A ring that means so much to so many is also now giving back to support the next generation.
The X-Ring Store, which opened on the StFX campus in September 2016, has already donated over $40,000 into helping students.
Ever since the store opened, all net proceeds from purchases of the X-Ring—iconic symbol of Xaverian pride, accomplishment and community—have gone directly into the Xaverian Fund, designed to provide student scholarships and bursaries to ensure a StFX education is available to all deserving students regardless of financial background. The Xaverian Fund also helps bring a number of top academic students to campus through a variety of scholarship opportunities.
Since 2016, the X-Ring Store has donated over $40,000 to the general Xaverian Fund, and most recently, this funding has been directed into the Senior Class Gift Fund, which annually identifies a student need and helps give back. In the past three years, the Senior Class Gift Fund has paid it forward, creating scholarships through the Student Refugee Fund, the Emergency Mental Health Fund and the Family Helps Family Fund.
The contribution from the X-Ring Store in some cases has been between 25-50 per cent of the funds raised for the class gift, all student-led initiatives. These have included:
1. Class of 2017—Funding an X-Ring bursary for a senior student who embodies what it means to be a Xaverian.
2. Class of 2018—Funding a bursary for a refugee student.
3. Class of 2019—Funding a mental health bursary for a student in crisis.
4. Class of 2020—Family Helps Family bursary for students experiencing personal loss.
Bob Hale, Director, Ancillary Services, says when the X-Ring Store opened, they wanted to positively impact the community and the idea to donate the net profits of X-Ring sales to scholarships and bursaries was seen as a terrific opportunity to invest in students and give back to the Xaverian community.
“Being able to give back to those students who are in need helps you achieve a greater sense of personal satisfaction and growth. I believe it feels good to help others. With every purchase of a ring from the X-Ring store, our students are giving back to the next generation of Xaverians. It does make a difference,” Mr. Hale says.
Class of 2020 Senior Class Co-Presidents Jonas Lawrence and Taylor Kennah, who helped establish the 2020 senior class gift, the Family Helps Family bursary, have seen the impact.
“As Senior Class Co-Presidents, we wanted to extend a huge thank you to everyone at the X-Ring Store, for this donation as well as all the other support they have given us this year. I think recent events have shown how important family is to all of us, and how impactful a family emergency or trauma can be on a student’s well-being. We know that continued Xaverian generosity like this can ensure that when these things do happen, students can rely on their StFX family to support them,” they say.
StFX students receive their X-Ring on December 3 – the feast of St. Francis Xavier, or StFX Day – each year. The ceremony is one of the most anticipated events in the StFX calendar.
A COVID-19 Pandemic: LGBTQ+ Experiences report, led by StFX psychology professor Dr. Karen Blair, Dr. Diane Holmberg, Acadia University, and Dr. Kathryn Bell, Acadia University, has found that LGBTQ+ Canadians were faring worse during the COVID-19 pandemic than their cisgender and heterosexual counterparts.
In the study, funded by the Nova Scotia COVID-19 Health Research Coalition, LGBTQ+ participants reported lower levels of social support, income, mental and physical well-being, more engagement in avoidant coping, as well as lower ability to engage in World Health Organization recommendations regarding COVID-19.
LGBTQ+ participants’ responses also indicated that they were experiencing identity specific struggles, such as decreased access to community supports and gender affirming care, that may play a role in their lower levels of mental well-being.
“I found it surprising at first that LGBTQ+ Canadians reported less engagement in World Health Organization recommendations regarding COVID-19, such as staying home, regular hand washing and avoiding contact with others,” says StFX alumnus and past StFX Gender and Sexual Diversity Advisor Bre O’Handley, who is a current graduate student supervised by Dr. Blair and authored the LGBTQ+ Experiences report.
“However, LGBTQ+ participants reported that following these recommendations wasn’t feasible for them, which makes sense looking at other findings from the report where LGBTQ+ Canadians, especially transgender and non-binary Canadians, were more likely to be working in spaces where it was difficult to avoid close contact with others and in jobs that did not allow them to work from home.”
Dr. Blair noted the study provided paid and volunteer experience to over 25 students this summer from a variety of institutions including Acadia, StFX, Trent, University of Victoria, University of Ottawa and Queen’s.
Dr. Blair says the findings of the COVID-19 Pandemic: LGBTQ+ Experiences report will be shared directly with Canadian organizations focused on serving LGBTQ+ communities, such as EGALE Canada, The Youth Project (based in Halifax, NS) and the StFX Gender and Sexual Diversity Office, among others.
The findings of the report will also be shared widely through social media, such as Twitter and Instagram, and the report can be found on Dr. Blair’s website.
“The LGBTQ+ Experiences report may prove helpful for these organizations and for Nova Scotia public health in highlighting the unique experiences of LGBTQ+ Canadians during COVID-19,” says Bre O’Handley.
“In knowing that LGBTQ+ Canadians are experiencing increased mental distress and less social support than non-LGBTQ+ Canadians, as well as a loss of LGBTQ+ affirmative community and reduced access to gender affirming medical services, LGBTQ+ organizations and Nova Scotia public health can better determine how to support LGBTQ+ Canadians during COVID-19. LGBTQ+ organizations may choose to focus on offering socially distanced or online community spaces for LGBTQ+ individuals to help fill the gap of LGBTQ+ affirmative social support. Nova Scotia public health may choose to consider how they support transgender Nova Scotians in accessing gender affirming medical services, such as hormone replacement therapy, during the pandemic.”
