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Vol 39  No 16
June 28, 2007


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Top high school students heading for Memorial

Shad Valley returns
by Kelly Foss

In July, 48 students from across Canada will descend on Memorial’s campus. This annual event marks the beginning of the four-week Shad Valley summer enrichment program.

For that month, participating students from Grades 10 to 12 get to live in residence at Memorial, one of 12 such host university campuses in the country. During that time they will have the opportunity to hear top-notch lecturers and seminar leaders in the fields of math, science, engineering, technology and entrepreneurship. Their afternoons are devoted to hands-on lab workshops – everything from learning how to wire a house to dissecting body parts. What spare time they have is set aside for recreational activities, touring local attractions, and completing the house project.

The program attracts the best and the brightest students in the country, exactly the target audiences of many recruitment efforts, making this program a particularly effective way of showcasing what the university has to offer.

“These students are in the top two to five per cent of high school kids in the country,” said Dr. Leonard Lye, program director for Shad Valley at Memorial. “Not only are they getting high marks in math and science, but they’re also involved in volunteer opportunities, sports and arts. The mission of Shad Valley then is to instil an entrepreneurship culture in these students – taking the best and making them even better.”

Memorial’s association with the program began in 2003 when it was operated by the P. J. Gardiner Institute. Currently the program is being run entirely by the university.

“We are fortunate because the university is very supportive, from the president to my colleagues in engineering and other faculties” said Dr. Lye. “Everyone is very willing to give lectures and seminars or act as judges.”

The judges are required for the special project component of the program. Although the current project theme is kept secret until the start of camp, past themes included disaster prevention, the country’s energy challenge and child safety. At the start of the month the students are divided into six teams and during that time form a “company” which works to devise a product that fits the theme, develop a prototype, a business plan and whatever else is deemed necessary to promote the product. At the end of the program, the teams compete in a presentation to judges. The winner, or the team picked by the groups themselves, gets to represent the university in the Shad Cup – which pits the top projects from across the country against one another.

“Last year MUN Shad won the Shad Cup,” said Dr. Lye. “It was a great honour and brought a lot of prestige to the university and this program. We managed to beat out more established Shad programs like Waterloo, UBC and Calgary. We’ve since gotten many requests from former Shad students who want to come here to work with us as program assistants. Hopefully this will also translate to more Shad participants coming to study at Memorial.”

Dr. Lye says the program also goes a long way towards dispelling misconceptions about the province.

“A lot of them come with an idea of what Newfoundland and Labrador is going to be like, but when they leave they all want to come back. When we began nobody wanted to come to Memorial but now we’re the destination of choice. Our hospitality and scenery just blew them away.

“These kids have felt like outsiders in their own schools, and when they come here for Shad Valley, they find that everybody is just like them,” he added. “Finally they have someone to talk to and they can make lifelong friends. It’s a great opportunity.”

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