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StFX’s Coady Institute to lead $10 million project in support of women’s leadership

Department News - Wed, 2020-03-04 13:34
L-r, Central Nova MP Sean Fraser; Coady Executive Director Gord Cunningham; Eileen Alma, Coady, Director, Women and Indigenous Programming; Senator Mary Coyle; StFX President Dr. Kevin Wamsley; and Anthony Scoggins, Coady Director of Education Programs.

It was a celebration of much good news on the StFX campus March 4 as it was announced StFX’s Coady Institute is leading a collaborative five-year project to strengthen gender equality and women’s leadership opportunities around the world. 

Sean Fraser, Central Nova MP and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, was on campus for a special funding announcement of nearly $10 million from Global Affairs Canada for a project, titled ENGAGE! Women’s Empowerment and Active Citizenship, which will see Coady work with organizations on the ground in communities across five countries, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, and Tanzania, to strengthen individual and organizational capacity while providing tools and opportunities for women to increase their own empowerment. 

The partner’s projects will focus on areas such as leadership development, social enterprise, climate adaptation, leadership and management education and future of work all with the goal of gender equitable change.

Co-designed by Coady Institute and five partner organizations, ENGAGE! will advance gender equality and poverty reduction by enhancing women’s capacity to participate in the social and economic life of their communities.


“This year marks the 60th anniversary of Coady and its position as a global leader in employing education and collaboration to effect positive social changes,” StFX President Dr. Kevin Wamsley said. “This initiative perfectly aligns with the Coady legacy of working directly with communities to better societies, all over the world.”

This is a particularly important announcement for our university, for the Coady, and for people around the world, Dr. Wamsley said. 

“What better organization than Coady, embedded in StFX, to take on this great work,” he said.

“Wouldn’t Moses Coady be smiling today.”

This great gift from the Government of Canada, this $10 million, is going to go so far in transforming the world and helping women empower themselves to make social change in their communities, he noted. 

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to share this news,” Mr. Fraser said as he congratulated Coady on the important work it continues to do, and noted how this project will serve both local and global interests. 


The relationship between the federal government and Coady has been ongoing almost since Coady’s inception 60 years ago, and Mr. Fraser said he is pleased to make this announcement, sharing in the next chapter of the institution.  

What a great day this is for StFX, the Coady, partners and “for the future of the world, frankly, that’s what this is about,” Senator Mary Coyle, who formerly led the Coady as executive director, noted in her remarks. 

This new partnership announced today by the Government of Canada will enable Coady to be a significant accelerator to achieving goals of gender equality, she said. 

“Today we are celebrating the opening of many doors for and by women.” 

“The ENGAGE! project provides a wonderful opportunity for Coady staff to collaborate with our partners in their home countries and communities, sharing and learning about the practice of asset-based development on the ground,” Gord Cunningham, Executive Director, Coady Institute, said. “We will then bring those lessons learned back to the Coady classroom here in Antigonish.”

Eileeen Alma, Director, Women and Indigenous Programming at Coady, and the ceremony’s emcee, noted there is a lot to be excited about. She thanked all those involved, particularly Coady staff, led by Anthony Scoggins, who worked on this project. Two staff members, Brianne Peters and Eric Smith, recently returned from a planning meeting in Ethiopia with partners, introduced the project on behalf of the team. “We are working with women who are going to change the rules of the game,” Ms. Peters noted. 

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The five organizations joining Coady Institute in this initiative are long-standing partners with strong experience in advancing gender equality and community change. They include:

• Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India;

• Organization for Women in Self Employment (WISE) in Ethiopia;

• Gender Training Institute (GTI) of the Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP);

• Christian Commission for Development (CCDB) in Bangladesh; and

• Centre Haïtien du Leadership et de l’Excellence (CLE) in Haiti.

ENGAGE! will apply an asset-based, citizen-led development (ABCD) approach to promote gender-equitable change. This approach ensures that local communities, particularly women, exercise ownership and control over social and economic development initiatives that respond to their realities and priorities.

“Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh is very much excited being part of the ENGAGE project, and at the same time we are hopeful to bring some significant changes in the lives of women through working together with Coady in the next five years,” Imran Kibria, Head, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation with Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh, said.

Partners and their networks will engage a cohort of nearly 1,500 women and their allies in ENGAGE!, including many from marginalized groups such as ethnic minorities and persons living with disabilities. As well, ENGAGE! will reach an estimated 13,810 female and 5,600 male beneficiaries directly, and a further 253,180 beneficiaries indirectly.

The announcement was made as StFX and the community celebrate International Women’s Week, March 8-14.

Internationally-known historian to give 2019-20 Christian Culture Lectures at StFX

Department News - Wed, 2020-03-04 09:26
Dr. Jacqueline deVries

The internationally-known historian, Dr. Jacqueline deVries, of Augsburg University, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, will give the 2019-20 Christian Culture Lectures at StFX. Her lectures will take place in the Schwartz School of Business on Mon. March 9 at 7:30 p.m. in Room 215, and on Tues. March 10 at 7:30 p.m. in Room 215. Her first lecture is entitled "The Evolution of Sex: Science, Religion, and 19th c. Gender Debates;" her second lecture will be on "Religion and Women's Suffrage: A Centenary Perspective."

