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STU Global Brigades Returns from Panama - Angela Bosse Reflects on Volunteering at Legal Clinics and Leading Human Rights Workshops

PUBLISHED DATE: Monday, July 17, 2017
Travelling to Panama as a member of STU Global Brigades was an experience that challenged Angela Bosse intellectually and personally.
The STU group spent a week assisting foreign lawyers with pro-bono cases and holding workshops on human rights in rural communities.
“I learned so much from Global Brigades before I even boarded the plane to Panama. We prepared for months, reading documents, learning Spanish, trying to challenge our perspectives and assumptions,” Bosse said.
“I still knew nothing when I landed. No matter how much you prepare, the vast majority of your work is going to be from what you learn on the ground once you arrive.”
Engaging with the Community
Adjusting to life in Panama presented its challenges—a last-minute case change, power outages, intense heat and humidity—but the work accomplished by the group was worth it.
“What was so encouraging about this experience was the engagement we received from the community members. Our legal clinics were full of people coming to ask questions and learn how to solve problems,” Bosse said.
“In our adult workshop, there was an amazing discussion about gender roles and how to go about changing them. It was so empowering to see women engage in conversation about how they assert their independence.”
Despite the cultural differences, Bosse was struck by how the lives of those she was working with reflected her own.
“The biggest difference is that the simplest things we take for granted, like getting a marriage license, are inaccessible,” she said. “When you enter a different culture, your assumptions will be challenged and what’s interesting is how your expectations reveal those assumptions.”
An Opportunity for Growth
One of the most memorable moments for Bosse was visiting the home of one of the women who leads the local community bank.
“The floors were dirt, there were cracks and holes in the wall, and the wires for the few bare light bulbs were exposed along the ceiling. Everything was open to the outdoors. Chickens ran around freely, but it was tidy. You could tell the house well cared for and kept with pride,” she said.
“This woman was generously opening her home to me. I felt such gratitude for what she was doing for us and what I had seen all through the week was reaffirmed—the kindest and most generous people are often those who have the least.”
Looking back, Bosse feels privileged to have been a part of this experience.
“I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity to grow, learn, and challenge myself,” she said. “The bonds forged in that week will last a lifetime. I feel blessed to have been a part of it.”
STU Global Brigades
Global Brigades is an international, non-profit organization and the largest student-led social responsibility movement in the world. The STU chapter of the group is the result of the efforts of the group’s president, Jimy Beltran, and the university’s Manager of the Office of Experiential Learning and Community Based Learning, Jessica Hughes.
Bosse and Beltran travelled to Panama with fellow STU students Whitney Beals, Nahomi Lopez, Matthew LeBlanc, Abbie LeBlanc, Alison Larade, Brittany Gray, Kathleen Rankin, Robyn Metcalfe, Noah Turner, Philippe Ferland, Claudia Fernandez Ruiz, and Émélie Phinney.
Charlotte Schwarz, Chelsea Connell, Tiziana Zevallos, Esteban Rivera, Madelaine Breau, Jillian Debly, and Nicola Hines were also involved in the initiative, but did not travel to Panama.

The group from STU was joined in Panama by two students from Penn State—Sophie Haiman and Emily Lee.

“We will give voice and create action” - St. Thomas University Graduates Celebrate Summer Convocation

PUBLISHED DATE: Friday, July 14, 2017
Judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the first Aboriginal woman appointed to the Provincial Court in Saskatchewan, received an honorary doctorate at St. Thomas University’s summer convocation. She delivered the convocation address to the more than 140 graduates in Applied Art, Arts, Education, and Social Work.
Judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond wants graduates to use their own experiences of vulnerability to support others.

Turpel-Lafond, the first Aboriginal woman appointed to the Provincial Court in Saskatchewan, received an honorary doctorate at St. Thomas University’s summer convocation. She delivered the convocation address to the more than 140 graduates in Applied Art, Arts, Education, and Social Work.

“Every one of the graduates here have been vulnerable. When you decide to get a degree—to start your education—you know one thing: you are vulnerable to failure,” she said.

