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Celebrations held at StFX as Town of Antigonish launches African Heritage Month 2018

Wed, 2018-02-07 15:34
Unveiling the African Heritage Month 2018 poster are, l-r, Kelsey Jones, StFX African Descent Student Affairs Coordinator, StFX Academic Vice-President & Provost Dr. Kevin Wamsley, Lorraine Reddick, SRSB Student Support Worker, Town of Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher, and Antigonish County Warden Owen McCarron

Educate, unite, and celebrate community.

That’s the theme of African Heritage Month 2018, and all three principles were much in evidence Feb. 7 as a large crowd from local school children to members of the StFX and broader community filled the MacKay Room in StFX’s Bloomfield Centre for a special celebration of the launch of African Heritage Month in Antigonish.

“This is a time we spend coming together as a community. This is a proud time for African people. I invite everyone to celebrate, to find an event to attend (during the month),” Lorraine Reddick, Student Support Worker with the Strait Regional School Board (SRSB), said in opening remarks as she welcomed the large crowd to the event.

Town of Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher, who officially read the proclamation declaring the month of February as African Heritage Month in Antigonish, said we are all invited to come together and be educated on the rich African Nova Scotian heritage that we share and to celebrate the deep contributions of African Nova Scotians not just to Nova Scotia, but to all of Canada.

Antigonish County Warden Owen McCarron noted African Heritage Month provides a wonderful opportunity to promote African heritage while instilling knowledge and understanding, as he too encouraged everyone to participate in other events happening this month.

“We are honoured to have our venue chosen for this event,” StFX Academic Vice-President & Provost Dr. Kevin Wamsley said.

Dr. Wamsley noted there are still challenges, inequities and important issues that must be addressed. But there is hope.

“There is such great hope in an event like this.”

As part of the ceremony, several students in St. Andrew Junior School teacher Morgan Gero’s class read from poems they wrote for a class poetry project. Each poem was inspired by African Nova Scotians.

Students from St. Andrew Junior School and Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School were also ably represented in performances by the African Drumming group led by Ms. Gero.  

Kelsey Jones, StFX African Descent Student Affairs Coordinator, acted as the event emcee, while remarks were also read from the Hon. Randy Delorey, MLA, and Sean Fraser, MP.

StFX religious studies faculty member Dr. Ron Charles offered an opening prayer, and Rev. Peter Smith offered a blessing for the food.

The event is hosted by the Town of Antigonish, Zone #7 African Cultural Awareness Association, African Nova Scotia Affairs, Support 4 Culture, the County of Antigonish, SRSB, and StFX.

StFX, NSCC students team together in Social Innovation Challenge

Fri, 2018-02-02 13:52

Students from StFX and the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) Strait Area campus teamed together on Jan. 26 for a unique challenge that had them looking to develop solutions to a local issue.

In all, over 40 students from business faculty Dr. Monica Lent (StFX) and Karen Case (NSCC) courses pooled their skills at a Social Innovation Challenge hosted at StFX.

The event was organized by Paula Brophy of StFX Extension’s Innovation and Enterprise Centre and Jordan Landry, NSCC entrepreneurial relations manager.

The students, divided into teams, were challenged to work on a local issue, how to fill the stands for the Special Olympics Summer Games to be held in Antigonish this year.

Social Innovation Challenge_Small.jpg

Students were given a description of the event and asked to come up with a plan on how to draw people in to watch the event.

The teams had two hours to brainstorm before presenting their idea to a panel of three judges, Ken Kingston, one of the local Special Olympics organizers, Shannon Bouchie of NOBL; and Chris Goyetche, Academic Chair, NSCC Strait Area Campus.

The first place team of Owen Vouri (StFX), Brendan Wilkinson (StFX), Tracy Goodwin (NSCC) and Karen Atkins (NSCC) received $600, while the second place team, which consisted of Angel Espat (StFX), Garrett Nielsen (StFX), Brittany Smith (NSCC), and Laura MacAulay (StFX) took home $400.

The first place team of Owen Vouri (StFX), Brendan Wilkinson (StFX), Tracy Goodwin (NSCC) and Karen Atkins (NSCC) 
Social Innovation Challenge-01-MyStFX.jpg

Second place team Angel Espat (StFX), Garrett Nielsen (StFX), Brittany Smith (NSCC), and Laura MacAulay (StFX) 

Ms. Brophy says this partnership began after she and Ms. Landry met in the summer looking for ideas of something they could do together.

“We wanted to enhance the student learning experience by providing them with an opportunity to work together in diverse teams to find innovative and meaningful solutions to the problem at hand,” Mr. Brophy says. 

She says students enjoyed seeing how they can use their different backgrounds and different perspectives to pool resources and see what they can come up with. 

StFX engineering team wins at Atlantic Engineering Competition; alumnus August Wilkins supports students with competition fund, scholarship

Fri, 2018-02-02 12:08
The StFX student engineering team of Graeme Larsen (second left) and Megan Fudge (second right) placed first at the Atlantic Engineering Competition (AEC) and will represent the Atlantic region at the Canadian Engineering Competition at Ryerson University. Here they are pictured with AEC organizers Michael Cooper, VP Competitions, and Brandon Pye, one of the Re-engineering directors.

The StFX student engineering team of Megan Fudge and Graeme Larsen placed first at the Atlantic Engineering Competition held in St. John’s, NL Jan. 26-28 and will represent the Atlantic region at the Canadian Engineering Competition at Ryerson University on March 8-11.

The second year engineering students topped the Re-engineering category of the competition, hosted by the engineering department and students of Memorial University. This year’s theme was “Sustaining Today, Building Tomorrow.”

In all, six StFX engineering students attended the competition, with the help of a gracious donation from engineer and StFX alumnus August Wilkins, who in recognition of his proud association with StFX, has established the $2,500 August Wilkins Atlantic Engineering Competition Fund, which will fund costs associated with a StFX team participating in this annual competition. Mr. Wilkins has also funded the $2,500 August Wilkins Scholarship in Engineering to support full-time undergraduate students enrolled in the StFX engineering program.

The four-person team of second year students Emma Fudge and Ross Walker and first year students David Worth and Cameron deWinter competed in the Consulting category.

Emma Fudge, president of the StFX Engineering Society and a member of the StFX Consulting team that placed second at last year’s Canadian competition, says much planning and coordination were involved in the weeks leading up to the competition, where teams from universities across Atlantic Canada are exposed to real life engineering problems and meet top students from other schools.

“But it paid off and I am proud of the hard work that our competitors put into the competition. It was a challenging weekend, but I think I speak for all of us when I say that I enjoyed it immensely and am very grateful to have had the opportunity to represent StFX at the competition.” 


StFX engineering students who competed in the Atlantic Engineering Competition in St. John's, NL included, l-r, Ross Walker, Cameron deWinter, Emma Fudge, Graeme Larsen, Dave Worth and Megan Fudge

In the two categories StFX entered, the teams were presented with a problem along with specific goals to be focused on in the solution. Teams had about eight hours to work on a solution before presenting the next morning to a panel judges that included professors, researchers and industry professionals. 

In the Re-engineering competition, students are asked to redesign an existing product or improve its current functionality or adapt it for a new purpose. The initial design problem is revealed several days in advance, with the second stage presented the morning of the competition. Both had to be completed by the deadline, with a presentation and a short report for each. The cases focused on ice safety, and dealt with replacing the current method of measuring ice thickness, and with design modifications to snowmobiles to ensure safety in the case of ice breaking. 

