When my wife Linda and I came to Antigonish in late February, we had no way of knowing what challenges the next few months would bring and that our move across Canada would take place under such unprecedented circumstances. We had planned to visit our families in the UK in March, but fortunately we decided to cancel our plans just as the progression of COVID-19 across North America and Europe began to accelerate. Times of great uncertainty have a way of demonstrating what people -- and institutions -- are made of, and I have been so impressed with the resilience and innovation shown by the StFX community in response to the personal, academic, and institutional challenges posed by meeting the challenges of the pandemic.
As I step into the role of President and Vice-Chancellor, I want to offer my personal thanks to members of the university executive team who invited me to be part of the careful planning work over the past few months. As I begin my tenure, I am grateful to be surrounded by this strong group of committed and caring leaders who work incredibly hard to ensure our university’s success. I also want to thank and congratulate Dr. Kevin Wamsley and Dr. Tim Hynes for the outstanding work as Interim President and Acting Academic Vice-President and Provost. These are challenging roles under any circumstances and you have executed them with great skill and care in the midst of significant upheaval. It is because of your leadership that I feel confident we are on the right, carefully considered, path forward, both in the near- and longer-term.
I also want to thank the broader campus community for your hard work and dedication during these trying times. Having been part of the executive team these past few months, I have seen first-hand your commitment to our students and to one another. The collegiality, professionalism, speed, and most of all, collaboration in response to issues raised by COVID-19 has been, in one word, outstanding. Your efforts have been a critical part of moving the university forward and will continue to be needed in the months ahead. Welcoming employees and then students back to campus is a big task, however I am certain our community is committed to making this happen.
To our students, I can’t wait to see you in September. I am honoured to be joining you as part of the Xaverian family. I have been an educator for many years which gives me the experience to say that StFX is a both a unique and strong institution. It’s a special place, steeped in history with its focus on the future needs of our society. The academic and life experiences you will encounter at StFX cannot be found at other universities. StFX community members are proud to be the stewards of the academic voyages of discovery that lie ahead of you.
Overall, I am incredibly excited to officially join you as the 19th President and Vice-Chancellor and Linda and I are greatly looking forward to settling into life in Antigonish. We are currently completing our 14-day self-isolation and I, like many of you, am currently working from home. We are the test subjects for the new “green bracelet” protocol being implemented this fall to identify students who have completed their self-isolation! We need to keep our community safe and protected.
Again, I want to thank you for the warm welcome and encouragement you’ve provided to Linda and I since my appointment as president was announced in February. I look forward to meeting you again, to getting to know you, and to listening to your many perspectives regarding the wonderful institution that is StFX University.
Hail and Health,
Dr. Andy Hakin
President and Vice-Chancellor
St. Francis Xavier University
Today, St. Francis Xavier University’s Coady Institute is excited to announce the launch of the Circle of Abundance – Amplifying Indigenous Women’s Leadership with a goal of raising $1m to support Coady’s Institute’s International Centre for Women’s Leadership and the Centre’s Indigenous programming. The creation of the fund comes as Canada’s National Indigenous History Month concludes.
Movie stars, entrepreneurs, and activists Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, Green Lantern) and Blake Lively (Green Lantern, A Simple Favor) are kicking off the campaign, with a gift of $200,000 and are encouraging others to support Circle of Abundance – Amplifying Indigenous Women’s Leadership.
“We’re so happy to support the incredible work of the Coady Institute’s program with Indigenous Women,” Ryan and Blake say. “We’re blown away by the conversations we’ve had and the work they do and look forward to joining them on this journey.”
Coady has 60 years of experience in accompanying leaders who are creating economic and social change and for the past 10 years has developed and held its award winning Indigenous Women in Community Leadership (IWCL) program.
Coady Indigenous Program Lead and graduate Karri-Lynn Paul says an initial group of mentors and graduates from the past ten years is beginning to examine ways to journey forward together with the Coady and its partners. They have prepared a statement that accompanies this announcement.
“These Indigenous leaders are inspiring renewed energy on how to move forward with our work,” Karri-Lynn says. “Their insights and grounding of our work in the realities of grassroots Indigenous Women lives is an important piece in our journey. They also talked about how we are enough, and how we need to prioritize programs that are created by Indigenous women for Indigenous women. This funding offers the opportunity to make that happen.”
This funding will help Coady learn from its work over the last 10 years with Indigenous women leaders and pivot in a direction that reflects current realities and recent history.
“What was most heartening from our conversation is that we are holding similar visions that include holding one another up, being inclusive, and grounding our work in indigeneity. And a recognition that many of us are cycle breakers and have been trailblazers in the healing process.”
Ryan’s and Blake’s donation and additional monies raised for the fund will support:
Expanding Coady’s offerings of Indigenous women’s leadership programs across the country, for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit women leaders, both in their community as well as on-campus at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia;
Connecting and creating exchanges for Indigenous women globally;
Support the incubation of a new Indigenous-led and Indigenous-run women’s initiative.
Eileen Alma, Director of Coady’s International Centre for Women’s Leadership, says Ryan’s and Blake’s commitment to learning more about Indigenous issues has been energizing to the Coady and StFX team.
“They have added a tremendous boost to our effort to amplify Indigenous women’s voices locally and globally.”
Dr. Marie Delorme, Advisor to Coady Institute and CEO of the Imagination Group of Companies says, “this is the start of a new decade of collaboration with amazing Indigenous women across the country and worldwide. I am delighted to be part of this incredible work.”
To read a joint statement from the Indigenous Women in Community Leadership program, click here: https://coady.stfx.ca/iwcl-joint-statement/
On July 1, 2020, StFX officially welcomes Dr. Andrew Hakin as the university’s 19th President and Vice-Chancellor, and already Dr. Hakin—who is looking forward to building on StFX’s exceptional tradition of academic excellence, spirit of service and community—has quietly been an integral part of developing StFX’s plans for the future.
Dr. Hakin comes to StFX from the University of Lethbridge where he led as Provost and Vice President (Academic) for the past 13 years, and where he served for 31 years as a faculty member, first joining the Chemistry Department of the university in 1989. While he doesn’t officially begin his tenure until July 1, he’s had an early start at StFX in terms of work with the senior administration team.
With the reality and challenges presented by the COVID-19 global pandemic, he’s been very much part of the planning process, participating in regular meetings with StFX colleagues over the past several months.
“I’m developing a good operational understanding and an appreciation of the uniqueness of StFX University. I think this will serve me well in the months ahead,” Dr. Hakin says.
“StFX is a fantastic institution and I want to continue to help to move it forward, especially during this time of unprecedented challenge. We will be committed to building and delivering the best possible experience for our students,” he says, acknowledging this work will continue despite the current uncertainties and confines presented by the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has changed realities around the world.
Dr. Hakin says one thing that has stood out during this early immersion into the institution is the continuation of the friendliness, engagement and connection he noted in his first visits to the StFX campus, along with presence of an impressive resilience and strength that is coupled with a desire to move forward.
“I see an institution that like everywhere else, will be challenged by this pandemic. But I see a community that is both strong and resilient and I feel that because of this we’re likely better prepared than most to take on, and successfully navigate, the challenges that are ahead. I’m impressed by the strength and togetherness of the university. I’ve also observed wonderful leadership…Dr. Wamsley and the leadership team have done such a tremendous job in stewarding the response to the Pandemic and I am confident that I am joining an exceptionally strong team. I know that I’m entering into an institution that knows who it is and what it wants; an institution that is built on a solid platform of high quality and experience and, ultimately, that is ready to explore some new directions. To be a part of such a vibrant community is extremely exciting.
“Having said that, my first priority is to help manage and navigate the University through these unique and challenging times” said Dr. Hakin.
Understanding StFX’s unique needs will be key, he says. For instance, approximately 50 per cent of students live on campus—what will this mean in the current environment in which social distancing is a key strategy to move through the pandemic? Beyond this, continuing to build strong, healthy, and diverse residential student living communities will be a priority to further differentiate StFX from other post-secondary environments.
