Alumni News

View articles from:

Kailea Switzer, BEd’10, Teaches Students the Power of Organization

PUBLISHED DATE: Thursday, November 30, 2017
When Kailea Switzer was a child, her favourite activity was removing books from her bookshelf only to place them back in new categories.

“I have always been like this. I am passionate about organization. My brain just thinks that way; it thinks in categories, so I am happy to find a professional use for that.”

Today Switzer is a student coach. She teaches university students the importance of being organized to help them tackle their academic work with more ease.

“The gap between high school and university can be very extreme,” Switzer explained. “Students had so much structure in high school from their families and teachers. When they get to university, they have so much freedom, which can be really exciting but it can also lead to increased anxiety and procrastination and other self-defeating outcomes.”

Switzer earned an undergraduate degree in psychology at Mount Allison University, a Bachelor of Education degree at St. Thomas University, and a Master’s of Education at Harvard University.

As part of her master’s program, she designed an intervention to support students who are transitioning from high school to university by teaching them how to increase self-regulation and executive functioning skills. This intervention is the framework for her current coaching practice.

Switzer currently lives in Los Angeles but most of her clients attend universities in Canada. Their sessions are virtual and take place via Facetime.

“I think of organization as a skill. For many years I studied piano, and I always think it’s the same as that. You wouldn’t try to learn the piano or a sport just by reading a handout. But often with things like time management, planning and organization, that’s what we give students. It’s a skill set, so we have to learn it the same way that we would learn any other skill. It takes one-on-one attention and time to develop.”

Switzer said often students will begin a session feeling overwhelmed, but she helps them create plans that make their workload more manageable.

“Whenever you feel overwhelmed, it means your first step is too big and you need to know how to break it down into something smaller,” she says.

“Students often end the session saying, ‘I feel like I can breathe now. I have a plan for this week. I know what to do today and I know what to do tomorrow.’ At the end of the coaching session, my goal is that they can breathe a sigh of relief and have a sense of how they can get their work done, with less stress along the way.”

Switzer helps students identify priorities, set weekly goals, and lay out what they need to do each day to stay on track. She teaches students how to make a schedule that balances school work and fun, and uses habit formation and learning research to support students’ unique needs.

Switzer says although she struggled a bit more than her friends with academic content when she was an undergraduate student, her organization skills helped her succeed.

“There were people around me who seemed to master things so much more effortlessly in the classroom, but they weren’t organized and so their grades would suffer. I was extremely organized and it always seemed to work well for me in school. I feel like organization was my secret weapon!”

For more information about Kailea Switzer’s coaching practice or her online course 'Straight-A’ Secrets From a Non-Genius', please visit


This story originally appeared in Connections. You can read the full issue of the magazine HERE.

Nation Builder: Alumna Dr. Pamela Palmater’s Quest to Rebuild her Nation

PUBLISHED DATE: Thursday, November 30, 2017
Dr. Pamela Palmater, BA'94
By Mandy Richard, BA’18

As students, we are trained to listen and take notes simultaneously. But occasionally, you will encounter natural-born storytellers who leave you awestruck. And when Dr. Pam Palmater began to speak, I subconsciously put down my pen and listened.

Describing Pam as powerful, intelligent, and bold is an understatement. With eloquence and grace, she fearlessly and confidently challenges the issues faced by Indigenous peoples. This Mi’kmaw woman has a warm and gentle presence, but a voice that pierces into your spirit. Like every good storyteller, her words stay with you

Pam is a lawyer, author, and social justice activist from Ugpi’Ganjig (Eel River Bar First Nation) in New Brunswick. She is the former spokesperson, organizer, and educator for the Idle No More movement, and currently holds the Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University.

For more than 25 years, she has tackled a wide range of issues affecting Indigenous peoples such as poverty, housing, education, and Aboriginal treaty rights. She has worked as a human rights investigator at the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, currently sits on the Ontario Human Rights Commission Community Advisory Group, and has worked with human rights organizations like Canadian Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International.

Her passion for social justice began in childhood. She comes from a family of eight sisters and three brothers, and most of them have always been politically involved. Since she was a child, she participated in meetings, protests, and cultural events. Pam says this participation was never just about advocacy or wanting to do volunteer work.

