Getting to Know You: The StFX Chemistry Department

This article, written by StFXAUT Communications Officer Philip Girvan, originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2017 edition of The Beacon.

Small classroom sizes, individual opportunities like small and private lab spaces, and close, personalized instruction are among the benefits that the StFX Department of Chemistry have provided third year honours student Oliver Kuehm. Kuehm extolled the benefits of what The Beacon assured him was a fairly rare occurrence, “With the profs coming to you …you get to learn from a first-hand perspective what they’re doing. You have a lot more knowledge before you go into a circumstance”.

Kuehm eventually accepted an invitation to work on a research project led by Assistant Professor Dr. Geniece Hallett-Tapley that is investigating light-induced reactions. Dr. Hallett-Tapley explained the research to me as “using light to promote reactions. Find[ing] things that are more environmentally friendly and kind of playing on the solar energy boom with the ultimate goal of using visible sunlight to promote these types of reactions. It’s what we call photo-catalytic green chemistry”.

This is just one example of the interesting research projects being undertaken by the small but vibrant department. Over the last year, Dr. Shah Razul has been working on ways to better improve the preservation and freezing of lobster. The News recently profiled this work. According to Dr. Razul, lobster is the first step, and that once it is demonstrated, his “cryoprotectant formulation is better than anything else out there, then you can go to anybody…and, of course, once you have success with one system, you can extend it to other systems: there’s scallops, there’s crabs, there’s fish…ice cream. There’s no shortage of things”. (more…)

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Alumni Shout-out: Alexis MacDonald

This interview, conducted by StFXAUT President Mary Oxner, originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2017 edition of The Beacon.

The Beacon regularly features interviews with StFX University Alumni on the topic of their relationships with StFXAUT Members who challenged, inspired, or helped in some way. This issue’s interview is with Alexis MacDonald (Psychology ’99 with First Class Honours).

The Beacon: During your time at X was there any particular Professor, Librarian, Lab Instructor, Coady Program Staff Member, Nurse Educator, Extension Program Staff Member, or Learning Skills Instructor that helped you, inspired you, or was a mentor to you?

Alexis: There are several StFX Professors and staff who had a major influence on my life decisions – I couldn’t narrow it down to one: (more…)

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Key Dates

Some of the upcoming deadlines in the Fourth Collective Agreement include:


April 1st:
• Requests for a twelve month extension to probationary period for those on pregnancy, adoptive, parental or sick leave for a period of at least 25 consecutive weeks. (Article 4.4 Conditions of Employment:1.0)

April 10th:
• Recipients of the Outstanding Teaching Awards to be notified. (Article 2.7.1 University Research/Publication/Teaching Awards:4.8.1)

April 15th:
• Applications for URPTA, based on research or publication, made to the appropriate Dean, at the Faculty Members’ initiative due. (Article 2.7.1 University Research/Publication/Teaching Awards:3.1)

April 20th:
• The Outstanding Teaching Awards Committee shall notify, in writing, the Deans of Faculty of its selections. (Article 2.7.1 University Research/Publication/Teaching Awards:4.9)


May 15th:
• Submission to the University Librarian by each Librarian of a copy of an Annual Report of professional activities. (Article 3.3 Annual Report:1.0)

• Deadline for performance evaluation of Lab Instructors (unless contract termination date is prior to May 15th. (Article 4.6 Performance Evaluation:2.0)

May 31st:
• The Chair /Coordinator informs each Faculty member in his/her department/IDP in writing of the Faculty Member’s teaching assignment for the forthcoming Academic year. (Article 2.0.2 Chairs of Departments, Coordinators of Interdisciplinary Programs and Assistant Director, School of Nursing:2.3 b)

• Faculty Members who qualified for a sabbatical leave but the leave is not granted are required to send a letter to the Chair, appropriate Dean, and Chair of the University Council for Research (UCR) indicating revisions or updates to the sabbatical plan or withdrawal of the sabbatical application. (Article 2.4.1 Sabbatical Leave:3.2)


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Antigonish Emergency Fuel Fund (AEFF) Society

This article, written by StFXAUT Communications Officer Philip Girvan, appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of The Beacon.

The Antigonish Emergency Fuel Fund (AEFF) offers emergency financial support to individuals and households living on low incomes that are unable to pay the full cost of heating their homes during the winter season. As its name implies, the AEFF is a response to situations where people living on low incomes in the Town and County of Antigonish face an imminent threat of losing heat. This could include receiving a disconnection notice from the electric utility or running out of heating oil or wood. Applications are made through the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre.

Left to right: Dr. Mary Oxner, StFXAUT President and Dr. Clare Fawcett, StFXAUT Secretary, present a cheque for $1,800 to Mr. Mike MacDonald, Chair of the Antigonish Emergency Fuel Fund (AEFF) photo credit: Susan MacKay

Growing concern around the issue of Heat Poverty led to the organization of a community-based Heat Poverty Initiative in Antigonish in September 2008. A committee was formed and the AEFF was launched on January 5, 2009. AEFF clientele are among the Town and County of Antigonish’s poorest households. Approximately 400 households, representing 1300 people in Antigonish Town & County, report an annual income of less than $15,000. Half of the people are children. Last winter, the AEFF was able to assist 75 households.

