Research

Saint Mary’s collaboration with Innu Nation seen in documentary film screening

The rain could not keep a full house away from Halifax Central Library’s Paul O'Regan Hall on Nov. 3, 2018. Saint Mary’s faculty, Innu Nation, and members of the local community came to hear the story of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Innu Nation. The documentary screening of “Nakatuenita: Respect,” was co-produced by Richard Nuna, Innu Nation, and Dr. Trudy Sable, Community Conservation Research Network - Saint Mary's University and directed by filmmaker Kent Martin. 

The evening began with a traditional Mi’kmaw prayer by Mi’kmaw elder Thomas Christmas and Mi’Kmaw song to welcome participants onto traditional Mi’kmaq territory. Innu Nation’s Grand Chief, Gregory Rich, Dr. Trudy Sable, Saint Mary’s Community Engaged Research Facilitator and Saint Mary’s Vice-President, Dr. Malcolm Butler also welcomed the crowd.

Throughout the screening you could hear engaged asides between front-row members of the crowd.. The film – which ended in a standing ovation – tells the story of Ntesinan, a once peaceful territory where Innu families lived in tents, hunted for survival, and learned “Nutshimit” (country) skills and the fragile relationship between humans and animals from their elders. Their culture is one of respect – respect for the land, plants, animals and each other.

Although the memories of the past remain strong, the Innu now adapt to cultural and spiritual disruption. In the mid 20th century, they were forced to settle into communities by the governments and the church.  A significant part of their territory (later flooded by The Churchill Falls Hydro Project) changed the great falls known to the Innu as “Mista Shipu” forever.

“This film is a very powerful and moving testament to the impact that resettlement, development and climate change has had on Indigenous culture and communities,” said Dr. Butler.

Successful in taking control of their schools in 2009 and income support two years ago, the Innu look to the future of their land, social services, schools and government.

“Their resilience has amazed me in the face of so many forces that have tried to undermine who they are as a people, deeply and spiritually connected to their lands and to the animals. We have much to learn about how to truly work together in collaboration and mutual benefit,” said Dr. Sable.

In the meantime, the answer for Grand Chief Gregory Rich is clear.

“The film is a message of the struggle today for the Innu people. Our connection is to the lands, to the animals, and it has been our culture for many, many years. I know we can not go back to how it was before, but to be part of the land and the animals is the answer to our struggles, Ntesinan,” said Grand Chief Rich.

We’re all in this together: Collaborating on social studies education

More than 300 social studies teachers took part in “Calling All Citizens”, their annual provincial conference hosted October 26 for a fourth year at Saint Mary’s University. 

“I think we would all agree that social studies education is more important now than ever,” said Maureen McNamara, a Cape Breton teacher and president of the Nova Scotia Social Studies Teachers Association (SSTA). “We must continue to help our students not just to understand our rapidly changing world but their role as citizens. In doing so, we must create safe spaces for discussion and debate, not argument and polarization.”

The event included a trade exhibition, 30 workshops – including 10 led by Saint Mary’s professors and staff – an AGM and several off-site sessions at locations such as the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and the Millbrook Cultural and Heritage Centre. The day began with a spirited keynote on fostering ‘civic competence’ and community service in Canadian schools, by Dr. Alan Sears, Professor of Social Studies Education at the University of New Brunswick.

Dr. Margaret MacDonald, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, welcomed the teachers to campus and highlighted the sessions led by Saint Mary’s professors and staff: “We're talking about Mi'kmaq music and art, human resilience in the face of mental health challenges, competencies related to intercultural learning, strategies for accommodating racial and religious differences, field schools in The Gambia, and even sessions off-campus such as the hands-on archaeology at Grand Pré National Historic Site,” she said.

Nova Scotia teachers, museums and educational organizations lead the other workshops.  

“Together, this roster offers teachers of all grades a rich professional learning day that can only benefit our students in the end,” said Wendy Driscoll, conference co-chair. “The SSTA is proud of our partnership with Saint Mary's University because it brings together teachers and professors for the common purpose of student achievement.”

These connections are a highlight of the annual event for Joe Bellefontaine. The Grade 9 teacher at Riverview High in Sydney has also taught with the Chignecto and Annapolis Valley school boards, and has a SMU Bachelor of Arts degree in geography and geology.

“People in universities are leaders in their field, so it's great to see their ideas and what they’re working on,” he said. “They have access to different resources, and they're really willing to talk to teachers and to make those connections with public school systems.”


For more highlights, see
@NSSSTA on Twitter and the conference agenda

Saint Mary’s rises up the rankings in Canadian Research Universities report

 Saint Mary’s professor Dr. Christa Brosseau, Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Chemistry & Materials works in the lab with Ph.D. student Najwan Albarghouthi.

Saint Mary’s professor Dr. Christa Brosseau, Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Chemistry & Materials works in the lab with Ph.D. student Najwan Albarghouthi.

