Convocation

2nd cohort graduates from SMU-BNUZ joint degree program

On June 29, the second cohort of business students graduated from a unique program offered by Saint Mary’s University and Beijing Normal University-Zhuhai (BNUZ).

Clad in academic caps and gowns, a total of 68 Chinese students received dual degrees that day: a Bachelor of Commerce from Saint Mary’s and a Bachelor of Economics from BNUZ. Among them was 2019 Valedictorian Ms. Yushan Xie, who graduated summa cum laude.

Academics and administrators from both universities attended the ceremony to confer the degrees and celebrate the graduates. Prof. Ailan Fu, Vice-President, BNUZ and Dr. Malcolm Butler, Vice President, Academic and Research served as co-presiders of the convocation.

Dr. Harjeet Bhabra, Dean, Sobey School of Business and BNUZ counterpart Prof. Xin Zhong Dean, International Business Faculty presented the graduands, and President Prof. Qingyun Tu and Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray conferred the degrees.

The presidents of both universities addressed their newest alumni, wishing them well and commenting on the successful academic partnership between the two institutions.

“Your graduation today is a further reflection of the blossoming of our (historic, cross-border) partnership,” said President Summerby-Murray in his remarks, speaking from a podium decorated with small Canadian and Chinese flags.

“You are uniquely positioned for global careers. You have experienced the thinking and the scholarship of both East and West as they relate to business and enterprise. And you value the person-to-person relationships, demonstrated here today, that are and will continue to be the foundation of successful cooperation between our countries, China and Canada”.

Many of the graduates plan to begin postgraduate studies in the fall, with 48 receiving offers from offers from universities in China and abroad. Some well-known schools include Columbia University, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Sydney.

Historic day: First graduating class at SMU in unique 2+2 partnership with BNUZ

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Twenty-eight students from China graduated from Saint Mary’s on May 17, becoming the first cohort to complete a unique 2+2 Arts degree program in partnership with Beijing Normal University - Zhuhai (BNUZ).

“You are part of an historic happening,” President Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray told the group at a reception in the Library the night before the Faculty of Arts convocation ceremonies. “As far as we know, no other Canadian university has a partnership with a university in China in Arts.”

Through the 2+2 program, Chinese students complete the first two years of their undergraduate Arts degree at BNUZ, and the final two years at Saint Mary’s. Since September 2017 when the first cohort arrived, more than 80 BNUZ students have registered at Saint Mary’s.

Some of the new graduates are heading home to China but a number will stay in Canada to pursue further studies, said Yajie “Cora” Cao, who majored in Asian Studies. On behalf of her fellow students, she thanked Saint Mary’s faculty and staff at the reception for a memorable learning experience, and for helping students with ongoing challenges such as language and cultural differences.

Zining Chen was thrilled that her mother came to Canada for the first time to attend her graduation. They spent a week travelling out west in Vancouver, Jasper and Banff National Park before returning to Halifax for Friday’s ceremony, which included a special portion for the BNUZ students.

“I’m applying for postgraduate studies, so I’m considering staying in Canada,” said Chen, admitting that her mom “really misses me but it’s ok because she knows I am so happy here.”

While it was helpful having BNUZ schoolmates here, Chen also worked hard to meet new people: “You need to make friends other than your friends who came with you. You need to overcome the language barrier, so I tried to attend as many activities on campus as I could.”

XiaoJiao Wang enjoyed her studies in Halifax but was looking forward to heading back to China on Sunday.

“I haven’t been home for two years,” said Wang, who stayed at SMU for summer classes last year. “I really miss my family but I needed to work hard because I know they always support me. I didn’t want to let them down.”

Her Linguistics major and German language studies at SMU will be a great addition to her prior education in teaching Chinese as a second language, she said. She also volunteered at the Halifax Chinese Language School, and found it interesting to teach Canadian-born students of Chinese descent who didn’t speak any Chinese.

“In China, there are a great number of people learning English now,” she said, adding she’s planning to pursue graduate work next in applied linguistics, toward her teaching career. “I think this degree will help me a lot for my future studies.”

Another highlight for the graduating class was the chance to reconnect with a familiar face from home: Dr. Yue “Cecilia” Qiu had taught them linguistics in their first year at BNUZ, and came on a faculty exchange to SMU two years ago to teach Chinese language classes. Now BNUZ’s Director of the Office of International Exchange and Cooperation, and Associate Dean of the School of Chinese, Dr. Qiu joined Dean of Arts Dr. Margaret MacDonald onstage in the McNally Auditorium to wish the students well after they received their parchments.

“Congratulations to our students, you tried your best and I wish you more success in your future,” said Dr. Qiu, also thanking SMU and its professors. “This is a very good beginning stage for their following future planning, they will have a very good bridge to the friendship between Chinese and Canadian people.”