The consulting competition challenges teams to devise a solution to a real-world problem by a hypothetical client. Their recommendations are submitted in report and presentation form and are examined by the panel of judges.

Biology professor invited to present marine ecology work at conference in California

Fri, 2018-02-02 11:43
The main model system biology professor Dr. Ricardo Scrosati and his Marine Ecology Lab have used over the years for their research is composed by barnacles and mussels (prey) and dogwhelks (predatory snails).

StFX biology professor Dr. Ricardo Scrosati was in Ventura, California, this week presenting research from work completed in his Marine Ecology Lab at the invitation-only 2018 Gordon Research Conference on Predator-Prey Interactions, which gathered 200 researchers on this discipline from various countries.  

Specifically, he made a presentation on the nonconsumptive effects that predators have on prey demography.  

“This topic is a relatively unstudied area of the biology of nonconsumptive predator effects, which by far has traditionally focused on behavioural and morphological effects on prey,” he says. “Learning the demographic consequences is essential to better understand how the role of prey species in natural communities is shaped by predator cues. “

The presentation was co-authored with Dr. Julius Ellrich, a postdoctoral fellow from Germany currently working in Dr. Scrosati’s lab.

The main model system they have used over the years for their research is composed by barnacles and mussels (prey) and dogwhelks (predatory snails). Dr. Scrosati says these are predominant organisms on Atlantic Canadian rocky shores and, thus, ideal for field experiments to develop theory on predator-prey interactions.

Funding for the research came from Dr. Scrosati’s successive NSERC Discovery Grants and from Dr. Ellrich’s scholarships from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

StFX music faculty, grads in running for 2018 ECMA awards

Thu, 2018-02-01 10:26

StFX music faculty and a number of StFX graduates are in the running for 2018 East Coast Music Awards.

The East Coast Music Association recently announced the East Coast Music Award nominees and faculty member Paul Tynan, retired faculty Tony Genge and a number of graduates are among those nominated. The East Coast Music Awards will be held in Halifax, NS this year, from May 2-6.

Among those nominated are:

* StFX faculty Paul Tynan – Bicoastal Collective Chapter 5; Jazz Recording of the Year and Instrumental Recording of the Year.

Past StFX students:

* CRaymak (Christian Raymakers) - “Play With Fire” ft. Neon Dreams - Dance Recording of the Year.

* Willem Paynter - "Wise Guy" - features StFX alumni Martin Davidson and Brendan Melchin and also retired faculty, Tony Genge - Jazz Recording of the Year.

* Chronos – “What it is” – features StFX alumni Trevor Wentzell, Zach MacLean, Kyle Varley, and Matt Thauvette - Instrumental Recording of the Year.

* Port Cities – features StFX grad Breagh Mackinnon – Pop Recording of the Year,  Song of the Year (for Back to the Bottom), Fan’s Choice Entertainer of the Year.

* Scott Ferguson – Studio Engineer of the Year.  

StFX Athletics honours 2016-17 U SPORTS Academic All-Canadians

Thu, 2018-02-01 09:44
Academic All-Canadian student-athletes gather with instructors, deans and professors following the celebratory breakfast

The StFX Department of Athletics honoured its 2016-17 U SPORTS Academic All-Canadians Thursday morning, Feb. 1, at their annual celebratory breakfast. This year there was a record-high 82 Academic All-Canadians, those student-athletes who have achieved an 80 per cent average or above while consuming a year of eligibility competing for a varsity team. The number was an increase from the previous high of 73 Academic All-Canadians in 2015-16.

“It is important that we pause to celebrate the amazing accomplishments of our student-athletes,” comments StFX Director of Athletics & recreation Leo MacPherson.

“These Academic All-Canadians have mastered the ability to balance a demanding varsity sport commitment, their tremendous community outreach activities, and achieve excellence in their academic endeavors. Their achievements are remarkable.”

Out of the possible 288 eligible student-athletes who consumed U SPORTS eligibility by participating on a varsity team at StFX during the 2016-17 season, 28.5 per cent achieved  Academic All-Canadian status, including an equal 41 male and 41 female student-athletes.

There were 35 first-time Academic All-Canadians, 24 student-athletes who received the honour for the second time in their career, and 18 student-athletes who were three-time Academic All-Canadians. Five recent graduates earned the distinction of being the only student-athletes who were four-time U SPORTS Academic All-Canadians  including Calvin DeWolfe (cross country), Claire Gibbons (soccer), Heidi MacDonald (cross country), Nicole MacDonald (soccer), and Hannah Pollock (track & field).


Liam Elbourne (X-Men soccer) receives the Athletic Director's Award for Academic Achievement from Leo MacPherson.

The Athletics Director’s awards for academic achievement, presented to the top StFX male and female academic student-athletes were Hannah Pollock from the X-Women track & field team and Liam Elbourne from the X-Men soccer team. Recent X-Men hockey graduate Eric Locke was acknowledged for his elite selection as a U SPORTS Top 8 Academic All-Canadian. He was honoured at a ceremony in December by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, the Governor General of Canada.

The 2016-17 Academic All-Canadians were honoured at a celebratory breakfast at the Bloomfield Centre where they received a certificate from U SPORTS along with a gift from the Department of Athletics. All student-athletes were encouraged to invite a faculty member to accompany them to the breakfast. The breakfast was held in conjunction with StFX Athletics Faculty Appreciation Week.

The complete list of 2016-17 StFX Academic All-Canadians is as follows:

MacKenzie Bell, Rugby                                 Dustin Benetti, Soccer
Emma Boudreau, Track & Field                    Chloe Brennan, Soccer
Elise Brennan, Soccer                                   Ellen Burnett, Cross Country
Joanne Callow, Rugby                                   Jillian Clarke, Soccer
Tyson Collier, Curling                                    Marcus Cuomo, Hockey
Alex Cyr, Cross Country                                Olivia Czipf, Soccer
Pascale Daigle, Hockey                                 Calvin DeWolfe, Cross Country
Jagger Dirk, Hockey                                      Scott Donald, Cross Country
Lisa Downey, Hockey                                    Craig Duininck, Hockey
Liam Elbourne, Soccer                                   Matthew Eliot, Cross Country
Kelsey Ellis, Soccer                                        Nick Favero, Cross Country  
Warren Ferguson, Track & Field                    Sam Gan, Football     
Connor Garagan, Hockey                              Claire Gibbons, Soccer
Alley Goodreau, Hockey                                Megan Graham, Track & Field
Nicole Halladay, Hockey                                Rachel Hawkins, Soccer
Jon Heidebrecht, Football                              Ben Herringer, Soccer
Justin Holland, Football                                  Brandon Hope, Hockey
Matt Jemmett, Football                                   Leo Jusiak, Track & Field
Kristoff Kontos, Hockey                                  Adam Kuntz, Football
Logan Lee-Knight, Soccer                              Eric Locke, Hockey   
Emma Logan, Curling                                     Liz MacDonald, Cross Country
Heidi MacDonald, Cross Country                   Olivia MacDonald, Cross Country
Nicole MacDonald, Soccer                             Branden MacInnis-Morris, Track & Field
Katie MacIntosh, Basketball                           Paul MacLellan, Cross Country
Olivia Malone, Track & Field                           Hana Marmura, Cross Country
Therese McCurdy, Curling                              Ellen Murphy, Rugby
Mercy Myles, Soccer                                      Matt Needham, Hockey
Gabe O’Brien, Track & Field                           Ariana Orasanin, Hockey
Brittany Parks, Soccer                                    Hayden Peters, Football
Thomas Pieroway, Soccer                              Hannah Pollock, Track & Field
Kara Power, Hockey                                       Tyler Priest, Football
Angus Rawling, Cross Country                       Amy Rowe, Soccer    
Sam Studnicka, Hockey                                  Cole Suart, Soccer     
Alex Taylor, Soccer                                          Kim Taylor, Basketball          
Natneal Tecle, Soccer                                     Aaron Thibeau, Soccer
MC Thompson, Track & Field                         Kevyn Timmons, Soccer
Mark Tremaine, Hockey                                  Erin Visser, Soccer    
Katie Walsh, Soccer                                        Carleigh Walters, Rugby
Jessica Warrener, Track & Field                      Ryan Washburn, Track & Field         
Mitch Wheaton, Hockey                                  Alex Yakimenko, Football
Marco Zanchetta, Soccer

StFX Observatory officially opens

Wed, 2018-01-31 10:25
Jamie Powell, senior lab instructor in the StFX Physics Department, and students, are pictured during the official opening of the StFX Observatory

It’s now a little easier to reach for the stars on the StFX campus.

