Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX Class of 2022 celebrated; Minh Kauffman awarded honorary degree during Spring Convocation

May 8th, 2022
Minh Kauffman (centre) is awarded the degree Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, by StFX President Dr. Andy Hakin (left) and StFX Chancellor John Peacock.

Understanding your own potential can help ignite both your own and the potential of others. 

Those were the words of advice StFX honorary degree recipient Dr. Minh Kauffman, an innovator in international educational exchange and community development for over 50 years, left with the StFX Class of 2022 during StFX Spring Convocation held May 8 as StFX awarded degrees and diplomas across all four faculties, Arts, Science, Business and Education. 

It was a day marked by achievement and celebration—and looking ahead to the future.  

“As you leave Antigonish, please reflect on how your time at St. Francis Xavier has helped build your sense of your own being, to discover your own assets and potential. Your challenge going forward is to continue that self-discovery not just for self, but so that your becoming can be a service to those who have not had your splendid opportunities,” Dr. Kauffman said. 

“Just as the flame of one candle can light many tapers, your command of your own potential can ignite the potential of others.”

Dr. Kauffman invited graduates to reflect on this hinge moment of their life and career, to consider how their education has shaped their sense of their own being and prepared them for what they might become in the unpredictable journey of life. There is no ‘becoming’ without ‘being,’ she said.


As the Class of 2022 was celebrated for their achievements, highlights during morning and afternoon ceremonies also included the presentation of several major honours to StFX faculty members. 

The Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award went to three recipients: Dr. Carole Roy, Department of Adult Education; Dr. Zeynep Ozkok, Department of Economics; and Dr. Katarin MacLeod, Departments of Teacher Education and Curriculum & Leadership. 

The University Research Award was presented to Dr. Michael Melchin, Department of Earth Sciences.

Faculty award recipients included Dr. Katarin MacLeod, Dr. Zeynep Ozkok, Dr. Carole Roy and Dr. Mike Melchin. 

“We come together today to recognize extraordinary achievement, the extraordinary achievements of you, our graduates,” Dr. Hakin told members of the Class of 2022 as he congratulated them on their graduation day. 

These achievements have come in a time like no other, he said, noting the last 27 months have provided challenges and hurdles for all aspects of society. By working together, we have succeeded in preparing you, the graduating class. “The Class of 2022 is ready to take on whatever is thrown at them,” he said

As they enter a new chapter of their lives, Dr. Hakin also challenged the students to use their StFX experience, the leadership potential gained, to make a difference. 

“You are primed to create change and right now I would argue that change is never more necessary.”

We want you to take on that change, he said.

“Think about what you can do for your communities, the communities in which you will live and work and play, and draw on your Xaverian values of belonging, resilience, effort, courage, respect, growth and community to make that difference. Don’t sit back and watch for others. You take on the leadership role.

“You are primed to lead.” 

Dr. Hakin also took time to recognize and thank all those who have supported our students on their journey, from friends and family to StFX staff, faculty and the broader community who have come together. He also recognized the day is a special one in the calendar year—Mother’s Day, as he asked all mothers and all supporters of the graduates to stand to be recognized. 


“This is your day to celebrate and to be happy,” StFX Chancellor John Peacock told graduates as he also offered words of advice. 

When you arrived at StFX, you participated in the Xaverian Welcome and recited the Xaverian Commitment, he said. “Last night, most of you attended the Xaverian Farewell and made the pledge to recommit yourself to the pursuit of excellence. You’ll soon transform, from StFX students to StFX alumni, joining a large group of graduates who proudly wear the X-Ring and think fondly of their days on campus. My wife, Adrienne, and I met here more than 60 years ago, and StFX feels to us what I imagine it’ll feel for you: like the beginning of our lives,” he said. 

“The Xaverian Commitment is not a baseless collection of words; it is what defines us. You are bright, committed individuals—and society needs you to make a difference.”  

Small differences can add up to big change, he said.   


In her address Dr. Kauffman spoke too on how graduates can be grateful for the advantage of an education that shapes their sense of being. 

When she recruited candidates from systematically disadvantaged communities in Vietnam to compete for Ford Foundation scholarships, she found their socially imposed hardship had somehow defined their being and deprived them the luxury of knowing their own potential. She discovered it was important to ask questions of applicants, so they discover their strengths. 

