President's Report 2007


Grenfell College helps 'older than average' student find her path

Photo of Linda Peckford

Linda Peckford

Linda Peckford, a Change Islands native graduated with a bachelor of fine arts (visual arts) at the 2007 spring convocation at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, though she had not attended school in over 30 years. "I came here initially as a healing process," she remembered, adding that both her parents had recently passed away. "It wasn't so much to get an education as it was to heal from the losses in my life."

For someone who hadn't written a paper or an exam in 30 years, the prospect of returning to university was "kind of scary and intimidating. Then I met these wonderful teachers," she said. "To meet one good teacher would have been more than I expected, but to find all these in one school. If I had met them back in the '70s I would have had my first degree then."

Ms. Peckford said the visual arts instructors showed her that even though she had no formal training, she still brought something to the program. Her many years experience of working with textiles through the art of rug hooking proved to be an invaluable asset.

She added that the visual arts program helped her to further develop her craft, and now she is using textiles - wedding dresses to be exact - to tell the stories of women who have made a difference over the course of this province's history.

"I have grown by leaps and bounds - I have more self-esteem, power and wisdom," she said. "It's a sense of empowerment. I finally feel like I've achieved that goal that I've dreamed about for years. Man, it's some feeling!"

Finding her own niche

Photo of Kelly Best

Kelly Best

In October 2006, Kelly Best became the first-ever graduate from Memorial's master's program in ethnomusicology, a joint program between the School of Music and the Faculty of Arts.

Her graduate research was the first to focus on the Newfoundland button accordion tradition, for which she looked at contemporary musicians.

In 2005 her supervisor, Dr. Beverley Diamond, suggested she attend the annual Beaches Accordion Festival in Eastport, Newfoundland, as an opportunity to conduct research. There, Ms. Best examined the public performances - the selection of instrument and tune, and the style in which they performed. Then she went backstage and interviewed players from across the province, getting a glimpse into their personal histories and choices.

"The majority of people were middle aged, and many had come back to the accordion sometimes 30 years after they'd put it down," she said, adding that the older players usually refreshed their skills by listening to recordings. "My research would suggest that continuity might not be absolutely necessary to maintaining a tradition."

That return to music after an absence is something Ms. Best knows all about. A musician in her youth, she decided to pursue a passion for science instead, graduating from Memorial with a B.Sc. (honours) in geology in 1998. But after several years working in multimedia and online technology, she realized she wanted to study music.

"I loved science, but I'd had a lifelong relationship with music and I wanted to come back to it." That choice led her back to her hometown of St. John's, and back to Memorial.

"Ethnographic research is so rewarding. You learn as much about yourself as you do others," Ms. Best said. "The process of doing my MA has changed how I look at the world. I don't hear music the same way anymore - I'm less ready to make judgments about it, and more willing to engage in questions about why it's played, who listens to it and how it has meaning."

Ms. Best will continue her studies on the Newfoundland accordion during the pursuit of her PhD at Memorial.

Learning experience gave glimpse into international relations

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Lauren Tobin

While most first year students settle into the academic routine, Business student Lauren Tobin had an experience of a lifetime during one of her semesters at Memorial. In November 2006, she met with world leaders at the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation) summit in Vietnam. There, the energetic business interacted with heads of state, chief executive officers and other leaders while discussing various issues of importance to the Asia-Pacific region.

As one of only five students chosen from across Canada and the only young representative from Newfoundland and Labrador, Ms. Tobin highlighted her home province as a destination of choice for business and industry.

"Our proximity to the United States, relatively low labour costs, and focus on business makes Newfoundland and Labrador an ideal destination for businesses in the Asia-Pacific region," she said "

Juggling academics, preparation for the summit and extracurricular activities was no easy feat, but Ms. Tobin Lauren is used to a hectic schedule. She has an extensive background in community involvement: she participated in an international studies program to Cuba with Canada World Youth, is a member of Futures in Newfoundland and Labrador's Youth (FINALY), volunteers with the Canadian Lung Association and the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, and also plays soccer and rows.

"I like to put my hands in and help out wherever I can," she explained. "Being involved in the community has opened so many doors, and I like to keep busy and give back whatever I can."

Top honours for academic and athletic achiever

Photo of Luke Pike

Luke Pike

A fifth-year Memorial University student who completed a joint honours degree in Biochemistry and Chemistry was chosen as the 2007 Rhodes Scholar from Newfoundland and Labrador. Luke Pike, 22, who is from Grand Bank on the province's Burin Peninsula, graduated from Memorial in May 2007 with his bachelor of science degree. He is taking up further study at the University of Oxford in England in October 2007 where he'll be pursuing a graduate degree in medical oncology at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine.

"I'm very excited about this honour and beginning this new chapter in my career," Mr. Pike said. "I'll head across the pond in the fall where I plan to pursue my studies in cancer research and focus on common clinical cancer such as breast, colon and prostate cancers."

In addition to holding an exceptional academic record, Mr. Pike has also achieved success as a dedicated athlete. In 2005-06, he was honoured with the Premier's Award for Athletic Excellence based on his accomplishments as a competitive powerlifter. A member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Powerlifting Association, the Canadian Powerlifting Union and the International Powerlifting Federation, Mr. Pike currently holds the provincial record in the 110 kilogram junior men's deadlift category which he set in 2006 after lifting an astonishing 283 kilograms. He ranks third in his class in Canada.

Between a hectic academic and athletic career, Mr. Pike is also an avid volunteer, dedicating countless hours to a variety of groups including Memorial's Campus Food Bank, Canadian Cancer Society, St. John Ambulance, as well as the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's and Blue Crest Nursing Home in Grand Bank.