The report is part of a larger study, “The Ties that Bind: Interpersonal relationships as a source of risk and resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
This study compared Nova Scotians’ wellbeing and coping during the COVID-19 pandemic with other jurisdictions, assessed LGTBQ+ Canadians’ wellbeing and coping during the pandemic relative to non-LGBTQ+ Canadians, and examined Nova Scotians’ experiences with intimate partner violence during the pandemic in comparison to other jurisdictions.
Dr. Blair said this study will address a gap in the knowledge about the risk and resiliency of Nova Scotians and LGBTQ+ Canadians during a time of physical distancing and stay-at-home orders and will offer insights into appropriate mental health and policy solutions.
The participants included in the LGBTQ+ Experiences report included 2,266 Canadians who participated in the COVID-19 Interpersonal Coping Study during the months of May and June. Seven hundred and ninety-four of these participants identified as part of the LGBTQ+ community (228 of which identified as transgender) and 1,468 did not (four participants did not provide enough information to determine which of these groups they belong to). Of the participants, 39.3 per cent were currently located in Nova Scotia, 29.8 per cent in Ontario, 10.2 per cent in British Columbia, and the remainder were dispersed among the other provinces and territories.
The sample of LGBTQ+ Canadians in the LGBTQ+ Experiences report were younger, more likely to be racialized and reported lower income than the non-LGBTQ+ Canadians included in the report. Analyses were run to control for these differences in demographics between the two groups.
Other results from the survey will be coming out soon. A report summarizing the data collected from the survey focusing on factors that influence mask wearing, a report focused on Canadians’ experiences of intimate partner violence, and a report focused on Nova Scotians’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic will all be coming out in early September.
Four research projects at StFX, that range from optimizing care of infants during painful procedures to work on marine biofouling, are receiving over $400,000 in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) for the tools the researchers need to stay ahead and to excel.
The Government of Canada, through the CFI, is giving more than $96 million in funding to support 377 new research infrastructure projects at 55 institutions from coast to coast. This total includes more than $22 million under the CFI’s Infrastructure Operating Fund to assist institutions with the incremental operating and maintenance costs associated with the new infrastructure. This funding—made through the CFI’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF)—helps universities attract and retain top research talent from around the world by providing researchers with the highly specialized infrastructure they need to be leaders in their field.
At StFX, the CFI is supporting four projects with a combined research infrastructure funding total of $411,615. Research Nova Scotia (RNS) is an important funding partner for CFI-approved projects at Nova Scotia's post-secondary education institutions. RNS is providing 1 to 1, dollar for dollar, matching funds to support the projects awarded to Drs. Rodela, Wyeth, Bishop, Toxopeus, and Bertin, totalling at $349,049. These contributions help ensure the viability of the projects.
The four projects funded by CFI include:
• Dr. Tammy Rodela (Biology), Comparative and Environmental Physiology Facility (CEPF), $74,065
• Dr. Erwan Bertin (Chemistry), Pulsed Laser Ablation in Liquids – A New Green Technique to Prepare Electrocatalysts, $74,984
• Drs. Russell Wyeth; Cory Bishop; and Jantina Toxopeus (Biology), Laser Scanning Confocal Microscope for Cellular Studies, $200,000
• Dr. Britney Benoit (Nursing), Optimizing the Measurement and Management of Infant Pain: A Translational Clinical Program of Research, $62,566
ADVANCE RESEARCHBritnet-Benoit-2-MyStFX (002).jpg
Dr. Britney Benoit
“I am very grateful to receive this funding to establish a dedicated lab to advance research for the care of infants and families,” says Dr. Benoit, whose research program aims to optimize care of infants during painful procedures through understanding the effect of parent-led pain management interventions (such as breastfeeding and parent-infant skin-to-skin contact), advancing understanding of how to best measure newborn pain, and translating this evidence into hospital and community care of infants.
“This equipment will specifically allow for the completion of research aimed at understanding and supporting best-practice strategies for assessing and managing pain in newborns when they are undergoing painful procedures required as part of routine clinical care. This infrastructure will enable the completion of interdisciplinary work that engages researchers, healthcare providers, trainees, and parents to generate findings that can have a direct impact on health outcomes for infants and their families,” she says.Russell-Wyeth_MyStFX.jpg
Dr. Russell Wyeth
Cory Bishop.png Dr. Cory Bishop
Dr. Jantina Toxopeus
Drs. Wyeth, Bishop and Toxopeus are also looking forward to the research the funding will help enable. “We in the Biology Department are really excited about being able to replace our aging confocal microscope with such a modern sophisticated device. It will be used by several faculty (and their students) in the department and by others on campus,” they say.
This project acquired a laser scanning confocal microsope in support of several research programs in Biology. The microscope will allow detailed analysis of cellular and subcellular structures to better understand biological processes at those size scales. The projects include work on marine biofouling (the growth of organisms on surfaces) by Drs. Wyeth and Bishop, investigation of the structure of the nervous systems in slugs and snails by Dr. Wyeth, investigation of a symbiosis between a single celled algae and amphibians by Dr. Bishop, and a project initiated by newest faculty member, Dr. Toxopeus, that tackles the cellular mechanisms that allow insects to tolerate being frozen.Erwin-Burton-MyStFX (002).jpg
Dr. Erwan Bertin
In the Chemistry Department, Dr. Bertin says the CFI-RNS grant will allow his group to investigate a novel technique, pulsed laser ablation in liquids (PLAL in short), to prepare nanoparticle electrocatalysts. “PLAL has the advantage of being both an environmentally friendly synthesis technique, and a fairly easy one to scale up. The nanomaterials produced can be used in a variety of applications, ranging from medical contrast agents to catalyst in fuel cells for tomorrow’s hydrogen cars,” he says. “In this project, we are interested in preparing catalysts for a CO2 electrolyzer, a device that will convert, using electricity, CO2 into more useful products.”