Dr. deVries specializes in modern European and British social and cultural history. Her research focuses on the history of feminism and the social history of religion. She is the author of Women, Gender and Religious Cultures in Britain, 1800-1940 (co-edited with Sue Morgan, 2010), and is completing a book tentatively titled Women, Religion and Social Change, 1795-present. She has published a number of articles in scholarly journals, such as Feminist Studies and History Compass.

Dr. Rhonda Semple, a faculty member in the StFX Department of History and a member of the Christian Culture Lecture Series Committee, says that Dr. deVries brings an exceptional wealth of scholarship to her historical research and that StFX is privileged to serve as host to a scholar of such remarkable standing in this year’s Christian Culture Lecture Series. “Dr. deVries was in the vanguard of contemporary historians who, beginning in the late 1980s recognized the importance of re-integrating belief into the study of religious and cultural institutions. She has brought the tools of feminism and broader critical cultural approaches to the study of Christianity in the history modern globalizing west.”


StFX’s Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership hosts two-day Energy Transition School 

Department News - Tue, 2020-03-03 15:12

How do we imagine an energy transition?

That was the question participants at a recent Energy Transition School, hosted by StFX’s Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership on Feb. 28-29, 2020, focused on over two days at the multi-session event directed by three scholars, Dr. Jeff Diamanti of the University of Amsterdam; Dr. Imre Szeman, University of Waterloo; and Dr. Jennifer Wenzel, Columbia University. 

Organizers from the McKenna Centre have said the event was quite a success and has made an impact it the community, “as it started the discussion around the possibilities of an energy transition, and created concrete solutions that can be taken on in the community.” 

energy 3 .jpg

The event was attended by StFX students, faculty members and community members who worked collaboratively to find ways of addressing the social, political, economic, and cultural hurdles that stand in the way of substantive energy transition. 

Organizers say the workshops were custom-tailored and offered multiple activities and topics to brainstorm and exchange ideas on how to mobilize an energy transition and imagine a better future. 

The workshops, they say, gave the opportunity to think critically about ideas such as campus divestment, Canadian policy, and increasing energy literacy, all with special attention to Indigenous sovereignty. 

energy 5 .jpg Over the two days, students, faculty, and community members collaborated in working groups on ways to make concrete changes to foster an energy transition. On the second day of the event, the groups presented their ideas on creating ways forward in campus divestment, created a framework for a program that would empower the voices of youth in the climate crisis, and other concrete solutions that could take place in the community.

energy 1 .jpg

energy 4 .jpg On Saturday evening, a Q&A titled, "how we got here... and where do we go from here?" opened the floor to students, faculty, and community members to ask the speakers questions on initiating energy transitions. The public roundtable titled “what comes (after) after oil? imagining energy transition” was a highlight of the event as well. 


StFX human kinetics professor Dr. Sasho MacKenzie consults with LA Dodgers during spring training

Department News - Tue, 2020-03-03 14:48
Dr. Sasho MacKenzie

StFX human kinetics professor Dr. Sasho MacKenzie had a unique opportunity over Reading Week. He travelled to Arizona for Major League Baseball’s spring training—at the request of the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

“The focus of this trip was fitting hitters into the most appropriate bat for them,” says Dr. MacKenzie who has been working with professional and Olympic athletes on their training techniques and biomechanics for the past 15 years. 

In the past six years, he’s focused mainly on the golf industry, but two years ago he started consulting with the LA Dodgers. “I was contacted by their player development department based on my published research and success in the golf industry,” he says. 

While in Arizona, he was with the Dodgers, who play in the National League, on February 18th and 19th, and with the Texas Rangers of the American League on February 20th. 

“The process involves the biomechanics of how the hitter swings the bat, the physics of impact and ball flight and then predicting which bat properties would yield the best in game hitting performance over the course of the season or against a particular pitcher using statistical techniques,” he says. 

Dr. MacKenzie has teamed up with an entity called Baseball Performance Labs and Marucci Sports, the number one bat provider to the MLB. 

“Marucci is able to custom build the bats based on our fitting recommendations. I also consult with the teams’ performance science departments. What’s the best data to collect on players, what’s the best way to collect that data, and how should this information be communicated to hitting coaches and players.”

He says the experience has been a good one. 

“Conducting and publishing scientific research is very enjoyable, but being asked to apply your research and knowledge at the highest level of sport has been particularly satisfying.” 

Taking advantage of life and learning to the fullest

Department News - Tue, 2020-03-03 10:59
Andreina (Andie) Márquez de la Plata Gregor

Ever since she arrived at StFX from her home in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Andreina (Andie) Márquez de la Plata Gregor has hit the ground running. 

“I’m taking advantage of the experience to the fullest. I came to get an education, but also to learn about life too. That’s what I’m doing,” says the third year honours sociology student who is excelling at StFX. 

Academically, she’s in the top five per cent of her program and is an International Scholarship recipient. Outside of class, she’s actively involved at StFX and in the community. 

During her time at StFX, she has worked as a research assistant with modern languages professor Dr. María Soledad Paz-Mackay; has taught in the Spanish lab; tutored Spanish in the community and through StFX’s Continuing Education; volunteered at Antigonish’s Friendship Corner; worked for StFX Conference Services at the StFX University Summer Hotel; and for all three years, has worked as a meal hall supervisor at Sodexo, the campus food provider. 

Recently, Andie, whose future plans include social work, received news she’s a recipient of a Scotia Scholars Award for summer research that will focus on elder care. She will complete the research under the supervision of Dr. Katie Aubrecht, StFX sociology professor and Canada Research Chair Health Equity and Social Justice

Says Andie on her motivation: “I like to keep busy doing things that are fulfilling.”

