Spring17

Dr. Marc Doucet receives the Stewart Medal for Excellence in Teaching

For the great impact he has had on his students in their current and future studies, and for the inspiring leadership he provides his colleagues, Dr. Marc Doucet has been awarded the Reverend William A. Stewart, S.J., Medal for Excellence in Teaching.

Dr. Doucet is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department at Saint Mary’s, where he has taught since 2000. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences from Université de Moncton, his Master of Arts in Political Science and Ph.D. in Political Science from University of Ottawa.

Dr. Doucet describes his teaching philosophy as “facilitating the creation of an environment, inside and outside the classroom where students can cultivate their learning capabilities and hone their analytical skills”. This philosophy is proven in his engaging classes and tireless work with the Model UN Delegation, which sees great success each year under Dr. Doucet’s guidance.

Highly regarded by his colleagues for his teaching methods, service as department Chair, and published academic works, Dr. Doucet proves again and again his passion for the study of politics and world issues.

Students greatly enjoy his classes and have found his in-class learning exercises to be engaging and thought provoking. In their comments on his teaching, current and former students often highlight his Model UN course, which is described as “the gem of the Political Science Department and the University as a whole” and has been credited with “shaping students future aspirations in academia and beyond”.

Dr. Doucet guides students through the course, which culminates with attending the annual National Model UN (NMUN) Conference in New York, where Saint Mary’s students have received numerous awards and honours in recognition of their outstanding individual and group achievements.

The award is in honour of Reverend William A. Stewart, who faithfully served the Saint Mary’s community for many years, both as a teacher of Philosophy and an academic administrator. In 1983, the Alumni Association, in cooperation with the Faculty Union and the Students’ Representative Council, established the award, which is open to faculty members who have made an extraordinary contribution to the education of Saint Mary’s students through teaching in the University’s tradition of quality undergraduate education.

Dr. Kathy Singfield Honoured with Educational Leadership Award

Dr. Kathy Singfield

Dr. Kathy Singfield

Dr. Kathy Singfield, faculty member in the Department of Chemistry, has been awarded the Dr. Geraldine Thomas Educational Leadership Award.

In 2007, the Quality of Teaching Committee (now the Senate Committee on Learning and Teaching) established an Educational Leadership Award to recognize the long-term commitment of faculty who develop, enhance, and promote the quality of teaching at Saint Mary’s and beyond. The Committee gratefully acknowledges the support of the Saint Mary’s University Faculty Union for this Award. The Award is named for Dr. Geraldine Thomas, national teaching award winner and founding member of the Quality of Teaching Committee. Throughout her academic career, Dr. Thomas supported efforts to improve teaching and learning within the University, the Atlantic region, and nationally.

As both an educator and an administrator, Dr. Kathy Singfield has made an outstanding contribution to student success at Saint Mary’s University. Since joining the Department of Chemistry in 1997, through her work as Department Chair, and as Associate Dean of Science – Curriculum, Dr. Singfield has been guided by a single passion: to help shape and manage the experiences through which Saint Mary’s students prepare for their own life-long learning in careers, further study, and as engaged citizens.

From classroom to community, Dr. Singfield has demonstrated remarkable leadership and mentorship of both her fellow faculty and students. In the Department of Chemistry, she championed the implementation of active learning strategies, creating over fifty popular YouTube instructional videos for first-year chemistry student lab and coursework. As Chair of Saint Mary’s Department of Chemistry in 2009, she was instrumental in the development of the unit’s first strategic five-year plan.

Drawing from her commitment to staying abreast of high-impact education practices, Dr. Singfield has made significant contributions to the success of new students at Saint Mary’s. Within the Faculty of Science, she initiated and managed a science faculty-student mentor program that ran for over a decade until, under her leadership, it evolved into the PEER One Mentorship program in 2013. In recent years, Dr. Singfield has led academic orientation for all science students.

At the university-wide level, her colleagues credit her for her tremendous leadership of the Committee on Academic Planning, which spearheaded many of the initiatives that will form the core of Saint Mary’s comprehensive new first-year student experience. Following this, the conceptual framework she introduced through her role on the Community and Student Engagement (CASE) Committee, will further guide the development of this new programming.

A true scientist, Dr. Singfield believes that “change involves decision making that is supported by evidence.” Consequently, she is deeply committed to the employment of high-impact practices and developments in teaching and learning, and higher education development. She believes strongly in sharing this information with her colleagues across disciplines, because, as she is wont to say, “It is always about the students.”

Five Exceptional Leaders Recognized with Honorary Degrees

Dr. Joseph Jabbra, Louise Bradley, John S. Fitzpatrick, Dr. Donald Julien, William (Bill) Ritchie

Dr. Joseph Jabbra, Louise Bradley, John S. Fitzpatrick, Dr. Donald Julien, William (Bill) Ritchie

The accomplishments of five exceptional individuals will be recognized this May with honorary degrees at Saint Mary’s University’s Spring Convocation 2017.    