Dr. Tammy Rodela says this timely investment in infrastructure from CFI and Research Nova Scotia will support integrative studies to understand how fish structure their biological responses to multiple environmental stressors. “Funds will be used to create state-of-the-art zebrafish facilities that enable the precise control of environmental conditions and purchase specialized laboratory equipment. This CFI and Research Nova Scotia support expands the depth and breadth of facilities at StFX and creates excellent research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students.”
An exciting new collaboration between Nova Scotia Health and St. Francis Xavier University is expected to positively impact health and healthcare in Nova Scotia communities.
Dr. Britney Benoit has been appointed the inaugural Nova Scotia Health Health Sciences Research Chair at St. Francis Xavier University’s Rankin School of Nursing. The role of this research chair is to build capacity for research that is relevant to provincial health priorities.
“In particular, there is a strong focus on conducting research that leverages academic and health systems partnerships to support knowledge generation and translation for the care of children and families across the province, with a focus on eastern Nova Scotia,” says Dr. Benoit, a StFX graduate, a registered nurse and a researcher who works to improve care for patients with a primary focus on maternal child health and care, assessing and managing infant pain and finding interventions that have strong evidence for optimizing health outcomes.
A core focus of this three-year research chair appointment is to build collaborative partnerships that not only include health researchers and research centres, but also health system leaders, decision-makers, clinicians, and families with a particular focus on network development in eastern Nova Scotia. The research chair appointment spans both StFX and NSH, provides dedicated protected research time, and also has dedicated mechanisms to support provincial heath research partnerships, such as engagement in the NSH Community of Scholars Network.
While this type of embedded clinician-scientist model is more commonly seen in urban settings with tertiary level health centres, it is unique and novel to hold this position in a rural community in Nova Scotia.
“I see this as an incredible opportunity to build capacity for province-wide embedded health scientist models,” Dr. Benoit says.
“I am so pleased to have Dr. Benoit in this important role,” Dr. Gail Tomblin Murphy, vice president of the Nova Scotia Health Research, Innovation & Discovery team, had said in an article published in Nova Scotia Health Research and Innovation annual report 2020. “This is an incredible opportunity to support research and collaboration across our province and to leverage resources and knowledge at a local level.”
The role of the Nova Scotia Health Health Sciences Research Chair is to build capacity for research that is relevant to provincial health priorities. This feat can only be accomplished by fostering collaboration and leveraging expertise across academic and health systems, she says.
EXCITED BY OPPORTUNITY
“I am excited by the opportunity to create meaningful partnerships to do research that is responsive to health system needs – and to see the impact of research on care delivery and outcomes for families. Having the dedicated time to work to advance research that can impact on health and healthcare in communities across Nova Scotia is an absolute privilege,” says Dr. Benoit.
Dr. Benoit, who holds a PhD in nursing from Dalhousie, a MSc in nursing from McGill, and a BSc in human nutrition from StFX, says she has specific designated activities that she will be working toward to achieve the objectives of the chair position.
“As a new independent health investigator, a considerable amount of my initial focus in this position has and will be on building collaborations with both academic and health systems partners across the province. In my view, close collaboration with interdisciplinary health researchers, health systems leaders, clinicians, and families is crucial to ensuring that we are asking and answering research questions that are relevant to health and healthcare needs.”
Dr. Benoit says the research and knowledge mobilization objectives of this chair appointment have a strong focus on establishing a productive and independent program of research. “This of course includes submitting for and securing grant funding to support research completion, disseminating of research findings through traditional means, such as publications and conference presentations, while also working closely with health system partners to ensure research findings are integrated into healthcare planning and policy to impact on the care of Nova Scotians.”
MENTOR AND SUPPORT
As an assistant professor in the Rankin School of Nursing at StFX, she continues to teach in the nursing program. Dr. Benoit’s teaching expertise is largely in maternal-child nursing care and nursing research and she will be continuing to teach in these areas across the tenure of this research chair appointment.
“I also view this research chair as an opportunity for dedicated time to mentor and support student involvement in research and look forward to the opportunity to work with StFX nursing students and other interdisciplinary students interested in health research. It’s also an excellent opportunity to showcase the diverse opportunities that students can pursue in a nursing career and the important role of nurse researchers in health science,” she says.
She is also happy to be back at her alma mater.
“I’m thrilled to be back at StFX! When I was a trainee in the Human Nutrition Department, I did honours research under the supervision of Dr. Doris Gillis. This positive mentorship experience and introduction to research was what prompted my pursuit of graduate training. My hope is that I can have that type of positive impact on the students I work with at StFX. Holding this research chair appointment that spans StFX and NSH provides the ideal setting to work closely with university and health system colleagues to provide students the opportunity to complete embedded health research that can have an impact.”
Building capacity for Indigenous-led and supported community-based health research is the aim of a dynamic, diverse, interdisciplinary and inclusive network of Indigenous and academic partners who have come together to form the Wabanaki-Labrador Indigenous Health Research Network.
The network is led by Indigenous communities and regional partners, with the Labrador Institute of Memorial University, St. Francis Xavier University and Dalhousie University, and includes Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik, Passamaquoddy, Inuit, and Innu community members, organizations, health professionals, students, academics, traditional healers and allies from the four provinces of Atlantic Canada.
“This transformative initiative is funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research for up to 15 years, with a maximum funding amount of $700,000 per year. Through a Two-Eyed Seeing, co-learning, and relational approach, this network prioritizes community-initiated and directed research to improve Indigenous health in Atlantic Canada, based on the health priorities of Indigenous peoples,” says Dr. L. Jane McMillan, a StFX faculty member and a co-principal investigator (PI).