“I just always did that, and never envisioned a time where I didn’t do that. For my family, it was an expectation that you were always working in whatever capacity possible to defend your nation, to advocate for your nation, to rebuild your nation.”

While continuing to defend and advocate for her nation, Pam pursued post-secondary education. She received her Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Native Studies and History from St. Thomas University and her law degree at the University of New Brunswick. She went on to complete her Masters and Doctorate in Law from Dalhousie University Law School, specializing in First Nations law.

Canadian Universities Take Steps Towards Reconciliation
There has been a recent shift in Canada as universities take first steps towards reconciliation and indigenization. Pam acknowledges the importance of this shift, but says there is a lot more work to do for true reconciliation.

“While schools and universities have been a really destructive colonial force, if used correctly, they can also be a revitalizing and healing force. You could learn your languages.

When I went to STU, I learned Mi’kmaw and Maliseet languages. Colonization had taken that away from us, but STU helped bring some of that back.”

Pointing to a piece of Indigenous art within the room, Pam makes the distinction between superficial reconciliation, like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Haida tattoo, and true reconciliation.

“Hanging a piece of native art in a classroom, that’s nice. It’s inclusive. Indigenous peoples that come into this classroom will feel that their identity is reflected, but if they don’t have the funding to get to this university, they are never going to see the art on the university wall. And that is what real reconciliation is. A number of treaties promised free education, so this university and all universities should literally be full of Indigenous peoples and they’re not.”

Nation Builders Leading Canada Towards Reconciliation
The path Pam chose as a young person was very different from the path she was encouraged to take. Many suggested she consider a helping profession like midwifery or social work to help Indigenous communities. She knew that was not the right fit for her. She wanted to be a nation builder.

“There was no force encouraging nation building. No one saying we need lawyers, leaders, policy advisors, analysts, public speakers, and critical thinkers to rebuild our nations.”

Pam highlights some of our Indigenous heroes, like Cindy Blackstock who Pam describes as a “woman warrior,” fighting for proper and overdue funding and adequate resources for Indigenous children and youth in the foster care system. Or Sandra Lovelace Nicholas, the first Indigenous woman appointed to the Senate. Or the half dozen grandmothers currently camping at Sisson Mines.

Nation builders provide substantive action that is missing from Canada’s government, Pam says. Reconciliation requires more than attending a cultural event or a political land acknowledgement. These actions are a start to balance the unjust relationship; however, Pam explains that real reconciliation will not be easy.

“I think the message is to move away from things that feel good. If it feels good, it’s not reconciliation. If you are just wearing a Native t-shirt and that feels good? That’s not reconciliation. If you left all your family’s land in your will to the local First Nations because it was stolen from them, and maybe that feels a bit uncomfortable? That’s reconciliation.”

It will feel very uncomfortable when Indigenous governance has a seat at the table with the colonial government, she adds, but that is what real reconciliation is all about.

The responsibility of reconciliation falls onto every citizen in Canada, she says. There has been a positive shift towards more respectful reconciliation with more Canadians becoming aware of the horrific history and continuing current issues of Indigenous people. But Pam says there is a difference between good and bad allies for Indigenous peoples.

“The good kind of ally is a respectful ally, one that lets Indigenous peoples take the lead on Indigenous issues, lifts up an Indigenous voice, creates space for Indigenous people, supports them in ways that they want to be supported. And then there is this saviour ally, where they believe they know the solution to what will fix us. Instead of listening to us, they speak for us. They offer solutions on our behalf. And when there is an opportunity to speak, they become the expert on Indigenous issues and let Indigenous voices fall to the way-side. I think the saviour allies of the past did as much damage as the governments did.”

My attentive gaze breaks for a moment, interrupted by the vibration of a cellphone. Pam realizes her ride has arrived. The interview felt like a few minutes. I could have sat there for hours soaking in her wisdom and passion for these issues.

During the interview, I spoke a little about my personal story, and I realized this woman is someone whom I aspire to become. Just as we are getting ready to leave, I thank her for her time. She thanked me for sharing a bit of my story, signed a copy of her book, and gave me a hug. I opened the signed book and it read “Keep up the good work. We need warriors like you,” and in that moment I knew that I, too, want to be a nation builder.

The original piece was edited for length for the web. To read the full story, please see the winter 2018 issue of Connections HERE.

