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Father Shawn Daley Appointed University Chaplain

PUBLISHED DATE: Tuesday, August 23, 2016
As part of the new parish assignments made recently by Bishop Robert Harris of the Diocese of Saint John, Father Shawn Daley has been appointed University Chaplain.
Father Daley is a native of New Brunswick (Acadian-Irish) who holds degrees in Philosophy and Theology from Université Laval in Quebec and a Canonical Licentiate in Theology from the Centre Sèvres Facultés Jésuites in Paris.
He served as a cloistered Trappist monk in Rogersville, New Brunswick, for almost two decades and then worked in the Dominican Republic for six years at a Scarboro Missions Parish.  He also served at missions in Uganda, Thailand and Haiti.  He was ordained a deacon in the Catholic Church for the Scarboro Missions Society in 2012 and was ordained a priest the following year.  Following ordination, he served for one year in the Scarboro Mission in Guyana.  Scarboro Missions specialize in overseas missions and inter-religious dialogue.
The University Chaplain and Campus Ministry are an important and active part of our community, offering spiritual support, guidance and a listening ear to all students, regardless of their faith.  Students become involved in ministries, attend retreats, explore leadership opportunities and share many theological discussions.  Campus Ministry also oversees the Student Food Bank.
To learn more, see

Data Centre consolidation means big savings for higher-ed sector in NB and PEI

PUBLISHED DATE: Monday, August 22, 2016
Mount Allison University and St. Thomas University will see cost savings in their IT departments after consolidating some of their IT equipment and services at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) data centre.
The data centre consolidation project will save approximately $120,000 in data centre support annually for the two schools combined. Much of this is attributed to reallocation of staff time to other priorities, but at least $25,000 in savings will result from lower licensing and hardware costs, plus reduced power consumption and facility maintenance.
“Mount Allison and St. Thomas universities have long shared data centre facilities in an effective and efficient partnership. This latest initiative takes collaboration to the next level, by locating these services at the newly renovated UNB data centre,” says Mount Allison President Robert Campbell, chair of the New Brunswick/Prince Edward Island Educational Computer Network (ECN). “We enjoy a high level of co-operation and collaboration across IT units in our region, which makes possible this highly innovative and cost-effective strategy.”
Mount Allison previously hosted St. Thomas’s IT services in its own data centre, but aging facilities and significant hardware renewal costs prompted the IT directors from both schools to seek a new home for their IT infrastructure. Knowing that UNB was investing in improvements to its data centre, the directors proposed consolidating their equipment there. 
“By housing key IT infrastructure including servers, data storage, and backups at UNB, Mount Allison and St. Thomas eliminate the need for maintaining their own data centres, while enjoying completely autonomous access to and control of their IT environments,” says Terry Nikkel, associate vice-president, information technology services at UNB.
“All three schools are members of a consortium of higher-ed institutions in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island called the Educational Computer Network,” added Nikkel. “We work very well together and for many years have helped each other reduce costs and become more efficient, to the point where we can consolidate high-stakes services such as computing infrastructure, confident that individual institutional needs will still be met.”
Other members of the consortium are also moving IT services to UNB.

New On-Campus Pharmacy to Provide Accessible Services to Students, Faculty, and Staff

PUBLISHED DATE: Tuesday, August 16, 2016
It’s going to be easier than ever for students at UNB, STU and NBCC to get the medicine they need on campus.

Campus Pharmacy, located at the University Bookstore, opened its doors to students, faculty and staff on Thursday.

Campus Pharmacy offers a variety of services, including injections, sports medicine, travel medicine, and diabetes education. Customers can transfer their existing prescriptions from other pharmacies, both in and out of province. Customers have the option to use their UCard at the pharmacy to make payment a breeze.

The pharmacy also offers discounts, with students receiving 10 per cent off on Wednesdays and faculty and staff reaping the benefits on Fridays.

The new apothecary, spearheaded by UNB, is meant to provide easier access to medical services for those who would otherwise have difficulties.

Campus Pharmacy is run by Dr. Ayub Chishti, a pharmacist with 30 years of experience in the industry. Dr. Chishti has been working diligently to ensure smooth sailing for the service.

“The whole campus is welcome through our doors,” he said. “Our motto here is ‘healthy body, healthy mind’, and being open and accessible is key to our success.”

