One of Canada’s most powerful women and the Council President of Engineers Nova Scotia, Denise Pothier, was on campus Sept. 25, 2023 to a deliver a keynote address as a guest of the StFX Women in Engineering (WIE) Society.
It was the first large event hosted by the WIE society, recently formed on campus.
“We wanted to have something really meaningful. Ms. Pothier was the perfect candidate to kick things off and inspire students for the year ahead,” says Dr. Brittany MacDonald-MacAulay, StFX engineering professor and society faculty advisor. Society student president is Josie MacQuarrie.
Dr. MacDonald-MacAulay says Ms. Pothier, named one of the 50 most inspirational women in technology in Canada, brought much perspective and expertise.
“It was excellent,” says StFX Engineering Department Chair Dr. Katarin MacLeod, who helped co-organize the event.
The lecture, The Calling of the Engineer, was open to all science students and was geared to everyone in STEM. It attracted a diverse audience, from university to junior high students, the StFX Dean of Science, faculty from across departments, staff, and community members.
StFX Academic Vice President and Provost Dr. Amanda Cockshutt introduced the guest speaker.
Pictured at the lecture are, l-r, StFX Engineering Department Chair Dr. Katarin MacLeod; guest speaker and Council President of Engineers Nova Scotia, Denise Pothier; StFX engineering professor and Women in Engineering Society faculty advisor Dr. Brittany MacDonald-MacAulay; and StFX Academic Vice President and Provost Dr. Amanda Cockshutt.
Ms. Pothier’s background is in chemical engineering, and she has over 30 years experience in the energy and resource sector, working in regulatory compliance, quality assurance and management systems, process engineering, and risk assessment. She’s currently the vice president of Practice Services and Stantec’s first-ever vice president of Indigenous Relations. She was born and raised in Nova Scotia, with French Acadian and Mi’kmaq heritage.
Ms. Pothier sits on several local boards and national Indigenous advisory councils and is currently the President for Engineers Nova Scotia. She was named one of Canada’s most powerful women by the Women’s Executive Network, and the top 150 Canadian Women in STEM by hEr VOLUTION. She was also named one of the 50 most inspirational women in technology in Canada by Inspiring Fifty. In recognition of her community work, she was recognized by Dalhousie University as an Arum award recipient, as well as a J.D. Fraser Service Award recipient from Engineers Nova Scotia. She is an alumnus of the 2022 Governor General’s Leadership Conference and was recently named a Fellow of Engineers Canada. She also holds an MBA from Athabasca University.
Along with taking questions during the presentation, Dr. MacLeod says Ms. Pothier stayed to speak with students one-on-one. She also agreed to donate her speaker fee to the StFX Student Food Bank.
BUILDING COMMUNITY, CONNECTING STUDENTS
The Women in Engineering Society was started by Dr. MacDonald-MacAulay and then-StFX student Alaina Bryce during the pandemic when many students were finding it difficult to connect and meet people. While the society was limited in the types of events it could host, it helped make students feel less lonely. The society is open to anyone who wants to take part.
Dr. MacDonald-MacAulay says they’ve already seen the many benefits the society brings, including connecting female engineering students. She says it’s important to have a place where students can come and talk about issues they’re experiencing, to make strong connections and friendships. Its’s also a place they can work to plan inspiring events.
“It’s about breaking barriers,” Dr. MacLeod says. “By making connections and having that sense of belonging, it builds community.”
Upcoming society events include a pumpkin carving in October and involvement in helping plan and possibly expand the Dec. 6th Ceremony of Remembrance at StFX.
“We hope to get involved in more outreach activities. We’re trying to balance the fun side with the meaningful side and making a contribution to society,” Dr. MacDonald-MacAulay says.