Also important is recognizing the challenges of the incoming freshman class. This group of students most likely completed their final few months of high school online without the usual levels of face to face support and social interaction that they had become used to. Entering a new learning and social environment as they arrive at university is likely to come with some heightened anxiety. “In these unusual times we must find ways to better support our entering students with their transition to University life. I know that we are working on strategies designed to enhance and support student success and resilience – the success and wellbeing of our students will be a top priority,” he says.
He recognizes that the first weeks on campus, after a period of self-isolation following his arrival from Alberta, will also be focused on getting to know the institution more intimately. Dr. Hakin says he wants to take the time to learn more about the university community.
“I want to get to know our people, what they aspire to, and what drives them. StFX has excellent faculty and excellent staff, who together, are clearly very invested in their university. I look forward to listening very carefully to what they have to say and learning from those who live and breathe the StFX culture. Working with the community to reach a desired future will require a detailed understanding of where we currently are, our strengths and also our challenges” said Dr. Hakin.
“Ongoing, it’s ensuring that StFX University and its reputation remains strong. That the University is viewed as progressive and vital without comprising the Xaverian experience to better attract for future generations of students who are destined to be the future leaders of our country and beyond.”
“I feel incredibly proud to be part of this great University,” he said.
Below is the announcement shared with students from Interim President, Dr. Kevin Wamsley, and Incoming President, Dr. Andy Hakin. To view FAQs and other information related to COVID-19 and Stfx's plans to reopen in September, click here.
Dear StFX Students,
We are pleased to announce that, earlier today, StFX’s Board of Governors approved a recommendation to welcome students back to the StFX campus for the fall semester. Beginning Monday, September 14th, we will offer a Senate-endorsed approach of mixed-method course delivery, with most classes taking place in-person and some being offered online.
This is a decision that comes after much careful planning and deliberation. The safety and wellbeing of our students, staff, and faculty, as well as the members of our Town and County of Antigonish, is our top priority and will remain so as we welcome our community back to campus.
Over the past few months, we have been working with the Province of Nova Scotia, the Public Health Authority, and community stakeholders to fully understand health and safety protocols, and analyze whether or not we can confidently create conditions that meet these thresholds that limit the spread of COVID-19. Plans regarding our faculty, students, and staff returning to campus in September were developed and presented to the Province and Public Health for review. These plans included protocols related to our physical spaces, logistics, and movement on campus to ensure social distancing can be maintained, to practices relating to new cleaning and disinfecting standards consistent with the guidelines issued by Public Health. For certain, it will take the effort of the entire community to ensure our collective health and safety. Therefore, new behavioural standards and expectations of our community have been developed and will be shared in the days and weeks ahead.
As per Public Health guidelines in place on June 19th, all domestic students (i.e. living on or off-campus) who are coming from outside of Nova Scotia will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. This requirement may be altered in the coming weeks but remains the standard of practice today.
Students planning to live in residence and travelling from out-of-province will be contacted in July by University Housing to schedule their arrival time on August 30th or 31st, two weeks before the official beginning of the fall term. Students planning to live in residence and not requiring self-isolation, will be contacted in July to schedule their arrival date between September 10th and 13th.
Off-campus students travelling from outside the province must make arrangements to arrive in Antigonish so that their self-isolation period will end by the start of classes on Monday, September 14th. All off-campus students will be required to submit a health and travel declaration form to Student Life prior to arriving to Antigonish and will be required to check in at a designated, central location. Please be prepared should it be necessary for StFX to schedule your arrival and move-in dates in advance.
Reflecting the seriousness of maintaining a healthy and safe community environment, only those students who adhere to the health and safety protocols will be allowed access to the campus. All students, whether living on or off-campus, will be required to adhere to the health and safety guidelines throughout the academic year. Failure to do so will be a serious violation of the Community Code and may even result in expulsion from the university.
STAY INFORMED: TOWN HALL INFORMATION FOR STUDENTS AND PARENTS
We recognize that there is much more information to communicate to our students and their families. It is with that in mind that we have scheduled online Town Halls for students and parents, beginning with three sessions next week. These interactive meetings will introduce the new procedures being implemented in preparation for the September term.
All times are Atlantic Daylight Time:
To participate, click (or copy and paste this URL) to join: https://zoom.us/j/95809763171
You can also Join by telephone (long distance charges may apply): +1 438 809 7799; Enter webinar ID: 958 0976 3171
The situation regarding COVID-19 remains fluid. We will keep you informed and up-to-date over the summer as new information becomes available.
In the meantime, we look forward to warmly welcoming you home to StFX.
Kevin B. Wamsley, PhD Andy Hakin, PhD
President & Vice-Chancellor Incoming President & Vice-Chancellor
StFX University (July 1, 2020)
StFX political science student Christopher Yurris of Yellowknife, NWT, has won a $5,000 POLAR Northern Resident Award, and is one of 11 recipients of the 2020-2021 Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies (ACUNS) Awards and Scholarships program.
The outstanding achievements and commitment of the recipients to Canada’s northern communities cover a vast landscape of interests from natural science to political science, health, culture, and education, says a release from ACUNS. Presenting this year’s winners comes at an unsettling time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With travel bans and research plans cancelled for the summer, award recipients face unprecedented challenges. The $95,000 granted through the ACUNS Awards and Scholarships program offers some hope and security during this time of uncertainty, the release says.
“ACUNS recognizes the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has made on students. For northern studies scholars, whose research projects involve on-the-ground collaboration within Canada’s Arctic and sub-Arctic communities, summer is the critical time to get work done. The season may be lost this year, but academic ambitions should not be abandoned. We hope our scholarships will provide the means of support to help our recipients reach their goals,” ACUNS president Gary N. Wilson said in the announcement.
“Polar Knowledge Canada congratulates the recipients of the POLAR Scholarship, the Northern Resident Scholarships, and the Northern Resident Awards. It is both a responsibility and an honour for POLAR to help support the next generation of northern researchers, and especially during these unprecedented times. We wish these outstanding students continued achievement and fulfilment as they develop their skills and help increase knowledge and understanding of Canada’s North in all its dimensions,” says Dr. David J. Scott, president and CEO of Polar Knowledge Canada.
"The ACUNS POLAR Northern Resident Award, generously supported by Polar Knowledge Canada, will help me pursue research on consensus government in the Northwest Territories. The research will culminate in my political science honours thesis supervised by Dr. Jim Bickerton," says Mr. Yurris who is entering the fourth year of his BA degree at StFX with an honours in political science and a subsidiary in sociology.
"I would like to thank Dr. Adam Lajeunesse for suggesting I apply for the research grant, along with providing support during the application process. Moreover, credit is due to Dr. Nathan Allen, for his help in formulating the research design, as well as offering guidance on the grant proposal."
The Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies is a national, non-profit academic association. The ACUNS Awards and Scholarships program offers up to 18 prizes each year to Canadian post-secondary students in support of northern research in all disciplines. Award recipients must demonstrate academic excellence, leadership, and a commitment to northern communities.
Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR) is a federal agency responsible for advancing Canada’s knowledge of the Arctic, strengthening Canadian leadership in polar science and technology, and promoting the development and distribution of knowledge of other circumpolar regions, including the Antarctic.
Shae Nickerson, of Hazel Hill, Guysborough County, NS, has capped off her student career at StFX winning a national medal for outstanding work on her thesis.
Ms. Nickerson, who graduated from StFX in May with an honours BSc in geoscience, was awarded the Léopold Gélinas Medal for her BSc thesis from the Geological Association of Canada Volcanology and Igneous Petrology Division. The award annually recognizes the most outstanding undergraduate thesis written by a Canadian student or an international student studying at a Canadian university that comprises material related to volcanology (the study of volcanoes and volcanic rocks such as basalt) and/or igneous petrology (the study of the processes responsible for the origin of igneous rocks such as granite).
Nominated theses are evaluated based on originality, validity of concepts, organization and presentation of data, understanding of volcanology and petrology, and depth of research.
“Shae’s thesis entitled,“The mineralogy and petrogenesis of rare-element granitic pegmatites in northeastern Nova Scotia,” was rated very highly by the award adjudicators and it is an honour for her to receive this national medal,” says StFX earth sciences professor Dr. Donnelly Archibald, Ms. Nickerson’s supervisor.