Those wishing to use the pharmacy are encouraged to transfer their files now to allow the service stock up on the appropriate supplies, as well as to cut down on wait times once the new school year begins.

“We expect an increase in customers because of this new and incredibly convenient service,” said Shelley Nowlan, manager of the University Bookstore.

There will be a grand opening once the school year begins in September. For now, Ms. Nowlan and Dr. Chishti are excited to offer a new service to the university community.

The pharmacy will be open on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Once school starts, it will also be open on Saturdays from 1 to 3 p.m. The hours may change as needed, based on client demands.

A Well-Rounded Foundation - Emily Cronkhite, BA’16, has been accepted into Dalhousie University’s College of Pharmacy

PUBLISHED DATE: Monday, August 8, 2016
Ever since junior high, Emily Cronkhite, BA'16, has wanted to pursue a career in pharmacy, and this fall she'll be one step closer to achieving her goal.

The Fredericton, NB, native, who majored in Psychology and minored in Gerontology, was recently accepted into Dalhousie University's College of Pharmacy.

Cronkhite said earning a spot in the competitive program—they accept 90 students per year—was even more gratifying because she was able to do it with a background in liberal arts.

"I'm very happy that I was able to reach my goal the way that I have, by being a full time student athlete at St. Thomas and taking my science courses at the University of New Brunswick."

Cronkhite believes entering pharmacy with an education from St. Thomas is the best option and provides a well-rounded foundation to build upon.

"You get the best of both worlds with the smaller classes, smaller community, and great atmosphere at STU, but then you also get to take two courses per semester at UNB. You get the arts side and you get the science, which I find is great going forward," she said.

"By getting into the program with a liberal arts degree I'm well-rounded as a student and it allows me to have an open mind and think outside the box. Instead of having science courses and just the pre-requisites to get in, I have a background in psychology and gerontology that are both very important when dealing with the public."

Cronkhite, who competed with the Tommies soccer and volleyball teams throughout her degree, did a science project about pharmacy in grade eight and has been interested in the profession ever since.

To be able to begin the process of becoming a pharmacist is an exciting milestone for the STU alumna.

"I've always loved everything about the science and the medical aspect, so I'm very excited that I'm finally getting the opportunity to expand my studies into the program. All my hard work and studying has paid off."

Mission STU Possible: Welcome Week 2016 Events

PUBLISHED DATE: Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Stay up to date by liking the Welcome Week Facebook page.

Saturday, September 3rd, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm – (In front of) Sir James Dunn Hall/Forest Hill Cafeteria 
Move-In Day 
Be sure to come visit us and pick up your Welcome Week Kit and bracelet! Your bracelet will be what lets you into all the events throughout the week and your kit contains some amazing swag and some essential gear for your first week of university! We can also answer any of your questions and we will have spirited volunteers all around campus ready to assist you.

Saturday, September 3rd, 4:00 PM – The Great Hall

Parents Welcome 
Parents are invited to join faculty and staff in a welcome ceremony located in the Great Hall, on the third floor of George Martin Hall. Parents will receive a welcoming address from the Associate Vice President, Enrolment Management, Scott Duguay, as well as tips and tricks to help their students with the transition into university. Refreshments will be provided.

Saturday, September 3rd, 8:00 PM – 10:00 PM - Lower Courtyard
A popular Welcome Week tradition, the Cheer-Off is an opportunity for first-year students to show their newly adopted pride for their respective residences. STU’s newest students will gather together, sporting residence colours and screaming cheers, all in hopes of claiming the title of the loudest and proudest house on campus.

Sunday, September 4th, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM – Kinsella Auditorium
Embracing Diversity with Sabrina Jalees
It was in embracing her own diversity that Sabrina discovered her passion and carved out a career in comedy at the age of 16. During this one hour talk, Sabrina discusses her experience growing up half Pakistani, half Swiss in a predominantly white neighborhood.  She will touch on issues that range from post-911 Islamaphobia to Ke$ha, from homophobia to the Kardashians. With the funniest parts of her act being tied to things that once made her uncomfortable, Sabrina shares one of the most important lessons she’s learned: owning and embracing your individuality will unlock the transformation from ’embarrassed’ to ’empowered’.

Sunday, September 4th, 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM – Gather in the Lower Courtyard
Mission: Downtown
Get geared up and ready to test your skills and abilities while exploring downtown Fredericton! This event will introduce students to the downtown core and make sure they have the skills to help them make the most of their years at STU! This is one event you definitely won’t want to miss!

