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New $2-million chair to focus on culture change and immigration

By Jennifer E. O’Neill

A search committee has been appointed by the Faculty of Arts at Memorial University to identify possible candidates for an academic chair position focusing on culture change and the strategies required to affect immigration integration and retention.

The Stephen Jarislowsky Chair in Culture Change in Rapidly Developing Modern Societies, a $2 million teaching and research professorship supported by private and public sector donations, will be anchored in the Faculty of Arts and operate with five-year terms.

The Montreal-based Stephen Jarislowsky Foundation donated $1 million to establish the chair, and local philanthropist Elinor Gill Ratcliffe committed $500,000. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, through the Department of Human Resources, Labour and Employment (HRLE), provided $225,000 in support. Funds are still being raised to acquire an additional $275,000 to support the chair.

This is the Jarislowsky Foundation’s first-ever contribution to Memorial, though it has an impressive record of significant contributions to several other universities across the country. Through the foundation, Stephen Jarislowsky’s passion for education has resulted in the establishment of several endowed chairs in a variety of disciplines such as medicine, finance, art history, public sector management, and religion. Mr. Jarislowsky is chairman and chief executive officer and former president of Jarislowsky, Fraser Limited, one of Canada’s largest and most successful investment management firms.

“Newfoundland and Labrador is rapidly entering a new stage in its history by embarking on major growth and development,” said Mr. Jarislowsky. “This requires the attraction of immigrants and the return of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, as well as the internal development of the province’s human asset. Decisions as to the best strategy require many inputs best centered at Memorial University.”

The academic recruited to the chair will develop linkages with other departments, institutes, and universities in order to promote interdisciplinary world-class research and integration in this new field. In the chair holder’s work, broader understanding of cultural issues will be fostered through the engagement of policy makers and the public.

The chair also marks the largest philanthropic gift Ms. Gill Ratcliffe, a respected humanitarian, and a member of both The Order of Newfoundland and Labrador and The Order of Canada, has made to Memorial. “Upon further discussion with MUN officials, I was impressed and heartened to learn that the professorship would be reaching out to other departments, institutes and universities, as well as policy makers and members of the community,” said Ms. Gill Ratcliffe.

Dr. Gary Kachanoski, Memorial’s president and vice-chancellor, said the philanthropic support of foundations and individuals enables Memorial to facilitate invaluable research opportunities and to further advance faculty objectives. “The Faculty of Arts has established a multi-disciplinary group of researchers with expertise in areas such as immigration, indigenous peoples, nationalism, cultural and linguistic groups, ethnic communities, inter-group attitudes and relations, and Newfoundland and Labrador history and public policy,” said Dr. Kachanoski. “Through these generous donations, the Faculty of Arts within Memorial will strengthen its role as an integral contributor to the social, cultural and economic development of the province.”

Research undertaken by the chair will assist the provincial government in advancing its immigration strategy. According to Census 2006, Newfoundland and Labrador welcomed 8,380 immigrants (a slight increase from 2001), with more than 60 per cent residing in St. John’s.

“Through this chair’s research, the university will inform and help guide the means by which the province recruits and integrates newcomers into the social and economic life of Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Susan Sullivan, minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment. “The Provincial Government is pleased to support this valuable new means to conduct research and inform future planning.”