On January 29, StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald was on hand to officially open the StFX Observatory, a new astronomical observatory located at 24 West Street across the street from Bishops Hall.  

“It’s exciting to have it come to fruition,” says Jamie Powell, senior lab instructor in the StFX Physics Department, who for years has been a driving force behind this initiative.

Mr. Powell said many people have come together to make this happen, to reopen an observatory at StFX after an absence of nearly 15 years.

“There’s a real sense of collaboration that has happened to get this to work,” he says. “A lot of people have put a lot of work into this. The benefit is for students, and also the local community. Everyone’s going to benefit from having this facility.

“I’ve been impressed by the level of support.”

This support has included the carpentry diploma class of 2017 at the Nova Scotia Community College in Stellarton under lead instructor Kevin MacIntosh who agreed to build the observatory, a 12 x 14 foot structure with a roll-off roof observatory; the support of Iain Boyd in StFX Advancement; Steve and Kathy Smith, former owners of Central Building Supplies, who donated the building materials; StFX Facilities Management who have done much work prepping the site and arranging for the observatory to be transported and installed; and Dean of Science Dr. Petra Hauf who arranged for a 20 x 16 building to be outfitted as classroom with power and a washroom on the site.

The family of the late Dr. David Bunbury, a former StFX chemistry professor, donated his astronomy equipment, which will also be used for outreach, and Mr. Powell says solar panels and batteries that he and StFX faculty Drs. Peter Poole and Frank Comeau received through a 2012 Service Learning grant to power the observatory are now installed in that classroom to be used for service learning by engineering students to learn about solar energy and to make public presentations.


Physics students will use the observatory, as well as students taking astronomy courses. and the general student population and local community will have access on public nights. Local schools and other special interest groups will also likely have opportunity to book time.

“Astronomy to me is sort of a gateway science,” Mr. Powell says. “Kids, they especially like rocks, dinosaurs and astronomy, space, that grabs kids interest

“Science literacy is important. Access to astronomy, to a telescope to look at the sky to ask questions, these are parts of feeding curiosity, and it’s not just kids. It’s important for anyone to have that access. When people look up at the night sky, there is awe, they wonder about it, here’s a way to answer some of those questions, to provide that opportunity for people.”


The observatory also helps maintain the legacy of the late Rev. E.M. Clarke, a longtime physics faculty member, whose efforts led to the creation of StFX’s first observatory, a traditional style dome, erected on the roof of the old science building, now the Schwartz School of Business, around 1979-80.

The observatory was used as a teaching instrument, for training students and for public outreach for over 20 years.

Mr. Powell says he started looking after the telescope in the early 1990s and did so for about a decade until they had to dissemble the equipment around 2002-03 in preparation for the department’s move into the newly constructed Physical Sciences Complex across campus.

From the beginning, he says they wanted to make sure StFX had an observatory again, a motivation to restore what we had.

“It was well used when it was on the old building,” he says. “We had weekly public nights, and I remember a few times during special occasions when we had 45-minute line-ups. It’s been obvious to me that there is interest, and if it’s available people will use it.”

Over the years, different arrangements have been made, including an off-campus site and hauling equipment in and out of the new building. But none of these arrangements were ideal, until now.  

“I feel happy that it’s worked,” he says.

StFX to delay opening until 12PM today - Tues. Jan 30th

Tue, 2018-01-30 05:39

Please be advised that StFX University will delay opening until 12:00 PM (noon) today, Tuesday, January 30th, due to poor weather conditions. Essential services will remain open (Morrison Hall, security, snow removal).

Another business competition award for StFX entrepreneurship student Hannah Chisholm

Mon, 2018-01-29 10:06
Hannah Chisholm

StFX Schwartz School of Business student Hannah Chisholm’s entrepreneurial journey continues to shine.

On January 25-26, Ms. Chisholm, an entrepreneurship student from Antigonish, NS, competed in the BMO Apex Business Plan Competition at the University of New Brunswick, presenting her vegan egg alternative business idea. Her product, called Eggcitables, is a chickpea-based vegan egg replacement.

She received second place for the undergraduate category, best elevator pitch award and people's choice award. She also received $4,000 towards her business and had the opportunity to connect with investors and business leaders. 

Just a few weeks earlier, she won $10,000 and top place honours at the 100 Seeds Atlantic competition, held in Halifax, NS.

She’s hoping to launch her business shortly after she graduates from StFX this May.

“It's been a really egg-citing month,” she says.

Reason to applaud: New paper from StFX math professor and students finds people always speed up when clapping together

Mon, 2018-01-29 09:31
Dr. Ryan Lukeman

Ever wonder what happens when humans clap together? They always speed up!

That’s the result of a new paper published in January 2018 by StFX mathematics professor Dr. Ryan Lukeman and two of his students Kennedy Murphy and Michael Thompson, both now graduates, who together study collective human rhythmic behaviour, through clapping, in the paper, 'Groups clapping in unison undergo size-dependent, error-induced frequency increase' which appears in Nature Scientific Reports.

It’s a mathematical analysis of what happens when humans clap together.

“The question came to me during a Wilco concert years ago,” Dr. Lukeman says. “At one point in a song, the drummer stopped playing, and the audience was clapping along, keeping the beat. Very quickly, they lost the tempo, and the band members made a comment about how the audience is reliably poor at keeping time. I wondered why this might be—what about many people keeping time is more challenging than one person on their own? Since I had a background studying collective phenomena from a mathematical perspective, this seemed a perfect example of an emergent group pattern that we could study through individual interactions.” 

Dr. Lukeman says the research question remained only a curiosity until a few years later, when student Kennedy Murphy, now a data scientist, began a summer research position.

“He had some background in audio recording, so we started up some experiments recording individuals and pairs under the command to clap in unison. A year later, Michael Thompson (who now works as a senior economic analyst), also in a summer research position, continued the project, and eventually did the recordings of large groups. Here, we used about 40 different StFX classes of various size, up to a few hundred students at once. We’d simply turn off the lights, and ask the students to clap in unison, and record the group behaviour for a minute or two.” 

Kennedy Murphy.jpg

Kennedy Murphy

Michael Thompson.png

Michael Thompson

Dr. Lukeman says they found that groups were able to very quickly attain synchrony clapping together collectively. This wasn’t surprising, he says, as we see this kind of behaviour at sports events and concerts frequently.