“Her work investigated the origin of uncommon rocks known as granite pegmatites, rocks that can host very high concentrations of rare elements such as tin, lithium, tantalum and beryllium. Shae mastered several analytical techniques while completing her thesis, a challenging task for an undergraduate student. She used her data to demonstrate the degree of rare-element enrichment and determined the geological processes that formed these rare rocks in addition to incorporating her data into the regional geological framework. Shae’s thesis is very well written and she was a pleasure to have as a student.”
Ms. Nickerson says she was surprised and a little shocked when she received the email from Dr. Archibald to let her know she had won. “I had no idea I was nominated! I felt extremely proud and honoured to receive the award after it sank in, I worked very hard on my thesis.”
In her thesis, Ms. Nickerson investigated the Lower Caledonia pegmatite, located approximately 60 km south of Antigonish. “Using several geological techniques and state-of-the-art technologies, I characterized the rocks, determined how they formed, and compared them to similar pegmatites in Nova Scotia. My thesis would not have been possible without the guidance and patience of my supervisor Dr. Donnelly Archibald, and additional advice from Dr. Alan Anderson (StFX) and Dr. Sandra Barr (Acadia),” she says.
Ms. Nickerson says she became interested in pegmatites after learning about them in a second year earth sciences class and from Dr. Anderson who is very knowledgeable of pegmatites. Dr. Archibald had asked her about doing a thesis and had a few topics in mind. After seeing a sample of the Lower Caledonia pegmatite, she says she knew she wanted to write her thesis on it.
Ms. Nickerson, recipient also of the 2020 Professor Donald J. MacNeil Memorial Award for Earth Sciences and the 2020 Mining Society of Nova Scotia Centennial Scholarship Medal, says her first year at StFX was intimidating after coming from a very small high school. In second year, she says when she took more earth sciences classes, these classes were small, and much more personable making it more enjoyable for her. She got to know “remarkable professors, like Brendan Murphy, Mike Melchin, and James Braid just to name a few.” Most of the earth sciences courses provided hands-on learning, especially Geological Field Methods and Advanced Geological Field methods. “These courses taught me the fundamental skills for geological mapping. The first course took place just outside Antigonish and then to Spain for the advanced course!” Throughout her time at StFX, she also participated in two Atlantic Universities Geoscience Conferences (AUGC). She helped organize the 2019 AUGC hosted at StFX and gave an oral presentation on her thesis that year.
“From these experiences at X I have grown as a person. I’ve gained more confidence, improved my social skills, learned to pursue my goals, and made great memories.”
Ms. Nickerson will begin a masters in geology at Acadia University this fall under the supervision of Dr. Barr. Following her masters, she plans to pursue a career in geology, preferably within Nova Scotia, though she says after travelling to Spain for a geology course she’s caught the travel bug and hopes to continue to travel internationally and explore.
How does one design safe communities in a COVID-19 world?
That was the topic of a webinar, hosted by StFX’s Coady International Institute, that brought together experts and drew hundreds of attendees from around the globe.
Dr. Corrine Cash, Senior Program Staff at the Coady, and facilitator of StFX’s Bachelor of Arts and Science in Climate and Environment, hosted the June 5th webinar, Imagining Public Spaces: How to Design Safe Communities in a Covid-19 World, and was joined by panelists, Dr. Jill Grant, Dr. Jeffrey Squire, Dr. Jason Gilliland, Dr. Ute Lehrer and Mr. John Fleming.
“The issues of how to create healthy and integrated spaces is a very pertinent issue right now. People want to learn how to do things differently. This was a way of bringing ideas together, wherever they reside in the world,” says Dr. Cash, who noted the Coady Institute has been conducting various webinars since COVID-19 began.
“All of the discussions about cities and towns opening up, as well as thinking about what the campus may look like if it opens up, gave me the idea to bring experts together—those whose work focuses on designing public spaces—to discuss factors that those responsible for planning space in a COVID-19 world should keep in mind.”
How space is designed directly influences people’s health, she says, whether it is by creating proper social distancing in places where people gather or through designing streets for people to cycle, and how well people of all races and socio-economic status integrate.
“Right now, we need to practice social distancing, so people are rethinking how space is designed. Parking lots are being turned into spaces where people can gather, streets are being closed for people to ride their bikes and walk. We are also seeing how streets and public spaces are areas where democracy occurs through the massive protests around Black Lives Matters. This webinar was designed so that people could consider exactly how we can collectively create spaces that are healthy, environmentally sustainable while also promoting equality and integration of all people, regardless of race or class.”
With other 300 registrants, Dr. Cash says she was pleased with the response. The webinar was also recorded. Those who couldn’t attend the live session, can view it at https://youtu.be/s3ib_6EjpLA.
Attendees came from across Canada, including many mayors, those who work for municipalities, and emergency services, as well as from countries throughout Africa and Asia. “One of the panelists, Dr. Jeffrey Squire, spoke about his work in Ghana and Rwanda. We made sure that we discussed specific challenges of those who work in informal settlements in the Global South because the challenges there are profoundly different than the challenges that we face in most of Canada.”
Dr. Cash says the feedback she’s received is positive. “I think that there is a need to have more of these discussions. I think it would be interesting to have a webinar discussing these issues but focusing on First Nation communities in Canada,” she says.
As for what’s next, she says she would like to connect attendees who have similar challenges so they can brainstorm together. “I have sent the details of the panelists out to all who attended. I think that there are many opportunities to conduct more of these virtual events as it is a method of bringing valuable expertise to corners of the world that may not otherwise have access to this knowledge.”
Six StFX students will have the invaluable opportunity to work on projects this summer that will help provide innovative solutions to needs in their communities as recipients of the 2020 Wallace Family Internship.
Thanks to the generous support of the Wallace Family Entrepreneurship Fund, StFX Extension Innovation and Enterprise Centre has awarded the 2020 Wallace Family Internships to two individual students, Anamika Saxena and Kerilyn Kennedy, and to two teams of students, Maxwell Gauthier and Adam Starr, and to Amy Graham and Patti-Anne Tracey.
The internships are worth up to $6,000 each or $10,000 for a team to support full-time employment for 12 weeks and are for StFX students enrolled in full-time study.
The interns will work on projects that include developing a platform to better inform international students on the university, improving accessibility on the StFX campus, creating a sustainable recycling program at StFX, and creating a sexual violence prevention training program for sport organizations across Canada. Each will receive coaching from StFX staff and faculty mentors and engage in learning activities that help them explore and develop an enterprise venture.
The interns and their projects include:
Maxwell Gauthier and Adam Starr
Project: Drastic, Scholastic, Thermoplastic (DST)
Anamika plans to create an online community for international students to share experiences and learn about the university and university life through an online platform that has multiple modes of interaction. The platform will have the capacity to post short videos, podcasts, and blogs created by current students to inspire and motivate other students. It will also encourage mentorship between students and between students and professors via a social platform where students can ask questions about the university and have their questions answered by others who have more experience. Most importantly, the platform will supplement, in an innovative way, the university’s effort to communicate with newly arrived students and offer the potential to address the needs and questions students have. “Students are able to learn and explore new ideas through other students’ experiences,” she says. “If the platform is successful, it will lead to higher international students retention rates for the university.” Donald Rasmussen, International Student Advisor at StFX’s Office of Internationalization, is helping Anamika develop her platform. “Experiential opportunities, like those available through the StFX Innovation & Enterprise Centre, are one of the most significant benefits available to international students who choose to study at a smaller institution such as StFX,” he says. “Motivated and engaged students like Anamika are able to gain extremely valuable experience through programs such as the Wallace Family Internship, which in combination with their academic studies can provide a significant leg up when pursuing employment or entrepreneurship ventures following completion of their degrees at StFX.”
Project: International Student Retention
As an inclusion activist, Kerilyn is looking to consult with organizations, businesses, and municipalities in a consultant roll to improve accessibility. Her pilot project will focus on StFX campus. Accessibility on StFX campus is an ongoing problem as it can be a challenge for people with and without physical disabilities to get around. Kerilyn wants to create solutions to these barriers people face on the campus as a result of being differently abled. In 2017, the government created the Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Act, also known as Bill 59. This legislation aims to make Nova Scotia more inclusive and barrier free by 2030. In particular, the legislation states that all education centers must become fully accessible to all by 2030. This means that StFX has 10 years to make these improvements. Ms. Kennedy is mentored by Dr. Emeka Oguejiofor, a faculty member in StFX's Engineering Department.