Along with Dr. McMillan, co-PI’s in the project include Drs. Debbie Martin, Dalhousie University/NunatuKavut (named principal investigator); Margot Latimer, Dalhousie University; John Sylliboy, McGill University/Eskasoni and Millbrook First Nation; and Ashlee Cunsolo, Labrador Institute at Memorial University.
Also involved at StFX are faculty members Drs. Katie Aubrecht, Ann Fox, Cathy MacDonald and Joanne Whitty-Rogers.
“The objectives of the Wabanaki-Labrador Indigenous Health Research Network are to enhance capacity for undertaking meaningful, relevant and respectful Indigenous health research in the region; shift the balance of power in the research relationship from academic institutions to Indigenous communities in the region; support communities to address their health research priorities through top-tier research and research capacity-building; and share the experiences of the network widely and foster its sustainability,” Dr. McMillan says.
She says the name for the network comes from the reference to this vast and diverse region as Wabanaki-Labrador, since Wabanaki refers to the easterly location, where the sun rises first, of the Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy, and Wolastoqiyik and Labrador encompasses the northern and sub-arctic territory of the Inuit and Innu.
The team is directed by the Wabanaki-Labrador Advisory Committee and Elders and Knowledge Keepers from across the Atlantic region and include members of Nunatsiavut Government, Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI, Ugpi’ganjig Health Centre, Eel River Bar FN, Madawaska FN, NunatuKavut Community Council, the Atlantic Policy Congress of FN Chiefs Secretariat, Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre in Halifax, Eskasoni Community Health, Millbrook FN, Union of Nova Scotia Indians and the IWK.
“I am most excited about the principles and the activities of the Wabanaki-Labrador Network,” says Dr. McMillan, noting that the network is guided by the principles of protecting Indigenous knowledge, cultures and ceremonies; increasing sovereignty over research (and the data that results from it); moving forward in a relational way (considering research ethics from the perspective of ‘all our relations’); centering, enhancing, innovating and strengthening Indigenous knowledge in health research; and building capacity for research done in a ‘good way’ through mentorship.
StFX researchers also involved in the network are looking forward to its impact.
“It is exciting to be part of this significant research initiative, which will certainly be impactful on the health and wellbeing of Indigenous peoples of Labrador. The research team certainly has the expertise in Indigenous research with Indigenous communities to make this initiative a reality,” says Dr. Cathy MacDonald.
“I hope that learning with and from a community of people committed to land-based learning and research respects traditional knowledge and helps achieve shared goals,” says Dr. Ann Fox.
Dr. Katie Aubrecht says she is humbled to join John Sylliboy as a Sex and Gender Champion and to learn and work with communities and researchers to decolonize disability, gender and sexualities, and mobilizing to center the knowledges and experiences of Indigenous women, girls, LGBTQ and Two-Spirit People within health research.
"I am very excited to work with students, colleagues and communities on this Wabanaki-Labrador Indigenous health research initiative to improve and promote the health of Indigenous Peoples," says Dr. Joanne Whitty-Rogers.
Dr. McMillan says the activities of the Wabanaki-Labrador Network include Research and Innovation Co-Learning Lodges, to build capacity in community to direct, lead, and independently oversee the roll-out of community-based health research from design to dissemination.
As well, activities include Systematic Investments in Research Ethics and Governance, including hiring an Indigenous research ethics coordinator to help strengthen the capacity for community-led ethics review processes, enhance Indigenous-specific ethics review processes in academic and governmental institutions, and create a virtual Co-Learning Lodge that provides appropriate ethics materials for researchers; and a Community-Based Research Program that supports workshops and research awards that address community health research priorities.
Additionally, activities include a Trainee Program that builds off the successes of the Atlantic-Indigenous Mentorship Network; Strategic Communications and Knowledge Exchange, to ensure that the work of the Network are shared both strategically and widely; and Knowledge Gardening: Sustainability and Evaluative Activities, such as surveys, the distribution of annual reports, and hosting annual face-to-face meetings to foster shared learnings.
StFX Education professor Dr. Chris Gilham receives $25,000 Standing Together grant to evaluate school-based programming that could help disrupt cycles of domestic violence
StFX education professor Dr. Chris Gilham has received $25,000 in funding from the Nova Scotia government through its Standing Together To Prevent Domestic Violence Connect Grants. The Connect Grants provide one-year funding to support already funded, ongoing projects that help community groups and organizations develop and test new ways to prevent domestic violence, support victims and their families, and share the story of what they are learning about how to address this complex issue. The current grant brings people together to share results, build stronger networks and future plans.
The government will use the learning and evidence gathered from these projects to inform plans for ending the cycle of domestic violence in Nova Scotia.
Dr. Gilham has received this funding for a project entitled, Guys’ Work 7/8: Gendered Healthy Living Classes Nova Scotia, a partnership with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Education, Bridges Counselling, Family Services of Northeastern Nova Scotia, and five Regional Centres of Education. Dr. Gilham is working closely with Moe Green, who has been facilitating and training facilitators for high school guys groups across the province for many years now.
Schools across the province will be implementing Healthy Living classes and groups for male identified youth in Grades 7 and 8. Once that project is complete, the Connect grant will allow for the next phase of the project, which will involve sharing the results with guys group facilitators and community organizations, to discuss lessons learned, facilitator experiences, and how the work can continue to move forward effectively.
