Mitton-Kükner, Outstanding Teaching Award

Dr. Jennifer Mitton-Kükner is an associate professor of assessment, literacy, and qualitative research methods in StFX’s Faculty of Education. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Alberta, a MEd from StFX, a BEd from Mount Allison University, and a BA from the University of King’s College. Prior to university teaching, she taught in secondary schools in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Turkey. Her research interests include adolescent literacies, disciplinary literacies, classroom assessment, pre-service teachers and LGBTQ education, teachers as researchers, and teacher/student experiences in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. In addition, she works closely with Nova Scotian teachers as part of professional outreach initiatives. Praises one nominator: “her diverse field experiences, her masterful content knowledge, her engaging and culturally relevant courses and activities, as well as her friendly and supportive personality have taught many of us graduating this year what it means to be an effective educator.” 


Recognizing leadership contributions: StFX introducing new bursaries for NSSSA members

Fri, 2019-05-03 14:48

In recognition of the passion and leadership abilities of students in the Nova Scotia Secondary School Students’ Association (NSSSA), StFX is introducing five new bursaries available to NSSSA members starting this September. 

“The Nova Scotia Secondary School Students’ Association is a non-profit, student-led leadership organization that produces energetic leadership conferences and opportunities for all high school students in Nova Scotia. StFX is proud to partner with them on their annual leadership conference and we wanted to go a step further by providing bursaries on an annual basis to some of their members who have chosen StFX as their post-secondary institution,” says Bob Hale, StFX’s Director, Ancillary Services.

Mr. Hale says over the past number of years, StFX has seen NSSSA presidents, co-premiers, cabinet members and conference chairs enroll at the university. “Their organization is based on leadership and StFX is known for its leadership programs and leaders in political, business and social justice fields. We felt by offering bursary opportunities for members who are coming to StFX was our way of recognizing their contributions,” he says.

“We want to help those who have experienced NSSSA to build upon the foundation the student leaders already have and take their personal and professional development to the next level.”

NSSSA president Eliza Nobes says they are pleased to have a partner as wonderful as StFX. 

“These bursaries will have a tremendous impact on students. It will help with financial funds and also remind them of NSSSA throughout their university endeavours. These bursaries are such a wonderful establishment, and will make a huge difference to NSSSA students from across the province. We are so proud to have such a wonderful relationship with StFX, and can’t wait to see what the future holds!”

The new bursaries will include:

The NSSSA Entrance Bursary: This bursary has been established to recognize the passion and leadership abilities of students involved with the Nova Scotia Secondary School Students’ Association prior to beginning their studies at StFX. This bursary is available to students entering full-time, first year studies at the university in September 2019. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and have held a leadership role in the NSSSA, either provincially or locally in their high school. Award value: up to $500.

The Lorne ‘Abe’ Abraham NSSSA Bursary: This bursary has been established in honour of Lorne ‘Abe’ Abraham and his long-term commitment to students and the Nova Scotia Secondary School Students’ Association. This bursary is available to students entering full-time, first year studies at StFX in September 2019. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and be a member who has held a position in the NSSSA Provincial Cabinet or on the NSSSA Conference Committee. Award value: up to $500.

StFX is once again looking forward to hosting NSSSA student leaders on campus when the 2019 provincial conference takes place May 16-19. The theme of this year’s conference is Synergy, and how great leadership means creating something bigger than yourself. 

2019 Spring Convocation Graduation Lists are here!

Thu, 2019-05-02 21:32


Congratulations to all who have graduated. We look forward to making it official on Sunday! 

For all the information related to Spring Convocation, including links to the live webcast, click here.



2019 Morning Ceremony Graduate List 2019 Morning Ceremony Graduate List

Degrees: Masters of Science, Education and Adult
 Education; Bachelors of Education, Science, Nursing, Human Nutrition,
 Human Kinetics; Diplomas in Engineering and Integrated Dietetic Internship. 



2019 Afternoon Ceremony Graduate List 2019 Afternoon Ceremony Graduate List

Degrees: Masters of Arts, Bachelors of Arts, Business Administration, Music and Diplomas in Jazz Studies.


Medal Winners for both Morning and Afternoon Ceremonies: 

2019 Convocation Medal Winners 2019 Convocation Medal Winners


StFX professor receives $100,000 grant to explore how to improve community-based search and rescue in Canada’s North

Thu, 2019-05-02 14:48
Dr. Peter Kikkert

StFX’s Dr. Peter Kikkert, the Irving Shipbuilding Chair in Arctic Policy at the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government, has received a $100,000 grant to explore how to improve community-based search and rescue (SAR) and emergency response capabilities in the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut.    