Project: Improving Accessibility
Dear Members of the Campus Community,
Throughout the world, people are protesting for the end of current and historic racial injustice and brutality, most recently seen in the murder of George Floyd in the US and, indeed, people are demonstrating in Canada over the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto, a case which is still under investigation.
Nova Scotia has 48 historic Black communities spread across the province. These communities have experienced over 400 years of discrimination, racism, and oppression and, yet, continue to be resilient and resist colonial violence. It is our responsibility to recognize how we contribute to the continued oppression of these communities and to eliminate these practices.
At StFX, we aspire to provide an environment of inclusivity for all of its members. Our work begins in the classroom and in our communities to understand the forces that have led us to this point. We must also engage our community to challenge those who view Black existence as a threat. It is our collective and individual responsibility to stand up to racism, to identify it, to speak out against it - to have zero tolerance.
The StFX community stands with our Black colleagues, students, and community members fighting for racial equality.
Black lives matter. Black communities matter.
We acknowledge that we must work harder to dismantle systems of discrimination in our own institution and are committed to engaging in the lifetime practice of self-awareness, continuing education, relationship-building, and anti-racist practice.
Diversity Engagement Staff are available to support Xaverians during these challenging times:
Coordinator, African Descent Student Affairs
Coordinator, Aboriginal Student Affairs
Location: Bloomfield 313D
To report an incident of racism or a Human Rights complaint contact:
Human Rights & Equity Advisor
Kevin B. Wamsley, PhD
President & Vice-Chancellor
Dear Incoming and Returning Students,
Yesterday, was an important and celebratory day for our university community as we conferred our StFX degrees and diplomas on the Class of 2020. On behalf of the StFX community, I extend my sincere congratulations to all graduates, their family members and friends, as well as the faculty and staff who helped guide and support them along the way.
A StFX education is unique. Our students are expected to achieve academically as well as to make meaningful contributions to our communities. To the StFX Class of 2020, I know that you will continue to make us proud. You have achieved academically. Now, it’s time, as a Xaverian, to go forward to serve your communities. It’s time to mobilize what you have learned and make a positive difference in the world.
I appreciate that being unable to gather with family, friends, and loved ones is not the way any of us envisioned a Convocation or high school graduation celebration. This year, COVID-19 has stripped us of the ability to celebrate in traditional ways. It is disappointing and hard to accept at times. Still, it is important to mark your tremendous achievement. I also encourage you to take a moment to reflect on the support you receive from those around you, including the StFX community. Whether you are a new member of our alumni, or about to begin your first class in September, never forget that you are a member of the Xaverian family -- the strongest network in the country – and that this community will forever be among your biggest supporters.
Academic Delivery: In-person or Online?
I realize that this is the most pressing question from our students, faculty, and staff. We have been very deliberate in considering this decision. We must make a responsible, informed decision about our approach to educational delivery and the opening of our campus to students. The health and safety of the entire community comes first.
As the provincial economy slowly reopens under strict guidelines, we see parallels with our campus activities and have begun preparing plans regarding the reopening of the StFX campus. Once ready, we will present these plans to the Ministry of Labour and Advanced Education’s Division of Occupational Health and Safety and to Nova Scotia’s Public Health Authority for review. It is only with plan approval that we would make the decision to welcome students, faculty, and staff safely back to campus in September. This includes being prepared for the potential of future cases of COVID-19 within our community.
We will make the decision about in-person or online delivery by mid-June. This provides us with the time necessary to continue our conversations with the province while still permitting the campus community ample time to continue preparations for the September term once the decision is announced. In the meantime, I thank you for your patience and your understanding.
Registration Dates for Incoming and Returning Students
With the efforts noted above in mind, we have made the decision to reschedule our registration dates to ensure students are fully informed and are able to plan and prepare for classes to begin in September. As we get closer to Registration opening, we will send reminders to students; however, I encourage you to take note of these dates.
Registration start times for returning students: will be released on Thursday, July 9th
The Course Timetable: will be posted Thursday, July 9th
Registration opens for returning students: Monday, July 13th
Registration opens for MEd, DNURS, MASc and PBD students: Wednesday, July 22nd
The Course Timetable: will be posted Thursday, July 9th
Registration times for new students: will be available on Friday, July 24th (and posted within Self-Serve Banner).
Registration opens for new students: Tuesday, July 28th
We will be prepared – expect the highest quality of academic experience
It is our responsibility to be prepared for different scenarios of course delivery and day-to-day life on campus. Should students be allowed on campus, the StFX experience will be delivered under very specific and strict conditions following health and safety protocols. In the event we are unable to invite students back to campus in the fall, please know our Online Preparedness Task Force has invested much time and energy in the support of faculty so we will be able to deliver our courses in a form that replicates, to the extent possible, the traditional StFX classroom experience. There is also ongoing work related to transposing the ‘outside the classroom’ experience that happens here. Whether in-person or online, we will be ready to deliver a high-quality StFX experience.
I look forward to providing you with updates in the days ahead.
Kevin B. Wamsley, PhD
President & Vice-Chancellor
On May 15th, StFX student Moira MacMullin—known as Moira Bren—released the second single off her upcoming debut EP '6 Is Green,' which is due out late summer.
And in doing so, she wanted to support her local community.
Fifty per cent of the proceeds from the single, ‘Afraid of Your Heart’ will be donated to The Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre, an organization that provides services and programs for women in need.
‘Afraid of Your Heart' is a musical dichotomy, says Ms. MacMullin, who is going into her fourth year at StFX taking a BA in psychology with a minor in music. Last school year she was music director at the campus radio station, CFXU 93.3 The Fox, and she will be music coordinator this coming year. While the song sounds happy and upbeat with airy harmonies and bright ukulele, she says the lyrics are quite the opposite as they describe an individual’s intense fear of someone in their life.
"Since I wrote this song from the perspective of someone in an abusive relationship, I decided that I should donate half of the proceeds made from the song to The Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre, an organization that provides services and programs for women in need,” she says. “I am fortunate enough to have never been in a situation like this, but I know many women have and are experiencing situations like this right now. Rates of domestic violence against women are rising during this lockdown and they need our support."
Ms. MacMullin, whose song ‘Wish,’ her first release as a solo artist, reached #1 on the EastCoast Countdown in Dec. 2018 and garnered over 350k Spotify streams, says ‘Afraid of Your Heart’ is one of the quickest songs she has ever written.
“The melody came to me super-fast and the lyrics came right along with them.”
Response to the single has been good. “… well it sounds delightful – ukulele playing, wonderful harmonies, an upbeat kinda bouncy song – on the surface. But if you lean in and listen to the lyrics there’s a story of fear coming from Moira Bren,” says Bill Roach, CBC East Coast Music Hour. “Very catchy.”
Already since its release, the song has had over 10,000 Spotify streams.
To listen to the single:
When it comes to student satisfaction, the StFX Office of Internationalization has had a glowing report, ranking #1 in Canada, and #6 globally.
The results come from a student satisfaction survey called the International Student Barometer, which was conducted this past fall by I-graduate, an organization that collects comprehensive survey data from institutions globally. In all, students responded from 216 universities in 19 countries.
StFX topped the "International Office" category in Canada and ranked #6 globally. And that wasn’t the only good news. Other highlights for StFX from the survey included:
• Number one in student satisfaction for the process of application to admission.
• Number two in the world for learning support.
• Strong results for engagement with faculty and the quality of education.
• Strong satisfaction with the support students receive arriving at StFX.
StFX had 49 per cent of its international students participate in the survey.
“I was so pleased that almost half of the international students at StFX participated in the survey and that they are having such a positive experience at StFX. Being voted the number one international office in Canada was very special as it shows the work we are doing is truly supporting international students,” says Larissa Strong, StFX Director of Internationalization.
