Faculty of Arts

Saint Mary’s PhD graduate wins international award

Dr. Samantha A. Penney

Dr. Samantha A. Penney

Saint Mary’s University is proud to announce that Dr. Samantha A. Penney, a recent PhD graduate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, has received the prestigious 2019 Kenneth E. Clark Student Research Award from the Center for Creative Leadership and the International Leadership Association.

“It is an absolute honour to have my dissertation research recognized internationally,” said Dr. Penney.

In her award-winning paper on leadership titled Fostering a Psychologically Healthy Workplace through Leadership, Dr. Penney created and validated a scale to assess leadership behaviours that contribute to a healthy workplace, and then designed a workshop and phone-based coaching program which she delivered to leaders in eight organizations across seven provinces.

The training includes knowledge of what a healthy workplace is, leaders’ roles in creating that healthy workplace, and goal setting and skill development to act on that knowledge. “For example, infrequent feedback, such as only having annual performance reviews are a concern in organizations. Research has suggested that employees are more likely to change their behaviour and attitudes when they receive frequent positive and constructive feedback,” she explained.

 “The results demonstrate that leadership behaviours can be trained,” said Dr. Penney, adding that while many of the leadership behaviours identified aren’t new information, giving leaders the tools and training to apply the knowledge is key. “Employees often move up within an organization into a leadership role because they’re good at their jobs, but they don’t always have leadership skills.”

 “Working with leaders and organizations to provide practical recommendations is something that I am very passionate about, and my research ties into my new role of conducting leadership assessments for the purposes of selection and development,” she said.  

“Dr. Penney, and her research, are very deserving of this international recognition,” said Dr. Arla Day, her dissertation supervisor. “Not only does this award demonstrate her expertise and innovation in the area, but it also reinforces the reputation of Saint Mary’s as a high-caliber training institution with a strong level of research expertise in occupational health psychology.”


Background

Dr. Penney recently completed her PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at Saint Mary’s. She completed her Master of Science in Applied Psychology at Saint Mary’s and has an Honours Bachelor of Arts from Lakehead University.

She has authored several journal articles and book chapters on leadership and employee well-being, and has presented her work at national and international conferences.

Her experience as an independent consultant and leadership coach, developing both leader-level and employee-level training programs, and as a facilitator, delivering workshops and seminars to corporate clients aligns with her background in Industrial/Organizational Psychology.

She recently accepted a role as a Talent & Leadership Development Assessment Analyst at Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge in Toronto.

About the Kenneth E. Clark Award

The Kenneth E. Clark Student Research Award recognizes one outstanding unpublished paper by undergraduate and graduate students each year. It is sponsored by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) and the International Leadership Association (ILA).

Papers are evaluated by 13 CCL research faculty members through a multi-rater, blind review process. Winners of the international award receive a cash prize, and a trip to ILA’s Annual Conference to present the winning paper there and in various multimedia ILA publications.

Dr. Penney follows in the footsteps on another Saint Mary’s alumna in winning this award. Aleka MacLellan, who was then a recent PhD graduate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and won the same award in 2017.

 

 

Unlocking overlooked history from a 2,200-year-old Roman villa

When modern technology meets buried remnants from the early Roman Empire, collaborative research has the potential to unearth new chapters of human history never previously analyzed.

That’s the thinking behind The Villa di Tito Project: Reexamining Roman Villas, helmed by Dr. Myles McCallum of Saint Mary’s University. The project received nearly two thirds of SMU’s most recent round of federal research funding, announced July 17 by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

Home to an annual archaeology field school for Saint Mary’s and McMaster University students, the rural Villa site is located amid olive groves on the north slopes of the Velino river valley in central Italy, in the province of Reiti. It’s along the Via Salaria, an ancient road used to transport salt into the interior of Italy, which ran from Rome to the Adriatic. The Villa sits high above a freshwater lake that is also ripe for archaeological study – the Lago di Paterno, once considered the geographical centre of Italy and a sacred site connected to the goddess Vacuna.  