“But, we also found that—every single time, in fact—the group would speed up, and furthermore, larger groups sped up more quickly. We later found a TED talk given by a rather famous applied mathematician, and one of the world’s foremost experts on the mathematics of synchrony, Steven Strogatz, who ran a similar experiment on his audience. They too sped up, and he commented that he had expected them to synchronize, but was surprised that they speed up. If it wasn’t obvious to Steven Strogatz, I figured we were on to something!”

“Observing the experiment was quite spectacular, typically, it would take one to three seconds for participants to find synchrony, then once it emerged, participants would reliably and collectively speed up," says Mr. Thomson who during his senior year conducted experiments with classes across faculties with class sizes varying between seven to 220 students. The only directive given to students wat that, after they turned off the lights and indicated they start, they synchronously applaud until otherwise directed.

The effects were particularly profound in larger groups, he says, where, from the initial cacophony of applause, small, disjointed pockets of synchrony would emerge in the group.

Then, all of a sudden, once groups merged into unison, the collective group would rapidly speed up the rate of synchronous applause, up to a point where they could no longer maintain effective synchrony, thus ending the experiment, he says.  

For each experiment, Mr. Thompson collected an audio recording, from which they were then able to extract, programmatically, the times at which the group collectively applauded.

The next phase was to model this process. Using what they had observed of individuals and pairs, they were able to scale up a collective model that tested two competing hypotheses: that humans naturally speed up individually, and the collective response is simply an average of this individual tendency, versus the speed-up arising from the human interactions during the experiment.

They found the latter to be consistent with their observations - that people respond to small timing errors made by other individuals, but more sensitively if they are just about to clap, than having just completed a clap.

“The results have application in understanding musical rhythmic behaviour, and how information spreads in collectively interacting human groups,” Dr. Lukeman says.

“More broadly, determining the inter-individual interactions that explain group level observations is of primary importance to understanding complex systems. And, there is an educational use for this: the study system provides an immediate and simple way to demonstrate concepts of synchrony and coupled oscillators to students.”


Dr. Lukeman says the study was also a good way to expose undergraduate students to research, something he says has become the primary focus of his research program.

“The opportunity for a student to, under guidance, delve deeply into a topic, to discover something novel, and to share it with the world is transformative to the undergraduate experience, and something I think we do quite well here at StFX,” he says. “And, from my perspective, I get to interact with very talented students who often take the lead on projects, and push the boundaries of my research program. It is tremendously rewarding.”

Both students say the experience was extremely beneficial.

After his 2015 graduation, Mr. Thomson went on to Western University to receive an MA in economics in 2016. He is now a senior analyst at Analysis Group, an economic consulting firm, in the San Francisco office.

“Typically, my work on cases involves a vast array of research and data analysis, both of which have been bolstered immensely by my research experience with Ryan at StFX. My academic background and applied analytical skillset which I fostered at StFX have proven indispensable while working closely with PhD and MBA graduates,” he says. “Additionally, my coding experience has taught me to be able to quickly learn new coding languages to be able to analyze different problems using various data sources from clients.”

Mr. Murphy, who graduated in 2014 and got a job as a data scientist at a start-up based out of Moncton, NB called Fiddlehead Technologies, agrees his experience at StFX was a big help.

“Doing research at StFX helped me after graduation because it prepared me to bridge the gap between academics and its application. The majority of my work today is time series based, which is directly comparable to what I did at X. I’ve also worked closely with professors in the region, as well as abroad to develop key features within Fiddlehead’s repertoire. This would have been more challenging if not for the time I spent parsing through academic papers, and applying their methods.”

Voices of leadership: Frank McKenna, student leaders share lessons in John C. Friel XTalks to open Leaders Summit @X

Fri, 2018-01-26 23:07
The Hon. Frank McKenna

Those wanting to make a difference in the world and in their own lives had only to be on the StFX campus Jan. 26 as four distinct voices of leadership rang strong and clear at the John C. Friel XTalks, kicking off the student focused Leaders Summit @X.

The Hon. Frank McKenna, back at alma mater for a fireside chat during the Friel XTalks, shared his views on leadership in an inspiring, funny, honest and wide-ranging conversation.

StFX student leaders Nicky Barona, Sam Gan and Annie Sirois also highlighted the event, sharing their own unique perspectives on leadership with the crowd as well as those tuning in online via

Those gathered heard powerful messages that ranged from the importance of stepping outside your comfort zone to learning leadership is within oneself to being aware of the inequity of opportunity.

“I just listened to three young people speaking at the Leader's Summit @stfxuniversity. Renews my faith in the future of our country,” tweeted Helen Hanratty.

“What stuck out the most is we have three extraordinary leaders coming out of this university,” Mr. McKenna, Deputy Chairman TD Bank, former New Brunswick premier and former Canadian ambassador to the United States, said as he opened the fireside chat, conducted by Xaverian Weekly co-editors-in-chief Claire Keenan and Ian Kemp, by commending all three students who spoke.

“I thought there was huge lessons from our speakers.”

Leaders Barona.jpg

Leaders Gan.jpg

Leaders Sirois.jpg

Student speakers Nicky Barona (top photo), Sam Gan (middle) and Annie Sirois (bottom photo). 

The John C. Friel XTalks, now in its second year, kicked off the Leaders Summit @X, co-hosted by the StFX Students’ Union and StFX’s McKenna Centre for Leadership. The summit is a weekend devoted to enhancing leadership skills for a broad and diverse cohort of StFX students, Maple League of Universities students and select high school students.


During his talk, Mr. McKenna credited his time as a StFX student as being instrumental in honing his own leadership skills.

“My toughest leadership challenge was right here when I was Students’ Union president,” he said. “I never had more pressure.”

He recalled a seething cauldron of debate on campus, at a time of huge societal change, when a massive debate erupted about open residences. “And I got caught right in the middle, trying to figure out where my loyalty should be. It was intense,” he said.

“I learned a lot of lessons about leadership, take a stand, be gracious about it, and communicate it.”

That’s the thing about StFX, he said. It has a marvelous 150-plus year history of being a social catalyst, a place where people come to exchange ideas, and from this freewheeling debate, leaders often can make their best decisions.

“StFX’s got all the raw material here,” he said. It’s a liberal arts institution. It’s a residential institution, where students need to exchange with each other. It brings in inspired leaders and lively debates that only add to the raw material.

“I think that’s why we produce prime ministers and premiers…All of the right elements are here, uniquely here, in this proving ground for leadership. I think we should be uniquely proud how far above our weight the university has punched over the years.”

Responding to a series of questions, Mr. McKenna engaged in a conversation that touched on lessons he learned as Canadian ambassador to the United States to humanitarian efforts he’s been involved in Haiti.

He told the crowd he’s a firm believer in hard work and perseverance, and that opportunities are often found at the intersection of hard work and luck. He also encouraged young leaders to grow a thick skin against criticism, to chin up if they want to make transformative change.  

When asked about the biggest challenges faced today, he cited people willing to borrow money and sacrifice our air and water against their children and grandchildren’s future because they are too selfish and greedy to do the things they need to do. “We have to deal with the problems of our generation.”


StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald, who brought opening remarks during the event, also took time to formally acknowledge the contributions of Senator Mary Coyle, the outgoing executive director of the Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership and former director of StFX’s Coady International Institute, now named to the Senate of Canada.

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StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald

“Tonight after 21 years, this is your last formal event (at StFX),” he said to Ms. Coyle. “Your impact has been deep,” he said, noting how Ms. Coyle has left her print on the soul of StFX. “We’re so proud of you.”

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Sen. Mary Coyle

Student voices also highlighted the evening.