“Moe has so much experience, wisdom and thoughtfulness for this work. It’s been an absolute privilege to work with and learn alongside him,” Dr. Gilham says. “We’ve already trained more than 50 school-based guys groups facilitators across the province and the feedback on that training has been overwhelmingly positive. This is mainly because of Moe’s exemplary facilitation skills. COVID-19 has put a pause on the project but we do hope to get back to this work in the fall,” he said.
“Having already received funding last year to evaluate the effectiveness of the guys’ groups, this additional funding will really help us collectively envision and enact a plan to sustain the guys’ groups longer-term, if not expand them significantly” he says.
“The commitment and support of the province, via the Status of Women has been tremendous. This work allows us to do important upstream work with young guys, to help rewrite traditional scripts that say they can’t seek help for themselves or their friends, and especially those messages young guys receive about what it means to be men, and what it means to be in healthy relationships with others.”
StFX X-Women basketball head coach Lee Anna Osei hasn’t let the pandemic slow her down. In fact, she established and founded the Black Canadian Coaches Association (BCCA), a newly formed not-for-profit organization committed to providing a platform for Black Canadians in sport.
“I wanted some way of filling the voids for People of Colour in our sport community at the grassroots, collegiate, and high-performance levels,” comments Osei, who recently completely her second full season as head coach of the X-Women.
“It is also difficult to support and communicate with one another, and with the tragic events of racial violence that took place earlier this year, I think it really became clear to many people across our country, and in our sports community, that there is a lot of work to be done.”
Creating a tangible platform - a website to disrupt the negative narratives and instead celebrate the stories and accomplishments of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour [BIPOC] in the sports industry was the first step. “It is about coming together, along with our allies, as one broader sport community to identify, understand, and make a commitment to eradicate systemic and institutional oppression,” Osei noted.
It is also about celebration. Osei looks to the Black Business & Professional Association (BBPA) Harry Jerome Awards, an annual gala established in memory of Harry Jerome, an outstanding African Canadian Olympic athlete, scholar and social advocate, as the gold standard for celebrating Black excellence.
She notes, “Harry Jerome’s role in Canadian sport gave him that platform, but I think we have fallen short in celebrating people of colour in the many facets of our sport industry - like our Olympians, our small business owners, our up-and-coming prospective and current athletes - who are all forging new and historic paths for People of Colour to aspire towards.”
“Looking at this past decade there has been some monumental Black role models in sport, including Olympian performances by athletes like Andre De Grasse, the appointment of Rowan Barrett as general manager of Basketball Canada, and the establishment of the Michael Pinball Clemons Foundation to support marginalized communities through educational and recreational programming,” continues Osei. “Visibility is important, and it further promotes sport as a tool for social, cultural, educational and physical advancements, especially amongst racialized communities and our youth.”
It is these individuals who inspire her and others to move forward with this initiative and to find ways for People of Colour and allies to come together not just in times of tragedy, but to work together towards a more inclusive and equitable society.
Osei stresses that the BCCA is not just for BIPOC stakeholders, it is for everyone who supports the goal of attaining racial equity in our Canadian sport community. The three objectives of the Black Canadian Coaches Association are celebration, advocacy though allyship, and networking.
In meetings with her fellow coaching colleagues across the country, it became clear that although these conversations are important and necessary, the focus should also be on addressing how to identify systemic anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism within Canadian post-secondary athletic institutions and other high-performance streams, and to implement structural changes.
Osei links the structural changes needed to collecting evidence-based research, something that has never been done on a large scale for BIPOC members in Canadian sports. “Working alongside our sport governance and member institutions can bring about historic, positive change,” she says.
The group has launched an initiative called ‘The Charter for Racial Equity in Canadian Post-Secondary Athletic Institutions.’ The Racial Equity Project involves the enlistment of a top Canadian diversity and inclusion firm, leading academic researchers specializing in race and sport, and the creation of an ad-hoc task force to distribute questionnaires to former and current Black and Indigenous student-athletes, coaches and executives in 2020-21. From the project the group will create a list of recommendations that address how to ensure the ongoing safety, support, and empowerment of BIPOC members within Canadian intercollegiate sports.
Osei has reached out to members at both U SPORTS and the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) with the goal of working together to help reshape policies and practices both at the national and conference level. She says the call to action was well received, and now the challenge is fundraising to get the project officially started.
Within their the call to action the BCCA recommends that every institution have a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) committee, professionally mandated training for sport coaches and executives, as well as a reshaping of policies such as hiring processes and ensuring candidates of racialized backgrounds are at the very least interviewed.
Another consideration for change would be to look at athletic financial award (AFA) policies, which currently have minimum grade standards for both entering and returning student-athletes in order to receive financial assistance. Osei comments that, “The AFA policy is a perfect example of systemic anti-Black racism at play, where a policy that was meant to assist student-athletes, actually marginalizes those who are most vulnerable. It is only compounded by low socio-economic status, a lack of structural support policies, and learning disabilities.”
StFX’s Faculty of Education is honoured to welcome Jane Meader as their Elder-in-Residence for the Master of Education and Master of Adult Education summer programs, which run from July 6 to July 30.
Ms. Meader originates from the traditional lands of Una’maki, now commonly known as Cape Breton, and resides in Membertou, a Mi’kmaw community. She holds many leadership roles within her community of Mi’kma’ki and the larger Indigenous community throughout Canada. She has a long career as a teacher of Mi’kmaw language and culture and is widely sought for her deep teachings on her culture, protocol, and ceremony.
She is a well-respected Knowledge Keeper and her expertise is helping to guide Treaty Education in Nova Scotia. She is also on the national Board of Elders of the Turtle Lodge Center of Excellence in Indigenous Education and Wellness, a place for reconnecting to the earth and sharing Indigenous ancestral knowledge.