An $1,800 contribution from the StFXAUT to the AEFF was used to pre-order six loads of wood ($300/load) for households seeking help with firewood. The timely donation of these funds ensured that the wood was removed from the woods before snow-fall and was dry when delivered.

Mike MacDonald, AEFF President communicated to The Beacon that the AEFF “welcomes the StFXAUT as a major sponsor, joining the Town, County, Sisters of St. Martha, and the East Coast Credit Union”.

To learn more about the AEFF, including how to donate, please call Mike MacDonald at (902) 863-8737. To apply for help, please call (902) 863-6221.

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October 20-21, 2017 CAUT Contract Academic Staff Conference, Toronto, ON

This article, written by StFXAUT Member Deidre M. Smythe, Part-Time Academic Instructor, Sociology Department, appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of The Beacon.

There’s an old saying that goes roughly: “it costs money to be cheap”. It is the idea that paying a fair price for a good quality item that lasts for years makes sound economic sense. Investment in cheap goods will likely cost you more money in the long run. I heard it forty years ago from a tough old iron worker who hailed from Nova Scotia – he was a raising gang foreman on the CN Tower Antenna Project in 1974. To me, this pithy epithet aptly describes the current predicament of Part-Time Academic Faculty in academic settings world-wide. The economic model upon which present-day universities are managed has been extrapolated from the business world. Universities are now run like businesses – regrettably, I had a student who recently submitted a written assignment that began with the statement: “Universities ARE businesses!”.

It is quite rare these days to find a university president with a traditional academic background – this used to be the norm. More and more administrative positions in universities are being created with bloated wages that situate them high on the Sunshine List. This is drawn from the current practice in the business world of giving inflated salaries to executives and the CEOs of companies. One of the ways universities can afford to pay these administrators is through hiring more and more poorly paid, Part-Time Teaching Staff, creating a situation where precarious work in universities has become the norm, and an acknowledged crisis. The strategy began in the mid-1970s and has been getting progressively worse ever since (Rajagopal and Farr 269). Nathan R. Elliott, a Professor and Chair of the English Department at Memorial University (Grenfell Campus), NL, has written an opinion piece in The Independent on the costs of exploiting Contract Academic Faculty. He argues that ‘a workplace is as strong as it treats its most vulnerable employees’. Universities are more and more dependent on Contract Faculty to function economically, yet in many cases they are treated as if they are invisible by administrators and put in icy competition with tenured faculty. Ironically, I believe the commodification of Contract Academic Faculty represents an addiction that will ultimately cost universities more money – it’s become a failed economic strategy. In other words, it costs money to be cheap. (more…)

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Food for Thought: A Profile of Riley Chisholm

This article, written by StFXAUT Communications Officer Philip Girvan, appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of The Beacon.

Shortly after completing PhD studies at York University, Dr. Riley Chisholm joined StFX University’s Department of Sociology. A desire to be in a coastal, rural setting was part of what prompted Dr. Chisholm to seek a position at StFX. Upon arriving in Antigonish for a job interview, Dr. Chisholm said that, “I immediately fell in love with it. I loved my job interview if that’s possible for me to say that. I have always been drawn to coastal communities”.

StFX has been a positive experience professionally. Chisholm emphasized that, “I have been surrounded by people whom I’ve come to admire and respect for many, many reasons. I have been encouraged here. The department itself, I would like to suggest, is among the most friendly and supportive that I’ve ever encountered”.

Chisholm told The Beacon that shortly after arriving in Antigonish in 2008, “I began raising goats and sheep, chickens and wanted really to pursue an understanding of so many of the people that live here. How they gathered their enthusiasm for farming and food production”. Chisholm described Antigonish as, “such a bright light: if you look across Canada where things are happening, rural communities are not necessarily as vibrant as Antigonish is as far as the local food movement and people working in the area of the environment and climate”.


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2017 Antigonight: Art After Dark Festival

This article, written by StFXAUT Communications Officer Philip Girvan, appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of The Beacon.

The eighth annual Antigonight: Art After Dark Festival took place between September 1 and 16, 2017. The Beacon spoke to ceramist and sculptor Fenn Martin: a co-founder of the festival and the 2017 artistic director. Until taking a position last fall with NSCAD University, Fenn Martin worked part-time as an Instructor with the StFX Art Department.

Martin described the festival’s relationship with the StFXAUT. Members of the StFX Art Department Faculty were essential to the festival getting off the ground. Faculty representatives, some of whom served on the board of directors of Antigonish Culture Alive (formerly GAPACC — Guysborough Antigonish Pictou Arts and Culture Council), were among those who identified the need for Antigonish to have an open, accessible nighttime art festival. Antigonight: Art After Dark was launched and it continues to grow.