Sunday, September 4, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM – Kinsella Auditorium
Comedy Night with Sabrina Jalees 
Enjoy a night of laughs with the famous and hysterical comedic star Sabrina Jalees! Opening for the likes of Russell Peters and a headliner comic in her own right, Sabrina never fails to draw laughter with her shoot-from-the-hip style. Currently, Sabrina is a writer on NBC’s Powerless, and has recently been a recurring guest on Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore and the host of the weekly serial My Sexy Podcast.

Monday, September 5th, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM – Kinsella Auditorium
Get Your “License to Succeed” with Blake Fly 
We are proud to welcome Blake Fly to perform at our Welcome Week to inspire you and to ignite your potential! He will provide you with your “License to Succeed!” Through the use of live music, storytelling, and humor, Blake will provide students with a road map of how to successfully navigate your first four months of university.

Monday, September 5, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM – Kinsella Auditorium
SxEthx in the Age of Consent: How to Be (and Have) A Better Lover with Kris Trotter
Counsellor/stand-up comic Kris Trotter (M.Ed, CCC) is "The 'Ellen' of Consent!" Funny, experienced and real, Kris has been educating and inspiring university, college and high school audiences on the tricky topic of negotiating intimacy.  This (inter)personal, chewy, vitally important topic comes out of the closet and into the hearts and minds of students through stories and methods that keep everyone comfortable. You will leave with a solid understanding of how to give and obey the messages necessary for negotiating anything between you and yours.

Tuesday, September 6th, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM –Lower Courtyard
Shine Day
Students will hit the streets of Fredericton to sing songs, flip burgers, and wash cars – whatever they can do to attract attention and raise money for St. Thomas’ 5th annual Shinerama campaign. Students will be given the opportunity to raise money for a great cause, meet classmates, and become familiar with the Fredericton community! Let’s get out and raise money for Cystic Fibrosis Canada!

Tuesday, September 6th, 7:00 PM – 11:00 PM – Meet at the Student Union Building
Students will meet in front of the Student Union Building to be bussed down to the Fredericton Exhibition; a wildly popular Fredericton tradition! Students’ Welcome Week bracelet will provide them with FREE entrance into the FREX, where they will have the opportunity to play games, catch death defying acts, and much more! Busses will be running throughout the night to bring students back to the SUB.

Wednesday, September 7th, 8:45 AM – 12:30 PM – Kinsella Auditorium
Academic Transition Day 
Academic Transition Day occurs the day before classes begin and  provide incoming students with the chance to experience a university classroom setting, meet faculty, and chat with upper-year students. Students will also attend an Information Fair to learn about the many helpful services St. Thomas has to offer. 

Wednesday, September 7th, 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM – Rigby Ballrooms
STU Commencement Ceremony
The Commencement Ceremony is STU’s official welcome to new students joining the university community. The ceremony marks the beginning of the students’ university years. Each student will receive a T-Pin – the “T” is the symbol all St. Thomas students identify with while they are attending STU and long after they graduate.

Wednesday, September 7th, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM – Fredericton Playhouse
Hypnotist Cyrus at The Fredericton Playhouse
STUdents are invited to see the legendary professional Hypnotist Cyrus perform at the Fredericton Playhouse for FREE! This will be a one of a kind show that students’ won’t want to skip! The Fredericton Playhouse is a cultural staple in the downtown community, which hosts hundreds of amazing musical and theatrical performances all year long!
Thursday, September 8th, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM – Officer’s Square
Freddy Beach BBQ 
Each year the City of Fredericton hosts a welcome back BBQ for the students of St. Thomas University, University of New Brunswick and New Brunswick Community College. Join your fellow classmates in this exciting downtown event where dignitaries from the city and post-secondary institutions will welcome you to Fredericton!

Thursday, September 8th, 8:00 PM – 10:00 PM – Kinsella Auditorium
Time to Shine Talent Show
The Time to Shine Talent Show allows first year students to showcase their talent in a friendly competition with both a joke and serious category. This event will be an extension of Shine Day where Shinerama participants will be thanked for all their hard work with an address from the president of St. Thomas University, Dawn Russell. Our grand total of fundraising will also be announced!