“StFX focuses on academic excellence and the student experience. By prioritizing students and providing them with the individual attention that a small university can offer, students have a great experience here. This is all supported by remarkable faculty, staff, and alumni.”
Ms. Strong says a majority of Atlantic Canadian universities participated in the survey thanks to the generous financial support received from the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education.
It was a very successful week for StFX’s Advancement Department, which picked up six national medals out of 10 categories entered at the recent Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education (CCAE) 2020 Prix d'Excellence Awards.
StFX is a member of the CCAE, along with over 130 other Canadian post-secondary institutions.
“The CCAE recognizes best practices in the realm of fundraising, alumni relations, and communications at advancement departments across the country. Annually, the CCAE awards “Prix d’Excellence” through a peer-led evaluation process. We were thrilled to recently learn that StFX won six of these awards, second only to McGill in the number of awards an institution had received,” says Murray Kyte, VP Advancement.
“It is a huge honour to receive one award, let alone six of them! To me, it highlights the quality of our people within Advancement and also across the university as much of the work involves various units working together.”
StFX Advancement was recognized with awards in the following categories:
• GOLD—Best Alumni Initiative - Celebrating 50 years of Women Athletics, St. Francis Xavier University
• GOLD--Best Donor Relations Initiative - Mulroney Liaison Officers, St. Francis Xavier University
• GOLD—Best Indigenous Relations Initiative – Indigenous Women in Community Leadership Alumni Gathering, St. Francis Xavier University
• SILVER–Best Media Relations Initiative - Mulroney Institute and Mulroney Hall Grand Opening, St. Francis Xavier University
• BRONZE–Best Alumni Initiative – Homecoming 2019, St. Francis Xavier University
• BRONZE–Best Print Magazine – 2018-19 Donor Impact Report, St. Francis Xavier University
Summer research work conducted at StFX on an app that combines music and computer science to help assist musicians practicing their instrument—the app listens to the user play and matches the key—has proved so successful for undergraduate student Travis MacDonald of Greenhill, NS, that he will present his work at a prestigious international conference.
Mr. MacDonald conducted the research last summer in the StFX Computer Science Department under the supervision of Dr. James Hughes.
Mr. MacDonald wrote a scientific article from the work, which was accepted for publication in a top international venue, New Interfaces in Musical Expression (NIME), and he was invited to present a poster at a conference that was scheduled to take place at the Royal Birmingham Conservatory, Birmingham, UK. He was also awarded funds through StFX’s James Chair student travel program to attend. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the conference has since transitioned online. Mr. MacDonald will participate virtually.
“It feels pretty cool to be part of a conference of this level,” Mr. MacDonald says. “Music and computer science is a niche field, so to have all these experts condensed into the same place is pretty special.”
NIME, he says, encompasses all kinds of areas in which computers can forge new ways to explore musical ideas.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what people are doing, as I’m sure there are specific areas that I’m unaware of. I’m hoping to walk away with some new ideas to think about.”
The conference takes place July 21-25th and will be modeled after an in-person conference, consisting of paper and poster presentations. The paper presentations will be pre-recorded and streamed at specific times, followed by Q&A’s. The poster presentations will be linked from their website during the conference. “We are encouraged to be creative, considering the circumstances, so we are thinking of making a poster with embedded videos to make it a bit more interactive.”
“The work Travis did last summer really is something remarkable,” Dr. Hughes says. “Not only do his achievements speak to the quality of the work, but the project was entirely done by him. I provided very little guidance and Travis independently worked out the problem and implemented the software. To me, this really highlights his abilities and speaks to the maturity level of our CS students here at StFX. Further, it’s really great to see what happens when talented students are given the opportunity and resources to work on what they find interesting; this is the type of work that doesn’t get done without these unique research opportunities.”
Mr. MacDonald says once the project to create a tool that provides interactive musical accompaniment started to get off the ground last year, Dr. Hughes found some conferences that seemed liked a good fit. “Of those, NIME sounded the most relevant, so we aimed for that one first. We submitted the paper in January, and just recently found out it was accepted as a poster presentation.”
Mr. MacDonald says he got into music at a young age and was fortunate to have some great teachers along the way. “However, computer science is brand new to me. Fortunately, the intersection of those fields aligned with some of James’ ideas and it pretty much started from there. I’m beginning to understand how computers can work with music, especially with the rise of machine learning, and potentially come up with new solutions to current problems in the field,” he says.
“The work from last summer is just one step in that direction. I’m looking forward to continuing that research.”
Mr. MacDonald, who would like to get into the software industry after StFX, says the computer science program at the university offers a wide range of courses, so students get exposed to many different areas.
With his research last summer, he focused on a single area the entire time. “You really get a chance to go deep into a topic this way,” he says. “In my case, I got some real hands-on experience in conducting research and writing software. Although my project was small and simple, I got a sense of the research process, and I’m looking forward to doing it again this summer.”
Mr. MacDonald was again awarded summer research funding, this year in the form of the Alley Heaps Undergraduate Research Internship Award. The focus of this work is on machine learning and music—seeing if they can get artificial intelligence to generate some satisfactory sounding music, and then studying exactly how it did this. “Hopefully, this leads to some discovery about underlying rules and relationships between different types of music,” he says.
Three incredibly innovative and inspiring students at StFX—Adelaide (Addy) Strickland, Claire MacDougall, and Emma Kuzmyk—have been named as 2020 3M National Student Fellowship Award recipients.
The fellowship honours up to 10 full-time diploma and undergraduate students at Canadian post-secondary institutions who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in their lives, at their post-secondary institution. These students embrace a vision of education that enhances their academic experience and beyond, the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education has announced.
Only 10 students from across Canada were awarded the 3M National Student Fellowship Award. Three are StFX students. “This speaks volumes to the calibre of students we attract and the quality of education we offer,” said StFX President Dr. Kevin Wamsley. “A StFX education is known for instilling leadership skills in its students. Addy, Claire and Emma are shining examples of leaders on campus, and I congratulate them for their hard work in and out of the classroom. These are students who make a difference in the classroom and beyond – a glimpse at a very bright future.”
"I am incredibly honoured to have been selected as a 3M Student Fellow!” says Ms. MacDougall. “I am very proud of Emma and Addy for their accomplishments as well. They are both inspiring leaders who do incredible work at StFX. I am so grateful for all of the incredible opportunities I have received as a StFX student and to have so much support from my community.”
“I'm beyond proud of the accomplishments of myself and of my friends, Addy and Claire,” says Ms. Kuzmyk. “The fact that the three of us have been selected for this award reflects the community of StFX, and how we often raise each other up to accomplish great things.”
"I am so honoured to have been selected for this fellowship, and excited that I get to experience it alongside two other amazing women from StFX," says Ms. Strickland. "I'm also looking forward to seeing what we're able to achieve this year in partnership with the rest of the fellows."
For more on each StFX student, please see below:
Adelaide Strickland, Development Studies and English
Adelaide (Addy) Strickland is a third-year undergraduate student living and working in Mi’kma’ki. Addy is pursuing an honours degree in Development Studies with an English subsidiary at St. Francis Xavier University, concentrating her studies on artistic methods and storytelling in social change and community development. Outside of the classroom, Addy aims to use her passion for stories as a tool for leadership—elevating and amplifying the stories of others, and working to change problematic narratives, particularly surrounding sexualized violence on university campuses. Addy has been deeply involved in sexualized violence protests on the StFX campus and is one of the founders of the StFX Peer Support Program, a mental health and sexualized violence resource navigation and listening service run by students, for students. She also sits on the organizing committee for the Antigonish Youth Activism Conference and edits the StFX student newspaper—The Xaverian Weekly. Following her undergraduate studies, Addy plans on pursuing a master’s degree in either forced migration or border studies, with the goal of contributing to scholarly interact with and facilitate change in contested spaces.