Supporting a “Feisty Moot Court Program”: Frank and Julie McKenna Make Donation to Support Moot Court Program and TD Bank Supports Capital Campaign at St. Thomas University

PUBLISHED DATE: Wednesday, October 25, 2017
When Frank McKenna read about STU’s Moot Court program, it reminded him of his longtime assistant, Ruth McCrea, who passed away earlier this year.

That’s why the former New Brunswick Premier and Deputy Chair of the Toronto-Dominion Bank made a personal donation in McCrea’s name to support STU’s Moot Court program.

“Julie and I are pleased to announce a personal contribution in the name of Ruth McCrea of $300,000 to endow the St. Thomas University moot court team,” said McKenna. “She was a magnificent warrior who inspired confidence and respect. She gave me inspiration and courage in facing the many obstacles in public life, and she made me who I am.  You should be very proud to know that she acquired many of her formidable skills at St. Thomas University.”

McKenna said that he had worked with McCrea for 35 years and since her passing he had been looking for a way of honouring her courage, heart and spirit. 

“This Moot Court program represented everything that I admired about Ruth McCrea.  It is almost inconceivable that students from a small undergraduate liberal arts university without a law school could compete against the best and brightest students around the world and win. I can't think of a better way of honouring my feisty assistant than by supporting this feisty Moot Court team.”

STU’s Moot Court program is an experiential learning opportunity offered through the Human Rights Program. Close to 400 teams compete across the United States in tournaments and this year the STU Moot Court Team earned a bid to the US Nationals for the second straight year. STU was the only university from Canada competing and was represented by two teams, one of which finished 22nd out of 350 teams. STU students also earned speaker and brief-writing awards. 

This summer, STU students became the first-ever Canadian team to win the Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition. The team qualified by submitting a legal brief and two students attended the competition in Geneva.  They went head-to-head against Yale, beating them in the first round, and edged Oxford out on points. They mooted against the University of Buenos Aires, winning the final round and finishing #1 out of 38 schools.

“For someone who did not attend STU, Frank has had a relationship with the university that is equal to any die-hard “green and gold” alumni,” said Dawn Russell, President and Vice-Chancellor.

“These remarkable accomplishments do more than bring international recognition to STU.  They signal that we are on the right track; with dedicated faculty and financial assistance from donors, our talented and hardworking students have the opportunity to do their best and show that they are among the world’s best.  We are proud of this program, and the performance of our students,” said Russell. 

In addition to the personal donation from the McKennas, the TD Bank has made a contribution of $100,000 towards the university’s capital campaign.

“There are huge demands on the Bank's community giving program, and we would not be successful in securing this contribution without the support of our very dynamic TD team here in Fredericton, New Brunswick and the thousands of TD employees who work across the province. St. Thomas University has a long and venerable history and has been a rich contributor to the province's success. It deserves our support,” added McKenna.

“The $100,000 pledge from the TD Bank for our capital campaign is greatly appreciated.  We are already at the 60% mark in meeting our $10 million goal, and this is another step towards success,” said Russell.

Greg Byrne, BA'84, Receives STU Alumni Award for Service

PUBLISHED DATE: Sunday, October 15, 2017
Fredericton lawyer and former MLA Greg Byrne, QC, BA’84, has been selected as the recipient of the 2017 STU Alumni Association Award for Service.
Fredericton lawyer and former MLA Greg Byrne, QC, BA’84, has been selected as the recipient of the 2017 STU Alumni Association Award for Service.

He received the award on October 15 at the President’s Breakfast Buffet during STU Alumni Weekend.

"Greg Byrne has done St. Thomas proud with his achievements. He exemplifies the spirit of the university and the philosophy of giving back," wrote his nominator.

"Greg has been heard to say many times that he credits his time at St. Thomas with giving him the base upon which to build a career in service to the people of New Brunswick. He is a great example of the type of community-minded citizen for which St. Thomas is renowned, and which is so critical to the health and well-being of our province, our city, and our graduates."

The St. Thomas University Alumni Association Award for Service recognizes the exemplary engagement of St. Thomas alumni in helping advance the aims and objectives of the Alumni Association, and the overall reputation of the university amongst members of the Association.