Friday, September 9th, 7:00 PM – 10:00 PM – Rigby Ballrooms
Diamonds are Forever Casino
Ever wondered what it was like to be James Bond as he played a high stakes poker game in Casino Royale? Find out what it’s like as you play high stake casino games set up around the Rigby Ballrooms and win all the monopoly money you’ve ever wanted!  At the end of the night, a prize auction will be held, during which students can use the monopoly money they’ve won to bid on prizes.

Saturday, September 10th, 1:00 PM -5:00 PM – Forest Hills Residence  
Battle Royale Paint Fight
If you thought colour runs were fun, you haven’t seen anything yet! The final event before the STU Social will be an enormous paint fight between residences. White shirts will be provided to all students. With over $1000 spent on paint, the battle will continue until all of the paint is gone!
Saturday, September 10th, 10:00 PM – 1:00 AM– Rigby Ballrooms
Social STUpremacy
The grand finale of your first week at STU is the legendary STU Social! Throughout the night there will be contests and prizes, as well as great music produced by STU’s best DJ, Santiago Chavez! Arrive in style dressed as your favorite secret agent to ensure you are entered in the contests throughout the night!

Master Schedules by Residence:

MASTER - RIGBY 2016.pdf
MASTER - VANIER 2016.pdf

New Issue of the Journal Narrative Works Now Available

PUBLISHED DATE: Wednesday, August 3, 2016
The latest issue of Narrative Works: Issues, Investigations, & Interventions approaches the study of narrative from a variety of disciplines, including education, philosophy, psychology, social work, and sociology.
The refereed articles cover such topics as aging, spirituality, and narrative; narrative inquiry as an active, relational, and ongoing process of meaning-making; the politics of narrating everyday encounters; and the psychological challenges of identity reconstruction. We are very happy to present work by several St. Thomas faculty: Clive Baldwin, Gül Çaliskan, and Brian Carty.
The issue also includes videos of two of the John McKendy Memorial Lectures from previous years, both by leading narrative scholars: Arthur Frank’s “The Limits, Dangers, and Absolute Indispensability of Stories” (which includes a full transcript) and Hilde Lindemann’s “How to Counter a Counterstory (and Keep Those People in Their Place).”
The issue wraps up with a series of book reviews by Andrew Achenbaum, Arthur Frank, and Narrative Works co-editor, Bill Randall.
The issue is available at

·  Aging, Spirituality, and Narrative: Loss and Repair - Clive Baldwin, Brian Carty, Jennifer Estey
·  The Politics of Narrating Everyday Encounters: Negotiating Identity and Belonging Among Berlin’s German-Born Turkish Ausländer - Gül Çaliskan
·  The Psychological Challenges of Identity Reconstruction Following an Acquired Brain Injury - Chalotte Glintborg, Lærke Krogh
·  Becoming … in the Midst/Wide-Awake/In-Between: An In-Process Narrative Inquiry - Kelly W. Guyotte
Outside the Box (Invited Lectures)

·  The Limits, Dangers, and Absolute Indispensability of Stories - Arthur W. Frank
·  How to Counter a Counterstory (and Keep Those People in Their Place) - Hilde Lindemann

Book Reviews (Invited)

·  Amia Lieblich, Narratives of Positive Aging: Seaside Stories
W. Andrew Achenbaum
·  J.M. Coetzee & Arabella Kurtz, The Good Story: Exchanges on Truth, Fiction and Psychotherapy
Arthur W. Frank 
·  How Doctors Make Stories Matter. Review of Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End & Terrence Holt, Internal Medicine
Arthur W. Frank
·  Molly Andrews. Narrative Imagination and Everyday Life
William L. Randall

Narrative Works is a publication of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Narrative (CIRN) at St. Thomas University in Canada. Disciplines often represented in Narrative Works include, but are not limited to, psychology, sociology, anthropology, gerontology, literary studies, gender studies, cultural studies, religious studies, social work, education, healthcare, ethics, theology, and the arts. Submissions are welcome.

Using Lived Experiences to Implement Policy Changes: Mandy Richard, BA'18, Gives a Voice to First Nations Youth in Care

PUBLISHED DATE: Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Mandy Richard, BA'18, wants to give a voice to First Nations youth who are in the child welfare system.  

The third-year student grew up as an Aboriginal child in care in Ontario and has lived both on and off reserve. She is now helping implement policy changes that will improve the quality of services available for youth in care in First Nations communities.