Claire Ainslie MacDougall, Physics and Mathematics
Claire is a Physics and Mathematics student from Halifax, Nova Scotia in her third-year at St. Francis Xavier University. As a science student, there are many exciting opportunities, she has chosen to follow a career path that incorporates her values of social responsibility and humanitarianism through a climate justice lens by involving herself in researching global warming effects of atmospheric molecules and pursuing a career in the field of atmospheric physics or sustainable energy engineering postgraduate. As a woman in STEM, she works to break down barriers for underrepresented groups through outreach and advocacy both locally, at StFX and nationally, as Chair of the Canadian Association of Physicists Student Advisory Council. In her community she strives to create equal access to education while reducing waste through a project launched in August 2019 with aims to provide donated school supplies leftover from her university to school aged children experiencing poverty. From a young age, she has always been involved in sports. She competed in varsity soccer at StFX and is currently training for a marathon this summer. Claire hopes to inspire the same joy in others by coaching local youth and special needs persons in soccer and baseball.
Emma Kuzmyk, English and Political Science
Emma is a third-year student studying English at St. Francis Xavier University. She is the Vice President of the Students’ Union, a varsity athlete on the soccer team, and is known on campus for her sexualized violence prevention work. Since beginning university she has co-founded a sexualized violence awareness campaign, worked for the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre, been an assistant project coordinator and facilitator for Waves of Change training, sat on over 30 university committees, developed and co-founded a peer support program on campus, given a TedX Talk at a Maple League retreat, and has been helping to drive a cultural shift at her institution. Emma considers herself to be an activist and channels her artistic abilities to fulfill that role — she has done illustrations for prevention programs and has shared her spoken word poetry in coffee houses, Take Back the Night marches, theatres, and more. Her activism began in her first year when she shared a poem on YouTube which was then discussed in news outlets nationwide. She is hoping to continue advocating against sexualized violence in the future and is currently planning on going to law school, where she would like to learn to advocate for survivors of sexual assault navigating the legal system.
Dr. Laura Estill, a StFX English professor and Canada Research Chair in Digital Humanities who specializes in Shakespeare and early modern culture, was recently sought out for her expertise in an article that appeared in the New York Times, where she also found herself among heady company.
Dr. Estill is quoted in Alexis Soloski’s article, “Is This a Livestream I See Before Me? All the world with an internet connection has suddenly become a stage. A lot of those stages have programmed Shakespeare.”
“It was an honour to be quoted in the New York Times,” says Dr. Estill. “W. B. Worthen, one of the other experts quoted in this article, is the editor of The Harcourt Brace Anthology of Drama, which was one of my first textbooks in undergrad; it was one that helped me appreciate the importance of historical and cultural contexts of plays. Michael Witmore is director of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C., one of my favourite places in the world. I have conducted a lot of the research for my book and articles at the Folger.”
Dr. Estill, who is also editor of Early Modern Digital Review, says her research focuses on the reception history of plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries from his own historical moment to today. Her first book, Dramatic Extracts in Seventeenth-Century English Manuscripts, focused on what parts of plays early play readers and playgoers copied into their manuscripts; her recent articles (such as her chapter in Shakespeare’s Theatrical Documents, edited by Tiffany Stern) looks at how Shakespeare is catalogued more than other dramatists of his time in library catalogues, which changes how we can search and find information. She recently guest edited an issue of Early Modern Digital Review about the different kinds of Shakespeare texts online. The article that led to being quoted in the New York Times considers how Shakespeare is represented in digital humanities projects. “I love to think about the questions of how and what we read in both my research and in my teaching here at StFX, where I teach English literature, book history, and digital humanities,” she says.
ONLINE SHAKESPEARE IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS
Plague closed theatres in Shakespeare’s day; coronavirus closed our theatres this summer. Dr. Estill says that Dr. Soloski, who wrote the New York Times piece about online Shakespeare in the time of coronavirus, contacted her as she had seen a journal article Dr. Estill published last year called “Digital Humanities’ Shakespeare Problem,” in which Dr. Estill talks about how we build digital projects and how that reflects our understanding of canon.
In the New York Times article, Dr. Estill, who too has a fondness for the Bard, argues that now is time also to take artistic rinks and look at the work of others beyond Shakespeare.
“Yes. I love Shakespeare as much as (probably more than!) the next person, but there are a ton of other fantastic playwrights whose work also deserves to be heard,” she says.
“It’s great to see online attention to Shakespeare now, when we are all at home, like Sir Patrick Stewart reading the sonnets on Twitter. The Stratford Festival is streaming Shakespeare plays online for free this summer! It would have been great for Stratford to stream plays by their other playwrights, too. I was particularly looking forward to Ann-Marie MacDonald’s new play Hamlet 911 and Thomson Highway’s modern classic The Rez Sisters—while it might not be possible to mount a full-scale production in these times, this moment offers opportunity for online play readings and book clubs.”
Dr. Estill has written a blog post for the British Council about Shakespeare’s enduring appeal. She says Shakespeare’s popularity comes from a confluence of factors, including his position in our educational system and theatres, which in turn comes from generations of tradition. “Many of Shakespeare’s plays are excellent; but there are many other excellent plays that have not achieved the revered status of Shakespeare.”
On a personal level, Dr. Estill says she realized she loved Shakespeare when, at seven years old, she went to the Stratford Festival of Canada to see A Midsummer Night's Dream with her grandmother. “I was transfixed by everything from the language, to the romance, to the day-glo gymnast fairies (the latter of which appalled my grandmother),” she writes in a post for the Folger Shakespeare Library.
“Shakespeare is magical because he matters: to this day, he inspires countless directors, actors, musicians, and writers who use, borrow, and adapt his words. Shakespeare matters because he is magical: we continue to return to his works so we can conjure new ideas of our own.”
StFX faculty Dr. Katie Aubrecht, Dr. James Hughes and Dr. Karen Blair have each received funding to conduct research to inform the best COVID-19 practices and support healthcare decision making and planning that benefits Nova Scotia.
The three researchers are recipients of nearly $130,000 in funding from the Nova Scotia COVID-19 Health Research Coalition. Partners include the Nova Scotia Health Authority, Dalhousie University, Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation, IWK Health Centre, IWK Foundation, QEII Health Sciences Foundation, Dartmouth General Hospital and Research Nova Scotia.
Dr. Aubrecht, a StFX sociology professor and Canada Research Chair Health Equity & Social Justice, has received $54,908 and will work to enhance supports for vulnerable older adults living with dementia and their caregivers in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Hughes, a computer science faculty member, has received $42,000 and will lead a project to provide direction on deployment of COVID-19 tests and other interventions.
Dr. Blair, a psychology professor, is recipient of $32,559.99 and will co-lead a study with Dr. Kathryn Bell of Acadia University that looks at interpersonal relationships as a source of risk and resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic, including LGBTQ+ experiences.
Dr. Richard Isnor, StFX Associate Vice President, Research and Graduate Studies, says StFX researchers responded strongly to the Nova Scotia Covid-19 Health Research Coalition rapid response initiative.
“We are delighted at the excellent success rate of our researchers in this highly competitive initiative, as well as how research efforts have been quickly adapted to this pressing health priority. It speaks to the exceptional quality of research at StFX,” he says.
The projects include:
Dr. Katie Aubrecht
Project: “Evidence to assess the impact of COVID-19 on community-based dementia care in Nova Scotia.”
This study will contribute to, clarify, and enhance the best evidence-in-the-moment about programs and supports for vulnerable older adults living with dementia and their caregivers in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Within the current context of social distancing and social isolation, Dr. Aubrecht says evidence about the resources, services and supports that make it possible for dementia care to continue at home in the community is lacking. “This project addresses the pressing need for information that can be used to assess the impact and health equity implications of COVID-19 on community supports for vulnerable older adults living with multiple chronic conditions, including dementia, and their family/friend caregivers in Nova Scotia.”
The project (the work will be led by the Spatializing Care Lab at StFX) will contribute to the best evidence-in-the-moment about dementia-relevant supports and program service delivery by using surveys, interviews and focus groups to collect and summarize information about dementia-relevant formal health system and local grassroots resources, services and supports.
Drawing on interviews with diverse populations of people living with dementia and their family/friend caregivers, she says they will create a snapshot of service realities for socially and medically vulnerable populations. “The documentation of service realities will provide a crucial resource for current and future efforts to track, analyze, interpret and address issues of health (in)equity for older adults living with dementia and their caregivers in the province. Project results and outputs will highlight gaps in existing service provision and prioritize areas for action in accordance with resource availability within a dynamic and changing context.”