Her StFX experience has been good, she says. “I really like it. I didn’t know what to expect. Everything has fallen into place, especially this year. A few professors are really looking after me.”

Recently, with input from her professors, she declared her honours in sociology. She will also take a minor in psychology. 

Social work has always been where she’s inclined, but she says that decision was solidified a few years ago when a devastating earthquake hit her home country of Ecuador, destroying two cities. 

“At that moment, I felt so powerless. I really wanted to help, but as a high school student, there is only so much you can do.”

She recalls seeing a lady who did help and thinking, “I want to be this person. That’s my job, helping. That was the final thing that let me know that’s what I want to do.”

From StFX faculty to friends she’s made in the community to her boss, she says everyone has all been so nice. 

“StFX is helping me grow as a person. It’s what I wanted when I came here.”

As for her advice to other students considering StFX: “Take it. Do it.” 

StFX’s Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership to sponsor 10 First Nations women to attend leadership conference

Department News - Fri, 2020-02-28 11:11
StFX's Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership

Ten First Nations women will be attending a leadership conference this May designed to encourage more women to run for municipal and First Nation band elections in eastern Nova Scotia, thanks to support from StFX’s Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership. The Leadership School for Women will be run by Government FOCUS (Female Objectives Cape Breton Unama’ki Strait).

The conference is hosted by the Town of Port Hawkesbury. Organizers there had put out a call to local governments asking if they could help participants with child care and travel costs to help remove barriers to participate. However, organizers were disappointed to find out that Richmond County councillors decided not to support the event.

“Given that championing leadership initiatives for women, and in particular Indigenous women, is a key aspect of our mandate, the Advisory Board of the McKenna Centre quickly took action and unanimously voted in favour of supporting the event. I was able to write to Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton the same day to offer our help,” says Dr. Mathias Nilges, Director of the McKenna Centre and StFX English professor.

Additionally, he says StFX’s Human Kinetics Department is also committing to support conference participants with free play, active and inclusive childcare, and the university’s Extension Department has offered to help with promoting the event.

Latinx Youth Response to the ‘Trump Effect’: Dr. Nilda Flores-González to deliver StFX Jules Léger Lecture Series, hold office hours, workshop

Department News - Thu, 2020-02-27 09:25
Dr. Nilda Flores-González

“Latinx Youth Response to the ‘Trump Effect,’” will be the subject of the StFX Jules Léger Lecture Series to be delivered by Dr. Nilda Flores-González at StFX on Thursday, February 27 at  5 p.m. in Schwartz 152.

Dr. Flores-González is a professor and associate director of the Sociology Program at the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University. Her current research explores the effects of racialization on the ways in which youth understand national belonging.

Professor Flores-González is the author of Citizens but not Americans: Race and Belonging among Latino Millennials (NYU Press, 2017), and School Kids, Street Kids: Identity Development in Latino Students (Teachers College Press 2002), co-editor of Marcha: Latino Chicago in the Immigrant Rights Movement (University of Illinois Press 2010) and co-editor of Immigrant Women Workers in the Neoliberal Era (University of Illinois Press 2013).

While on campus, Dr. Flores-González will have office hours on Friday, February 28 from 10-11 a.m. in Mulroney Hall 4032, and will deliver a workshop on February 28 from 11:30 a.m. 12:30 p.m. in Mulroney Hall 3030 titled, “Latinos as “Real” Americans.” Discussion will focus on a chapter from Dr. Flores González’ book Citizens but not Americans.

Scholars have shown an increase in racial discrimination and hate crimes since Trump’s election— what is dubbed the “Trump effect.” The Pew Research Center found that nearly half of Latinxs report that discrimination based on their ethnicity and/or race has worsened since Trump’s election. Dr. Flores-González will speak on how Latinxs experience and respond to this increasingly hostile climate remains in question.

The lecture series and workshop are sponsored by StFX Jules Léger Fund, the StFX Department of Modern Languages in collaboration with the Human Rights and Equity Office, the Departments of History, Sociology, Political Science and Development Studies, Women and Gender Studies, Public Policy and Governance Programs.

Senior student wins cost of her X-Ring as survey winner

Department News - Wed, 2020-02-26 16:52
StFX Academic Vice-President and Provost Dr. Tim Hynes makes the presentation to senior student Jacqueline Aucoin. 

Jacqueline Aucoin, a senior BSc human kinetics student from Glace Bay, Cape Breton has won the cost of her X-Ring by participating in an annual survey for senior students that gauges student satisfaction and experience.

The survey is administered by the Academic Vice-President and Provost’s office and the Office of Institutional Analysis. It collects data on all aspects of the student experience from academics to extracurriculars from a senior student perspective.

All those who participate are eligible for a prize draw to win the cost of their X-Ring.

Pictured here, StFX Academic Vice-President and Provost Dr. Tim Hynes makes the presentation to Ms. Aucoin. 

StFX community welcomes President Dr. Andrew Hakin during meet-and-greet reception

Department News - Mon, 2020-02-24 14:40
Dr. Andrew Hakin and Linda Hakin (centre) are welcomed to the StFX community during a meet-and-great reception, held Feb. 24 during a visit to campus. Pictured with the Hakins are, l-r, students Mia Landi and Brad Van Dam, StFX Schwartz School of Business faculty and StFXAUT president Dr. Mary Oxner, and alumni John Edem and Father Stanley MacDonald. Dr. Hakin officially begins his tenure as StFX’s 19th President and Vice-Chancellor on July 1, 2020.