Saint Mary’s is also a good bridge to friendships in other countries as one of Canada’s most globally connected universities, with students from more than 110 countries. The Faculty of Arts also bestowed degrees this spring to graduates from across Canada, as well as Antigua & Barbuda, the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Bermuda, Brazil, Ghana, India, Italy, Japan, Mauritius, Nepal, Pakistan, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Turkey, the U.S., Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The SMU-BNUZ partnership began in 2002 and includes a study abroad program, transfer credit agreements, and a satellite SMU campus established at BNUZ in 2014. It offers an annual five-week summer study abroad program at BNUZ on Chinese history and culture, as well as a three-week summer program for Chinese students, focused on North American culture and English language. SMU and BNUZ also collaborate in offering four professional development institutes for academic faculty and administrative staff from the two universities.

Dr. Roby Austin recognized with the Father William A. Stewart Medal for Excellence in Teaching

Bafana Mashingaidze BSc’14 MBA’16, Secretary of the Alumni Council, with Dr. Roby Austin

Bafana Mashingaidze BSc’14 MBA’16, Secretary of the Alumni Council, with Dr. Roby Austin

Dr. Roby Austin, Professor of Astronomy & Physics, has been recognized by her current and former students and colleagues with the Father William A. Stewart Medal for Excellence in Teaching for her dedicated teaching approach and empowerment of women in science. 

She received the award at convocation on May 17, 2019.

Since joining Saint Mary’s in 2004, Dr. Austin has served on the Saint Mary’s Academic Senate and curriculum committees for Senate and the Faculty of Science. The classes she teaches range from first year physics courses to graduate level courses, and she has supervised both B.Sc. Honours and M.Sc. students. Her focus as a teacher is to create a classroom environment which encourages students to work with and understand the material. Alumni commend her for her accommodating and respectful approach with her students. 

An accomplished researcher, Dr. Austin has published more than 20 papers and received more than $4 million in research grants. She is committed to continuous learning, and is a member of the Division of Physics Education of the Canadian Association of Physicists, the Forum on Education of the American Physical Society, and the American Association of Physics Teachers. Students recognize her dedication to learning and improving teaching methods in the classroom. 

Outside of the classroom, Dr. Austin volunteers her time with Techsploration and Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Atlantic. These organizations create opportunities for girls and young women to explore science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and empower them to consider a career in STEM. 

The Medal for Excellence in Teaching is named for the late Father William A. Stewart, a Professor of Philosophy and administrator at Saint Mary’s University from 1950-1982. Father Stewart was known for his inclusivity, approachability, innovative teaching methods, and service to the University. The Medal is awarded by the Saint Mary’s University Alumni Association in partnership with the Faculty Union.

Dr. Michael Durland installed as University Chancellor

Dr. Michael Durland BComm’87 DComm’10 (SMU), PhD (Queen’s) was installed as the Chancellor of Saint Mary’s University at convocation ceremonies this morning.

For more information, see the media release announcing his appointment: Michael Durland named Chancellor of Saint Mary's University.

To watch his installment, see the May 15 - Morning ceremony.

Slideshow

Celebrating community building and philanthropy: Saint Mary’s newest honorary degree recipients

(Left to Right) Al MacPhee, Her Excellency Lady Sandra Williams BA’86, Padraig O’Malley, and Senator Dan Christmas.

(Left to Right) Al MacPhee, Her Excellency Lady Sandra Williams BA’86, Padraig O’Malley, and Senator Dan Christmas.

Community building and philanthropy are being celebrated by Saint Mary’s University this May, as the university recognizes the achievements of four new honorary degree recipients.   

The university is pleased to recognize the extraordinary achievements of:

  • Senator Dan Christmas, a Mi’kmaw leader and Independent Senator for Nova Scotia. Mr. Christmas has served in numerous leadership positions in the Mi’kmaw Nation of Nova Scotia. His work has ranged across a variety of fields including aboriginal and treaty rights, justice, policing, education, health care, human rights, adult training, business development and the environment. 

  • Padraig O’Malley, an award-winning author and peacemaker. Mr. O’Malley is an expert on democratic transitions and divided societies, with special expertise on Northern Ireland, South Africa, Iraq, Israel and Palestine. He has earned a global reputation for breaking deadlocks by bringing together parties in intractable conflicts and opening the way to dialogue.

  • Her Excellency Lady Sandra Williams BA’86, a charity founder and philanthropist. A Saint Mary’s alumna, Lady Williams is currently the president of the Antigua and Barbuda China Friendship Association. She is also the president and founder of The Halo Foundation, an umbrella charity established in December 2014 that addresses the needs of 32 charities under the patronage of the Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda.

  • Al MacPhee, an auto industry mogul and philanthropist. Mr. MacPhee has been in the auto industry for decades and was recently recognized by Ford Motor Company for his tremendous efforts and contributions to his community. He and his wife Mary are very involved with the MacPhee Centre for Creative Learning,  a not-for-profit charitable organization whose vision is to provide an alternative education model for youth in marginalized and disadvantaged circumstances.

“Saint Mary’s is known for academic excellence in arts, business and science and for our commitment to community engagement which serves as a foundation for all that we do,” said Saint Mary’s President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray. “We are proud to recognize the accomplishments of four exemplary people who share our Santamarian values, and grant them the highest honour that we can bestow, an honorary degree.”

The honorary degree recipients will receive their degrees later this May at Spring Convocation 2019, which runs from May 15 to May 17.