A summer tradition in Antigonish and on the St. F.X. campus took centre stage July 26.
The university and broader communities gathered at Dennis Hall for the traditional Coady Welcome Social.
This year, visitors not only greeted participants in the Diploma in Development Leadership program, but also Global Change Leaders’ students.
“We join as a community with these groups to welcome people from around the globe,” emcee Kathleen Provost, Coady Associate Director – Fund Development and Communications, said in touching on the gathering’s purpose.
The Diploma in Development Leadership participants, 29 of them representing 27 countries, will spend the remainder of the summer and fall at Coady.
They will graduate during St. F.X.’s fall convocation in early December.
The Global Change Leaders – 19 of them – are in the midst of a seven-week program.
They are all female.
“There are thousands of applications,” June Webber, Coady International Institute Director and St. F.X. Vice-President said, noting the extensive selection process involved with both programs.
“It is rigorous.”
Webber encouraged the Coady participants to consider St. F.X. – and Antigonish – their “home away from home.”
She noted community members play “such an important role,” in the success of Coady program participants, including through the Coady Neighbours Program.
Webber talked about the rich tradition in values, such as justice and equity, while noting Coady preparations are underway to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Antigonish Movement in 2018.
“This community has much to be proud of,” she said.
Chief Paul Prosper of Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation, one of those who took the podium to welcome the Coady participants, described the evening as a “wonderful celebration.
“It is really incredible,” he said of the representation in the diploma program from 27 countries.
Prosper noted leadership means “different things to different people.”
“You will be different people,” he said of what to expect from their Coady experience.
“You will be taking so much knowledge and experience back to your communities.”
St. F.X. President Kent MacDonald reflected on the effect Coady has had for 60 years.
“There is a tremendous tradition of those who came before you,” he said to the 2017 participants.
He encouraged them to consider the university and community as their home, while they are here.
“You are not just a guest; you are part of the community,” MacDonald said.
Like Webber, he praised the Antigonish community and its people, and the effect they will have on the Coady participants.
“They will make your life a little richer. It is remarkable community with remarkable people,” MacDonald noted.
He also indicated that the community is “blessed to have you [Coady participants] here.”
Warden Owen McCarron, Municipality of the County of Antigonish, also touched on the “impact” of Coady around the world.
“You bring richness to us,” he said, adding community members are the “true benefactors” of having Coady participants in Antigonish.
McCarron encouraged them, as in the past, to visit council and Antigonish County communities.
“They provide tremendous insight into the challenges and opportunities around the world,” he noted of past community conversations with participants.
Town of Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher described the invitation to the social as a “great honour.”
“We learn more from you,” she said of the relationship residents have with Coady visitors.
She encouraged them to learn about the community and its history – including making a visit to the Antigonish Heritage Museum – and participate in activities.
“Again, we also want to learn from you,” Boucher said.
On a steamy evening – at least by northeastern Nova Scotia standards – she reminded the Coady participants, with a laugh, “It will get cold.”
“But it is still a nice place in the world to be,” Boucher added.
Happy to be here
Joseph Nkurunziza of Uganda (Diploma in Development Leadership) and Wasila Sufyan of Ghana (Global Change Leaders) continued the welcome social tradition of addressing the gathering.
“It has only been 10 days and I already feel emancipated,” Sufyan said of the effect of her Coady experience.
She noted everything they are learning will be of great benefit to their home communities.
“We will be able to work towards making the desired change in our society,” Sufyan said, “and make a positive impact on peoples’ lives.”
Nkurunziza stressed the need to celebrate that 17 of the Coady diploma participants are female.
“It is very important to notice,” he said.
Nkurunziza said participants have already experienced tremendous feelings of hospitality and learning.
“There is so much for us to learn and to share with the community,” he added.
Nkurunziza said there is “no doubt” they will be better leaders after their Coady experience.
He added the hope is to bring what they learn about social justice, peace and equity “to everything that we do.”
“And have it spill over to those at home,” Nkurunziza said.
For more information about the Coady International Institute, visit coady.stfx.ca