Byrne received a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Thomas University in 1984 and a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of New Brunswick in 1987. He joined the law firm Whitehead, Bird, Miles & Byrne as a partner. He later served two terms as a Member of the Legislative Assembly, where he held ministerial roles including Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Minister of Finance, and Government House Leader. He is now the Principal Secretary in the Premier of New Brunswick’s office.

Community-minded, Byrne has always found time to give back to his community. He has sat on many boards of directors, including the Canadian Nurses Association, Youth in Transition Fredericton Inc., and the Irish Canadian Cultural Association of New Brunswick, among others. He served as president of STU’s Alumni Association and sat on the university’s Board of Directors.

Jack Walsh BA’75, Tom Isaac BA’87 and Michelle Arévalo BA’04 to Recognized with Carolyn Layden-Stevenson Distinguished Alumni Awards

PUBLISHED DATE: Saturday, October 14, 2017
Prominent lawyer and jurist Jack Walsh, nationally recognized Aboriginal law expert Tom Isaac and international human rights activist Michelle Arévalo were honoured with the Carolyn Layden-Stevenson Distinguished Alumni Award at the university’s Gala Dinner on October 14.
Three St. Thomas University alumni whose accomplishments are national and international in scope were honoured with the Carolyn Layden-Stevenson Distinguished Alumni Award.
Prominent lawyer and jurist Jack Walsh, nationally recognized Aboriginal law expert Tom Isaac and international human rights activist Michelle Arévalo were honoured with the Carolyn Layden-Stevenson Distinguished Alumni Award at the university’s Gala Dinner on October 14.
“These alumni are well established in their fields and each have earned professional and personal acclaim in Canada and around the world. By living values of integrity, fairness and service, they are very strong role models for our students. We are pleased to honour them as alumni of STU, where they got their start,” said STU president and vice-chancellor Dawn Russell.
The Carolyn Layden-Stevenson Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes the outstanding accomplishments of alumni who have earned prominence as a result of their professional achievements and/or service to society.  The award is in memory of alumna Carolyn Layden-Stevenson, a much admired and accomplished educator, lawyer and judge.
Mr. Justice John J. (Jack) Walsh, BA’75, earned a bachelor of arts from St. Thomas University and a bachelor of laws from the University of New Brunswick. He was in private practice for a decade before becoming a Crown Prosecutor in New Brunswick. He is nationally known for being one of the first lawyers in Canada to introduce DNA evidence against an accused in the trial of serial killer Allan Legere and is considered one of Canada’s leading legal experts on DNA evidence. He was seconded to the Government of Canada’s Department of Justice in Ottawa to assist with the development of federal DNA legislation and to provide case consultation to police and prosecutors. He was later appointed Queen’s Counsel and was named Regional Crown Counsel for the Miramichi Region. He practiced at both the trial and appellate levels throughout his career, including before the Supreme Court of Canada. He was appointed a Judge of the Provincial Court of N.B. in 2008 and a Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of N.B. in 2009.
Walsh is the author of book chapters and articles in legal and scientific publications, and has presented papers nationally and internationally in the areas of criminal law, the criminal justice system and forensic DNA evidence. He was a faculty member of the Canadian Federation of Law Societies National Criminal Law Program and presented for many years at National Judicial Institute Programs. He was awarded the Canadian Bar Association’s John Tait Award of Excellence in Public Sector Law, the N.B. Crown Prosecutor’s Association’s Robert Murray Q.C. Award and the Canadian Bar Association’s (N.B. Branch) Distinguished Service Award.
Tom Isaac, BA’87, is a nationally recognized authority on Aboriginal law and has advised across Canada on Aboriginal legal matters and related environmental, regulatory and constitutional issues. He regularly negotiates with Aboriginal groups on behalf of industry and governments on impact, benefit and access agreements. He also advises on consultation and accommodation processes and has mediated complex multi-jurisdictional disputes.  He is presently serving as the Special Representative for the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to conduct exploratory discussions on the class action lawsuit against the Government of Canada relating to residential school day students. He has appeared before every level of court in Canada and his published works on Aboriginal law have been cited with approval by Canadian courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada. He is a former chief treaty negotiator for British Columbia and assistant deputy minister responsible for establishing Nunavut. 
Born in Saint John, Isaac received his bachelor of arts from St. Thomas University and went on to earn a master’s of arts from Dalhousie, a bachelor of laws degree from the University of New Brunswick and a master’s in law from the University of Saskatchewan. He is the author of 14 books and monographs, including Aboriginal Law, now in its fifth edition, and his books have been used in law schools and universities in Canada and the United States. Isaac has written two reports — A Matter of National and Constitutional Import: Métis Section 35 Rights and the Manitoba Metis Federation Decision and A Path to Reconciliation — which were lauded for their approaches to reconciliation. He has also taught Aboriginal, constitutional and business law at several Canadian universities.
Michelle Arévalo, BA’04, a social entrepreneur and human rights activist, earned a bachelor of arts from St. Thomas University and later completed a master’s in international human rights law from Oxford and a master’s in public policy from the University of California at Berkeley.  After working as a refugee adjudicator, she founded the Ecuadorian offices of Asylum Access, a non-profit legal aid clinic focused on ensuring the rights of refugees from neighbouring Colombia. She later became the first global director of Asylum Access and managed its three international offices from Geneva as it provided services to refugees in Asia, Africa and Latin America. 
As a consultant, she has focused on increasing the impact of grassroots organizations, including an association of families of disappeared children in El Salvador and communities at risk of development-induced displacement in Thailand, Cambodia and India. She was manager for TECHO Ecuador, Latin America’s largest housing-focused NGO, and Latin America-lead for HURIDOCS, a human rights and technology non-governmental organization. Arévalo was selected by the World Economic Forum as a Global Shaper, an initiative designed to bring young global change agents together with word leaders.  She was later invited  to join a WEF Global Agenda Council, a group of academics, politicians, non-governmental organization leaders and business executives exploring the world's most pressing issues. She is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and has spoken on human rights, entrepreneurship and the role of the private sector in creating a better world. She is currently the CEO of IMPAQTO, a co-working space and business incubator with a mission to create a vibrant impact entrepreneurship ecosystem in Ecuador.