The University is pleased to recognize the extraordinary achievements of:

  • William (Bill) Ritchie, a Nova Scotian financier, entrepreneur, mentor, angel investor, and Nova Scotia film industry co-founder. Mr. Ritchie will be receiving his Doctor of Commerce, Honoris Causa on May 17, 2017.
  • Louise Bradley, CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada and a healthcare leader and pioneer who has dedicated her professional life to improving the mental health of Canadians. Ms. Bradley will be receiving her Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa on May 18, 2017.
  • Dr. Joseph Jabbra, President of the Lebanese American University, author and senior administrator who has played an important role in North America in accreditation for university and college programs. Dr. Jabbra will receive his Doctor of Civil Law, Honoris Causa on May 18, 2017.
  • John S. Fitzpatrick, Q.C., a senior partner at BOYNECLARKE LLP, former Saint Mary’s Board of Governors Chair and Vice-Chair, literacy advocate, and award winning community organizer. Mr. Fitzpatrick will receive his Doctor of Civil law, Honoris Causa on May 19, 2017
  • Dr. Donald Julien, a Mi’kmaw historian, human rights advocate, and leader with over 40 years of experience researching and documenting Mi’kmaw history. Dr. Julien will receive his Doctor of Civil Law, Honoris Causa on May 19, 2017.

“This year’s honorary degree recipients represent the fundamental Santamarian values of our university,” said Saint Mary’s University President Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray. “All five of the recipients are exemplars in their chosen fields whose contributions have helped shape for the better our communities on the local and global scale.”

Convocation Profile: Shane Theunissen

Shane Theunissen

Shane Theunissen

When Shane Theunissen was 17 years old, he and his family emigrated to Canada from Apartheid-era South Africa in what might seem an unlikely vehicle: a homemade, 36-foot sailboat.

“You don’t usually imagine sailing across the Atlantic Ocean in a small boat,” says Theunissen. “But when you do something like that, you quickly realize, ‘why not’? It’s quite liberating when you realize the freedoms that you really have, and how big the world really is. It challenges your perspectives.”

Shane has spent much of his subsequent life challenging entrenched perspectives, both in his own academic career and in his work as an educator—which has included time spent as a sailing instructor in the Caribbean, as an elementary-school teacher in the Cree community of Attawapiskat in Northern Ontario, and ten years as a part-time instructor in Saint Mary’s IDS program, where in 2012 he won an Excellence in Teaching award. Last July, he was hired as a full-time professor in Mount Saint Vincent University’s Child and Youth Study department.

And this March, Theunissen—who previously earned an M.A. in Education from Queen’s University—became the first Saint Mary’s student to earn a PhD in International Development Studies, after defending a thesis which explored some of those same perspective-challenging ideas. He looked at how Indigenous groups in colonial societies, including the Maori in New Zealand, the Aymara of Bolivia, and the Karretjiemense in South Africa, have asserted their cultural viability.

“When we look at education imposed from outside on Indigenous communities, it’s typically assimilative,” he says. “So how can we subvert that to allow for Indigenous people to assert more control?”

A real-world example is found in Shane’s past work with youth in Attawapiskat. “In Southern Ontario or most of Nova Scotia,” says Theunissen, “most students’ life experiences and cultural capital are beneficial within that standard curriculum, and the topics of discussion in class. But a Cree student in Northern Ontario, for example, may not have that same luxury, especially if they’re looking at a curriculum imposed from the south.”

In response to that challenge, Theunissen helped create an environmental education program in Attawapiskat, which in some cases involved fairly simple changes that produced major effects. “Instead of playing basketball during Phys. Ed.,” he says, “we might go out on the land and hunt, or perform a small-engine repair course, utilizing some of the cultural capital that students already had in their lives, which they could bring into the classroom to find accreditation. Hopefully that levels the playing field to a degree.”

After six years in Attawapiskat, Shane and his wife moved to downtown Dartmouth, in search of reasonable housing costs (“We wanted a life outside of paying for a house”), access to educational institutions where he could continue his path in academia, and, of course, somewhere to sail.

That latter, lifelong pastime has come to figure in Shane’s work as an educator, and the ways in which he’s putting his Saint Mary’s PhD research into practice, via partnerships with Nova Scotia schools and institutions—including the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, with which he’s partnering on a program to create boat-building programs for at-risk youth in Halifax.

“The idea is to build a safe space,” says Shane. “You build the boat, you build the space.” This year, Shane will be working with his MSVU students and the Maritime Museum on the project. Next year, he’ll be taking a similar initiative to Pictou Landing First Nation School, where boat building will become part of the math curriculum for students in grades five and six, with students building 12-foot skiffs.

“Instead of learning math purely through abstraction,” says Shane, “we’ll learn through this concrete exercise, which is very applicable to the area’s maritime history. It involves measuring and spatial awareness and other skills…and once the boat is completed, it will be a way to access nature and further the curriculum, in Phys. Ed., science, etc. I see it as being part of a much bigger process.”

Not only do these approaches help Indigenous students in achieving academic success, they help to preserve their “cultural capital”—meaning that rather diverse ways of thinking about and approaching the world are preserved throughout Canadian society.

“When we look at something like assimilative education, it basically means everyone is getting into the same box, thinking similarly about the world,” says Shane. “But to solve problems in the future, we’ll need novel approaches. And to have novel ideas, we need diversity and different perspectives. Promoting diversity is crucial, not just for students, but for the wellbeing of humanity, forever.”