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Convocation 2010 -- Profiles

A special connection

By Sharon Gray

Dr. Dawn Howse and Kathryn Sparrow are both receiving degrees at spring convocation. Dr. Howse is being awarded an honorary degree in recognition of her years of service in Zimbabwe; Kathryn is receiving her medical degree.

But the two women share another relationship. On Sept. 18, 1984, Dr. Howse brought Kathryn into the world. She was one of two female doctors in private practice in Corner Brook at the time, and Anne Lynch chose her to deliver her first child.

The connections go deeper. Dr. Howse and Kathryn’s father, Dr. Carl Sparrow, are both graduates of the medical class of 1978. And their parents lived next door to each other in St. John’s and were good friends while Kathryn’s grandparents were alive.

Since her return from Zimbabwe, Dr. Howse completed an upgrade of her skills through the Clinical Skills and Assessment Program in Corner Brook. Kathryn was doing a rotation in orthopedic surgery in Corner Brook at the time and the two women met at the Western Memorial Hospital orientation.

“It’s a bit of a legend in our family,” said Kathryn. “Growing up we’d always get Dr. Howse’s newsletter.”

There’s one other connection between the two families. Kathryn’s brother Robert is an engineering student who has spent the better part of last year in Malawi with Engineers Without Borders.

“Perhaps someday we will recruit Kathryn for work in Zimbabwe,” joked Dr. Howse.

‘Indomitable spirit’

By Mandy Cook

Teresa Figueroa is an ideal candidate for a career specializing in empathy and emotional support.

As she prepares to graduate from the bachelor of social work degree program, Teresa has travelled hundreds of miles and accomplished things the vast majority of her countrymen and women could never dream of.

“It has been such an opportunity and a privilege to pursue a university education in Newfoundland,” said the 36-year-old single mother. “I grew up in a very poor family, and I didn’t finish my junior high education because my parents couldn’t afford it. In El Salvador, there are no social programs to help you pay for an education. It has been a big help here.”

Teresa and her family fled a life scarred by civil war in 1991. Adjusting to a vastly different climate, negotiating a foreign culture and learning to speak English in this province were just some of the obstacles she was obliged to overcome before even considering how to improve her chances of survival in a strange country.

But she held on, finishing her high school education and applying to Memorial in 2004. She was accepted into the social work program and has never looked back. She plans on remaining in the province to practice in the field – after she achieves her next educational goal of a master’s degree. Her professors couldn’t be more delighted.

Dr. Catherine de Boer said Teresa’s performance during her bachelor degree was consistently “exceptional” and, as a student demonstrated diligence, professionalism and a perceptive understanding of social justice and ethical practice.

“Teresa’s life experiences could have left her angry, defeated, hopeless or cynical,” said Dr. Boer. “But they did not. Teresa brought into our classrooms and her field placements her indomitable spirit, her openness and optimism to life, her passion and commitment to social work, and perhaps most importantly, her warmth and humour.

“She has been a credit to our program.”

In turn, Teresa credits her family, the supportive teaching of her instructors and her peer groups of other international students and single parents studying at Memorial to her success. She said with their help she has “found her way” as the first member of her family to achieve her dream of a university education.

Teresa Figueroa will be graduating with her bachelor of social work on May 27 in St. John’s.

Wired for sound

Andy Bowers figures it will take several trips across the pond to get all his DJ and remixing gear to the University of Oxford.

“I’ll bring the basics with me, and then have the rest shipped, or when my parents visit, they can bring some pieces with them,” said Andy, who graduated May 14 at Grenfell College’s convocation ceremony with a degree in social/cultural studies. He also received the University Medal for Academic Excellence in Social/Cultural Studies.

In October, Andy will begin a master’s program which will further his interests in ethnomusicology. He hopes to streamline the degree into a doctorate and graduate with his PhD from Oxford in four years.

Andy’s love of the sociological side of music began with a course at Grenfell, Religious Themes in Contemporary Songwriting, taught by religious studies professor Michael Newton.

“That was my introduction to ethnomusicology; that’s when I fell in love with it. I knew that’s where I have to end up,” he said. “It’s the sociology of music – why people create the music they create.”