She said the policy changes need to include input by those most affected by the policies — the youth themselves.

“They are the ones who deal with the realities behind those policies,” she said.
“This is why I believe it’s of the utmost importance to hear from those young people who are living in the child welfare system. They live the realities of a system that is supposed to keep them safe, yet sometimes, it’s failing them.”

This summer, Richard is employed by the New Brunswick Child and Youth Advocate’s office to work on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action Project. The project hopes to build relationships and reconciliation with First Nations communities, especially youth who are currently or formerly in the child welfare system.

Her focus will be on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action that deal with child welfare. These include how neglect investigations are assessed and monitored, keeping Aboriginal families together (when it is safe to do so) and keeping children in culturally appropriate environments, ensuring staff who conduct child-welfare investigations understand how the residential school experience can impact children and their caregivers, and offering more appropriate solutions to family healing.

By providing youth with a safe space to share their story, Richard is allowing them to help create change within their communities.

“One of the very first steps of this project is to establish strong and trusting relationships with the First Nations communities, and that is one of my main focuses this summer,” she explained.

“As the project continues to grow and gather more support, I will meet with those young people, begin building relationships with them, and begin the journey of healing and sharing their stories.”

Changes to the system can’t happen if people don’t communicate what they’ve experienced. That’s the main reason Richard has decided to use her lived experiences to advocate for others.

“Textbooks, statistics, and research could never measure up to how valuable and powerful lived experiences are,” she said.

“I use my lived experiences to push for change and to advocate because it’s the most effective way to get my message across. There is something impactful about storytelling. I find it’s a powerful communication tool. People want facts and evidence, and my lived experiences are that and more,” she said.

“I feel that using my lived experiences in my line of work also expresses the honesty and passion behind it all. It allows people to know I’m sincere with the work I do.”

Award-Winning Writer and Editor Peter Simpson Named Irving Chair in Journalism

PUBLISHED DATE: Monday, July 25, 2016
Award-winning writer and editor Peter Simpson will be visiting campus this fall. The former arts editor, arts-editor-at-large and opinion page editor at the Ottawa Citizen will be the Irving Chair in Journalism at for the 2016-2017 academic year.
Award-winning writer and editor Peter Simpson will be visiting campus this fall.

The former arts editor, arts-editor-at-large and opinion page editor at the Ottawa Citizen will be the Irving Chair in Journalism at for the 2016-2017 academic year.

"I’ve been sitting in chairs for most of my life, from recliners to rockers, so I’m excited about the Irving Chair, and I look forward to working with young journalists to answer the critically important question of where journalism is going, and what it’ll be 10, 20, or 50 years from now,” Simpson said.

He will be on campus for two months, from September 19 to November 18, conducting workshops for students.

Simpson was born sixth in a family of six outspoken children in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, so a career in opinion writing and art criticism seemed to fit.
He worked at the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal from 1994 to 1998, where he first worked with Neil Reynolds—the legendary editor who later became the inaugural Irving Chair of Journalism—became editorial page editor, and won two Atlantic Journalism Awards for opinion and feature writing.
In 1998, Simpson followed Reynolds to the Ottawa Citizen, and spent two years on the Citizen’s editorial board and often focused on cultural issues. He then took over as arts editor for eight years, and spent the past seven years writing the popular Big Beat column and blog, with a principal focus on the National Gallery of Canada and other federal cultural institutions. 
Simpson left the Citizen in February 2016 and is working on a novel. He lives in Ottawa with his wife, the freelance journalist and Frederictonian Jennifer Campbell, and their cats Dief and Baker. 

The Irving Chair in Journalism is a $1-million endowment of the Irving family that brings a distinguished journalist to St. Thomas University annually.

Previous chair holders are Jane Purves, Neil Reynolds, Patrick Martin, Stevie Cameron, Michael Harris, Jan Wong, Francine Pelletier, Bernie Lucht, Talin Vartanian, David Adams Richards, and Ros Guggi.

Jessica Jones, BA’16, Attacks Stigma Surrounding Homelessness as Donor Relations Coordinator for Fredericton Homeless Shelters

PUBLISHED DATE: Monday, July 25, 2016
Jessica Jones, BA’16, discovered her passion for social justice at St. Thomas and is now working to effect change in her community as the Donor Relations Coordinator at the Fredericton Homeless Shelters.