In addition to helping to create the festival, StFXAUT members have been integral to its ongoing success. Art Department personnel have led projects. Music Department Faculty have performed at a number of festivals. Education Department Faculty and students have demonstrated projects. A 2012 project “One Giant Leap for Art” was a collaboration between the Physics Department and the Art Department, Librarians, Writing Centre staff, and StFX students have been featured as artists.

Julia Walker, Laura Stinson, and Noella Murphy’s project “Shear Ingenuity, A Road Less Gravelled”
photo credit: Philip Girvan

The collaboration continued throughout this year’s festival: Pamela Johnson, Program Teaching Staff with the Coady International Institute’s International Centre for Women’s Leadership, exhibited “Take(n) Space” a multimedia installation at the People’s Place Library on Friday, September 8. Abena Amoako-Tuffour, the International Student Engagement Coordinator with the StFX Department of Internationalization, read selections from her upcoming book, The Way We Hold On, at the Waffle Bus Stop on Saturday, September 16. “Print Prospects”, which featured the work of various Faculty Members, took place that evening in the StFX Art Department’s printmaking and painting studios. “One Minute Memories”, the Antigonish County Adult Learning Association’s video installation took place on the StFX Art Gallery Lawn. (more…)

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StFX World University Service of Canada (WUSC) Society

This article, written by StFXAUT Communications Officer Philip Girvan, appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of The Beacon.

Dr. Mary Oxner, StFXAUT President, presents a cheque for $4,573 to WUSC Society members (left to right):
Jordan MacDonald, Farhiyo Salah, and Izaak MacMullin
photo credit: Susan MacKay

The World University Service of Canada (WUSC) is, according to their website, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing education, employment, and empowerment opportunities for youth around the world”. WUSC has local committees across Canada including the StFX WUSC Society.

The StFX WUSC Society’s Facebook page explains that:

[t]he Student Refugee Program is a sponsorship program through which support is given to a student registered by the United Nations as a refugee to pursue post-secondary studies in Canada. For twelve consecutive years, StFX has admitted one student each year to the sponsorship program. The students that have been welcomed to StFX represent displacement due to civil war, persecution and genocide in regions such as Sudan, Rwanda, the DRC, and Ethiopia.

One of the WUSC priorities identified on their website is “[e]nsuring that youth have access to quality education”. This past fall the StFXAUT contributed $4,573 to the StFX WUSC Society to assist with this goal. StFXAUT funds will cover a second year refugee student’s meal plan fees. The Beacon had the opportunity last fall to speak with StFX WUSC Society President Isaak MacMullin and Vice President Jordan MacDonald to learn more about the committee and the work that they do on campus. (more…)

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Unionversity: CUPE Local 1636

This article, written by StFXAUT Communications Officer Philip Girvan, appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of The Beacon.

Over the next several issues The Beacon will highlight work performed and challenges faced by the non-academic Unions working at StFX University. This article profiles CUPE Local 1636. CUPE Local 1636 represents StFX Safety and Security Services employees (currently 12 full-time employees and 4 casuals). Last Fall The Beacon met with former CUPE Local 1636 President John Gormley and former Vice-President Dane Hiltz. Both Gormley and Hiltz were quick to emphasize that their “biggest issue is, and always has been, just the amount of time it takes to get things settled”.

For some time they have been trying to engage university Administration concerning risk assessment. “We asked the University what they consider our role to be for the University and they don’t know. They can’t give us a defined explanation of what specifically our exact role is here,” said Hiltz. This indecisiveness surrounding what Gormley termed as “procedures for our responses for certain situations” impacts the safety of Safety and Security Services personnel.

Gormley and Hiltz emphasized that: “We want to do it together. We’re discussing it. We don’t want to be more or less told what we require. We want the risk assessment to determine what it is. So we don’t want to push for something we don’t need, but also we don’t want to not have what we need”. (more…)

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Alumna Shout-out: Rita Campbell

This interview, conducted by StFXAUT President Mary Oxner, appears in the Winter 2018 edition of The Beacon.

The Beacon regularly features interviews with StFX University Alumni on the topic of their relationships with StFXAUT Members who challenged, inspired, or helped in some way. This issue’s interview is with Rita Campbell (BSc, Math Honours, ‘78).

The Beacon: During your time at X was there a particular Professor, Librarian, Lab Instructor, Coady Program Staff Member, Nurse Educator, Extension Program Staff Member, or Learning Skills Instructor that helped you, inspired you, or was a mentor to you?

Rita: This is one of the most difficult questions to answer because there are so many people that I could list. There are awesome people at StFX. I know that sounds trite. If I have to pick … my librarian colleagues.

The Beacon: You retired in 2016. What is something that has strikingly changed since your retirement? Is there anything that has hardly changed at all?

Rita: StFX has changed drastically in the past 35 years. Much of the campus itself has improved. Sadly, I feel something has been lost over the years: a comradery and sense of common purpose between the Administration and rest of campus. There is so much stress now. The last few years I worked in the library were extremely stressful.  (more…)

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