She says this research was supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Planning Grant in 2017 that laid the foundations for a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional international project team and partnership with the Alzheimer Society Nova Scotia and Alzheimer Society of Ireland. The idea emerged after a series of engagement sessions with people living with dementia and their caregivers in Nova Scotia, and continuing care decision makers and knowledge users. The key message from the sessions focused on the importance of community in caregiver resilience, but that not all communities have access to the same kinds of resources or experience them in the same ways.
“Supporting people living with dementia and their caregivers requires attention to diversity. In a public health emergency issues of differential access and experience can be intensified. The new knowledge generated from our current research will develop a baseline that can be used to assess the impact of COVID-19 on service delivery both during and post-pandemic, and support efforts to transition from emergency measures and adjust to the post-COVID-19 realities,” she says.
“Our team of emerging and established researchers, students and trainees is heartened by recognition of the importance of better understanding and supporting dementia care at home and in the community, documenting promising approaches, and acknowledging and addressing systemic barriers to health equity for Nova Scotians in all of our diversity. We are excited to get to work and to learn from Nova Scotians about how best to strengthen dementia-relevant supports,” Dr. Aubrecht says.
She says the project will identify evidence and provincial resources, services and supports for people living with dementia and their caregivers can access in Nova Scotia under the emergency constraints of COVID-19. “This information is crucial in supporting vulnerable Nova Scotians in sheltering in place and avoiding emergency hospitalizations and institutionalization during a time when the capacity of hospitals and long-term care facilities is already under threat. The project will highlight the centrality of the continuing care sector within the COVID-19 Response, with a focus on the challenges for, and contributions of, family/friend caregivers and community resource, service and support providers. This rapid research project will also support recognition of the structural determinants and health inequities that shape whether and how caregivers access and experience supports needed to provide care at home during times of crisis.” Dr. Aubrecht says those interested in learning more about the study, can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. James Hughes
Project: “Employing Hyperheurisitics to provide direction on deployment of COVID-19 tests and other interventions.”
This study will employ a type of artificial intelligence called a hyperheuristic to provide direction on how to deploy COVID-19 tests, vaccines, or other interventions.”
Says Dr. Hughes on the project: “Effectively, given a constrained mitigation strategy, such as a limited number of COVID-19 vaccines available, how best can we apply these vaccines to a population of people to minimize spread? For example, in Antigonish, is it best to vaccinate individuals that come in contact with many people on a daily basis, like front line workers at the Superstore or Sobeys? Individuals that travel between communities like mail carriers? Or perhaps the best thing to do is apply the vaccines randomly throughout the population. We likely have a hunch on what's best to do, but unfortunately some of the most common ideas based on our intuition tend to be ineffective.”
Dr. Hughes says they will be developing a system that uses very powerful types of artificial intelligence to help find strategies that minimize the spread of a given disease. It will consider things like the number of people in a community, the current number of people infected, and how many people an individual comes into contact with to help derive a set of easily understandable rules that can be followed by public health officials.
As the project moves forward, Dr. Hughes says they aim to include additional information, such as the age of an individual, recovery time, and even if they have preexisting health conditions.
“One of the large benefits of using this AI is that, not only will it provide us with ways for reducing the spread of the disease, but we will know that the ideas developed will be tested on well-known epidemic simulations. In the end, we will have strategies that are data-driven and evidence-based.”
Dr. Hughes says the idea came from frequent collaborators of his who have experience working on computational epidemic modelling at the University of Guelph (Dr. Daniel Ashlock) and Brock University (Dr. Sheridan Houghten). “When SARS-CoV-2 came about, it was only natural for them to prioritize it.
“We hope that the research outcomes will provide evidence-based vaccine/mitigation strategies that will provide insight and guide policy makers and other stakeholders' decisions on how best to maximize public health outcomes for Nova Scotians. It will also be possible to generate custom tailored strategies for a given community as there may be differences in what is best for an urban area like Halifax and what's best for a place like Antigonish.”
Dr. Hughes says that although computer science at StFX is already considered one of the top programs in Canada, it has been exciting to see how fast computer science has been growing at StFX lately. “With this funding, we now can support more research students on campus to not only improve the outcomes of our research, but also to provide unique training opportunities for young Canadian computer scientists with real-world outcomes; students today are looking for a university experience that can provide them not just with classroom experience, but real-world problem-solving experience – that's where computer science research at X comes in.”
Dr. Karen Blair
Project: “The Ties that Bind: Interpersonal relationships as a source of risk and resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
This study will compare Nova Scotians’ wellbeing and coping during the COVID-19 pandemic with other jurisdictions, assess LGTBQ+ Nova Scotians’ wellbeing and coping during the pandemic relative to LGBTQ+ individuals in other jurisdictions, and examine Nova Scotians’ experiences with intimate partner violence during the pandemic in comparison to other jurisdictions.
Dr. Blair and Dr. Kathryn Bell, Acadia University, will co-lead this study that explores how Nova Scotians are coping during physical distancing and stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19. Both faculty members had been working on research (Dr. Blair, with Debby Herbenick of Indiana University, had launched the COVID-19 Interpersonal Coping Daily Diary Study), and this grant allows them to merge and expand their two existing studies to focus specifically on Nova Scotians, including the LGBTQ+ community.
Dr. Blair says this study will address a gap in the knowledge about the risk and resiliency of Nova Scotians during a time of physical distancing and stay-at-home orders and will offer insights into appropriate mental health and policy solutions. “Nova Scotians like to focus on our strong social ties and tend to see those connections as a source of resilience in times of stress. Indeed, research repeatedly demonstrates that those with close personal connections thrive in terms of physical and mental health, compared to those with fewer or looser connections. Yet in these times of physical distancing due to COVID-19, might this source of resilience become a risk factor?” she says. “Will those who normally have close face-to-face connections with their friends, families, and neighbours struggle more when those close connections are disrupted? Will members of the LGBTQ+ community, who often turn to ‘chosen families’ for support, benefit from their existing online communities, or will they experience disproportionate disruptions, including the necessity of living with unsupportive families? Even worse, will relationships turn dark in these stressful times, with heightened risks of interpersonal and intimate partner violence?”
The researchers will launch a new diary study that leverages the infrastructure of two ongoing COVID-19 studies in order to identify sources of risk and resiliency within Nova Scotia, including both the broader population and Nova Scotia’s LGBTQ+ community. The study will focus on mental health outcomes, optimal coping strategies, social connection, and experiences of interpersonal violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. By building upon two existing studies, the researchers will be able to provide useful comparisons between Nova Scotians, including LGBTQ+ Nova Scotians, and other North American populations.
Dr. Blair says project results will be shared with relevant stakeholders and are anticipated to inform Nova Scotia public health and allied professionals whose work during disease outbreaks directly impacts the well-being of individuals, couples, families and the LGBTQ+ community, providing evidence to guide optimal provincial responsiveness to the current outbreak, future COVID-19 waves and other disease outbreaks.
“Our key outcomes will be three reports: 1) To provincial decision-makers, comparing Nova Scotians’ well-being and coping during the pandemic relative to others across Canada and the U.S.; 2) To LGBTQ+ organizations, assessing LGBTQ+ Nova Scotians’ experiences, relative to LGBTQ+ individuals in other parts of Canada and the U.S.; 3) To domestic violence organizations, focusing in more depth on Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), with subsections comparing Nova Scotia to other jurisdictions, and LGBTQ+ participants to others,” Dr. Blair says.
Initial reports will be shared with decision-makers in June-July, with follow-up reports in July-August.
Other expected benefits of the research include individual respondents who may benefit in terms of better mental and physical health when they think through and write about their experiences during a stressful event; organizations from insights on how their constituents are being affected by the pandemic, to help prepare optimal support plans; and the province by learning how Nova Scotians are faring compared to other provinces, and where specific challenges and strengths lie.
Participants will also be invited to Dr. Blair’s ongoing research on collective grief responses to mass shootings. Data between the studies will be linked, allowing researchers to control to some extent for mental health issues attributable to the recent tragic shooting, and to share data on its impact within the context of the pandemic.