She also has many connections to StFX. She is a graduate of both the BEd and MEd programs. Since 2015, she has been teaching on a part-time basis with MEd cohorts specializing in Indigenous Education and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy. She teaches face-to-face classes during the summer program and also teaches online courses. Ms. Meader says she feels privileged and honoured to be in a position to be able to share her knowledge with others.
Eight StFX students—recipients of the Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership’s inaugural Xaverian Leaders Micro-Grants—are spending their summer working on initiatives designed to bring the Xaverian community together during a particularly isolating time.
In all, the McKenna Centre awarded eight grants of $2,500 each to returning StFX students for projects that will help bring the community together and will help build a more compassionate student body in a time of physical distancing brought on by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The projects, part of the newly formed “The Xaverian Leaders Media Network,” range from a wellness initiative designed to counteract adverse effects that the COVID-19 pandemic life can have on mental health and physical wellbeing to an online podcast sharing stories and community.
Grant recipients include Preet Banga; Abby Fraser; Hannah MacDonell, Lauren Sobot, and Grace Moffat; Gabriel Richards; Sophie Hadley; and Kennedy Nangle.
“With the introduction of the Micro-Grants, the McKenna Centre wishes to contribute to ongoing efforts to help our community deal with the significant challenges that the COVID-19 crisis poses for all members of the StFX community,” the McKenna Centre team says.
“The Xaverian Leaders Micro-Grants find innovative ways to maintain the Xaverian community in a time of crisis, to develop ways to be there for each other, to take care of each other, and to allow us to think and feel together despite the fact that we are physically distant from each other.”
StFX Student Services will also collaborate with the grant recipients and is excited by the potential to connect the work of the students, says Elizabeth Yeo, Vice President Students.
“We are building community with new students through the summer and will be guiding our new students to engage with and learn about their new community through the different McKenna Center projects,” says Ms. Yeo.
“This fall, we see great opportunity to connect the work with new approaches to programming for students that we will be offering such as new stress reduction/wellness programming, arts/creative programming, and supporting students to engage with the community through online connections which the projects will do so well.”
Ms. Yeo says being able to combine efforts and bring students into the community through these projects will help to make sure that students will be well taken care of and that they’ll have a great experience supported with the opportunities offered by the micro-grant students’ projects.
“We are very grateful to these students for bringing their unique talents and understanding of StFX to build community and serve their fellow students.”
More information on the grant recipients and their projects follow:
Preet Banga Headshot.jpg
Recipient: Preet Banga. Preet Banga of India is taking a psychology degree at StFX. In her first year, she worked as a writing tutor at the Student Success Centre and volunteered with the Nova Scotia Health Authority. This fall, she will join the Xaverian Weekly as the news section editor.
Project: Stories of Hope. “Welcome to the "Stories of Hope," where we share experiences and thoughts around the pandemic, the psychological and emotional stress many of us faced, and how we converted it into hope and opportunity for ourselves and those close to us,” she says. “We highlight the challenges that manifest across different social contexts and the solutions created by local communities to enhance social solidarity. These narratives are motivating and inspirational and show the way to live the new normal. For those still trying to navigate the tough times, this is also a platform to seek advice and connect with the community.” All are invited to share their experiences. “Come, join the ‘Stories of Hope’ to take your message to the world.”
Abby Fraser Headshot.jpg Recipient: Abby Fraser. Abby Fraser, of Cape Breton Island, is entering her second year at StFX, where she is taking a psychology degree. During her first year, she became a part of several campus groups, including the Relay for Life executive committee, Burke House Council, and Theatre Antigonish, while also serving as president of the Nova Scotia Secondary Schools Students’ Association (NSSSA).
Project: StFX Art ConneXions. “These unique circumstances have presented us with an urgent need to find new, innovative, and engaging ways to connect with each other when we cannot do so physically. StFX Art ConneXions is a platform where Xaverians can connect with each other using the arts. StFX Art ConneXions will be collecting submissions of any kind of art from StFX students, staff, or alumni.” Expertise is not a requirement. “Use your art to show how you are dealing with the pandemic and to communicate your thoughts and feelings with other Xaverians who may be feeling isolated. This website will be also be a place where you can view art created by Xaverians all over the world. We are all in this together, and this platform will give us a space to think, feel, and share together as a community. This archive of artistic content created by everyday people during a time of crisis will also serve as a form of documentation of this moment in history.”
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Recipients: Hannah MacDonell, Lauren Sobot, and Grace Moffat. Hannah MacDonell is from Ottawa, Ontario and is in her final year at StFX pursuing a bachelor’s degree with a double major in computer science and the climate and environment program. This summer, she is working as a researcher at Carleton University developing a climate modelling software. Lauren Sobot is a fourth year student pursuing a joint honours degree in biology and psychology. She has been a campus tour guide since first year, and this summer she is working in a microbiology lab at Dalhousie University. Grace Moffatt is a fourth year student pursuing a major in biomedical health sciences and a minor in social determinants of health. She is the president of Enactus StFX and is director of communications and marketing for the Xavierian Leaders at large.
Project: The Xaverian Files. “Are you feeling homesick for StFX? You're not alone. Join your hosts Hannah, Lauren and Grace, who have teamed up to produce The Xaverian Files, a podcast that aims to get you through the ‘StFX withdrawal’ you may be experiencing as a result of COVID-19,” they say. “The podcast will tell stories of melancholy memories, embarrassing recounts, some heartbreak, and lots of laughter. The StFX community is at the centre of the podcast and each episode, we will choose a new theme ranging from meal hall crushes to campus myths and conspiracy theories.” The trio are inviting all to join them every second Tuesday as they embrace the new normal.
