Faculty of Arts

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

Peaceful Schools International launches new books to help children navigate conflict

Resolving conflict can be tricky enough for adults, but a new series of books published by Saint Mary’s University aims to help children better understand and resolve conflicts respectfully and peacefully.

Peaceful Schools International launched the trio of books on October 19, in conjunction with the university and the Saint Mary’s University Students’ Association (SMUSA). All three were written by Amelia Penney-Crocker, a Grade 8 student at Oxford School, while her two best friends Ruby Jangaard and Marin DeWolfe created the engaging illustrations.

Amelia first got involved with Peaceful Schools when the charitable organization – housed and supported at SMU – gave a presentation to her elementary school, which later participated in a Peace Conference here on campus.

“Then I was lucky enough to go to Belfast with the Peaceful Schools team from Saint Mary’s,” said the budding author, who also won the 2016 Woozles writing contest and co-wrote an article about Syrian refugees for Our Children magazine. “It was interesting to see the way kids from other places have a different experience with conflict.”

The idea emerged to create a fun educational resource written by children for children, and “I hope that me writing them and me being a kid will help to connect to other kids in a better way,” she said.

The books are Animal School, The Enchantress from Canada and The Fairy Ring. They examine ways to peacefully de-escalate conflict, address hurtful insults, share difficult feedback, and reach out to adults for guidance on standing up for yourself.

The stories were created for local elementary schools and the Northern Ireland Conflict Resolution Program, now in its 14th year of providing conflict resolution training to SMU students in the faculties of Arts, Science and Commerce. Through the program, the books – and skits based on them – will be shared with children in HRM and more than 100 classrooms throughout Northern Ireland, explained Patrick Guerra, SMU’s student coordinator for Peaceful Schools International. The next trip overseas is scheduled for this February.

 Commending the book’s creators as “our next generation of scholars,” President Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray said “we want to celebrate their work particularly as it relates to peaceful schools, and the idea that education around conflict resolution and understanding peace is important for all of us, at all levels of our educational institutions.”

The launch event also acknowledged inspiration and support from Dr. Hetty van Gurp, founder of Peaceful Schools International. She was recently appointed to the newly established Provincial Advisory Council on Education, which replaces the seven dissolved regional school boards.

“What this means is at a provincial level, we will now have the input of Peaceful Schools International promoting the definitive inclusion of peace education in the curriculum, and this has been one of the central goals of the organization all along. So we are very grateful for everything Dr. van Gurp has done to make this a reality going forward,” said Bridget Brownlow, SMU’s Conflict Resolution Advisor and President of Peaceful Schools International.

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.         

"Fake it until you make it" not a good plan for job interviews

Adapted with permission from the University of Calgary.

Dr. Nicolas Roulin

Dr. Nicolas Roulin

Researchers study impression management in job interviews, suggest honesty is best policy when talking about yourself

Honesty is the best policy in a job interview, but not everyone is comfortable being truthful about their skills, psychology researchers have found in an extensive study published in Personnel Psychology

Dr. Nicolas Roulin, associate professor of industrial/organizational psychology at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, and Dr. Joshua Bourdage, associate professor in the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts at University of Calgary, studied the behaviour of 1,470 North American job applicants during interviews — a field called ‘impression management.’

Much research has explored how people promote themselves in job interviews and try to ingratiate themselves with the organization that’s hiring. Bourdage and Roulin advanced this work by studying the differences between people who engage in honest versus deceptive practices during a job interview.

“Someone who is more extroverted will be more likely to engage in more of the honest tactics and less in the deceptive tactics. Someone who is more conscientious will also engage in more honest tactics,” says Roulin of the findings. “The people who are extroverted are more able to be honest, they have the ability to sell themselves and ingratiate themselves with the interviewer or the organization. Those who are less extroverted may be a bit shy and may not know to promote themselves.”

Further, applicants who use deceptive practices in a job interview — embellishing their qualifications or offering fake compliments about the organization — may be younger, have less work experience and fewer qualifications to talk about. They may also be less conscientious and therefore haven’t put in the time to prepare for the interview. 

“Faking in an interview tends to be someone making up for something,” says Bourdage. “It’s not that you go in and say ‘I’m going to fake my way through this interview,’ it’s an adaptive response to ‘I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t have the experience, I am uncomfortable in this situation and this interview is very difficult.’”

The researchers suggest job applicants do their homework before an interview so they can speak truthfully about themselves and the organization. They found that people who took some training on how to nail an interview tended to use more honest impression management. 

“The key going into an interview is to really prepare so that you can speak honestly about the skills that you have and your high points — what are your strengths and how do they relate to the job?” says Bourdage. “And, find genuine ways that you fit with that organization as opposed to making up things that you think the organization would want to hear.” 

People who sell themselves in an honest way tend to receive a job offer whereas those who fake it are often “found out” in reference checks and other verification processes. The researchers also found that the interviewer can encourage more honesty from an applicant by having a longer interview and asking specific questions about past behaviour or job-related situations.

Government of Canada partners with Saint Mary’s to create new coastal habitat and combat climate change

Nova Scotia will soon be home to more coastal habitat and defences against flooding and erosion as the result of a $1.8 million partnership between the Government of Canada and Saint Mary’s University.

“This support from the federal government is crucial. We will use it to create new salt marsh habitat around the Bay of Fundy and beyond, addressing the impact of climate change on our region and tackling a global problem,” said Dr.  Danika van Proosdij, the project lead and a professor at Saint Mary’s University. “Using nature-based strategies and restructuring dyke systems, we will create new vibrant ecosystems for marine life to prosper and new marshes that can absorb rising sea levels and storm surges.”

The new project, Making Room for Wetlands: Implementation of Managed Realignment for Salt Marsh Restoration and Climate Change Adaptation in Nova Scotia, seeks to restore over 75 hectares of tidal wetland (i.e., salt marsh) habitat through the realignment and decommissioning of dyke infrastructure at multiple sites in the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. The project will also help to build the Atlantic region’s scientific and technical capacity to manage future realignment and restoration projects.

“At Saint Mary's, community is at the heart of what we do, and that extends to our research,” said Saint Mary’s University president Robert Summerby-Murray. “Dr. van Proosdij’s project shows our commitment to using our knowledge and expertise to address challenges facing our region and the world. I want to thank the Government of Canada for supporting Atlantic Canadian researchers who are at the forefront of combating climate change.”

This project will be undertaken through a well-established partnership between Saint Mary’s University and CB Wetlands & Environmental Specialists (CBWES) Inc. using innovative and proven techniques with a comprehensive monitoring program.

Aspects of the project will also be conducted in consultation with the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and in collaboration with Queen’s University Department of Civil Engineering, the Ecology Action Centre (EAC), Dalhousie University’s School of Planning and School of Resource and Environmental Studies.

This project was announced on Monday, June 25, 2018, as part of the Coastal Restoration announcement made by the Honourable Scott Brison, President of Treasury Board Canada, M.P. for Kings-Hants on behalf of the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. It was announced that four organizations will receive together over $7 million over 5 years for projects to help restore coastal habitats in Nova Scotia and in the Arctic.


“I am proud to support these Coastal Restoration Fund projects that will restore and rehabilitate important coastal habitats in Nova Scotia and Nunavut. Our funding will encourage and build local community capacity to maintain and restore aquatic habitats.”

- The Honourable Scott Brison, President of Treasury Board Canada

From the announcement event