Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Moments of celebration mark Fall Convocation 2017, as StFX honours renowned photojournalist Palagummi Sainath and confers over 200 degrees and diplomas

December 2nd, 2017
L-r, StFX Chancellor Dr. Susan Crocker, honorary degree recipient Palagummi Sainath, and StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald

You can watch the 2017 Fall Convocation Ceremony here

From a little boy holding a large orange “Go Dad Go” sign to a proud daughter posting social media photos of her mother, graduating with a master’s degree, the Charles V. Keating Centre filled with moments of celebration on Saturday, Dec. 2 as StFX celebrated Fall Convocation 2017.

Guests gathered, over 200 graduates, including those from StFX’s Coady International Institute’s Diploma in Development Leadership program, crossed the stage, and StFX bestowed an honorary degree on Palagummi Sainath of India, a renowned photojournalist considered one of the most significant journalists of his generation.

The crowd gave a standing ovation to Dr. Sainath, a social justice advocate as well as a world-renowned photojournalist.

During the ceremony, StFX also honoured sociology professor Dr. Norine Verberg, recipient of the 2017 Outreach Award, and the Antigonish County Adult Learning Association (ACALA), this year’s Community Partner Recognition Award winner.

StFX sociology professor Dr. Norine Verberg (centre) accepts the 2017 Outreach Award from StFX Chancellor Dr. Susan Crocker (left) and StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald

“Today we honour and celebrate accomplishments in your studies,” StFX Chancellor Dr. Susan Crocker said as she welcomed all to the university and opened Fall Convocation.

“Do you feel the energy in this great hall?”

“This is a celebration for great work and perseverance,” StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald said during his address.

He congratulated all the graduates for their achievements, including the second cohort of the Master’s of Education Indigenous Education and the Coady graduates who have come from around the world to be with us here at StFX. “Your time with us made the learning more rich, our community more vibrant and we wish you well.”

Dr. MacDonald told the graduates that with this wonderful accomplishment also comes responsibility. He encouraged all graduates to take a moment in the coming days to think about how they will take this gift of a StFX degree and make a difference in the world.

He encouraged graduates “to try to make the world just a little bit better place.”

It was a message reiterated by Dr. Sainath in his address to the graduation class.

Universities remain the arena of ideas, he said, and the graduates today are about to move from that terrain of ideas into a world of reality, and a world far more unequal than when he entered it as a recent university graduate, he said.

“How you will engage with the world of rapidly growing inequality depends on you,” he told graduates. “What you do will affect many lives beyond your own.”

We are privileged by the university education we have received, but we are also accountable, he said.

“I say to you don’t be hesitant in engaging in the larger battleground.”

Dr. Sainath also encouraged the graduates to never stop learning.

Coady graduate Ann Marie D. Smith of Jamaica, a leadership and organizational development facilitator/consultant currently engaged with the Caribbean Leadership Project, delivered the address on behalf of the graduating class.

She invited fellow graduates as they move on to continue to follow this institution’s strong commitment to social justice in action. She also thanked all those who have supported the graduates on their journey, and offered congratulations to everyone graduating.  

Glenn Horne, president of the StFX Alumni Association, congratulated the graduates and welcomed them into the Xaverian alumni family. He encouraged the graduates to take their knowledge and skills and to lead change and inspire.


Honorary Degree Recipient
Dr. Palagummi Sainath
World renowned photojournalist Palagummi Sainath—Sainath as he is widely known—is considered one of the most significant journalists of his generation. Since the 1980s, he has focused on social problems, rural affairs, poverty and the aftermath of globalization in India. Former rural affairs editor of The Hindu newspaper, Sainath is known for his book Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories from India’s Poorest Districts now in its 45th printing, published in 10 languages, and used in over 100 universities in India and overseas. He founded the People's Archive of Rural India, a multimedia website where over 1,000 journalists from across India report on rural culture. He has dedicated his life to solidarity with, and justice for, India’s rural poor, bringing rural peoples’ stories to audiences in India and abroad. He is in high demand as an educator and has taught development studies and journalism courses at universities in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. He also educates young people from disadvantaged communities as journalists so they have the tools to help their communities. His photography exhibit, Visible Work, Invisible Women, has been widely viewed. The first journalist to win Amnesty International’s Global Human Rights Journalism Prize, he has won over 40 international awards for his provocative journalism and for his impact on society. Sainath served as the 2015 Coady Chair in Social Justice at StFX. In this role, he also worked with the Antigonish County Adult Learning Association (ACALA).

2017 Outreach Award
Dr. Norine Verberg
StFX sociology professor Dr. Norine Verberg is described as a first-class professor whose work reaches well beyond the boundaries of campus. In line with her deep conviction that scholarship ought to be connected to the world outside the academy, Dr. Verberg has made every effort to involve herself with organizations in Antigonish, especially most recently with Syria Antigonish Families Embrace (SAFE) and StFX for SAFE. The goal of StFX for SAFE was ambitious: to raise $100,000 to help sponsor two Syrian refugee families. Dr. Verberg steadfastly believed that if “all Xaverians” worked together on the campaign, they would succeed. The goal was achieved and several refugee families are now neighbours, with two students from those families enrolled at StFX. Dr. Verberg has been involved in other outreach work, including serving on the board of the Antigonish Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving; working with families following the Westray Mine explosion on their critical commemoration of the “Westray Story”; and working with StFX students and the Antigonish County 4-H Leaders Council to develop a 4-H partnership with StFX. She has also dedicated her time to the Antigonish Performing Arts Series, the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre, and especially to her students and classes. All the while, she has made these commitments while mentoring new faculty and serving StFX in numerous capacities.

2017 Community Partner Recognition Award
Antigonish County Adult Learning Association (ACALA)
The Antigonish County Adult Learning Association (ACALA) is a not-for-profit charitable community organization that has for over 20 years delivered adult literacy, family literacy and employability programs to adult learners in Antigonish town and county. They have also long provided valuable learning opportunities for StFX students, welcoming students through collaborations with the Department of Human Nutrition, Bachelor of Education, Service Learning, as well as developing programs to support Coady International Institute participants wanting language support. Over the years, StFX faculty in the Department of Adult Education have also worked closely with ACALA as board members and recently on building an online People’s Archive of Rural Nova Scotia, documenting the unique culture of rural Nova Scotia. The opportunities for experiential learning and exposure to a range of community initiatives has supported the curriculum and professional education for StFX students and provided them with noteworthy accomplishments for their resumes and graduate school. Equally important, witnessing the leadership and engaging with ACALA activities has provided StFX students with insight into the ability to make a difference when the community works together.  

Graduating Class Speaker
Ann Marie D. Smith, Jamaica
Ann Marie Smith is a leadership and organizational development facilitator/consultant currently engaged with the Caribbean Leadership Project. In this capacity, she designs, develops and delivers leadership development programming for senior public officers from 12 Caribbean countries and supports capacity building in public service learning institutions across the region. Prior to her work as a consultant, she was employed by the Management Institute for National Development, the Government of Jamaica’s public service learning, leadership and organizational development institute, where she led the team responsible for the design, development and delivery for public service learning in Jamaica, and supported the establishment of public service learning institutions across the Caribbean region. She describes her true passion as facilitating family and youth empowerment, and anticipates that through this Coady Diploma in Development Leadership, she will be better able to support varying communities to achieve just and sustainable outcomes for their members.

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