Dear Members of the StFX Community,
I’m writing to provide you with an update regarding StFX’s ongoing response to the operational realities created by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
In my last communication to campus, I acknowledged the tremendous efforts by all StFX faculty and staff to support our students. It has been through our collective work that we have made it through the ‘emergency phase’ of our response to COVID-19, and that we are now able to shift our mindset to delivering the best educational experience possible in September.
Since the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak here in Nova Scotia, Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, have provided strong and stable guidance in the face of deeply challenging circumstances. StFX continues to work closely with the province, including working toward a reopening of our campus and resuming normal operations.
We are preparing for classes to restart in September 2020, on-campus and in-person.
However, we must also be prepared for the possibility that physical distancing, moratoriums on group gatherings, and other health and safety-related protocols may continue into the fall. The circumstances of the campus opening are dependent upon provincial health guidelines. These guidelines are based on health conditions in the province meeting particular criteria, as opposed to being based upon dates in the calendar. As such, we are in the process of reviewing all of our operations and determining how best to open our campus for our students, faculty, and staff, while ensuring the health and safety of everyone.
Because the current situation regarding the pandemic is fluid and uncertain, we are also taking the prudent step to begin contingency planning to account for the possibility of online and alternative-format course delivery.
Remote Teaching and Learning (Online) Preparedness Task Force
Through the leadership of our Academic Vice President, Dr. Tim Hynes, we have established a task force on Remote Teaching and Learning (Online) Preparedness. Chaired by Janice Landry, from the Department of Distance and Continuing Education, and Dr. Joanne Tompkins, from the Faculty of Education, this task force has a very strict mandate -- ‘to lead StFX efforts toward preparations for the 2020 fall term delivery of remote teaching and learning programming, should such distance education programming be necessary due to the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis.’ This includes everything we believe necessary to produce and deliver academic courses of the highest quality online, from professional development requirements to assisting faculty and teaching staff with remote course delivery, to technology needs, to enhanced academic supports for students, and course and assignment design for optimal teaching and learning.
Of course, such a shift would represent a significant departure from StFX’s academic model, which is why investing the time in contingency planning for a smooth transition for faculty, staff, and students alike is a top priority. The task force members guiding these efforts include representatives from almost all areas of the university. On behalf of the university community, I express my gratitude for the important work they are undertaking in the weeks and months ahead.
Incoming and Returning Student Communications and Services
We recognize that uncertainty can create anxiety and doubt about what the future holds. Therefore, it is more important than ever that our students, both new and continuing, and their families feel confident about their decisions to attend StFX. Consequently, we are focused on ensuring students and parents are receiving the information they require in an efficient and effective way. From improvements in the way we present information online, to creating student and parent panels enabling direct channels for dialogue, and a range of other activities, we are committed to listening, understanding, and responding, to keep these very important members of our community updated.
I will also be providing regular updates to the campus community as we receive information from the province on changing circumstances as they relate to our operations.
I am very proud of the university’s response under these challenging circumstances and I am confident that we will continue to operate with the best interests of public health and our faculty, staff, and students at the forefront of our efforts. I applaud our collective, innovative work which is designed to serve our new and returning students, in ways that preserve the meaningful interactions that are so important to all of us in the university community.
Thanks to you all for your exemplary work during this pandemic and, moreover, the care and compassion that you have so generously shared with others.
Kevin B. Wamsley, PhD
President and Vice-Chancellor
Now, more than ever, it is important for all of us to connect with others and our community, says StFX student Alyssa Spridgeon who has come up with a unique project to do just that.
The Xaverian Pen Pal Project aims to bring together StFX students with local students and senior citizens in Antigonish to promote positive inter-generational relationships between StFX students and community members, while helping alleviate some of the challenges surrounding physical distancing created by COVID-19, says Ms. Spridgeon, who is from Whitby, ON and is finishing up her first year at StFX, but the third year of her psychology degree. She transferred to StFX from a university in the U.S. She also currently plays for the X-Women soccer team.
Ms. Spridgeon says the idea began percolating after her English 201 professor (and McKenna Centre for Leadership Director) Dr. Mathias Nilges suggested in their first online discussion following the cancellation of in-person classes that we shift our thinking away from “social distancing” and instead think of it as physical distancing with an opportunity for social solidarity.
“So, the result was considering a way to continue to build relationships and facilitate community connections while students are back home and unable to connect in-person,” she says.
“I had read about different age groups that were especially affected by social distancing, particularly senior citizens who could no longer receive visits from family and friends. I also have a younger brother and considered how the loss of seeing friends and the structure of school would be affecting younger students.”
She says all of this, combined with her own feelings of isolation and missing StFX, brought about the idea of a pen pal project to connect students and community members.
“I’ve been to several universities and have seen many communities and Antigonish has a community that is incredibly special. Truly, in the last school year, StFX and Antigonish have become a second home to me and I love the tight-knit community that exists there. As a student-athlete, I’ve been especially lucky to see the role that the local community plays in supporting our athletics programs and I’m very grateful for the connection that StFX has with the community through many partnerships,” she says.
“I know that many StFX students feel similarly and I wanted to create an opportunity to facilitate more relationships between students and community members. I also know that social distancing can result in feelings of isolation and loneliness, so while this project will build new relationships, I am hoping that it will also help to alleviate those feelings and help individuals to feel a bit more joyful and connected.”
Ms. Spridgeon says she is hoping to continue the project throughout the year and hopes that pen pals will continue to connect with each other even after this is over.
“I have had a lot of positive feedback so far and hope that this not only alleviates the challenges of social distancing but helps to strengthen the relationships that StFX students have with the community. Particularly with StFX students who have been matched with younger students in Antigonish, this is a really great opportunity to be a role model too!”
Ms. Spridgeon says she has been extremely lucky to receive support from StFX’s McKenna Centre for Leadership on this project. “I am so excited to take advantage of the expertise that those at the McKenna Centre have on a number of levels when it comes to successful leadership. Dr. Nilges has provided a great deal of support and advice on the best ways to execute the project and the centre has already helped me to connect with community organizations and leaders who can help to grow the project. Additionally, the funding that the McKenna Centre has graciously provided will allow for improvements in several areas and will also help with continuing to grow the project throughout the school year.”
Interested students are encouraged to sign up at the Xaverian Pen Pal Project.
A’isha Nasir is a Nigerian teenager who has been charged with adultery. Sophie MacNeil is an ambitious, though inexperienced, Canadian journalist living in Nigeria. Speechless, the new novel by StFX’s Anne Simpson, and released this week, is the story of how their lives become intertwined in a fast-paced tale of justice, witness, and courage.
“Who should tell a story? What happens when one speaks on behalf of another? At once compelling and lyrical, Speechless presents a nuanced cast of characters trying to navigate the power of their words, their responsibility for them, and how they affect others in matters of life and death,” reads a description of the book, which Ms. Simpson, an adjunct professor in the English Department at StFX, says has been 10 years in the making.
“It has been a long period of writing, revising, researching, and revising some more. I wanted to write a novel about challenges that women face, but I don’t know if I was consciously thinking about it in this way when I started. A novel grows out of questions that you hold and gradually – very gradually – you figure out the story,” she says. “You might have the characters, but you don’t know what they’ll be like in one situation or another. After making a lot of mistakes, you begin to figure it out. I work in isolation, as writers do, and so I didn’t know if I was on the right path. Occasionally, editors read it. I used their comments to make it a richer, more developed narrative. I got rid of a lot. I added a lot. You have to be willing to change a novel in radical ways. It’s just a tremendous amount of work, and you have no idea if the work is worth all the effort. Ultimately, this is a novel that I’m very glad I wrote. I believe in the story; I believe in the characters.
“Speechless is coming out in the midst of a pandemic, but even in times of tumult, we still need the imagination to make sense of complex situations. Fiction helps us understand the world. It allows us to stand back and see things whole.”
Speechless is Ms. Simpson’s third novel, following Falling (McClelland & Stewart, 2008) and Canterbury Beach (Penguin, 2001). She has published five books of poetry, of which Strange Attractor (McClelland & Stewart, 2019) is the most recent. She has been a recipient of the Griffin Poetry Prize, and her fiction has been longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.