Ms. Barona, a fourth year entrepreneurship student from Ecuador, shared lessons from her own experiences, telling the crowd to think about opportunities they missed because they were afraid, and to step out of their comfort zone when they are afraid to do something and do it anyway.

“Life is short. Take risks. They are worth it,” she said as she encouraged all to motivate others with their unique leadership.

Mr. Gan, a fourth year entrepreneurship student from London, ON, talked about how it’s important to understand how leadership is a relationship with yourself. As someone long involved with sport, he spoke of how he always wanted to be a leader and to wear that captain or assistant designation, but how he’s learned, one doesn’t need to wear a letter to be a leader.

Regardless of the label, people can still be leaders, he said, citing an example of when he believed in himself, it brought opportunity like no other.

“I hope you all understand the power you have to enact change in the world around you. It’s in every single one of you, how you chose to enact that is up to you.”

Ms. Sirois, a fourth year honours political science student from Ottawa, ON, and president of the Students’ Union, spoke about privilege, drawing attention to the lack of equity that exists for all people. The tools for success were never out of her reach, she says, but that is not the case for all, especially those facing prejudices based on race, gender or sexuality.

“What can we do about it?” she asked.

“You have to recognize you have privilege and take that privilege and create opportunity for other people to succeed,” she adviced.

“Take a chance on people, people who don’t look like you, who don’t talk like you, who don’t think like you.”

The Leaders Summit continues Saturday with a full day for participants with motivational and informative talks, hands-on workshops and their own action planning and commitment declaration sessions.

StFX to launch seven new living learning communities in residence

Fri, 2018-01-26 15:49
In September, StFX will launch seven new living learning communities (LLCs) in its residences, providing space for students who want to live and learn and immerse themselves in a community tailored to a specific academic or lifestyle interest.

Starting this fall, StFX students will be able to take advantage of a unique living and learning opportunity designed to deepen the academic experience.

In September, StFX will launch seven new living learning communities (LLCs) in its residences, providing space for students who want to live and learn and immerse themselves in a community tailored to a specific academic or lifestyle interest.

“Living learning communities are a new initiative offered through Residence Life next year where students will live with other students, peers with similar interests,” explains Residence Education Coordinator Kerri Arthurs.

Each LLC is associated with one or more faculty departments and organizations, and the idea, she says, is that these communities combine academic and social learning, enhancing opportunities for development and learning for students outside the classroom.

Each community will have a primary faculty advisor as well as programming tailored to suit the interests of the students living in the community, Ms. Arthurs says, providing a real benefit as students take part in academic and creative programs with their peers, faculty members and community.

“It’s really about experiential learning,” says Student Life Director Jacqueline De Leebeeck who says many universities today are realizing the potential for students living in LLCs to experience that bridge between academic and community learning.

“It’s neat to see how these communities have evolved that suit a diverse range of students,” Ms. Arthurs says.

“We’re able to launch this neat roster that appeals to a broad range of students and offers opportunities for everyone. That’s really exciting.”

The seven new LLCs will include two academic-focused communities, one for first year nursing students in Mount Saint Bernard residence and the other in Bishop’s Hall for first year students enrolled in the Humanities Colloquium; as well as two interest-based communities and three lifestyle communities, each open to students in all years and all disciplines.

The interest-based LLCs will include EcoLiving; and the Wampum Project. This latter LLC, for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, is inspired by the theme of reconciliation and is a project that will wrap up with the launch of a new residence experience for students in September 2019. The lifestyle LLCs will include Substance-Free Living; Quieter Lifestyles; and Single Gender (All-Women). Each will have a dedicated floor in MacIsaac Hall, which reopens in September.

Ms. Arthurs says that while a similar option of living together in residence had existed for Humanities Colloquium students, this launch will infuse it, and all LLCs, with focused programming that extends student learning outside of the classroom, applying structure and formalizing something that was already in place.

Earth sciences professor Dr. Dave Risk, faculty advisor for the EcoLiving LLC, says he’s been interested in this concept for a long time, and was familiar with the Humanities Colloquium offering. “That practice is so fantastic, to have students who are like-minded living together, it’s so clear to me how it would benefit the classroom,” he says, noting the potential it has to carry on dynamic conversations long after class time has ended.

“It’s exciting to be able to get those students together and give them some friendships and programming.”

“It’s a great project. It’s going to do good,” agrees fourth year anthropology student Tamara Cremo. As an Indigenous student, she says when she first came to StFX she experienced some culture shock and says at first she was a bit afraid to talk to professors and other students. “I think if I had this opportunity, I would have been more comfortable,” she says.

She says finding people that share your interests helps break the ice and helps students find that comfort zone.

Ms. De Leebeeck is excited by the possibilities.

She says when you bring together like-minded people from different disciplines and perspectives, it has the potential for great collaboration and new ways of looking at issues happening in the world.
Dr. Risk says he sees potential for even more leadership growth. “The seeds of collaboration between students are so much more likely to happen.”

Ms. De Leebeeck says the plan is to expand and grow these communities in future and she encourages interested students and faculty to get in touch with ideas.

New, incoming students can indicate their interest in living in an LLC next year on their StFX application. Other students interested in applying or wanting more information are encouraged to email or to check out for more information.

StFX program pairing international and domestic students and the local community receives community health funding

Wed, 2018-01-24 13:36
A new StFX initiative that helps build friendships between international and domestic students and the local community has received funding from the Antigonish Town and County Community Health Board, in connection with the Nova Scotia Health Authority. Here, members of StFX’s Global Connections Buddy Program are seen enjoying an evening of curling.

A new StFX initiative that helps build friendships between international and domestic students and the local community has received funding from the Antigonish Town and County Community Health Board, in connection with the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

StFX’s Global Connections Buddy Program is one of several local projects and organizations to receive funding from the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s Wellness Fund. Presentations were made Jan. 22 at the People's Place Library in Antigonish.

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Several local projects and organizations, including StFX’s Global Connections Buddy Program, received funding from the Antigonish Town and County Community Health Board in connection with Nova Scotia Health Authority’s Wellness Fund. Here, representatives of the various groups are seen at the Jan. 22 presentation.

“We’re very fortunate the health board is able to provide funding. This is a huge help,” says Donald Rasmussen, International Student Engagement Coordinator in StFX’s Office of Internationalization.

This year a cohort from Religious Studies, the International Office, Service Learning, Recruitment and Admissions, the Registrar’s Office and Antigonish Community Transit created the Buddy Program with a goal to pair service learning students with new international students to provide opportunities for students to build friendships while participating together in cultural activities connected to the Antigonish community.

Mr. Rasmussen says the Buddy Program started as a test program in September, pairing first year international students with upper year Canadian students. Each week, the pairs of students meet for a social activity of their choice such as sharing a meal, studying together, going for a hike or catching a movie. A group activity is planned each month that has some community relevance.

So far, participants have travelled to Keppoch Mountain to meet with Mi’kmaq Elders to learn about Aboriginal culture and to hike, have travelled to Sherbrooke Village to attend its annual Christmas event, and have spent time curling at the rink in St. Andrew’s where students from every continent were represented.

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Participants in the Buddy Program at Keppoch Mountain (top photo) and Sherbrooke Village Christmas event (bottom photo.)

“We have the sense that while domestic students and international students have a good experience at StFX, in some ways it’s a little separated. We want to help students integrate into the community. This seems to be a really functional way to do this,” Mr. Rasmussen says.

He says there’s been good reception from the students involved.

“It seems like a program we can expand.”


StFX biology master’s student to conduct research in Germany as recipient of NSERC Michael Smith Award

Wed, 2018-01-24 10:09
Alex Young

Alex Young, a StFX MSc biology student from Berwick, NS, will be travelling to Germany this semester to conduct research as the recipient of a Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement Award from NSERC.