And he won’t just study other people’s music – he’ll continue making his own creations too. Known as DJ Dain on the local scene, Andy relies on new and old technology to create and mix music – from vinyl and turntables to MP3s and everything in between.

“I picked up this tape deck,” he said with a smile. “Now it’s like an old friend. Some people try to go all digital or all old school, but I wanted to get my hands dirty and use all different types of technology.”

Most recently, Andy’s mash-up of three songs – Don’t Worry, Be Happy (Bobby McFerrin), I’m Yours (Jason Mraz) and Somewhere Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World (Israel Kamakawiwo'ole) – was seized upon by music lovers all over the world. He's been inundated with download requests, and so far the track has had more than 200,000 plays online.

“It’s gone viral, really,” he said. “It’s opened up a lot of doors to network with people. It’s unbelievable how much potential there is to tap into out there.”
Andy said one of the reasons Oxford is so attractive to him as an educational destination is its proximity to London and the music scene there.

“It’s one of the great cities of the world with its finger on the pulse of urban nightlife and electronic dance music,” he said.

To learn more and/or listen to Andy’s creations, visit

Members of the Global Education Initiative include, from left, Andrew Harvey, Laura Temple, Jeremy Dyer, Meaghan Aylward and Erin Aylward.

Global Grads

By Heidi Wicks

Pamela Anderson and Heather Mills-McCartney’s annual objections to the seal hunt may get us all rowdy, but how much do we truly understand of the contemporary situation surrounding trade and the European Union? We fight for our aboriginal populations, but to what extent do we understand their link to other regions of the world?

Masters of education student Erin Ayl­ward isn’t content with current curriculum in Newfoundland and Labrador schools. She formed the Global Education Initiative (GEI, along with 18 other students) in September 2009, with the goal of reinstating global education courses in K-12 and university curriculum.

Ms. Aylward observed that our province’s education system reflects a popular, sometimes fervent emerging trend within our contemporary culture.

“Following the collapse of the fishery, we are very eager to preserve our culture and increase the younger generation’s knowledge of our rich history – and rightly so.” she explained. “However, in seeking to promote our own culture, we sometimes forget to engage with issues affecting the rest of the world. The problem is that global issues don’t only affect other regions of the world, they also affect Newfoundland and Labrador in a very big way.”

She referenced Abitibi-Bowater’s decision to move out of the province in 2009 and the importance of understanding the actions of multinational corporations worldwide.

“Unfortunately, our curriculum does not reflect this global interconnectedness,” she said. “Nova Scotia and Newfoundland are the only two provinces that don’t have a social studies course specifically related to global issues, citizenship or social justice. What’s more, Nova Scotia’s World Geography and History courses include a major focus on North-South relations, human geography and other issues related to global affairs. Our curriculum, by contrast, is currently rooted in physical geography and European history, with a focus on modern warfare.”

The provincial Department of Education is currently reviewing social studies curriculum. As a result, much of the GEI’s work has focused on meeting with the Department. They will deliver a presentation and report concerning the importance of the subject. The Global Education Initiative’s cause seems to be one that’s more obvious than Paul McCartney’s lack of eastern Canadian geography.

Enriching experience

Whoever asks what you can do with an arts degree hasn’t met Zaren Healey White. In addition to winning a multitude of scholarships, appearing on the Faculty of Arts Dean’s List three times, being selected as an Amazing Student, winning a national student leadership award, and being shortlisted for the Rhodes Scholarship last year, Zaren has consistently worked at part time and full time jobs throughout her five years as an undergraduate and managed to squeeze in volunteer positions as well.

In her last two years, as copy editor of the Muse and in a full-time position as Coordinator of the Student Volunteer Bureau she has put in more hours than many full time employees while completing her BA (Honours) in English Language and Literature and Women’s Studies.

“I’ve always been a bit of a workaholic,” said Zaren. Having already landed a full time job at Memorial as Go Abroad Coordinator and planning to start a part-time MA in English this fall, her work ethic will continue to be put to the test.

“Working in student development doesn’t feel like work to me. Community engagement, citizenship, activism, mentoring, and leadership -- these are themes that have enriched my experience of university. Now it’s time to help enhance and enrich the lives and learning of others,” said Zaren.