Over its five-year lifespan, the SSHRC Insight grant will – among other things – reduce costs for students participating in the field school, and allow McCallum to hire and train several undergrads each year to work as research assistants on the project. Including three this summer, plus a fourth hired with funds from SMU’s Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research.

“The research results were pretty spectacular this summer and will just get better over the next few years,” says McCallum, Chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Classics. The students “did an amazing job, they worked incredibly hard, and learned a bunch of new things like using our database system, flying a drone, doing some detailed photography and photogrammetry, and more.”  

The field school also teaches the fundamentals of archaeological excavation, field surveying, drawing, and artifacts analysis. The drone footage will help to create detailed views, maps and 3D models of the area.  

“This particular structure is monumental in size. Whoever built it in the 1st century B.C. invested a lot of time and money into it. It was a showpiece in the countryside for them, and probably the local centre of the social and economic network,” says McCallum.

One of the project’s goals is to find evidence to prove the theory that the Villa was originally built by Titus (Tito), a member of the Flavian family and the Second Dynasty of the Roman Empire. More importantly, it aims to reconstruct the lives of the workers – the people who made bricks and wine, grew crops, pressed olives for oil, or engaged in mining, woodworking and metalworking.

“The historical record is highly biased toward the social elites and the aristocracy,” says McCallum. “They wrote the history for themselves and they didn’t tend to write about slaves or poor people. We want to understand the Villa as a community, as opposed to just a monument to one person or family’s wealth and prestige.”

A good portion of the two-storey structure was revealed over the summer. Other notable finds were coins, stamped tiles, ceramic pots and transport amphorae, chunks of mosaic flooring, and incredibly intact brick walls. The Villa went through a series of renovations over the centuries, and was briefly repurposed after apparently being abandoned for a few hundred years. Environmental archaeology will yield more clues about the people: collecting and analyzing soil samples for pollen, seeds, charcoal, food remains and animal bones can indicate whether diets changed over time, pre-Roman conquest to post-conquest.

“We’re beginning to understand this transition, and the role played by these villas and estates in the process of creating a homogeneous imperial culture in Italy,” says McCallum. 

The SSHRC Insight grants are designed to promote research collaboration and partnerships. The Villa di Tito project team includes researchers from McMaster, Oxford, the University of Rome, the University of Nevada and Texas A&M. McCallum has invited Saint Mary’s colleagues in Geography and Chemistry to get involved, for everything from carbon 14 dating and chemical analysis to geomorphology and ground-penetrating radar.

Recruitment is underway for next summer’s field course, and students in all disciplines are welcome. McCallum admits it’s not the most glamourous work: “You’re outside all day for eight to 10 hours. It can get hot, it can rain, and there are bugs.” Even so, most students agree it’s an unforgettable learning experience.

Follow the project on Facebook via the Villa of Titus Archaeological Research Project and the Saint Mary’s Department of Modern Languages and Classics.     


International Conference on Religion & Film in Halifax for the first time

How are Muslim filmmakers reconstructing the Muslim identity as it appears in film and television? In what ways are food and land protection sacred in Indigenous cultures? What do film superheroes say about masculinity and religion? How is contemporary culture reflected in the popular wave of apocalypse films?

These are just a few of the questions to be explored from June 12 to 14, when scholars of film and religious studies will connect at Saint Mary’s University for film screenings and research presentations. It’s the first time Nova Scotia is hosting the International Conference on Religion & Film (ICRF), co-sponsored by SMU and the Journal of Religion and Film, based at the University of Nebraska Omaha. Professors, filmmakers and graduate students will attend from across Canada and the U.S., and as far away as India, Turkey and the Netherlands.

“This year in particular, one of the themes for the conference will focus on Indigenous cultures,” says s Dr. Syed Adnan Hussain, one of the event’s organizers and an Assistant Professor with the SMU Department of Religious Studies. “It’s in keeping with the University’s commitment to continue these conversations. Those conversations are not necessarily about reaching conclusions, sometimes it’s just about coming together and sharing stories. Film is one of the most potent mediums for that.”

