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Grenfell vice-president sets sights on Labrador collaborations

Dr. Mary Bluechardt (back), and Dr. Maura Hanrahan, went for a 15-kilometre dogsled ride through the woods near Goose Bay on a recent visit.


By Pamela Gill

Fresh from her familiarization tour of the Happy Valley-Goose Bay area, Dr. Mary Bluechardt is enthusiastic about developing partnerships in Labrador.

Upon her return from the Big Land it was clear that the vice-president of Grenfell Campus was invigorated by the possibilities of future collaborations.

"There are many factors that align Grenfell Campus and the Labrador Institute," said Dr. Bluechardt. "We are smaller institutions of Memorial University. This allows us to have great personal connections with people in rural and remote areas. And we are increasingly interested in developing programming to meet the needs of people who are not located in close proximity to a university campus. In addition, the faculty and staff of Grenfell and the Labrador Institute are realizing how many similar themes there are in the work they are doing respectively."

Her trip was a continuation of the efforts being made by several faculty and staff at Grenfell to establish partnerships. In November, a group of Grenfell researchers travelled to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and just last month a contingent from the Labrador Institute completed the exchange with a visit to Grenfell Campus. As a result of these visits opportunities have been identified to collaborate with craft makers and visual artists, fish producers and agricultural and forestry experts, among others.

Memorial University is currently working to increase its profile of the university in Labrador – to demonstrate the significant academic and applied research activities in Labrador in recent years as well as to identify new opportunities.

Dr. Bluechardt was joined by Dr. Maura Hanrahan, who was appointed Memorial's special adviser for aboriginal affairs as a result of Memorial's Aboriginal Task Force Report in 2010. The two met with representatives of the Innu Nation, the Nunatsiavut Government and the NunatuKavut Community Council, all of whom were impressed by Dr. Bluechardt's interest in their cultures and her insights about educational needs and goals. They also had an opportunity to view the Innu school in Sheshatshiu and the Labrador Interpretation Centre in Northwest River.

"When I came to the west coast of the island eight months ago I thought, 'This is an incredible, beautiful place,'" said Dr. Bluechardt. "I had the same experience in Labrador. The people are remarkable. The land is stunning. Sharing our experiences and working together will further strengthen Memorial University's presence throughout the entire province."