Dr. Kikkert, who teaches in StFX’s Public Policy and Government Program and in the History Department, received the highly competitive Early Career Faculty Grant from the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR). 

With maritime activity increasing throughout the waters of the Canadian Arctic—everything from local small craft carrying hunters and fishers, to cruise ships, vessels supporting resource development, and pleasure craft—effective community-based SAR and emergency response capabilities have never been more essential, Dr. Kikkert says. 

“A community approach is crucial in the North where the population is dispersed over vast distances and federal response capabilities are limited,” he says. “In the Kitikmeot communities of Gjoa Haven, Taloyoak, Cambridge Bay, and Kugluktuk, search and rescue and emergency response involves a complex web of governmental organizations, community groups and individuals.”

“The number of groups, organizations and individuals involved in community-based search and rescue and emergency response raises important questions about their abilities to coordinate efforts and leverage training, skills, abilities and equipment,” he says. 

Dr. Kikkert says he is absolutely thrilled to have this opportunity. Carrying out research in the North can be very expensive and this work would not be possible without the grant, he says.

“It’s absolutely essential to do this research, to be in the community, listening to and learning from the actual practitioners on the ground. This grant has opened that door, providing for travel, the hiring of community research associates and translators, honorarium for participants, and other workshop costs.”

The amount of funding also means Dr. Kikkert will be able to take two StFX undergraduate student research assistants with him to the North each year of the project. 

This year, third year political science student Marcus Cuomo and third year aquatic resources student Brenna Martell will accompany Dr. Kikkert to Nunavut in August for about a month to complete the community portion of the project. 

The project will begin with capacity-mapping workshops held in the communities, which will bring organizations together to determine assets and resources available to a community, identify untapped or unrecognized resources and register collective and individual capacities, ranging from who is involved in SAR and emergency response, to the existence of defined response procedures, first-aid skills, equipment, infrastructure, and completed training.

“Effective capacity-mapping takes a potential-oriented approach, highlighting a community’s strengths, and allows for future efforts to be built on those strengths.” 

This horizontal capacity-mapping will then be used to facilitate capability-based planning workshops, he says, which will determine whether a community has the assets it requires to respond to the wide array of emergencies it might face. 

To facilitate these workshops, Dr. Kikkert will work with community research associates as well as StFX undergraduates Ms. Martell and Mr. Cuomo. Academic collaborators include Dr. Whitney Lackenbauer, Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in the Study of the Canadian North at Trent University and Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel of 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group; Leah Beveridge (MMM), a graduate of StFX, now a PhD candidate in the Interdisciplinary PhD Program in the Faculty of Graduate Studies at Dalhousie University; and Dr. Adam Lajeunesse, Irving Shipbuilding Chair in Canadian Arctic Marine Security at StFX. 

“Dr. Lackenbauer and I spent much of April in the communities introducing the project, meeting with the different groups involved in SAR and emergency response,” noted Dr. Kikkert. 

“It is incredible how engaged and involved many of these community members are in these efforts. We met individuals who are Canadian Rangers, in the Coast Guard Auxiliary, are part of CASARA, and members of their community search and rescue organizations. They volunteer tremendous amounts of time preparing for situations where they might have to save the lives of community members, but also tourists and scientists and other southerners travelling on the land, water, and ice. They are incredibly dedicated and skilled, and they have a strong desire to improve their individual and group capabilities, to train more, and to coordinate more effectively. We hope that this project will contribute to these efforts by assessing existing capacity, defining best practices, streamlining and improving training, resources, equipment, and identifying key areas for further capacity-building.”

Dr. Kikkert has extensive experience working in and studying the North. He not only focused his graduate studies on Arctic policy issues, he lived in the North for a couple of years, teaching at Aurora College, and has been out on the land with Elders and community members in Nunavut, Yukon, and the NWT. 

In fact, life has come full circle: Dr. Kikkert made his first trip to the North as an undergraduate research student assistant with former professor, and now collaborator, Dr. Lackenbauer. Now, Dr. Kikkert is taking undergraduate students of his own there. 

“I really hope to create an interest at StFX in the North, in Arctic studies, and in the study of community resiliency more generally,” he says. 

Ultimately, Dr. Kikkert says he and his colleagues anticipate that improvements to local capability will heighten the effectiveness and efficiency of SAR and emergency response practices in Arctic communities, and, most importantly, contribute to community resilience, improve response times, and save lives. By extension, he says improvements to SAR and emergency response capabilities will help communities mitigate the impacts of climate change and increasing human activity in the Arctic.