There may be hundreds of miles separating Memorial University’s St. John’s campus and Labrador but the Faculty of Arts is actively attempting to bridge that physical distance with several new initiatives.
“Bringing activities across the Strait of Belle Isle to the people of Labrador is a great opportunity for the Faculty of Arts to inspire a new generation of cultural and academic appreciation,” said Dr. Reeta Tremblay, Dean of Arts.
Writer-in-residence Michael Crummey will be visiting Labrador in April with stops at the Labrador Institute in Happy Valley/Goose Bay on April 8 and Wabush on April 10. His activities will include a combination of classroom visits and public readings. This is the first time in its eleven-year history that the writer-in-residence program has included an outreach of this kind to Labrador.
Linguistics professor Douglas Wharram recently kicked off what will be a regular series of video conferences linking Faculty of Arts researchers to students and members of the public at the Goose Bay’s College of the North Atlantic. His lecture focused on the critical importance of linguistic diversity and how language loss is playing out in Canada, most specifically in regard to Labrador Inuktitut.
Martha MacDonald of the Labrador Institute reports that Dr. Wharram’s lecture was well received. “I was really pleased with the turnout … quite a few [attendees] were from outside the college. We have a number of people interested in taking Inuktitut courses and this was a good way to promote those, as well as giving us the pleasure of a really interesting lecture.” The next lecture in the series is scheduled take place in late April and will feature Dr. Lisa Rankin discussing her archaeological projects in Labrador.
Teaching opportunities aren’t limited to video conferencing however. Memorial University English professor Dr. Jamie Skidmore will be teaching English 3350 this summer at the College of the North Atlantic. As an introductory acting course, this is “very accessible for any student” says Dr. Skidmore and will include mask-making as part of the curriculum. Linguistics 2025 and 2026 (Introduction to Inuktitut I and II, respectively), will be co-taught by Dr. Doug Wharram and a to-be-named native speaker of Inuktitut.
Geography professors Dr. Trevor Bell and Dr. John Jacobs recently co-chaired a conference on climate change that took place in Labrador’s North West River and included guests and attendees from all over Labrador and area. The conference, entitled Climate Change and Renewable Resources in Labrador: Looking Toward 2050, was a huge success, according to Dr. Bell.
“The response of the Labrador community to the conference far exceeded our expectations. All of the sessions were full to overflowing and a rich dialogue of traditional, local and scientific perspectives occurred in response to expert presentations, local observations, and future scenarios,” said Dr. Bell. “There was broad agreement that a wealth of knowledge about the environment exists in Labrador communities, and that a coordinated effort is needed to collect, assess, and disseminate this information.”
A number of researchers in a variety of fields from the Faculty of Arts continue to be active throughout Labrador, looking at issues relevant to the region. Labrador is also being studied as part of a national research project into the social dynamics of city regions being undertaken provincially by the Leslie Harris Centre. Dr. Reeta Tremblay, dean of the Faculty of Arts and professor of political science, and Dr. Josh Lepawsky of the geography department will be co-Principal Investigators on Dr. Rob Greenwood’s Social Dynamics of Economic Performance: Innovation and Creativity in City Regions project. Dr. Tremblay will focus on case studies in Labrador City and two other centres yet to be confirmed.
In addition, the recently launched What’s Your Dream contest awards a year’s tuition in Memorial University’s Faculty of Arts to a high school student from Labrador (see www.mun.ca/arts/undergraduate/dream/index.php for more details).
Memorial University’s Labrador Institute has been a key partner in these initiatives. Director Keith Chaulk comments that “On behalf of the Labrador Institute and its staff, I can heartily say that we look forward to working with the Faculty of Arts and we hope to continue to develop new and exciting programming that is relevant to Labrador and its peoples.”