Recipient: Gabriel Richards. Gabriel Richards just finished her second year at StFX, studying political science and history. She is currently looking towards investigative journalism as a career path while working for her second year as the features editor for the Xaverian Weekly and the social media coordinator for the Environmental Society At X. While she was looking forward to going on exchange for the 2020-21 academic year, she is now excited to help bring together a Xaverian version of The Quarantine Diaries.
Project: Xaverians in Quarantine. “Here, in this diary, we will showcase how members of the Xaverian community are tackling their lives within the confines of the new realities,” she says. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many obstacles such as isolation, loss of income, and loss of opportunities. It has also brought about growth, triumph, and fight to make change. Many people are trying new things, like cooking or sewing. Others are learning about new problems, or problems that they were previously unaware of and how to deal with them, such as the massive outpouring of support for the Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ movements. And others still are learning about themselves and how to be the people they want to be. Each week, Xaverians in Quarantine will showcase the diary of a community member that shows how they are managing, growing, or thriving in these circumstances. “In a storybook fashion, we will explore the ups and downs and twists and turns of their current life. It will allow us to stay connected and involved in each other's lives, while also staying up-to-date on how the community as a whole is dealing with these new circumstances.” Each week, they will also present recommendations from the Xaverian community about books to read, movies to watch, podcasts to listen to, etc.
Recipient: Sophie Hadley. Sophie Hadley grew up in Guysborough, NS, and is now in her fourth year at StFX pursuing a history degree with a minor in religious studies. She has been active in the campus community, including currently serving as co-president of the History Society, and participating in the Immersion Service Learning trip to Germany and Poland for Holocaust education.
Project: Narratives of the Nish. “Being away from the things that we know and things that feel so familiar to us as Xaverians feels very salient. During trying times, connecting with others and feeling a sense of community is important,” she says. “Narratives of the ‘Nish” will focus on the people. “Small businesses at this time have been struggling particularly badly with the strains that COVID-19 has put on the economy. Now more than ever, it is important for the public to understand how we can best support the businesses we enjoy during this difficult time. I will be interviewing the many small business owners surrounding StFX and seeing what has changed for them since the pandemic has started.” She will feature stories on how businesses have changed due to COVID-19 as well as fun stories about how the businesses got started. “On “Narratives of the ‘Nish,” you will also find stories from fellow Xaverians, and alumni about their time at StFX. My goal is to house as many unique stories and perspectives regarding the town and X as possible, in hopes of creating an archive of this unprecedented time.”
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Recipient: Kennedy Nangle. Originally from Ottawa, ON, Kennedy Nangle is a fourth year StFX student pursuing an honours degree in biology with a concentration in health sciences. A third generation StFX student, she has been active on campus and in the community, including volunteering at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital.
Project: X-Moves: Community Wellness Resource. “As a result of the current pandemic, everyone has experienced immense change, rattling the foundation on which their everyday stands,” she says. “From daily interactions to changes in routine, the old day-to-day is no more. These drastic changes can mean many things, including the unfortunate adverse effects that quarantine life and physical distancing may bring about, like mental health challenges. This is where we come in! X-Moves strives to connect, unite, and inspire members of the Xaverian community to get outside, get active, and counteract these adverse effects that pandemic life can have on one’s mental health and physical well-being.” X-Moves, she says, is an online activity resource providing information through multimedia content such as blog posts, and videos that encourage and inspire physical activity during COVID-19. This community-oriented platform will serve as a resource and encourage community members to give their own multimedia input and experience with all types of physical activity, ranging from gardening to running. X-Moves serves as a community-focused platform for anything activity-based and as a hub for positivity, encouragement, and inspiration, in hopes of combatting the negative effects of pandemic life as we move together, apart, she says.
A unique collection of art works created behind the barbed wire of a German Nazi concentration camp and extermination centre has received support from a group of StFX students.
Earlier this year, 12 StFX students, accompanied by faculty leader and psychology professor Dr. Margo Watt, participated in an Immersion Service Learning experience to Germany and Poland, where among other places, they visited Auschwitz-Birkenau. The Auschwitz Museum possesses among its holdings a unique collection of works created behind the barbed wire of a German Nazi concentration camp, where art took on extraordinary significance.
The students, who had fundraised in advance of the trip, decided they wanted to donate the money to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, specifically the art exhibit and workshop they attended.
“In February, as a part of an Immersion Service Learning trip, we had the chance to travel to Germany and Poland and visit important historic sites relating to WW2 and Nazi concentration camps,” says Tolmie Belyea, one of the students along with Emma Munroe, Gracie Grieve, Sarah Hopper, Sophie Hadley, Cole Curnew, Alice Bruce, Gregg Anderson, Katie MacIntosh, Madison MacInnis, Marissa MacInnis and Emily Henry.
“Following our trip, we decided as a group that the money we had fundraised earlier in the year should be donated rather than used to cover our expenses. After careful consideration, we chose to donate the funds to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum located in Oświęcim, Poland, specifically we requested that our donation be directed to supporting the art exhibit in which we had the opportunity to participate in a workshop.”
Ms. Belyea says the exhibit featured works made secretly and illegally; works made on orders from the SS to exploit prisoners’ talents; works made by prisoner artists for the Lagermuseum that the Germans set up; and works made after the war by former prisoners.
“The workshop was particularly impactful to our group as it demonstrated the reality about life in the camps, illustrated the need for emotional and aesthetic experiences and portrayed the emotions and internal feels of the victims. We felt these works of art truly represented the emotions that accompanied the prisoners every day and are an important document in history.”