StFX’s 19th President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Andrew Hakin and his wife Linda had their first chance to meet members of the StFX community on Feb. 24, while they were visiting campus, during a meet-and-greet reception held in Mulroney Hall, Joyce Family Atrium. Dr. Hakin will officially begin his tenure on July 1, 2020. 

During the event, Dr. Hakin, who was announced as StFX’s incoming President on Feb. 13, spoke about what enticed him to the university. 

“What attracts me to StFX?” he asked, answering his own question, noting StFX’s storied history, how iconic the university is in the country, and the fact that what is said in For The People, Dr. James Cameron’s history of the university, really captures the essence of the university—it is for the people. 

“It’s an institution that gives back and builds community. 

“StFX is a vehicle for social transformation.  One of the best in the country. That is what attracts me to you.”

Never has society needed leaders than it does at this moment in time, he said. Building a better society is not something we do part time. It demands full engagement. 

We want to prepare students for these challenging environments, he said.  

Dr. Hakin spoke about how important StFX’s academic mission is and how important the faculty, knowledge translators and creators, are to help move the institution forward. He spoke about the role of alumni, whose support is crucial, and of the students themselves. 

“The students are the lifeblood of this institution. They are the reason we are here. We are here to support them.

“They are the architects of that social transformation,” he said. 

“I feel incredibly proud to be part of this community of StFX,” he said, noting he is mindful of the commitment he is taking on, and that the challenge is one he will take on wholeheartedly. 

“We will move forward together.” 

StFX Students’ Union president Cecil VanBuskirk offered a welcome on behalf of the student body. 

“I am so glad to know generations of students will benefit from your leadership,” he noted, as he also welcomed a number of people to the podium to present welcoming tokens: a tartan blanket with the StFX crest on behalf of StFX alumni, a StFX tie on behalf of StFXAUT, and StFX sweaters presented on behalf of students. Dr. and Mrs. Hakin were also introduced to Father Stanley MacDonald, one of StFX’s most loyal alumni. 

StFX Academic Vice-President Dr. Tim Hynes, acting on behalf of Interim President Dr. Kevin Wamsley who couldn’t be in attendance, acted as emcee. Dr. Hynes noted that Dr. Hakin will be more formally welcomed to StFX during an installation ceremony this summer, Today is rather a more informal welcome to the StFX family and the StFX community, he said. 

Mary Lou O’Reilly, vice chair of the StFX Board of Governors and a member of the StFX Presidential Search Committee, also welcomed Dr. Hakin and his wife Linda, noting the committee led a thorough and comprehensive process to identify just the right leader, and Dr. Hakin personifies the values of academic excellence and community engagement, values of StFX. 

“We are so glad to have you here,” she said. “We welcome you to our StFX family.” 

Culture of empowerment: StFX student selected for Pathy Foundational Fellowship, will work with X-Project youth

Department News - Wed, 2020-02-19 13:47
Bridget Way-Brackenbury

Bridget Way-Brackenbury, a fourth year StFX human kinetics student from Kingston, ON, has been selected for the 2020-21 cohort of the Pathy Foundation Fellowship. She will work in Antigonish, NS, with X-Project to educate and train a team of Afro-Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaq youth to create physical literacy programming for other youth in their own communities. 

X-Project is a student-run society that offers group educational assistance, recreational opportunities, and youth leadership training for Afro-Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaq youth. Ms. Way-Brackenbury’s project will utilize a youth-centered model and culturally relevant practices already in operation at X-Project with a greater aim to reduce inequities in health and education. 

Her initiative is expected to expand the practices and connections developed by X-Project and support physical and health literacy and leadership with youth in rural Nova Scotian communities. This project has the power to create physical literacy programming that focuses on creating a culture of empowerment and support through youth-adult partnerships, peer relationships, community connections and experiential learning.

The Pathy Foundation Fellowship provides community-focused experiential learning opportunities for graduating students to become active and effective change-makers, bringing new ideas and working closely with communities to foster sustainable and positive social change in Canada and around the world.


Dr. Andrew Hakin appointed 19th President and Vice-Chancellor of StFX University

Department News - Thu, 2020-02-13 14:22
Dr. Andrew Hakin

The Board of Governors of St. Francis Xavier University is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Andrew Hakin as the University’s 19th President and Vice-Chancellor.

Dr. Hakin comes to StFX from the University of Lethbridge where he began as a faculty member in 1989 and has served as Provost and Vice President (Academic) since 2007. During his tenure, Dr. Hakin led the strategy to redefine the University of Lethbridge as a destination university with a strong focus on undergraduate and graduate student experience, leading to important advances in academic programming and significant growth in enrolment, both domestic and international. A champion of diversity and inclusion, he has been recognized for his contributions to education within Indigenous communities.

His selection as President and Vice-Chancellor resulted from a search that was supported by Odgers Berndtson, an internationally-renowned executive search firm.

“StFX’s Board of Governors and the Presidential Search Committee led a thorough and comprehensive process to identify the right leader who exemplifies the values of academic excellence, community engagement and visionary leadership – values that are core to who we are at StFX,” said Mike Boyd, Chair of the Presidential Selection Committee, and of the StFX Board of Governors.