To be eligible for the award, candidates must already hold NSERC funding. Mr. Young, who is supervised by biology professor Dr. Russell Wyeth, is a recipient of a $17,500 NSERC Canada Graduate Scholarship-Master’s award. He also holds a Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarship.

Mr. Young’s research at StFX includes identifying the genes and cell types responsible for producing different neurotransmitters inside of the snail’s sensory organs. 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.

He will spend over two months at Georg-August-Universität in Göttingen, Germany, working in the lab of Dr. Dan Jackson. Mr. Young says his research, examining the nervous system of a snail species (Lymnaea stagnalis), is meant to build understanding of how snails, and, by extension,  all animals, process sensory information. 

He says the foreign study award will allow him to pursue the final component of his research as well as network and learn from international experts in his field. Dr. Jackson’s lab at the University of Göttingen is known for this type of research and has a sophisticated robotic system to help microscopically visualize the patterns of gene expression in different tissues. 

In addition, Mr. Young says, “It will be really nice to go (to Germany) culturally, and just to learn a lot of new science and experience how research is done in different parts of the world.” 

Overall, he says he hopes his work both here at StFX and in Germany will give researchers an idea of the different genes and types of cells in the nervous system, and help make progress on understanding the function of neurons, in snails and in all animals. 

Opportunity to grow as a leader: StFX hosts Frank McKenna, XTalks, and fourth Leaders Summit @X

Mon, 2018-01-22 14:25

An action-oriented, practical and inspirational weekend. That’s what on the agenda for student leaders at the Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership as StFX hosts the fourth Leaders Summit @X Jan. 26-27, this year in conjunction with the John C. Friel XTalks.

The summit, co-hosted by StFX Students’ Union, the McKenna Centre for Leadership and the Maple League of Universities, will be off to a special start as StFX alumnus Frank McKenna, former New Brunswick premier and former Canadian ambassador to the United States, is back on campus on Friday, Jan. 26 for a fireside chat as part of the John C. Friel XTalks, which also features talks by student leaders Annie Sirois, Sam Gan and Nicky Barona in the Schwartz Auditorium at 7 p.m. This event is open to the public.

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StFX student leaders, l-r, Annie Sirois, Sam Gan, and Nicky Barona will speak about leadership as part of the John C. Friel XTalks, which launches the Leaders Summit @X

Saturday will be a full day for participants, including a broad and diverse cohort of StFX, Maple League and some select high school students, with motivational and informative talks, hands-on workshops and their own action planning and commitment declaration sessions.

“It should be a wonderful launch. Student voices will be leading it off and then we will have a very prominent alumnus in Frank McKenna in a fireside chat. It will be an exciting, dynamic, hands-on weekend,” says Senator Mary Coyle, finishing her position as executive director of the Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership before taking on her new role in the Senate of Canada.

“The McKenna Centre for Leadership is interested in promoting leadership in every sphere and helping students navigate those opportunities,” she says.  

“We always try to put our students forward. Students have been very involved in organizing the event.”

She says Xaverian Weekly co-editors-in-chief Claire Keenan and Ian Kemp will be emceeing the entire event and interviewing Mr. McKenna as part of the fireside chat. “They have been very instrumental in the planning of the summit.”

Mr. Kemp and Ms. Keenan say they are proud to be involved in this endeavour and to be working with a team of driven and diverse people.

“It's great to see the different facets of the StFX community come together to enhance student life,” they say. “The Xaverian Weekly is always delighted to see students enhancing their voices throughout campus and it is heartening to see the enthusiasm towards promoting student leadership. We are excited to emcee the event and look forward to hearing the student speakers and interviewing Frank McKenna.” 

Ms. Coyle says StFX students, staff and faculty are all involved in the workshops and leaders in actions sessions.

StFX Students of African Descent Advisor Kelsey Jones and Gender and Sexual Diversity Student Advisor Breanna O’Handley will lead a session on inclusive leadership; Brianne Peters, teaching staff at the Coady International Institute, will present ABCD – The Strength Based Leadership Approach; and human kinetics professor Dr. Angie Kolen and Athletics Director Leo MacPherson will lead a session entitled, “How good do you want to be?” exploring how young people can transition from leading themselves to leading others.

Ms. Coyle says another highlight will be Halina St. James of Podium Media & Communications Coaching providing a keynote address focused on Public Speaking, a Skill for Leaders followed by a workshop by Ms. St. James on public speaking, being authentic, building confidence, being a total communicator, and connecting to the audience.

In the leaders in action sessions, Ms. Coyle says a large part of the afternoon will be devoted to students identifying their priorities within the theme of leadership and working in small groups to develop action plans and declarations going forward.

“It’s not meant to be done on Saturday, Jan. 27,” Ms. Coyle says. “Students will carry forward with them the skills and knowledge they gain, and they will carry forward the agenda that they have identified for their future action.”

X-Chem Outreach receives CanCode funding through Actua to expand digital programming for youth

Mon, 2018-01-22 13:24
Participants enjoying a previous X-Chem camp

Today Actua, the national organization that represents X-Chem Outreach at St. Francis Xavier University, was named the largest recipient of funding from the Government of Canada’s new CanCode program.

CanCode is a $50 million fund, announced in the federal budget 2017, supporting the development of coding and digital skills for youth across Canada.

As a network member of Actua, X-Chem Outreach is pleased to be receiving a portion of Actua’s CanCode funding. This funding will go towards scaling up X-Chem Outreach’s community programming to reach even more youth in Antigonish and surrounding communities with inspiring, hands-on coding and digital skills experiences.

“This $40,000 grant will be invested in equipment and leaders and will allow us to deliver coding experiences, free of charge, to an increased number of youth in our local communities,” said Dr. Truis Smith-Palmer, StFX chemistry professor and one of the directors of X-Chem Outreach.

X-Chem Outreach is one of 35 network members receiving CanCode funding through Actua and will work with colleagues across the network to develop and exchange content that will help inspire Canada’s next generation of innovators.

“We are honoured to be a recipient of CanCode funding and thrilled to provide additional support to X-Chem Outreach to engage more youth in building digital skills,”  said Jennifer Flanagan, President and CEO of Actua. “This support means that thousands more youth in Antigonish and surrounding communities will have the opportunity to access free, deep-impact, face-to-face learning experiences which are critical to their future success and our future Canadian workforce.”

Actua’s 35 network members will reach 500,000 youth and over 10,000 teachers across every province and territory with CanCode funding.

About X-Chem Outreach: X-Chem Outreach promotes hands-on chemistry, science and coding in Antigonish and surrounding communities (within one-two hour drive), and engages many underrepresented youth. Workshops are presented at schools in May and June, camps are held at various locations in July and August, and workshops are held at StFX on Saturday afternoons during term time. Professors, students and staff from science, engineering and computer science and education contribute their expertise.

About Actua: Actua is Canada’s leading science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) youth outreach network representing 35 university and college based members. Each year 250,000 young Canadians in over 500 communities nationwide are inspired through hands-on educational workshops, camps and community outreach initiatives. Actua focuses on the engagement of underrepresented youth through specialized programs for Indigenous youth, girls and young women, at-risk youth and youth living in Northern and remote communities. Actua’s major funders include: Government of Canada, Google Canada, Suncor Energy Foundation, GE Canada, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Finning, Toyota Canada Foundation and Lockheed Martin. For more information about Actua, visit

About CanCode: The CanCode program will invest $50 million over two years, starting in 2017-18, to support initiatives providing educational opportunities for coding and digital skills development to Canadian youth from kindergarten to grade 12 (K-12). The program aims to equip youth, including traditionally underrepresented groups, with the skills and study incentives they need to be prepared for the jobs of today and the future. Canada's success in the digital economy depends on leveraging our diverse talent and providing opportunity for all to participate—investing in digital skills development will help to achieve this.