Saint Mary’s University is rising up the research rankings, according to Canada’s Top 50 Research Universities 2018. In 2018, Saint Mary’s is Nova Scotia’s second largest research university by research income and one of eight universities driving significant increases in research and research funding in Atlantic Canada.

“Saint Mary’s University is home to innovative research that impacts not only our institution but contributes to addressing problems of global importance,” said Dr. Malcolm Butler, Vice-President, Academic and Research.

Saint Mary’s learning-centred environment places a high value on the process of research and innovation, as students, as professors, as researchers, ensuring that the university is not simply transferring knowledge but creating it. The university hosts nine Canada Research Chairs ranging from astronomy to international finance, contributing to this knowledge transfer and creation. Saint Mary’s receives over $8 million annually from outside funding sources including the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC), Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), and Canada Research Chairs. 

“Fiscal 2017 was a very strong year for Atlantic universities,” said Ron Freedman, CEO of Research Infosource Inc.  “Five universities – a mix of large and small – performed very well, with research income growth well in excess of the national average.”

Total Atlantic university research income in Fiscal 2017 rose to $357.5 million from $311.7 million in Fiscal 2016.  Nationally, combined research income of Canada’s Top 50 Research Universities jumped by 6.8% to $7.33 billion in Fiscal 2017 from $6.87 billion in Fiscal 2016 - the most substantial gain in a decade. 

Canada’s Top 50 Research Universities List 2018 ranks full-service universities based on their total sponsored research income. To obtain a more balanced picture of how universities are performing, the Research Universities of the Year (RUY) rankings take into account key measures of research success.

To learn more about the Research Universities of the Year (RUY) report, click here.

Saint Mary’s to offer archaeology field school in Cuba to the general public

What began as the archaeological opportunity of a lifetime for students, is now being offered to the general public.

Saint Mary’s University is looking for twelve people with a keen interest in archaeology to participate in excavating historical artifacts at Angerona, a Cuban national historic site and former slave plantation, 80 kilometres west of Havana.

“This expedition builds on the great research partnership we have established over the past two years with Havana’s Cabinet of Archaeology and the College of San Geronimo,” said Aaron Taylor, an alumnus of Saint Mary’s and the program’s instructor. “Sharing this opportunity with people who want to take part but aren’t current students is a big part of this. This field school offers the opportunity for community members to share their passion for archaeology and participate in field research.”

The expedition will be examining the ruins of a previously unknown building behind the plantation’s mansion house and also exploring the walled barracks compound to learn more about the daily lives of the people who were enslaved at Angerona. During the 19th century, Angerona was one of the largest slave plantations in the Americas—yet little is known about the day-to-day lives of the people who lived there.

This project is a non-credit course to introduce participants to archaeological field methods, Cuban history, and life beyond the resort. The course is offered by the Studio for Teaching and Learning at Saint Mary’s as part of the university’s Open Archaeology Initiative. Open Archaeology engages members of the public in archaeology through short courses and community-engaged research.

The field school runs from Feb.17 to March 3, 2019. For more information or to express interest in participating visit digatsmu.ca.         

Collaboration agreement signed between Saint Mary’s and LAU

 Saint Mary’s President Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray shakes hands with LAU President Dr Joseph G. Jabbra

Saint Mary’s President Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray shakes hands with LAU President Dr Joseph G. Jabbra

Saint Mary’s University and the Lebanese American University (LAU), have signed an agreement that will open doors to more collaboration between the two institutions.  The agreement allows for a variety of new opportunities including academic and professional exchange, joint research and short-term academic programs.

LAU President Dr. Joseph G. Jabbra welcomed Saint Mary’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray, to the Jamil Iskandar Conference Room at LAU’s Byblos campus on October 9, 2018, to sign the agreement.

President Jabbra is known to many on campus from his time spent as both an active member of the political science department and as the Vice President, Academic and Research from 1980 to 1990. In April 2017, President Jabbra received a Doctor of Civil Law, honoris causa, from Saint Mary’s.

 Saint Mary’s President Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray and LAU President Dr Joseph G. Jabbra sign the collaboration agreement between the two universities.

Saint Mary’s President Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray and LAU President Dr Joseph G. Jabbra sign the collaboration agreement between the two universities.

Saint Mary’s University has a well-established commitment to cultural diversity and encourages and supports the development of a global perspective. This new collaboration supports Saint Mary’s commitment to international and intercultural education and the global connectivity of the university and the university’s research partnerships. Saint Mary’s is recognized as a Canadian leader in these areas with extensive international outreach and collaboration by way of institutional linkages with universities around the world. This agreement with LAU marks another opportunity for students, faculty and staff to benefit from global perspectives and partnerships.

At the signing, Dr. Summerby-Murray emphasized the importance of the collaboration and the strong foundation that is already in place between both institutions and countries. The end of the event was marked by the exchange of gifts between the two presidents. The partnership is expected to begin shortly, with a representative of LAU expected to arrive on campus later this month.