“But, to be vulnerable to failure is a very important experience. If you’ve been vulnerable to failure and you’ve succeeded, then you have a quality that is very important. That’s the quality of resilience. You are able to keep yourselves up and keep going, and I’m sure it wasn’t always easy—no matter your background or your family circumstance.”

Turpel-Lafond is a lawyer, judge, and children’s rights advocate. She was a criminal law judge in youth and adult courts and worked to develop partnerships to better serve the needs of young people in the justice system, particularly those who had been sexually exploited or had disabilities such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. She was appointed British Columbia’s first Representative for Children and Youth Officer in 2006, a position she held until 2016. As an independent officer of the Legislature, she supported children, youth, and families who required assistance when dealing with the child welfare system.

“You will be people who can participate in difficult conversations in a way that’s respectful, emphatic, and in a way that’s also able to look beyond your own achievements in life to see you have an obligation to see others do well.”

Embracing Newness: Bachelor of Education Class of 2017
Monica Rosvall, who delivered the Bachelor of Education valedictory address, also spoke about vulnerability.

“At some point in life, we will all feel uncomfortable, we will all walk in and out of certainty, and we will all, eventually, feel at ease with our educational decisions,” Rosvall said.

“Don’t let your dreams be dampened by what you can’t see, but embrace the newness with confidence in your education and yourself, knowing that you’re always learning and therefore, always becoming the best version of yourself.”

Working Beside Those Who Lost Hope: Mi’kmaq/Maliseet Bachelor of Social Work Class of 2017
Mi’kmaq/Maliseet Bachelor of Social Work (MMBSW) graduate Deanna Price delivered the Nutewistog, a Mi’kmaq word that means “a person who has been appointed by the people to speak on their behalf.” She told graduates that as indigenous social workers, they will have the opportunity to right the wrongs of the past and provide a voice against racist, assimilationist, and discriminatory policies and beliefs. 

“As Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik, and Plains Cree Social Workers, we will give voice and create action, we will work beside others who have lost hope—who have lost their way. We will stand up against ecological racism and destruction. We will honour our past seven generations of ancestors and do everything we can to ensure a better future for the next seven generations. We will work towards a future without racism and oppression. Towards autonomy and self-determination. Towards an honourable confederation. A confederation of truth, justice, and action so that our children will not have to live in a world of assimilation, patriarchy, and misogyny.”

The MMBSW program is an accredited social work program that provides First Nation individuals with an opportunity to receive social work education within a flexible and culturally relevant framework.  The program is intended for First Nation peoples in New Brunswick and the Maritime Provinces who wish to become social workers in their communities.

The MMBSW class of 2017 is the fourth cohort to complete the degree since the program’s inception in 2005.

Click here to see photos of the convocation:

Teaching and Learning from Compassionate Students: Dr. John Coates Named Professor Emeritus

PUBLISHED DATE: Friday, July 14, 2017
Dr. Coates was named Professor Emeritus at Summer Convocation, a rank awarded to retired professors who have served the university with great distinction.
Although Dr. John Coates has seen a lot of changes during his three decades teaching social work at St. Thomas University, he says one thing always remained the same — his students were compassionate individuals driven by a desire to help others.

Dr. Coates was named Professor Emeritus at Summer Convocation, a rank awarded to retired professors who have served the university with great distinction.

“It’s both humbling and exciting to receive this honour,” Coates said. “My colleagues have been good folks to work with over the years, and students have always been a joy to work with.”

Coates remembers his time at STU fondly, especially the moments when he learned and gained insight from his students.

“If you open the door to a two-way conversation, students have insights and observations you never thought of. The best classes would be when you would have this interactive dialogue going on and I would tell them what I think, and they would react and respond in terms of their context and experience. Out of that, my understanding would expand as theirs did.”

Coates said the social work program has evolved a lot since he first arrived. The program structure now focuses more attention to community work, and so students and graduates have more experience working in the community in addition to the direct practice portion of the program.

“I think when we are dealing with people in social work, we are very often dealing with people who have problems that aren’t their fault,” Coates explained. “And so by building community services, you are helping to mitigate some of those factors. A lot of people experience social or personal problems but if we had a world that was functioning correctly, in my view, some of these problems wouldn’t emerge.”