Entrepreneurial best: StFX student Hannah Chisholm wins $10,000 top prize at Atlantic entrepreneurship competition

Fri, 2018-01-19 10:56
StFX student Hannah Chisholm (right) is congratulated by 100 Seeds Atlantic co-founder Allyson England on winning the 100 Seeds Atlantic pitch competition and its $10,000 prize

StFX entrepreneurship student Hannah Chisholm’s plan to launch her own business so impressed a group of 100 Atlantic entrepreneurs that she was named the $10,000 top prize winner at the 100 Seeds Atlantic competition.

The win will enable the Gerald Schwartz School of Business student to move her vegan egg alternative business idea closer to commercialization. It also provides much validation.

“I was really excited, and a little overwhelmed,” says Ms. Chisholm, an Antigonish, NS native, on claiming the top prize at the Jan. 16, 2018 pitch competition open to youth aged 16-24. 100 Seeds Atlantic is a non-profit organization created in response to Ray Ivany’s Now or Never report to foster youth entrepreneurship in Atlantic Canada.

“I hoped my presentation would be excellent, but sometimes it is still hard to believe. This is something I’ve been working on for a year now, and it’s hard to believe I’m at the point where I’m almost ready to launch.”

Her product, called Eggcitables, is a chickpea-based vegan egg replacement that can be used to make omelettes, scrambles and other egg-based meals. She’s also developing the product to be used in baked goods.

She’s hoping to launch her business shortly after she graduates from StFX this May.

Ms. Chisholm, who has an egg allergy, says she began developing a product to use herself, playing around with ingredients. In summer 2017, when she was selected as one of four Wallace Interns at StFX, an internship where students take an idea and see if they can turn it into a business, she was introduced to the Perennia Innovation Centre, a group of food scientists based in Truro, NS. Together, they’ve been working on the texture of the product, and she says they’ve been a big help.

Ms. Chisholm says after Paula Brophy at the StFX Extension Department alerted her to this competition opportunity, she submitted her business plan and an application online and was chosen as one of three finalists to come to Halifax, NS to pitch their business idea in eight minutes to a roomful of entrepreneurs.

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Hannah Chisholm presenting (top photo) and celebrating (bottom photo) her competition win. 

Event organizers invite 100 entrepreneurs to the competition and ask each to contribute $100 to the prize money, which is to be spent toward developing the business idea.

Each of the 100 entrepreneurs write down their vote for the winner and the finalist with the most votes wins.

“It’s a really cool, interesting event,” Ms. Chisholm says. “There’s also a lot of networking opportunities.”

As the only female entrepreneur in the top three, she says it was also nice to showcase women entrepreneurs.

Ms. Chisholm says she’s done a lot of market research and is excited to tap into the huge movement with vegan food and people trying to eat sustainably.

She’s also hoping to fulfill a need. She says currently there is only one similar product on the market and it is expensive.

As someone who has allergies, she says she’s witnessed the growth in the industry as new products have come on the market and how valuable these advances are.

Ms. Chisholm credits her time at StFX for helping her grow as an entrepreneur.

She says the Wallace Internship was great, helping connect her to other entrepreneurs and a network of people. As well, she’s had a lot of support to work on the idea through various business classes projects, and she says she consistently gets emails from her professors encouraging and alerting her to opportunities.  

“My professors have had a lot to do with my ability to pursue this as an entrepreneurial venture, and have had a lot to do with my successes,” she says.

She says she also enjoys the way the entrepreneurship program is structured at StFX, allowing students to specialize in everything, taking courses in accounting, marketing, and finance. “You get a little bit of every major, and a well-rounded skill set.”

Ms. Chisholm, who’s been actively involved at StFX as co-president of Enactus StFX, Students’ Union Student Food Resource Manager, and in the StFX 4-H Society, says entrepreneurship has long been her passion, stretching back to high school.

The idea of being her own boss appealed to her as did the process of having an idea and working to create a product that can be sold.

“It’s cool to be able to get involved in something you’re really passionate about,” she says. “That’s really admirable that you get to work on something you’re passionate about.”

She will now be looking at finding partnerships, securing suppliers, and working on her branding and logo, and is targeting her official business launch for shortly after graduation.

“I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart,” she says. 

StFX receives a $20,000 Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund grant to support mental health training

Wed, 2018-01-17 14:21
L-r, StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald; Director, Health, Counselling and Accessible Learning Margie McKinnon; John Ouellette, Bell Let's Talk representative; StFX Director Student Life Jacqueline De Leebeeck; and StFX VP Andrew Beckett

St. Francis Xavier University is pleased to announce that the Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund is providing a $20,000 grant to expand Mental Health Literacy and Mental Health First Aid training on campus.

This funding will support training of an additional Mental Health First Aid (Adults Who Interact with Youth) course instructor at StFX, as well as training materials. StFX also plans to partner with First Nations experts who are trained as instructors in the Mental Health First Aid First Nations Course, to offer specialized training to student services professionals.

“By increasing mental health literacy across our campus, we will increase our ability to support all students in distress and guide them to appropriate professional resources as needed,” said Dr. Kent MacDonald, President of StFX. “We are pleased to have the support of Bell Let’s Talk for such an important issue on our campus. Bell has taken the lead across Canada in spotlighting the significance of mental health.”

“Bell Let’s Talk is very proud to provide a $20,000 grant to support additional Mental Health Literacy and First Aid training at StFX,” said Mary Deacon, Chair of Bell Let’s Talk. “The 2017 Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund provided 70 grants to support programs providing mental health services in communities around the country that help Canadians living with mental illness.”

StFX has already invested in training for three Mental Health First Aid (Adults Who Interact with Youth) instructors and has committed to offering six to eight more courses per year. The university offers Mental Health First Aid training to faculty, staff and students to increase mental health literacy across the campus community, and to improve and increase access to mental health supports for all our students.   

Bell Let’s Talk Day is January 31

Bell will donate 5 cents to Canadian mental health programs for each of these interactions on January 31, at no extra cost to participants:

Text and talk: Every text message, mobile and long distance call made by Bell Canada, Bell Aliant and Bell MTS customers

Twitter: Every tweet using #BellLetsTalk and Bell Let’s Talk Day video view

Facebook: Every view of the Bell Let’s Talk Day video at and use of the Bell Let’s Talk frame

Instagram: Every Bell Let’s Talk Day video view

Snapchat: Every use of the Bell Let’s Talk filter and video view

The Bell Let’s Talk initiative promotes Canadian mental health with national awareness and anti-stigma campaigns like Bell Let’s Talk Day, and provides significant Bell funding of community care and access, research and workplace initiatives. To learn more about the Bell Let’s Talk campaign, and to download the Bell Let’s Talk toolkit to help get the conversation started, please visit

Making a difference–Over 120 StFX students have benefitted from the Jeannine Deveau Equity Endowment Scholarship Fund

Tue, 2018-01-16 10:28
Several of this year's Deveau Scholars at the 2nd Deveau Scholarship Dinner

When the Jeannine Deveau Educational Equity Endowment Scholarship Fund was announced at StFX in October 2015, it was said to have the power to transform lives.

