Acadia: not just a university

Acadia: not just a university

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Contributors:

Mina Atia
Communications Coordinator

Acadia University is one of the oldest and most respected liberal educational universities in Canada, founded in 1838 in Wolfville. The post-secondary institution provides a personalized education in a well-respected scholarly community and inspires students to become critical thinkers and engaged citizens.

Ranked as one of the top undergraduate universities in Nova Scotia (Maclean's 2021), Acadia stands at number three nationally for its research initiatives, small classes and a technology-rich learning environment.

"Acadia provides a rare gift to its students: a truly welcoming experience that at once pushes us beyond our comfort zone and makes us feel like we're at home," says Brendan MacNeil, immediate past President of Acadia Students’ Union.

"The synergy between excellence and comfort, Acadia and Wolfville, faculty and student, defines the experience students speak to in these rankings, and those attributes keep us all coming back,” says Ian Murray, Executive Director, Office of the President at Acadia University.
Two high-achieving Acadia students recently won prestigious awards, highlighting the university’s strive for excellence. Leah Creaser, fourth-year Honours Biology student and president of the Indigenous Student Society of Acadia (ISSA), was awarded a 2021 3M National Student Fellowship. Guy Harrison-Murray won the Frank H. Sobey Award for Excellence in Business Studies. One of only nine business student award recipients studying at Atlantic Canadian universities, Guy received $30,000.

“We are by no means perfect, but it is our University and town leaders' collective strength and the willingness to work together that makes that synergy attainable," says Murray.

Community-building campus opportunities

With a Community Farm established on its half-acre educational garden, Acadia hosts forty individual garden plots where students and volunteers grow organic produce. In partnership with Acadia’s food service provider, Chartwells, Acadia hosts “The Growcer”. The ‘farm inside a box’ program features a hydroponic, vertical growing system on campus housed inside a repurposed shipping container, producing greens and microgreens year-round.

The Growcer is first of its kind for a post-secondary institution in Atlantic Canada and can produce up to 230 lbs. of produce per week, which is then harvested by the Acadia dining hall and donated to the local food bank.

For a small 250-acre university, Acadia offers a myriad of other opportunities, including custom-built laboratories and a private island wildlife reserve. Many of its research spaces have been recently modernized, most notably the revamped Acadia Science Complex and its new Huestis Innovation Pavilion.

Boasting several innovation and incubation spaces as well as laboratories on campus, Acadia provides unique services such as the Acadia Laboratory for Agri-food and Beverage. This lab recently acquired new equipment, enabling Acadia to provide new and improved testing services and analysis for craft beer, spirits and cider, in addition to the services it already provides for the wine industry. This analysis supports accurate labelling and provides quality assurance for taste and shelf stability.

Acadia’s Raymond Field, one of only two outdoor artificial turf playing fields in the Annapolis Valley, will be recycled and replaced in the upcoming months. This upgrade will create a safer, more attractive environment for students, community members and event organizers. The field is a valuable venue for large varsity and community sporting events.

Their community impact continues with about 475 volunteer students participating in Acadia’s Sensory Motor Instructional Leadership Experience (SMILE) Program. It provides persons with varying disabilities a unique, physical activity experience.

“An individual education plan is developed for each of our participants,” says Murray. “That includes water orientation; physical fitness activities to improve strength, endurance and flexibility; and perceptual motor programs to enhance development of body awareness, spatial awareness, temporal awareness and sport skills.”

SMILE takes place within a safe and fun environment. Acadia University student-volunteers are able to provide one-on-one instruction to participants in that environment, and in the process, develop their own leadership skills.

Acadia is a high-spirited university
Acadia University student-volunteers are able to provide one-on-one instructions to SMILE-program participants and in the process, develop their own leadership skills

Diversity and anti-racism

“Our recently approved Strategic Plan identifies diversity, inclusivity, equity and respect as key strategic values,” says Murray. “These values form an important part of Acadia’s history and our educational mission today.”

“A number of goals address these values either directly or indirectly, including creating an inclusive and supportive community campus culture, caring for the safety, health and wellness of our community, and Msit No’kmaq - advancing Acadia’s contributions to truth, reconciliation and decolonization.”

During a time when barriers to or being excluded from university education was widespread and faced by many, Acadia was founded as an act of equity to provide access and opportunities for marginalized individuals and groups within society. The university provided the earliest opportunities of education and employment to Baptists, women and those of African descent to not only attend but eventually graduate from Acadia.

"Driven by the immediate urgency for action following alarming events that raised our consciousness about the need to address anti-racism, Acadia’s President, Dr. Peter Ricketts, established an Anti-Racism Task Force in the fall of 2020,” says Murray.

Acadia has also announced this year the Edwin Borden Awards– –named in honour of Edwin Borden, an Acadia alumnus who was one of the first Black individuals in Canada to be granted both a Bachelor and Master degree. The award will recognize community engagement and leadership among Black Acadia students.

“Enhanced access to academic diversity, paired with relationship-rich, in-person student experiences, provides our students with an extraordinary experience while also helping them stand out to future employers,” says Murray.

Housing four major faculties for Arts, Pure and Applied Sciences, Professional Studies, and Theology, Acadia offers more than 200-degree combinations at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Some of the university’s most popular majors are biology, marketing, English, psychology, environmental studies and kinesiology.

“At the core of our inter-institutional collaboration is a shared commitment to an extraordinary undergraduate education,” says Murray. “It helps in building capacity and providing our students with increased access to diverse courses and programs, mentors and research supervisors, and the expertise of exceptional faculty across the four universities.”

Among some of the interesting and unique courses available at the university are Food As A Social Issue; Cryptography; Politics Of Water; The Arctic Environment; DNA Barcoding: Ecology & Evolution; and Indigenous Law/Government In Canada, all of which make Acadia unique in its offering.

By choosing Acadia, students have opportunities to work closely with professors, volunteer in the community, study abroad, enjoy co-op placements, and be engaged in real-world research.

The pandemic experience has made us all realize how important human interaction and engagement are in our lives,” says Murray. “And when students are choosing a university experience that integrates an enriched intellectual and social learning environment, they can make no better choice than Acadia.”■

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The Acadia University experience integrates an enriched intellectual and social learning environment for students

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