Throughout his time at St. Thomas, Coates developed an outstanding reputation for excellence in research, teaching and service. He arrived at STU in 1984 to teach in the Department of Social Work where he would later serve three terms as Chair or Director when the Department became the School of Social Work.

Coates holds a BA from the University of Ottawa, an MSW from Wilfrid Laurier University, and a PhD from the University of Toronto. Before coming to STU, he taught at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute and King’s College at Western University. Reflecting an outstanding record of service, he served on Senate and every committee at the University including the Curriculum Committee, the Research Committee, and the Committee on Academic Promotion and Tenure. He also served a term as President of the Faculty Association.

He regularly taught social work courses on theory, policy, applied research, ecology, and field instruction. Many of his former students have spoken of the profound impact his teaching had on their careers with one student describing the classroom experiences as “life changing.”

As a scholar, he has co-edited four collections of essays which have been described as landmark contributions to social work discourse and practice. His book, Ecology and Social Work: Toward a New Paradigm (2003) was the first in Canada to examine the intersection of environmental and social work concerns. In addition, he has authored or co-authored more than 16 book chapters and 28 articles in peer-reviewed journals, as well as co-edited ten journal volumes. He also organized and attended numerous academic conferences and has delivered guest lectures at other universities. 

His scholarship was recognized by STU with two Wallace and Margaret McCain Faculty Research Awards and two Special Merit Awards for Research. His community service included being president of Partners for Youth, a founding member of the Canadian Society for Spirituality and Social Work, and a founding member of the Greater Fredericton Social Innovation.

“An Amazing Opportunity” -- Chancellor’s Scholarship recipient Jenicca Jean looks forward to new opportunities at St. Thomas

PUBLISHED DATE: Thursday, June 29, 2017
Jenicca Jean was hoping to attend St. Thomas University, and after being awarded a major scholarship she's certain it’s where she's meant to go.

The Nackawic Senior High School graduate is the 2017 recipient of the Chancellor’s Scholarship—one of the most prestigious scholarships offered by the university.

“This scholarship is an amazing opportunity for me. I honestly wake up every morning and I’m astounded,” Jean said. “STU was where I was hoping to go and this scholarship confirmed my decision—this is where I’m supposed to be.”

Jean said finding out she was awarded the scholarship was a “dream-like” experience.

“It was very surreal. I could hardly believe what I was hearing,” she said. “I kept looking at my vice principal, Sean Newlands, and my guidance counselor, Chris Gallop, to make sure it was true. I still have an overwhelming feeling of excitement that I can’t put into words.”

Jean was actively involved in her high school community through Student Council, Teens against Drunk Driving, Me to We, Best Buddies, the Gay-Straight Alliance, Reach for the Top, and a number of other clubs and societies. She was also a varsity athlete and will continue her athletic career at St. Thomas as a member of the Tommies women’s volleyball team.

The future STUdent was drawn to the university’s sense of community, small class sizes, and the overall positive learning environment.

“I like knowing I will be known by my name rather than a number and that the university is committed to the success of its students,” she said. “I can’t wait to spend the next four years in such a caring environment.”

Jean plans to study Psychology, but intends to keep her options open and take advantage of the liberal arts offerings. She’s confident she’ll be prepared for what comes after STU.

“I know STU will prepare me for the workforce and help me further become a productive member of society while making a positive difference in the lives of others,” Jean said. “I’m thrilled to take new courses, to have new experiences, and new opportunities.”

Dr. Susan Machum Named Dean of Social Sciences

PUBLISHED DATE: Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Dr. Susan Machum, associate professor and chair of the department of sociology, has been appointed as dean of social sciences at St. Thomas University.
Dr. Susan Machum, associate professor and chair of the department of sociology, has been appointed as dean of social sciences at St. Thomas University.

The appointment concludes a selection process that included a public presentation, an interview with the search committee and president, and feedback from the University community. 

Dr. Kim Fenwick, vice-president (academic and research), said that the community’s feedback on Machum’s candidacy was very positive noting her strong understanding of the University, teaching and research accomplishments, administrative experience, and her potential for contribution to the leadership team.

“A dean is an important senior academic position that provides leadership and support to faculty and students.  Professor Machum has a strong grounding in our mission at STU and she has established collegial relationships at every level of our university.  We are looking forward to her contribution to helping us best achieve our mission of teaching, research, and service,” said Fenwick.