Two years later this is certainly true. Since the fund’s inception, 56 scholarships and over 70 bursaries have been awarded to StFX students, making it easier for Aboriginal and African Nova Scotians to access a university education.

Recipient Christina Sentho Turay says she greatly appreciates the Deveau fund for the helping hand it’s provided so that she can successfully obtain her BA in women’s studies and religious studies.

“This scholarship award will only push me further towards my degree and my dreams of one day having a successful career,” says Ms. Turay, a third year student originally from West Africa Sierra Leone who grew up in Antigonish, NS, and among those celebrated recently at the 2nd Deveau Scholarship Dinner.

Ms. Turay says as a low income student, facing increasing challenges of financial need, the scholarship will help her spend more time on her courses, which are crucial to her future.

This fund is extremely important in allowing students to excel beyond expectations, says recipient Summer-Joy Upshaw, who is enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in human kinetics program and who is taking a minor in human nutrition.

“With the Deveau Fund, I believe that we are breaking barriers by educating strong and powerful minds to achieve greatness and change the world. With this scholarship supporting me, I feel as though this is something I will surely be able to do.”


“It’s making a difference,” says Dean of Education Dr. Jeff Orr, chair of the Jeannine Deveau Equity Endowment Fund Committee.

“We have recipients in all faculties, in all years of our degrees.”

Ms. Deveau, a member of the Class of 1944 who enjoyed a successful career as a nutrition professor in Montreal, gifted $8 million to StFX, the largest private alumni donation of its kind in StFX’s history. The fund can grow to $13 million as it is tied to a matching initiative from other sources.

StFX Aboriginal Student Advisor Terena Francis sees the impact.

“I have always worked in the education field, supporting Mi’kmaq students from pre-school, primary to Grade 12 and now in university. My previous job was working at a P-12 public school for 13 years supporting students from the Paqtnkek community,” she says.

“I have always seen the potential in the Mi’kmaw students I worked with, however, for different reasons some weren’t reaching their full potential. I feel that there were a lot of reasons why, such as lack of funding, lack of supports, lack of understanding, etc. I believe with the Jeannine Deveau Equity Endowment Fund we are supporting university students to reach their full potential, whether it be through programming, financial support, educational support or cultural support. I feel that there is hope to ensure that access to education is equitable for all.”

Similarly, Kelsey Jones, who started as the African Descent Student Affairs Coordinator at StFX only months ago, has already witnessed the tremendous impact the Deveau Equity Endowment Fund has on the African Nova Scotian students on campus.

“Through scholarships and bursaries, this fund has helped to address some of the historical disadvantages in accessing post-secondary education and has allowed students to focus on what is most important, their studies,” she says.

“In addition, the emergency fund has acted as a safeguard for students who find themselves in financial difficulty and might otherwise have to discontinue their studies due to money constraints. Lastly, this fund has provided opportunities for my office to deliver more cultural programming to enhance the experience of not only African Nova Scotian Students, but also all students on campus. The Deveau Equity Endowment Fund enriches the lives of StFX students and continues to assist in fostering a more inclusive campus."

Dr. Orr says the Deveau fund is providing incentive for Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotia students to enter programs of their academic choice and be supported and rewarded for their work. It’s also attracting more students from these populations, he says.

“This has provided a wonderful opportunity for StFX to specifically address the reconciliation with two historically marginalized communities to better support people from these communities to have access to university studies,” he says.

“It’s also provided opportunity for people in different departments across campus to come together in support of these two communities.” 

Culture and the Cuban State: StFX political science professor’s latest book examines politics of culture

Fri, 2018-01-12 11:25
Political science professor Dr. Yvon Grenier

StFX political science professor Dr. Yvon Grenier has a new book out that offers an insightful analysis of Cuba’s cultural policy since the Cuban revolution.

Culture and the Cuban State: Participation, Recognition, and Dissonance under Communism, published by Lexington Books in November 2017, examines the politics of culture in communist Cuba. It focuses on cultural policy, censorship, and the political participation of artists, writers and academics such as Tania Bruguera, Jesús Díaz, Rafael Hernández, Kcho, Reynier Leyva Novo, Leonardo Padura, and José Toirac.

“My research area is Latin American politics, especially ideologies, culture, and comparative public policy. My goal in this project was to show how cultural actors, artists, writers, and academics, manage to do their work in Cuba, a country where there is no freedom of expression, but where cultural production is very much encouraged and indeed sponsored by the government. I wanted to find out how they square that circle,” Dr. Grenier says.

He says that while Cuban artists and writers are not free, indeed no Cubans are except the royal family, they enjoy more autonomy and privileges than most Cubans.

“I found them to be very smart about the political rules of the game, the "who gets what, when, and how." They are also very well trained, and for this the regime born of the 1959 revolution can take some credit,” he says. 

“Some say that things are changing in Cuba. The time when everything was mandatory or forbidden seems to be over. And yet, right now the space for public expression seems to be closing again, as if a certain pendulum between opening and closing is how this kind of political regime operates. I make that case in the book. I hope I succeeded in showing that one can learn a lot about a country by examining how it treats its artists and cultural actors more generally.”

Although the book has just recently come out, it has already received good reviews.

“Yvon Grenier, a sharp-eyed observer of culture and politics in Latin America, provides an illuminating analysis of the complex relations between Cuba’s intellectuals and the Castro regime,” writes Michael Keren of the University of Calgary, who in his review calls Culture and the Cuban State a “must-read for anyone concerned with the fate of creative imagination and critical thinking in authoritarian states.”

“Exceeding the revolutionary rhetoric which has impressed much of the research on Cuba in the past, Grenier looks seriously and rigorously into the state’s cultural policy over time, showing how changes in that policy from repression to liberalization and back have not altered the fundamental position of Cuba’s artists, writers and political scientists, a position marked by fear, censorship, self-censorship, and the need to perform intellectual acrobatics.”

Other reviewers had equally positive comments.

“This book is a path-breaking work that convincingly turns the conventional wisdom about the ‘cultural policy’ of the Cuban Revolution on its head,” writes Ted A. Henken of Baruch College.

“Most compelling and original is the author’s nimble analysis that distinguishes between a set of unwritten but untouchable “primary parameters” and another set of “secondary” and contextually permeable parameters that such cultural actors must constantly negotiate in order to avoid being dealt “out of the game” of Cuban culture as played on the island under the revolution.”

“For everyone who cares about the quality of intellectual life in Cuba and elsewhere, this is a book not to be missed,” says Silvia Pedraza of the University of Michigan.

Culture and the Cuban State is Dr. Grenier’s sixth book. Other publications include:

2009 Gunshots at the Fiesta: Politics and Literature in Latin America, with UCLA colleague Maarten Van Delden (Vanderbilt University Press). Paperback 2012.

2001 From Art to Politics: Octavio Paz and the Pursut of Freedom (Rowman and Littlefield, Culture and Politics series, Henry Giroux ed.); Spanish translation in 2004

2001 (Editor, Foreword) Octavio Paz, Sueño en libertad, escritos políticos (Mexico City: Seix Barral). (Dr. Grenier sometimes says this is his best written book as it was written by a Nobel Prize in Literature! Dr. Grenier selected the text and wrote the introduction.)

1999 The Emergence of Insurgency in El Salvador: Ideology and Political Will, Foreword by Mitchell A. Seligson (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, Pitt Latin American Series).

1994 Guerre et pouvoir au Salvador: idéologies du changement et changements idéologiques (Ste-Foy, Québec: Les Presses de l'Université Laval, coll. Sociétés et Mutations), xv + 350p.