The public is invited to join the conversation – on Friday, June 14, the conference will host free public film screenings in the Halifax Central Library’s Paul O’Regan Hall:          

·        3:00 pm – Wi’kupaltimk (Feast of Forgiveness), 46 minutes  

·        5:00 pm – Sembradoras de Vida (Mothers of the Land), 1 hour 14 minutes

·        6:00 pm – Nakatuenita (Respect), 1 hour 2 minutes

Wi’kupaltimk is a documentary by Salina Kemp, a master’s student in the Atlantic Canada Studies graduate program, and Mi’kmaw from the Millbrook First Nation. With co-director Kent Martin, she explores the issue of food security as it affects urban Indigenous Peoples living in Kjipuktuk (Halifax), both historically and in the present. Her film celebrates the resilience of the Mi’kmaw, the rich resources available prior to colonization, the medicines and wild foods still available, and the sacredness of that food. Food security themes continue in Sembradoras de Vida, by Peruvian directors Álvaro & Diego Sarmiento. It follows five women from the Andean highlands in their daily efforts to maintain a traditional and organic way of working – and protecting – the land.

A documentary about the resilience of the Innu First Nation of Labrador, Nakatuenita was a coproduction of the Innu Nation and the SMU-based Community Conservation Research Network (CCRN). Directed by Mr. Martin, it was produced by Dr. Trudy Sable of SMU and Richard Nuna. Following the screenings, Dr. Hussain will host a panel conversation with filmmakers including Kemp, Dr. Sable, Martin, Bernie Francis and Roger Lewis.

Also during the conference, local and visiting scholars will present and discuss 29 research papers on a variety of fascinating film and religion topics. See the conference website to register, and for the complete schedule of sessions and presenters.


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.

Short story by SMU professor receives prestigious O. Henry Prize

“If a rabbit doesn’t like you, you will know it,” says Professor Alexander MacLeod.

If people like your short story featuring a rabbit as a central character, you will also know it. On May 16, his story “Lagomorph” was announced as a 2019 winner of the O. Henry Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious awards for short fiction.

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“I’m super thrilled,” says Dr. MacLeod, who teaches English and Atlantic Canada Studies at Saint Mary’s. He first heard the news while driving to Mabou for a SMU Emerging Researchers session with Cape Breton high school students.

It’s a particularly special year to win – the prize is celebrating its centenary, so “Lagomorph” will appear in The O. Henry Prize Stories 100th Anniversary Edition, to be published in September by Anchor Books. Past winners include such literary masters as Flannery O’Conner, Raymond Carver, Alice Munro, Eudora Welty and William Faulkner.  

“It’s unreal company,” says MacLeod. “If you look at the past winners, those are all the people that I love. The writers I’ve admired the most in my life have won this prize.”

“Lagomorph”, available for reading online, was originally published in Granta 141: Canada, the British magazine’s fall 2017 edition to recognize Canadian writers during the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

When the special edition came out, it made an international splash. In this review in Macleans magazine, Brian Bethune singled out MacLeod’s “brilliant” contribution as “suspenseful, moving and … hilarious.” Granta brought MacLeod and several other writers on a road show that season to events in Scotland, Canada House in London, and the renowned Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris.

“I have travelled a great distance via rabbit,” says MacLeod. He admits he lacked faith in “this most stubborn of stories” during the writing process, and nearly abandoned it four or five times.

“It taught me that sometimes you just have to stick at it. I owe a great debt of gratitude to the editors at Granta, who were patient with me.”

The story is about much more than a rabbit named Gunther, of course – it’s about time and change, the quagmire of intimacy vs. autonomy, and the mysteries of care and affection.

“The way we love animals differently from people is fascinating to me. Are we loving animals for what they need or for what we need? It’s tricky business,” says MacLeod. 

Born in Inverness, Cape Breton and raised in Windsor, Ontario, MacLeod resides in Dartmouth with his family and their dog. They once had a pet rabbit too, but “our rabbit expressed a preference for country life, and he’s living out his last years on a farm.”

MacLeod is currently working on two short stories that are competing for his attention, toward publication of his next collection. His first book, Light Lifting, was named a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Commonwealth Book Prize, and the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. The collection was also recognized as a ‘Book of the Year’ by the American Library Association, The Globe and Mail, and Amazon.ca.