“I have had the advantage of attending St. Thomas as a student and then working as a part- and full-time faculty member, so I have experienced the university from multiple vantage points. With this new position, I have the opportunity to strengthen communication and dialogue between various stakeholders and focus on initiatives related to teaching, learning, and research to foster even greater faculty and student success at STU,” said Machum.

An alumnus of St. Thomas, Machum went on to earn an MA from Dalhousie University and a PhD from the University of Edinburgh.  She returned to STU in 2000 to teach sociology and was a Canada Research Chair in Rural Social Justice from 2006 to 2016.  Her scholarship has been impressive with 11 peer-reviewed book chapters and articles, 91 conference paper presentations, 16 invited panel discussions, and 26 research talks. Machum also brings a strong record of community service to the new position from her work with Canada World Youth, the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, and Girl Guides of Canada. 

The appointment is for a five-year term beginning July 1, 2017.

St. Thomas Moot Court Earns Select Spot at International Moot Court Competition in Europe

PUBLISHED DATE: Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Update: #1 - STU Moot Court won FIRST PLACE at the Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition in Geneva. More to come. 

Navy Vezina and Abbie LeBlanc will represent St. Thomas University at the Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition in Geneva, Switzerland from July 18 to 21.
The international competition is open to undergraduate and masters of law students. The top five teams from each of the five regions (based on United Nations regions) qualified to attend.
Canada—and St. Thomas—is part of the Western European and Others region. Along with St. Thomas, the top five for this region include Yale Law School, the University of Oxford, Universitat del Piemonte Orientale in Italy, and the University of Lucerne in Switzerland.
The STU team—which also includes Emily Williams, Emma Walsh, Camille Xavier, and Brianna Matchett—submitted a brief on June 12, and were to hear back on June 19. When they hadn’t heard by sun-down, they considered it a great experience either way and began to accept defeat. Close to midnight on June 19, they received word they’d been chosen to attend.
The competition will include pre and final rounds and will conclude with a single winning team.
Vezina, from Montréal, QC is pursuing honours in Philosophy and a major in Political Science. She said it is meaningful to be recognized in the ranks of the other qualifying schools.   
“Yale Law School is a very competitive school, Oxford knows what they’re doing, and the school from Switzerland requires their participants to complete a six-month moot court academy program. Some of these people already have degrees, have done these competitions before, and have worked in law firms.”
LeBlanc, from Fredericton, NB, is pursuing a triple honours in Political Science, Great Books, and Human Rights. She’s excited to showcase what STU has to offer, despite intimidating competition.
“I think we’ll do well, and I’m looking forward to surprising people with that,” she said.
Vezina agreed, saying the moot court experience she’s had with St. Thomas as part of the American Moot Court Association has given her the skills to be a contender at the event.
“American moot court is so highly competitive, and Abbie and I are both competitive people,” she said. “Moot Court professor, Dr. Amanda DiPaolo, works us so hard to prepare for our competitions, so we’re looking forward to testing those skills beyond the American system.”
Moot Court is a credited class at St. Thomas and involves competitions throughout the United States; however, the pursuit of earning a spot at the competition in Switzerland was done outside of class. Students formed an independent club, met Friday afternoons, and submitted an application.
Of the six students, Vezina, as president of the club, and LeBlanc were elected to represent STU in Switzerland.
“Abbie and I worked on the non-discrimination claim as partners. Some of it came down to who could get work off and wanted to travel, but I also wanted Abbie there with me, because we work so well together,” she said.
St Thomas University Perfect Fit for Moot Court
LeBlanc credits the style of education at St. Thomas as good preparation for moot court.
“Every student at STU has the opportunity to speak out, voice opinions, and learn the skills needed to make clear and organized arguments. STU provides a lot of opportunities to practice those skills in every class, and that transfers well into these kinds of competitions.”
For Vezina, the liberal arts approach to education makes all the difference.
“There’s opportunity to develop a combination-style skillset at STU. From Philosophy, I’ve learned how to make logical arguments. I’ve learned what makes arguments strong and what makes them weak through historical contexts, such as learning what Descartes said or what Nietzsche said. In Political Science and Human Rights, I’ve learned how to take the structure of Philosophy and apply it to more current options like law and human rights.”
“That’s what you get from approaching your degree from a liberal arts perspective,” she added. “That approach focuses on the fact that Arts disciplines are connected; they are strongest when studied together. St. Thomas is unique in offering that. The fact that I’m not part of the Human Rights Department, but I can still have all these opportunities is neat.”