“Dr. Hakin personifies these values, and understands the heritage and close community relationships that continue to make StFX such a strong university. He is a highly experienced and proven leader with an impressive record of improving the student experience, building academic programs and services, and increasing enrolment. Under Andy’s leadership, we will further strengthen StFX’s commitment to academic excellence.”

“I am incredibly honoured to step into this exciting role at one of Canada’s strongest and proudest undergraduate universities,” said Dr. Hakin. “StFX has an exceptional tradition of academic excellence and community partnership, and I’m looking forward to building on these strengths as President and Vice-Chancellor. My wife Linda and I are excited for our move to Antigonish and Canada’s beautiful east coast.”

Dr. Hakin holds a PhD in chemistry from the University of Leicester, in the UK. He has held a number of leadership roles before becoming Provost and Vice-President (Academic), including President of the University of Lethbridge faculty association, Chair of the University’s Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, and Associate Vice-President (Academic.)  He was awarded the University of Lethbridge’s Distinguished Teacher Award in 2000, the Stig Sunnor Memorial Award for research achievement, awarded by the International Calorimetry Conference in 2003, and is a member and graduate of the Royal Society of Chemistry. Dr. Hakin and his wife Linda are the parents of Abbey, an elementary school teacher in Calgary, and Callum, a fourth-year student in the Dhillon School of Business at the University of Lethbridge.

Dr. Hakin joins StFX during a period of tremendous momentum as the university experiences continued growth in student enrolment in each of its core faculties – Arts, Sciences, Business and Education. Most recently, the university celebrated the grand opening of the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government and Mulroney Hall, for which $100 million was raised to develop Canada’s leading undergraduate program in public policy and governance, create unique research opportunities, and introduce state-of-the-art academic facilities for students and faculty. 

Dr. Kevin B. Wamsley will continue serving as Interim President until Dr. Hakin assumes his duties as President and Vice-Chancellor on July 1, 2020. At that time, Dr. Wamsley will resume his role as StFX’s Academic Vice President and Provost.

“Kevin accepted the task of Interim President without hesitation and fulfilled the role tremendously well, advancing a number of important initiatives and garnering many accolades from the StFX community,” said Mr. Boyd.  “I am grateful that he will continue as Interim President until Dr. Hakin begins his tenure, and that going forward he will continue to play a critical role on our senior management team as Academic Vice President and Provost. On behalf of the entire StFX community, I would like to thank Kevin for his leadership this year.”


From visiting Holocaust sites in Europe to a cloud forest community in Ecuador, StFX students poised to commence Immersion Service Learning experiences

Department News - Thu, 2020-02-13 13:23
StFX students Megan Dobbin and Lauren MacQuarrie from last year's Immersion Service Learning trip to Ecuador

A group of StFX students and immersion leaders are poised to commence Immersion Service Learning placements that range from visiting important WWII and Holocaust sites in Europe to working in a cloud forest community in Ecuador.

Twenty eight students will travel over the February Reading Week break to Poland and Germany, Ecuador, and Peru while a further 20 students will travel to Belize, L’Arche Ottawa and Europe in late April or May. 

StFX Service Learning has facilitated immersion experiences for the past 25 years, providing students with opportunities to grow as global citizens. Immersion connects academic theory with real world experience through hands-on learning alongside different cultural communities in national and international locations. 

Fourth year biology student Emma Dwyer will take part in the Peru experience where participants will journey into the Andes to work with Nexos Comunitarios, a non-profit organization working with isolated communities, building human and social capital to achieve sustainable solutions. 

“I am most looking forward to learning about the culture in Peru and the community's history. I am excited to work with the children there and hopefully make fast friends with the community. I am also extremely excited to visit the world heritage site, Machu Picchu.” 

This is Ms. Dwyer’s third Immersion Service Learning trip. She participated in the Belize trip in her second year and the Germany and Poland experience in her third year.

“I am a science student, but I am also very interested in global history, culture and language. Service Learning has given me the opportunity to learn about these things in the real world outside of my degree here at StFX. Even as a science student, I have been able to apply my Immersion Service Learning experiences to many of my classes,” she says. 

“I feel this program has made me a better student and a better global citizen. I believe that it is important to learn about the world and the best way to do it is through immersion learning.”


“As a development studies professor, and someone passionate about equitable and sustainable development, I’m very excited to take StFX students to Ecuador this year,” says StFX development studies professor Dr. Kim Burnett, Immersion leader for the group that will travel to the Ecuadorian cloud forest.  

“Students will get to see firsthand the rich insights and knowledge located within communities in the Global South to advance sustainable and equitable development. Our trip will expose students to many important development projects, including integrated agricultural production systems that rely on local agricultural knowledge and sustainable production methods, the impacts of eco-tourism on rural communities, and to the intricacies of the natural environment in Ecuador’s Cloud Forest, and the importance of biodiversity to thriving ecosystems. 

“I’m most excited for the fact that most of the students who I will be travelling with do not come from development studies. I’m excited to witness their experiences in the Global South, and the things they learn about the complexities of development and the centrality of empowering communities in developing countries to generate social, economic and ecological change. And for the students I’ve worked with from development studies, I feel fortunate to be a part of their own educational growth as they experience the “realities” of development for the first time. I know this experience will be transformative for all the students involved, and for me as well.” 

Additionally, Immersion Service Learning experiences will see students bearing witness to history in Germany and Poland; learning about natural resources and community development in Belize; and in Ottawa, joining a bilingual L’Arche community, sharing daily life and activities with developmentally disabled adults.