The Psychology of Eyewitness Testimony: Kyle Ferris, BA’ 15, to pursue research in Psychology at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

PUBLISHED DATE: Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Kyle Ferris’s interest in the validity of eyewitness testimony is taking him to Scotland.

The St. Thomas graduate recently accepted an offer to attend the University of Aberdeen where he will be studying the neurology of memory.

This research ties in well with work Ferris, of Grand Lake, NB, completed with STU’s Dr. Ian Fraser on eye witness memory variables. During his undergraduate degree, Ferris worked with police cadets and found their knowledge of eye witness variables was low. He conducted the same study with judges and again found the results were similar.

“The science of psychology tells us we aren’t great at perceiving events and remembering them,” he said. “Recalling an event like an accident or a crime is difficult and oftentimes you get erroneous eyewitness testimonies or confessions. Not because they’re lying, but because they actually can’t remember what happened.”

Three of Ferris’s articles on the topic were published—“Assessing the perceptions of police officers concerning the number of exonerations in which eye witness error was a factor” was published in the Journal of Behavior and Social Sciences; “Eyewitness Testimony: Assessing the knowledge and beliefs of students studying policing” was included in the International Journal of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences; and “The knowledge and beliefs of students studying policing concerning the science behind the fallibility of eyewitness testimony” was printed in Blue Line Magazine, a Canadian police officers’ publication.

 “Being published will benefit me down the road, but knowing how well the research went and all the work that went into it has been a deeper satisfaction for me,” he said. “When you begin your undergrad you think research is twenty minutes spent on the internet. It’s not pulling things from other sources. It’s going out and finding something for yourself.”

Ferris is hopeful his research will help those in the judicial system realize the flaws that come with believing eye witness testimony and encourage them to trust the science of psychology.

“We would want a change in the justice system, but in all actuality it’s about trusting the science. There are several prominent cases in Canada where people have been put away for years and only afterward do we realize they weren’t guilty,” he said.

Discovering Psychology at STU

Ferris unexpectedly discovered his passion for Psychology after taking courses at STU.

“When you’re deep in the science of the mind is fascinating because it’s what makes us who we are. My interest in memory and perception looks at not only how we see the world but how we physically perceive it and what it means to us,” he said. “We exist in the confines of our own mind, and I think unpacking that is a worthy endeavor.”

Following the completion of his 12-month program at the University of Aberdeen, Ferris intends to continue researching internationally before returning home to Canada.