NEXT to Showcase STU’s Diverse Theatre Community as Part of 25th Anniversary of Black Box Theatre

PUBLISHED DATE: Tuesday, June 13, 2017
NEXT—Theatre St. Thomas’s new play festival showcasing a collection of fully produced scripts written by St. Thomas students and recent alumni—seeks to bring together artists from diverse backgrounds and communities to produce multiple perspectives on a shared question: What’s next?
Aspiring St. Thomas playwrights are asked to write a short play using “what’s next?” as the prompt.
Interested St. Thomas students should submit a completed script that would run 20-30 minutes with the expectation that the playwright will be available in the fall to workshop and rework the script with a dramaturge. Scripts should be performable by 6 actors or less.
Important: Your full name and contact information should appear with the play’s title only on the script’s cover page; the script itself should not include any trace of your name in order to ensure blind vetting. The script’s pages should include the play’s title as well as page numbers. A character list should appear on the script’s first page after the cover page.
St. Thomas students and recent alumni interested in directing one of the plays should submit a one-page letter of intent stating one’s experience and interest in directing. Shortlisted directing candidates may be contacted for a brief interview to discuss their interest. Directors must be available for preproduction in the fall of 2017 and an intense rehearsal period in January 2018.
Joint auditions for NEXT and TST’s fall show Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead will take place on Friday, September 15th and Saturday, 16th 2017 with potential callbacks on Sunday, September 17, 2017. Everyone is welcome to attend auditions.
NEXT will be performed in the Black Box Theatre from Wednesday, January 31 to Saturday, February 3, 2018 with evening performances and a Saturday matinee.
Get Involved
Please email script submissions (under blind cover as described above) or director applications to by July 31st, 2017. Questions may be directed to Robbie Lynn, Festival Producer, at
Theatre St. Thomas

Theatre St. Thomas (TST) is St. Thomas University’s flagship extra-curricular theatre company. Producing theatre for over 60 years (and more than 45 years as “TST”), we have been at home in the Black Box Theatre since 1993. Working under the professional direction of faculty and staff at St. Thomas, students act and work backstage alongside fellow students, St. Thomas alumni, and members of the Fredericton theatre community to learn and develop their stage skills in a fun and enriching experiential, cross-disciplinary environment.

Follow TST on Facebook and Twitter.

Art’s Healing Power: How Kimberly Kool, BA’06, Connects With Others Through Art

PUBLISHED DATE: Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Kim Kool, BA'06, partners with community groups and agencies to offer encaustic workshops to individuals with mental health issues, addictions, developmental disabilities, and young moms, among others.
Kimberly Kool, BA’06, didn’t think she had an artistic bone in her body. But a job working with women at the federal penitentiary in Kitchener, Ontario taught her otherwise — and changed her life.

She was working for the STRIDE program at Community Justice Initiatives, offering arts and recreation programs to incarcerated women. The program engages community volunteers to develop strong relationships with federally sentenced women, with the ultimate aim of supporting successful reintegration for the women after their release.

“I felt like I was studying again. I did a lot of research on different art techniques, as it was more about crafts than fine arts,” said Kool, who studied Criminology, English, and Psychology at St. Thomas.

The STRIDE program took place inside the federal penitentiary with up to 100 women participating, depending on the activity which was taking place.

Kool found that art became a huge equalizer and a life-changing experience for these women who had often lived through significant trauma, abuse, and poverty.

“Women who thought ‘I’m no good’ would sit down and create something beautiful. I just remember seeing the look on their faces when they made something for the first time,” Kool said.

The art activities Kool and the STRIDE team planned became so popular that the program expanded to include women who had already left prison.

While looking for new art techniques to introduce at work, Kool was introduced to encaustics, an ancient Egyptian art practice done by heating beeswax.