Jones, a native of Moncton, NB, who majored in Human Rights, Psychology, and Criminology, considers herself a “stigma attacker.”

“I attack the stigma surrounding homelessness and try to paint a more realistic picture for the public of what homelessness really means and how it can happen,” she said.

“Each day is a learning opportunity and the chance to show another human being empathy and care. It’s an extremely humbling thing to experience.”

In her position, Jones is responsible for data entry, donor appreciation, event planning, securing new donors and partnerships, as well as generating content for the homeless shelter’s website and social media accounts.

She said having this job is “a dream come true” and allows her to put skills from her liberal arts degree to use every day.

“Critical thinking is the main one, but I consider that to be a skill I use daily in every situation I find myself in,” she said. “The public speaking skills that I acquired have become very useful to me when meeting new donors for the first time and talking about this sensitive topic.”

Jones had a number of influential professors throughout her undergraduate degree, but credits Dr. Mike Fleming, assistant professor in the Sociology and Criminology Departments, for helping her better understand society.

“Dr. Fleming has a very real attitude about the world and taught me the most about life. Because of professors like him, I received a well-rounded education,” she said.

“I came into my field as prepared as I could be for the things I see daily because I learned about the hard situations in life that are often swept under the rug.”

Although she deals with a tough issue on a day to day basis, Jones finds it fulfilling to work in her field and give back to her community in a meaningful way.

“I have the privilege to work in a field where I get to help people who have been dehumanized in many ways feel cared about, valued, and dignified,” she said. “I get to listen to their stories, learn from them, and foster a very real human connection. Then, I get to teach others.”