“To borrow the title of Father Moses Coady’s book “Master of Their Own Destiny,” we are far from being master of our own destiny, or of our becoming if we do not know who we are, what we possess.”  

She said this drew her to the Coady Institute 17 years ago to learn more about the assets-driven approach to community development and how it delivers social justice. 


Everyone here today and watching from afar should be so, so proud of yourself, senior class speaker MacKenzie Le Vernois, an honours chemistry graduate, told fellow graduates.  

Sitting here today with your degree, pushing through every storm, “this is resilience.”

Ms. Le Vernois thanked all who have helped the graduates on this journey and reminded her classmates of the resilience, strength and skills gained. “Remember this: you are strong, you are resilient, and no matter what the world around you has to say, you are capable of anything. Congratulations Class of 2022.” 

Afternoon senior class speaker Jack Millbank of Ottawa, ON, graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration, also thanked all who have helped the graduates on their journey here. At one time, he said, we all stepped on this campus for the first time, not knowing what to expect. At one point, we all had that moment, that moment of belonging, that this was just beginning.

“You have made it!” StFX Alumni Association president Kathleen Sheridan told graduates as she warmly welcomed them to Canada’s most engaged alumni network. “I hope you take a moment today to pause and truly reflect on this achievement in each of your lives. You should be so proud!”

As StFX, you have learned the true meaning of community, and how to be engaged. She encouraged graduates to continue to strive to be thoughtful citizens of the world. Whatever follows, the Alumni Association will be here for you, she said.

Vicar of the Founder, Bishop Wayne Joseph Kirkpatrick, Bishop of the Diocese of Antigonish, delivered the benediction. University Chaplain Father Donald MacGillivary offered the invocation. 


Minh Kauffman, Honorary Degree

Minh Kauffman, an innovator in international educational exchange and community development, was born Nguyen Thi Minh in Hanoi and raised in Saigon. She journeyed to Goshen College, Goshen, Indiana in 1969, her personal path of international education. Following graduation, Kauffman taught second grade for two years. In 1976, she and her husband Fred Kauffman began a 13-year series of international service assignments through Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). In 1990, the Kauffmans created the Education Exchange Center (CEEVN) as a project of the MCC Vietnam program, to strengthen linkages between Vietnamese and American scholars and academic institutions at a time when Vietnam was isolated, and the U.S. trade embargo made contact challenging. CEEVN became an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) subsidiary in 1994. Under her leadership, CEEVN began managing the Fulbright Fellowships for Vietnamese scholars and later added the Vietnam portion of the Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program (2000-13). From 1992-2009, she facilitated many other Ford-funded programs. Starting in 2006, Minh partnered with StFX’s Coady Institute, a collaboration that included co-creating social justice fora to bring CEEVN alumni cohorts together to work for the betterment of Vietnamese society. Under Kauffman’s leadership, ACLS-CEEVN managed over $45 million in grants and funded nearly 2,000 fellowships, study tours, and grants to Vietnamese scholars and organizations. She’s received the 2005 Friendship Medal from Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong and has been called “the most important person involved in the creation of meaningful relations between Vietnam and the United States.” Believing CEEVN’s mission complete, Kauffman retired and closed its offices in 2020. She’d worked the previous years with CEEVN alumni, creating the Stronger Together Center that will preserve and grow its legacy. The Excellent Bridge, published by ACLS in 2020, recounts CEEVN’s history. Fred Kauffman passed away in 2019. Minh Kauffman lives in both Philadelphia, with son Timothy, and in Nashville, with son Tony and daughter-in-law Nadia.