“Whether I ultimately become a professor, a university administrator, or both, this will be my mission.”

Growing pains

Peer encouragement, Growing Pains and faculty support lead to international student success.

Wanggu Ouyang is one of the first students to graduate from the Faculty of Business Administration’s 2+2 program with Renmin University of China in Beijing, which allows students who complete the first two years of their business degree in China to finish their final two years at Memorial.

Wanggu decided to come to Memorial to experience different teaching styles, improve his English skills and create new opportunities for further employment. He said he wasn’t nervous about coming to Canada to study, but that the first semester proved to be extremely challenging.

“The professors spoke quickly and I understood virtually nothing,” he said. “I was worried about failing and I studied all the time. My roommate helped me learn how to study and after that it turned into a friendly competition between us. I really appreciate how much he helped me in the first few semesters.”

In addition to peer support, Wanggu had a secret weapon to help improve his listening comprehension.

“I watched Growing Pains in English to help me understand the language. My father used to watch it when we were in China, and my Mom always said that I was like Mike Seaver, so when I needed something to watch it seemed like the perfect choice.”

Wanggu said the support from his family, colleagues in the program and faculty and staff helped him succeed. He is graduating with honours in the bachelor of business administration program and after convocation he is going to Toronto to work as a financial assistant before pursuing a graduate degree in the United States.

Adventure education

By Heidi Wicks

Andrew Robertson has gone to far greater heights than most to attain his M.Ed. than your average Joe. Literally.

For this daredevil, life is just too short. After a near-death experience in a 1994 accident while driving to work for B.C. Ferries, he vowed to live every day as if it were his last.

His day job is director of Robertson Marine Technical Services Limited, and his goal as a sea-going chief engineer is to help students and co-workers excel as Marine Engineers. He credits Distance Education and Learning Technologies (DELT) for helping him achieve his goal.

“Life is all about learning,” is Andrew’s mantra. “Meeting requirements for the master’s program has been an adventure in itself. The first course was Statistics, which I completed while fishing shrimp in the Davis Straight. Next was an introduction to education, while flying my own light plane from Vancouver to Nova Scotia. More distance education courses were completed while refitting two small ships in Halifax. A course for Curriculum Design was undertaken while refitting a large ship in New Orleans just before Hurricane Katrina hit.”

The escapades involved in his everyday work aren’t enough for Andrew, whose hobbies include everything from scuba and sky-diving to cartooning to gardening.

“And I built two of my own planes,” he added. He also built his own house, from his own timber, while recovering from that 1994 near-death accident.

This is a big year for Andrew. In addition to graduating from Memorial, he’s also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Scottish Parachute Club at Strathallan Castle in Scotland, whose founder is his father, Dr. Charles A. Robertson.

The one lesson Andrew has learned from his life and learning experiences?

“We must never stop learning. Despite all this traveling about, I was at all times provided the very best education and service by my professors and the Memorial support staff. I always knew that I was a member of the Memorial student body, no matter where I was in the world.”

Jeff Genge (Ned Pratt photo)

Rising to the challenge

By Courtney Alcock

Graduating with a university bachelor degree is a feat in itself, and Jeff Genge did just that at spring convocation. The only difference is he’s done it all while living in a remote community on the province’s northern peninsula.

Currently living in St. Barbe, N.L., Jeff graduated with a bachelor of technology and credits Memorial’s distance learning offerings for giving him that opportunity.

“Memorial has been quite accommodating to say the least in my quest for higher learning,” he said. “It had been a long time since I completed any post-secondary courses, so I was a little nervous when I first started taking them online.

“But I’ll admit that my courses have been quite interactive with students and teachers alike.”

In addition to living far from one of Memorial’s campuses, Jeff works offshore on a rotational schedule of three weeks on and three weeks off, and is father to three small children who he devotes the majority of his time when he is home.

“My time at home is valuable to me … and busy, so trying to balance family, work and school has been challenging at times,” Jeff admitted. “Studying by distance required organizational skills and a high level of determination, but ultimately it gave me the freedom to choose when I ‘go to class’ or complete assignments so that it fit my schedule.”