Yet this time, it was her life that changed.

“The first time I tried encaustics I felt like a kid trying something for the very first time, where you just play and lose yourself completely.”

Encaustics art involves heating beeswax, adding oil paint to it, embedding objects into the wax, and heating them together to create something new. For example, you can embed flowers, poems printed on pieces of paper, or other meaningful objects.

“I bought everything I needed to do it at home, started playing around with the medium, and sort of built myself a studio in my house,” said Kool.

She left the STRIDE program and developed her own private practice called Edge of Grey Encaustics in Grey County, Ontario where she partners with community groups and agencies to offer encaustic workshops to individuals with mental health issues, addictions, developmental disabilities, and young moms, among others.

Her workshop participants all say encaustics helps them have fun and de-stress.
“Art has this great way of building a community of people that stay connected with each other.”

Kool is convinced art can make a difference in people’s lives. She has seen it happen, citing the example of a woman with a developmental disability who came to an encaustics workshop with her support worker. She was quiet and shy at first, but as the workshop progressed, she connected with the other participants and created a beautiful piece of art. After the workshop, they all decided to go for lunch at a little café nearby.

“I just remember thinking that it was because of the opportunity to come together and create art together that this woman was able to participate and actually be part of the community,” she said.

This profile is part of a longer feature on the healing power of art, which appeared in Connections Magazine. To see the full issue of the magazine, please see:

Letter from a First-Year Student - Bibi Wasiimah JOOMUN

PUBLISHED DATE: Monday, January 9, 2017
My name is Wasiimah, and I’m a first-year student at St. Thomas from Mauritius, a small island in the Indian Ocean.

It’s with great pleasure I’m writing to you, because I know choosing the best university for you can be challenging. I hope by sharing my experiences with you, I help you figure out whether St. Thomas is the best place for you.

Making the decision to join the STU family

I was looking for a university that suited my personality and character, but also that fit my financial position. I was interested in studying Psychology and Criminology, and when I discovered the many scholarship and bursary opportunities at St. Thomas, I decided to apply.

One day, I received a phone call that changed my life. I was offered a renewable scholarship and bursary from St. Thomas. The university had my heart that very day.

The happiness and pride I could see in my parents’ eyes was all because of St. Thomas. This was the day I decided I would come to Canada and to St. Thomas. Being able to fulfill my mother’s dream of sending her children abroad for university studies is a feeling beyond words.

My first weeks

Amazing! Fantastic! Awesome!

My first impression of St. Thomas was the very warm welcome I received at the airport. Arriving to find someone from the university holding up a sign with my name on it with a big smile on their face at 11 pm was a great feeling after two days of travel.
When I arrived to my residence room, my roommate was there to welcome me. There were no awkward moments. My roommate and I ended up talking for hours.

The culture of acceptance here made my transition easy and wonderful, and living in residence is the best thing I can recommend. I cannot imagine my experience without the wonderful moments I share with students who live in my residence. Everyone is so ready to listen and help you with anything.

Most importantly, they accept you the way you are. Being with people from St. Thomas, I don’t think about that I am not from Canada or that I belong to a different cultural and religious background.

I remember being in your shoes, worrying about how the first weeks would go. Believe me, this is a normal feeling. However, at this university, if you are sitting alone at the dining hall, someone will join you. You make friends just by opening your door. A simple “hi” and a smile is usually the start of a new friendship at St. Thomas.

First week of class

One reason I chose St. Thomas was for the small classes—maximum 60 students, but more often less—which allows for interaction between professors and students. It makes me love going to class.

If you’re looking to have a lot of interaction and discussion with classmates and professors, St. Thomas is a fit for you. Professors remember your name and they’re willing to meet you outside of class.

What St. Thomas has done for me

Coming to St. Thomas has given me happiness, wonderful experiences, and amazing people in my life. Belonging to the St. Thomas family has been the best thing I could have imagined for myself.

This experience has not only given me these things, but it has also given my parents happiness and pride. St. Thomas has definitely changed my life.

I hope my personal experiences helps you decide whether St. Thomas is right for you.

Sincerely and best regards,

Bibi Wasiimah JOOMUN

Apply to St. Thomas University for September 2017