Diversity Unites Us: STU Recognized for Inclusive Community

PUBLISHED DATE: Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Dr. Christina Szurlej, Felomena Deogratsias, BA ’18, and Dr. Erin Fredericks, BA '06 presented at Anglophone School District East's Respect and Diversity Conference
STU student Felomena Deogratsias, BA ’18, is no stranger to racism and discrimination.
There was the time she was told to leave the swimming pool during a school field trip because they thought her dark skin would “dirty the water.” Or the time a stranger yelled at her because she didn’t look “Canadian” enough. Or the time she was told that it was a “historical fact” that black people were more dangerous than white people.
Today, Deogratsias chooses to use her voice to raise awareness and help others understand the danger of discrimination.
Deogratsias and STU Human Rights professor Dr. Christina Szurlej recently presented at Anglophone School District East’s Respect and Diversity Conference. They spoke about recognizing stereotypes, prejudices, and racism in the context of preventing and addressing intercultural conflict.
She shared her personal experiences with more than 200 middle school and high school students, their educators, school administrators and community members at the event, which was organized by the school district in partnership with St.
Thomas University.
“Being part of this conference was a healing process for me,” Deogratsias said. “It was therapeutic because I got to tell people about how they can do things differently so tomorrow isn’t a repeat of the past.”
Szurlej told the participants that they shouldn’t be afraid of differences. Instead, she said, we should acknowledge that the commonalities linking us through our humanity far outweigh subtle differences.
“We all want to be understood, maintain a sense of belonging, and contribute to a greater purpose. Judging others based on perceived group membership, rather than individual merit, replaces facts and knowledge with unsubstantiated, inaccurate assumptions harmful to the targeted group,” Szurlej said.
“I think about what an awful place our world would be if we were all the same. Diversity should be embraced and celebrated as a source of enrichment and beauty in our everyday lives.”
Deogratsias, Szurlej, and other members of the STU community presented on issues ranging from mental health, the importance of safer spaces in schools for the LGBTQ community, and intercultural conflict resolution.
“St. Thomas is a close-knit community,” Deogratsias said. “It’s a very liberal environment. And so we are the best people to really engage in this type of thing and also give a perspective on how things can be different. It’s a school that embraces diversity, embraces differences.”
John Tingley, BA ’88, the subject coordinator for positive learning and working environment for Anglophone School District East, organized the Respect and Diversity Conference. He said the conference opened up an important dialogue between the presenters, students, and educators.
“Our communities are always changing and social conversations are evolving. Our schools reflect that change,” he explained.
“High school students in 2016 are experiencing the world differently than high school students five years ago. The easy access to 24-hour live streaming of the world and all that it offers places us – as educators – in a unique position. Our students are leaders and have a 21st century perspective on these topics. This conference recognized that perspective and gave voice to topics that need to be discussed in the wider community context.”
He said the school district invited St. Thomas to participate because the university has a reputation for being an inclusive community that embraces diversity.
“When we scanned professional literature and researched best practices, many times faculty members at STU were cited or referenced. Especially Dr. Erin Fredericks with regards to safer spaces and LGBTQ issues and Dr. Christina Szurlej with human rights. So, we did not have to seek out expertise beyond our country or province; we found that expertise at STU.”
To create safe spaces in schools, allies need to understand and empathize with what LGBTQ youth are facing – and usually that means having to come to terms with your own privilege, said Dr. Erin Fredericks, BA ’06.
The Sociology professor and the university’s LGBTQIA+ Resource Advisor spoke to the conference participants about how to become an ally and how to create a safe space in their schools.
“Sometimes when we talk about diversity, we talk about loving each other. But when we talk about being an ally it’s not just about love. It’s about power,” she explained.
“The most important thing you can do as an ally is not spend a ton of time memorizing facts about the queer community but recognize who you are and what your privileges are in society.
“Maybe you don’t have to worry about whether there will be a bathroom you can use when you are in a public space. Maybe you don’t need to worry that someone will misuse your pronoun. Maybe you don’t need to go through life worried that someone will ask you about your partner and you’ll have to make the decision about whether it’s safe to come out.”
But these are the sorts of issues that some members of the LGBTQ community face every day.
Statistics show that a lot of LGBTQ youth are experiencing marginalization in high school, Fredericks added. So what she spoke about at the conference wasn’t new or surprising information for the students in the room, but she said it’s important that the students hear their experiences told and validated by someone with privilege to their educators.
Fredericks invited student Al Cusack, BA’18, to present with her. Cusack is a non-binary trans student at STU and knows firsthand the importance of having a support system that includes well-informed allies on campus. That’s why Cusack spearheaded the Queer and Allied People’s Society at STU, which has quickly become one of the most active groups on campus.
“Even if people don’t participate in Q&A, they know that they are welcome,” they said. “They know they are accepted. They know there is a place to go if they need to be advocated for and if they need a community that understands where they are coming from.”
Cusack said giving high school students advice on how to create safe spaces in their schools is important.
“They are the ones who have the power to advocate for themselves and for people in their community. Especially with high school students, they have a collective power. They are not as used to conformity yet. They can collaborate. They are a force for good if you teach them how to build safer spaces.”
Renée Comeau, BA ’15, BEd ’16, used to spend two hours every day working out at the gym without a break.
“That’s not healthy,” the education student told the conference participants. “In my case, I later found out I had an anxiety problem that fueled this energy to work out. I felt like my sense of control was gone and this was a way of taking control of my life.”
Comeau had been dealing with occasional depression and anxiety since she was in high school, but she didn’t know it was a problem until she had a severe panic attack one day. She made an appointment with a psychologist who diagnosed her with an anxiety disorder and helped her recover with the help of natural coping methods and medication.
“There is a stigma around medication. ‘You’re not strong enough to do this on your own.’ Well no, I’m not. I need the help of something. And that’s ok… with the medication and self-care every day, I feel mentally balanced and mentally well.”
Today, Comeau speaks about her struggles and her eventual recovery to help others recognize warning signs in their own lives and to normalize mental illness.
She started a blog ( so others struggling with mental illness know that they’re not alone. She also became a mental health advocate and speaks at conferences and events to help educate others.
She said she’s not surprised members of the STU community were invited to speak about mental health support, adding that the Student Services department does a great job supporting mental health on campus.
The university provides counselling services. It also regularly hosts self-care events, workshops and engages students through social media around mental health topics. It plans de-stress events during hectic times of the academic year, and supports students in managing the stress they may be facing as a result of pressures in their lives (whether those are academic, personal, financial or otherwise).
It also equips student leaders (like peer mentors and residence advisors), faculty and staff with resources on how to support students in distress or in crisis.
Comeau hopes that talking about mental illness and removing stigma surrounding it will help students she spoke to understand when they need help.
If the participants will remember one message from her talk, it’s that it’s OK to not be OK. But that there are resources available to help them recover.
“Be a glow stick,” she told them. “Sometimes you need to break before you glow.”

This story appeared in the spring/summer issue of Connections, STU's alumni magazine. To see the full issue, please click HERE.