Also this May, a group of StFX students will be joined by students from the Maple League schools, to participate in the three credit course “the Holocaust and Now.” Students will spend an immersive two weeks in Germany, Poland and Prague participating in unique immersive learning experiences. 

For more information on Service Learning, please visit the website http://www2.mystfx.ca/service-learning/


Former Canadian Ambassador to the United States to deliver the Allan J. MacEachen Lecture Series at StFX

Department News - Wed, 2020-02-12 16:13
David MacNaughton

David MacNaughton, former Canadian Ambassador to the United States, will deliver the keynote address in this year’s Allan J. MacEachen Annual Lecture Series in Politics at StFX.

Mr. MacNaughton will deliver a talk entitled, “Difficult Choices for Canada in a Chaotic World,” at the event, which takes place Thursday, Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m. at StFX’s Schwartz Auditorium. All are welcome to attend. 

This annual lecture series was established in 1996 through the generous support of friends and associates of the late Hon. Allan J. MacEachen. 

Over the years, speakers at the MacEachen Lecture have included four former Canadian prime ministers, the Rt. Hon. Paul Martin, the Rt. Hon. Joe Clark, the Rt. Hon. John Turner, and the Rt. Hon. Jean Chretien, as well as a number of distinguished academics, politicians, journalists and a justice of the Supreme Court. Past speakers have also included Linden MacIntyre, Preston Manning, the Hon. Bob Rae, the Hon. Frank McKenna, Dalton Camp, Senator Jerry Grafstein, the Hon. Roy Romanow, Dr. Margaret MacMillan, Dr. Jennifer Welsh, the Hon. Flora MacDonald, Senator Lowell Murray, the Hon. Dr. Donald J. Johnston, Allan Gregg and the Rt. Hon. Beverley McLachlin.

David MacNaughton

David MacNaughton was recently appointed President of Palantir Canada. He will head up the Canadian operations of Palantir Technologies, the Silicon Valley-based data integration and analytics software giant. Prior to joining Palantir Canada, Mr. MacNaughton was Canada’s Ambassador to the United States. He presented his credentials to President Barack Obama on March 3, 2016. In the 1980s, Mr. MacNaughton transformed the public affairs industry by building an organization that comprised government relations, public opinion research and public relations. After selling his business in 1989, Mr. MacNaughton became president of Canada’s largest government and public relations firm and subsequently North American president of the world’s largest public relations firm. From 1995 until 2003, Mr. MacNaughton was President of Strathshore Financial and was an advisor to one of Canada’s leading investment banks. Mr. MacNaughton’s public sector experience includes work at both the federal and provincial levels, including as advisor to the Minister at the Departments of Transport, Industry and Foreign Affairs. He was principal secretary to the Premier of Ontario from 2003 to 2005 and the chairman of StrategyCorp from 2005 until his appointment. Active in community affairs, Mr. MacNaughton has served on the boards of the North York General Hospital, the Stratford Festival, the National Ski Academy, TV Ontario, the Toronto French School and the Toronto International Film Festival. 

The importance of healthy living: Sodexo Canada establishes scholarships, bursaries for StFX human nutrition students

Department News - Wed, 2020-02-12 14:14
L-r, Bob Hale, StFX director, Ancillary Services, Sodexo customer service manager Kris Benoit and general manager Tim Hierlihy, Department of Human Nutrition senior lab instructor Brenda Hanlon and dietetic educator Sarah O’Brien.

StFX human nutrition students will have access to new scholarships and bursaries thanks to the generosity of Sodexo Canada. 

Sodexo, the campus food provider at StFX, has established the Sodexo Canada Scholarship, two individual scholarships of $5,000 to be awarded annually, as well as the Kevin Fraser Memorial Bursary, in memory of the late Kevin Fraser, former Sodexo general manager at StFX, which will see five bursaries of $1,000 each presented annually. 

“Sodexo and StFX realize the importance of diet in healthy living and we want to be part of developing students who can help in this goal moving forward,” says Tim Hierlihy, general manager, Sodexo Campus Food Services. 

“Kevin Fraser did a lot for students on the campus and in his community who were less fortunate and we wanted to honour his legacy in creating bursaries for students in financial need to honour his legacy,” he says. 

“Our hope is by taking some of the financial pressure off of students and families, we can enable greater success in university, helping deserving students who want to graduate with their degree and give back to using the skills they have developed,” says Bob Hale, director, Ancillary Service.


Mr. Hierlihy says Sodexo and the Human Nutrition Department have had a relationship for many years, with Sodexo supporting the department either through helping a student to attend the Canadian Association of Food Professionals annual conference, food donations for the lab or working with the department in securing an intern or co-op student. The department also uses My Kitchen in Morrison Hall for sessions on healthy cooking.

Department of Human Nutrition senior lab instructor Brenda Hanlon says the department has always had a reciprocated relationship with the campus food service provider. She says this relationship grew under Mr. Fraser. “Students in the Foodservice course tour all Sodexo facilities on campus, Kevin and Tim have been guest lecturers in the Foodservice class, Chef Mike Pollock has used the food labs for food competitions, and visiting chefs have been guest lecturers for the HNU Seminar Series.” 