Ms. Belyea says learning about World War Two and the Holocaust from reading a textbook, watching videos, or listening to lectures does not compare to learning while walking through various concentration camps. “Seeing the camps right in front of me added a whole new perspective and set of emotions to my understanding of the horrific events. Personally, this experience made the horrors of the Holocaust real and made me question: What possessed ordinary people to commit such evil acts? What would I have done? How can I be more like those who helped?”
Fellow participant Sophie Hadley, who is entering her senior year of a history degree at StFX, says The Centre for Dialogue and Prayer were amazing hosts during their time at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
“They really help you unpack what you have witnessed and make an effort to ensure that your stay is as comfortable as it can be given the proximity to the camp. I think the camp was impactful in a lot of ways. Some parts are in ruins and others have been preserved so as to help people understand what happened there. The Art Workshop we attended seemed like an interesting new way to understand history that I had previously not encountered before. Many of the paintings – some done by people while they were in the camp, and others when they survived the camp – were very informative about the time. Some of the interned people at the camps commissioned by the Nazi officials to create paintings, which I had not known before the workshop.
“I think this way of helping people understand history was different and I would hope more people get to experience a workshop like that, hence our contribution to the workshop.”
Ms. Hadley says they had all paid for the trip in full and as nice as it would have been to get even a small portion of that back through their fundraising efforts (something they initially considered), they discovered throughout their time in Germany and Poland that many of the museums accepted donations to keep up the exhibits and curate new ones. “We felt that as a slightly more unconventional service learning trip, where a bigger part of our trip was learning rather than service, this would be the best way to incorporate the service aspect.”
Ms. Hadley says the experience had a huge impact on her.
“My focus in history is now on European studies and moving forward I would like to continue my research in Holocaust Education and WW2. I feel like the trip not only provided me with a lot of opportunities to grow academically, but also as a person. I made a lot of new friends, and the connections made with even just our tour guides was so amazing.
“My minor is in religion as well so I am fascinated by culture – you can guarantee I will be back to explore the two countries even more.”
Agnieszka Sieradzka, an art historian and curator at The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, wrote Dr. Watt to thank the StFX students for their donation. “We are very grateful for making a donation when the museum is going through a financial crisis caused by the coronavirus. We will use these funds directly to protect original objects and improve storage and presentations of works of art from our collection.”
The Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership at StFX is pleased to introduce an annual funding opportunity for Black and Indigenous students, The Racial Justice Leadership Grants, which are designed to provide students with funding and institutional resources to support projects that include research, organizing and outreach work, or advocacy in activism in the area of racial justice.
The McKenna Centre will annually offer up to six Racial Justice Leadership Grants of $4,500.
“With the introduction of these grants, the McKenna Centre wishes to contribute to wider efforts in our community and at StFX to take much-needed, decisive action in order to combat the continued presence of racism and the ongoing systemic exclusion and disenfranchisement of Black and Indigenous students in Canadian society and in higher education,” says the McKenna Centre team.
In addition to funding specific projects, the grants offer students opportunities to participate in the effort to shape the future of StFX, and provide students with opportunities for disseminating their work and ideas and with platforms for their voices.
This includes providing students with a web-presence for their projects, offering them the opportunity to present their work at events such as the Xaverian Leaders Symposia, the Friel X-Talks, and the annual StFX Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Summit.
The grants will be matched through the Jeannine Deveau Educational Equity Endowment Scholarship Fund at StFX, with strong potential to become a multi-year project. The Deveau Fund is designed to make it easier for Mi’kmaq/Wolastoqiyik and African Nova Scotians to access a university education. Ms. Deveau ’44 gifted $8 million to StFX, and the fund has the potential to grow to $13 million as it is tied to a matching initiative from other sources.
“When presented to (Deveau Fund administrator) Bill Gunn, he was encouraged by the potential outcomes of this project and the impacts it could have on decolonizing some of the policies within the education system,” says StFX Director of Development Wendy Langley.
McKenna Centre officials say the grants will offer students the opportunity to connect and collaborate with a range of projects and organizations at StFX working on equity, diversity, and inclusion.
“By supporting individual projects and by integrating student leaders in university planning efforts and initiatives, the grants aim to provide students with the opportunity to positively shape our university and to assist us in improving it for future generations of Black and Indigenous students.”
The centre welcomes applications by students from all fields and disciplinary backgrounds (undergraduate, graduate, professional, and part-time), and international students.
Grants can be used to fund brand new projects, but they can also be used to further cultivate projects associated with a particular course or program of study, to continue ongoing projects first developed through a different funding opportunity, such as summer research mentorships, to further support honours and advanced major projects.
The centre invites proposals that range from traditional academic research to projects that blend academic work with social engagement in the form of activism, advocacy, or community outreach.
Applicants are encouraged to explore the topic of racial justice broadly by leveraging their disciplinary and academic background as well as the knowledge connected to their own sociocultural background and the complexity and diversity of Black and Indigenous lived experience.
From studying racial bias in medicine and scientific research to examining the effects of the under-representation of Black and Indigenous scholars in the education system, the McKenna Centre team say they are excited to see applicants explore the widest possible range of projects that deploy academic research in unison with social engagement to indicate necessary paths toward racial justice.
Interested students are asked to apply by August 15, by submitting an application package that includes a resume, 1,000-word project description, a one-page time budget that outlines a rough plan for how they will spend the hours the grant funds and two letters of support that speak to the quality of the applicant’s proposal and abilities.
Applications are to be emailed to: email@example.com
The McKenna Advisory Board will adjudicate applications immediately following the deadline and inform the six grant recipients, who can begin their work in September.