Dr. Carole Roy, Department of Adult Education

Dr. Carole Roy joined the StFX Department of Adult Education in 2007 where she has been providing students with opportunities for the development of critical thinking and reflective practice. Dr. Roy’s philosophy resonates with the teachings of Paulo Freire, who saw education as a process of emancipation. Offering encouragement for the exploration of creativity and innovation, she values and supports student engagement in community, since experiential learning sharpens learners’ theoretical knowledge. She brings enthusiasm, fosters courage, and enjoys the dynamic process of creating space for transformative learning in the classroom as well as in individual conversations with students. Students often comment about the far-reaching impact of discussions: “I looked forward to class and it truly changed my way of thinking and my practice;” “Dr. Roy’s discussions helped me to be a better person and will continue to help me grow long after this course is done. I have rarely felt so engaged in an academic setting.” Dr. Roy brings to her teaching extensive experience of education in non-formal settings, from peace activism, international cross-cultural youth programs (Tunisia, Thailand, India, Uruguay), to documentary film programs and discussions in carceral settings. In the last 18 years, she co-organized annual documentary film festivals with the intention to provide a safe forum to explore and discuss social justice issues with the greater community. Supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, her many research projects have incorporated Dr. Roy’s values with the inclusion of students’ involvement as research assistants, co-presenters, and co-authors. 


Dr. Zeynep Ozkok, Department of Economics

Dr. Zeynep Ozkok graduated from St. Francis Xavier University with a BA with first class honours in economics in 2007. Following the completion of her PhD in economics at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid in 2013, Dr. Ozkok returned to her alma mater to teach at the Department of Economics. Since then, Dr. Ozkok has been teaching core macroeconomic theory courses as well as courses on international economics and development economics. Having experienced a variety of educational systems throughout her studies in Turkey, Australia, Spain, Canada and in the United States, Dr. Ozkok aspires to provide her students with a learning experience that they can enjoy and from which they will benefit. Dr. Ozkok has worked extensively with international students having shared their experience of studying at StFX. She continues to supervise thesis students and co-author academic papers with her students. In their nomination, students describe Dr. Ozkok’s passion for development economics, saying that they “can hear in her voice how strongly this subject resonates with her,” covering topics such as girls’ education, income inequality, and the multifaceted effects of poverty. Her students note that empathy and a love of learning shine through her teaching. As they put it, “Zeynep’s kindness and generosity simply cannot be overstated. Her passion for students’ success will forever be something that we remember.”


Dr. Katarin MacLeod, Departments of Teacher Education and Curriculum & Leadership

Dr. Katarin MacLeod began teaching at StFX in the Faculty of Education in 2009. She holds a PhD from the University of Toronto and completed undergraduate physics and Bachelor of Education degrees at StFX. Her doctoral dissertation received the Canadian Science Education Research Group’s Dissertation Award for the best doctoral dissertation on science education in Canada. Dr. MacLeod’s expertise is science education, viewed through the lens of a Science, Technology, Society, and Environment (STSE) perspective, which requires taking the content of science and placing it in a context that is meaningful for students. A consistent perspective voiced by her students is that “Dr. MacLeod’s teaching has truly impacted my views of science and how I plan to teach my classes.” Dr. MacLeod encourages and supports inquiry learning in all her courses. Her students describe her as an intuitive teacher, who understands when to talk and, importantly, when to listen. In Dr. MacLeod’s own words, “For me, teaching is about having high standards for my own professional practice. It is about remembering the humanity of teaching and learning, and that first and foremost, the student experience is paramount.” Along with her teaching, Dr. MacLeod is also actively involved in university service. She currently serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Academic Integrity.


Dr. Michael Melchin, Department of Earth Sciences

StFX earth sciences professor Dr. Michael Melchin is a prolific researcher who has published more than 120 refereed scientific journal papers. Dr. Melchin’s research is focused on understanding the response of life to a pivotal time interval of global change, some 500 and 400 million years ago. He has championed the use of elemental and isotopic geochemical techniques to understand the processes that govern the relationship between ocean water chemistry, nutrient supply and the diversification or extinction of species. Dr. Melchin has had continuous research support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) since 1990 and his NSERC Discovery Grant was recently renewed until 2024. His research requires an extraordinary commitment of time and effort. He has provided numerous generations of StFX students with unique research experiences, including field work in the Arctic, the Canadian Rockies, and in China. These are remote and rugged areas for field research; many require expensive helicopter support, and he has been isolated on occasion for up to eight weeks. Dr. Melchin is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including visiting professorships and fellowships in other countries, such as the Czech Republic and China. He is a President’s Medal recipient and Distinguished Fellow of the Geological Association of Canada.  In 2020 he was awarded a James Chair in Pure and Applied Sciences at StFX. In the community, Dr. Melchin’s abilities as a musician and organizer of charity concerts are legendary – to his colleagues, students, and community he truly is known as a ‘rock star.’

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