She says both she and retired human nutrition faculty member Fran Haley have sat on Foodservice advisory groups and Ms. Hanlon has judged food competitions at meal hall, and student service learning projects have included consumer satisfaction surveys and waste audits. As well, Ms. Haley, Ms. Hanlon and Mr. Fraser were all members of the Canadian Association of Foodservice Professional (CAFP)-Northumberland Branch, providing mentorship to the StFX student CAFP branch. 

Sodexo regularly hosts interns from the Integrated Dietetic Internship (IDI) Program for food service management practicum experiences, and is very supportive of the IDI sport dietetic interns working with StFX athletes on campus, says Laura Reid, dietetic educator, Human Nutrition Department. 


The Sodexo Canada Scholarship will include one $5,000 non-renewable entrance scholarship presented annually to the top-ranked incoming first year student in the Human Nutrition Department, and one $5,000 non-renewable scholarship to a third or fourth year human nutrition student from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick or Prince Edward Island who shows professional and academic promise and a commitment and interest in working in the food service industry.

The Kevin Fraser Memorial Bursary, established in memory of the late Kevin Fraser, who loved his time at StFX and contributed behind the scenes to many students’ success, will be awarded annually to any first or second year student from Nova Scotia enrolled full-time in the Human Nutrition Department. Five bursaries of $1,000 each will be presented each year. The award is based upon financial need.

StFX Athletics honours 91 U SPORTS Academic All-Canadians

Department News - Mon, 2020-02-10 14:54

The StFX Department of Athletics honoured its 2018-19 U SPORTS Academic All-Canadians Feb. 10th, at their annual celebratory breakfast. This year, there were 91 Academic All-Canadians, those student-athletes who have achieved an 80 per cent average or above while consuming a year of eligibility competing for a varsity team. The number was the second highest ever. Last year’s 96 is the all-time high. 

“This celebration of excellence in the classroom is a major highlight of our year,” comments StFX Director of Athletics & Recreation Leo MacPherson. “The opportunity to celebrate the synergies between academics and athletics is important to all of us. The ongoing support provided by our senior administration and our faculty members was also acknowledged and very much appreciated.” 

Out of the possible 275 eligible student-athletes who consumed U SPORTS eligibility by participating on a varsity team at StFX during the 2018-19 season, 33 per cent achieved Academic All-Canadian status, including 39 male and 52 female student-athletes. The X-Women soccer team had the highest percentage of any StFX team with 58 per cent of their team members earning the distinction. 

There were 34 first-time Academic All-Canadians, 31 student-athletes who received the honour for the second time in their career, and 14 who were three-time Academic All-Canadians. Nine student-athletes earned the distinction of being a U SPORTS Academic All-Canadians for four years, while an impressive three student-athletes were five-time Academic All-Canadians, including Elise Brennan, Chloe Brennan and Liam Elbourne – all soccer athletes. In addition, Elbourne was honoured as one of eight elite national U SPORTS Top 8 Academic All-Canadians, receiving commendation from the General Governor of Canada earlier this year.

The Athletic Director’s awards for academic achievement, presented to the top StFX male and female academic student-athletes, were Amy Graham from the X-Women hockey team who received the award for the second consecutive year, along with Liam Elbourne, a three-time winner. 

The 2018-19 Academic All-Canadians were honoured at a celebratory breakfast at the McKenna Centre where they received a certificate from U SPORTS along with a gift from the Department of Athletics. All student-athletes were encouraged to invite a faculty member to accompany them to the breakfast. The breakfast bookended StFX Athletics annual Faculty Appreciation Week.

The complete list of 2018-19 StFX Academic All-Canadians is as follows:

Michael Adetola, Football                  Joanna Alphonso, Rugby 

Mackenzie Bell, Rugby                      Dylan Bell, Football   

Melanie Belong, Soccer                     Alison Blanchard, Rugby 

Emma Boudreau, Track & Field         Erin Brennan, Track & Field              

Chloe Brennan, Soccer                      Elise Brennan, Soccer   

Sarah Bruce, Soccer                          Carly Burrows, Hockey 

Tane Caubo, Soccer                           Santino Centorame, Hockey 

Paige Chisholm, Cross Country         Josie Chisholm, Hockey

Benoit Cormier, Football                     Lane Cormier, Hockey

Olivia Crewe, Track & Field                Marcus Cuomo, Hockey

Olivia Czipf, Soccer                            Olivia DeMerchant, Rugby

Aidan Doherty, Cross Country            Liam Elbourne, Soccer

Hannah Ellis, Rugby                           Kelsey Ellis, Soccer

Jeremy Fagnan, Football                    Isaac Fagnan, Football

Allie Flower, Track & Field                  Megan Frost, Soccer

Claudia Fulton, Rugby                        Sam Gan, Football

Alley Goodreau, Hockey                     Brianna Gottschall, Basketball

Megan Graham, Track & Field            Amy Graham, Hockey            

Alexandra Hamilton, Rugby                Liam Harrigan, Soccer

Rachel Hawkins, Soccer                     Joshua Henderson, Curling

Jane Hergett, Cross Country              Ben Herringer, Soccer

A.J. Hewish, Soccer                           Sarah Hoerig, Rugby 

Aaron Hoyles, Hockey                        Liam Hyland, Football

Matt Jemmett, Football                       Zoe Johnston, Cross Country

Jack Kennedy, Soccer                        Catherine Kennedy, Soccer    

Adrian Kinney, Track & Field               Emma Kuzmyk, Soccer

Justin Laforest, Hockey                      Taylor Leger, Track & Field

Lauren Liem, Cross Country               Emma Logan, Curling

Travis Loov, Football                           Cole MacDonald, Hockey

Lauren MacFadyen, Curling                Katie MacIntosh, Basketball   

Paul MacLellan, Cross Country          Patrick Marlow, Cross Country

Hana Marmura, Cross Country          Jamie McCarron, Basketball   

Therese McCurdy, Curling                 Cassidy McEwan, Hockey

Mac Murray, Soccer                           Matt Needham, Hockey

Alex Neuffer, Cross Country              Brooke Noseworthy, Hockey

Patrick O’Brien, Curling                     Jordan Rao, Soccer

Angus Rawling, Cross Country          Ashley Robson, Cross Country

Amy Rowe, Soccer                             Paytan Ruiz, Soccer

Lydia Schurman, Hockey                   Emily Sinclair, Rugby

Sam Studnicka, Hockey                     Madison Suart, Rugby            

Catherine Thompson, Cross Country  Patti-Anne Tracey, Hockey    

Mark Tremaine, Hockey                      Chloe Walker, Track & Field 

Katie Walsh, Soccer                            Carleigh Walters, Rugby        

William Warren, Soccer                       Bailey Wasdal, Football                     

Jamie White, Basketball                      Larissa White, Soccer             

Alex Yakimenko, Football              

StFX students attend, present at Canadian Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics

Department News - Mon, 2020-02-03 13:50
L-r, Claire MacDougall and Catherine Boisvert

For two third year honours StFX physics students, attending the Canadian Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics held in Toronto in January was a terrific learning opportunity. 

“Attending the conference was a very inspiring experience. It was amazing for us to see so many successful female scientists represented and meet female undergraduate colleagues,” say Claire MacDougall, an honours physics student from Halifax, NS, and chair of the Canadian Association of Physicists Student Advisory Council, and Catherine Boisvert a joint physics and math honours student from Montreal, QC, who is also president of the StFX Physics Society. 

“We learned about the issues facing women, minorities and the LGBTQ+ community in this male dominated field, which will be extremely useful for both of us in our work with student advocacy. We also were exposed to career options outside of academia, which is not often something we learn about.”

Ms. MacDougall also presented her research, “Determination of Radiative Efficiency and Global Warming Potential of Several HFC’s and HFE’s” at the conference held at the University of Toronto. 

The duo say they are the only two female students in their program, and that Physics Department chair Dr. Peter Marzlin and the rest of the physics faculty encouraged them to attend this national conference and provided them with the funding and support they needed to attend. 

“The conference was a very supportive environment and validated some of our negative experiences as female students but more importantly shed light on the strengths and perspectives we bring as women to the field of physics,” they said. 

StFX Service Learning welcomes partner from Peru to campus

Department News - Fri, 2020-01-31 13:14
Pictured, l-r, with visiting partner Maricarmen Valdivieso (second left) are several members of the StFX Immersion Service Learning trip to Peru: Emma Dwyer, Maricarmen Valdivieso, Dr. Denton Anthony, Hannah Bance, Erica Robertson, Alex Daly, Priscillah Panchol, Jade Farao, and Kennedy Armstrong.

StFX’s Service Learning Program recently welcomed one of its partners to campus, Maricarmen Valdivieso. the founder and director of Nexos Comunitarios in Pero, who was visiting with university partners in Canada and the U.S. 

While at StFX, she met with Immersion Service Learning staff, toured campus and had an opportunity to meet with past program participants as well as the StFX group that will be travelling to Peru in two weeks.

StFX Gerald Schwartz School of Business faculty member Dr. Denton Anthony will lead the StFX immersion trip to Peru over the university’s reading week. The group will travel to Cuncani, a remote community in the Andes, to work on a project called “Kick Off.” Playing, learning and growing is the goal of this initiative, which seeks to improve rural education, generating cognitive and non-cognitive skills through football. 

“Building relationships is important for the success of Immersion Service Learning programs and their partner projects. We were pleased to host Maricarmen at StFX, and to discuss the wonderful projects that NEXOS are working and developing on the ground. StFX students have a rare opportunity with this organization, to visit an amazing community and learn about a very different way of life,” says Jodi van Dompseler, Program Assistant with StFX Immersion Service Learning.

Nexos Comunitarios is a Peruvian non-profit civil association, formed by a group of citizens and professionals committed to reducing poverty in isolated communities within Peru, and to promoting a better understanding and respect between different societies and cultures nationally and internationally. Their focus is on sustainable development and implementing community projects related to nutrition, food security, hygiene and elementary education.  

Their programs are not volunteer programs. They are learning and service programs that seek to make participants aware of the power they have: to be a link between the community and the rest of the world. Students learn about international development, service, interculturality and addressing poverty.

StFX Immersion Service Learning has partnered with Nexos since 2015.

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

Department News - Tue, 2020-01-28 11:15
Typical marine biodiversity in Nova Scotia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

StFX students mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day with education, conversation

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

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

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

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

Holocaust education 3 .jpg

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

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

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

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


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

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

Holocaust education 1 .jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


The keynote addresses are scheduled to take place:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Donna Strickland

Donna Strickland-MyStFX.jpg

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

Dr. Renee Horton

Renee Horton-MyStFX.jpg

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

Dr. Allan MacDonald

Allan MacDonald-MyStFX.jpg

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

Dr. Jesse Maassen

Jesse Maasen-MyStFX.jpg

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


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