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About People of MSVU

Launched in the fall of 2019, this series features photos and first-person narratives that tell the stories of the diverse people who make up our University community.

Kathryn Britten
Administrative Assistant
Communication Studies 

For 22 years, Kathryn Britten has been working hard in support of countless students, faculty and other staff in Communication Studies and, previously, Business & Tourism. Her kind and effective approach is deeply valued. As someone who’s much more comfortable behind the scenes, she was very reluctant to have this well-deserved spotlight put on her. But we’re thrilled for the chance for you to get to know this MSVU superstar a little better. 

In Kathryn’s words:
“The best part of my job at the Mount is helping students navigate their time here and listening to their life stories and experiences. In the last few years I’ve noticed an increase of stress on students and their lives are more complicated. Sometimes, they come in to talk to me and they share these challenges. Often, I can direct them to student supports, however, students today are juggling a lot. 

The Mount is truly like a second family to me. I’ve made such good friends here. One of my proudest moments by far was being nominated for inclusion on the Riva Spatz Women’s Wall of Honour at the Mount by (now retired) professor Judith Scrimger.”


Michael McGuire
MSVU instructor in Music & Culture, The History of Rock & Roll, and Rap, Resistance, and Religion (Cultural Studies)
PhD student, Educational Studies
MSVU alum (BA ’07) 

“About once per term a student comes to me and says ‘I heard you rap!’ or they have found an old video of me performing. It’s true. In the last 20 years, I’ve released five albums as Hermitofthewoods, was nominated for awards in lots of different styles of music (hip hop/rap, electronic, alternative, and jazz, to date), and have performed all over the country. I was also a spoken word artist for some time, and was a member of the Halifax Slam Poetry Team in 2009, 2011, and 2012, representing Halifax at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. These days, academic work doesn’t leave as much time for being an artist, but I am the Chair of Hopscotch, a city-sponsored hip hop festival held annually in September, and I still do occasional guest verses on other artists’ projects. 

I grew up around the corner and started my academic journey at MSVU. I went to school at MSVU. I met my wife at MSVU. My son went to daycare at MSVU. I teach at MSVU and am doing my PhD at MSVU. I’ve been to lots of other places, but always find my way back to the Mount. 

 I feel incredibly lucky to do what I do. The things I teach are things I’m truly passionate about and getting to share that with students is amazing.”


Sister Joan O'Keefe
Chancellor, Mount Saint Vincent University
Congregational Leader, Sister of Charity—Halifax
Volunteer doula

“Probably the proudest moments at MSVU for me have also been the most humbling. I have been teary eyed admitting some folks to honourary degrees and some students to their degrees, knowing their lives, their goodness, their struggles and their will to be and do well. 

I have always had gratitude for MSVU – glad our Sisters founded it and that there are always efforts to support anyone who wished to be a student here. 

Being Chancellor at the MSVU is nice, but it is only a part of my life. My main ministry is the Sisters of Charity. The best part about working with the Sisters is when we have fun as well as when we succeed in just solutions for the whole community of life.” 

On the connection between clothes and community:
“In 1969 (four years after I joined the congregation), the Sisters of Charity—Halifax made an early switch to ‘street clothes,’ doing away with their habits after 120 years in Halifax. Street clothes better suited the work we did, out in the community. The congregation has changed a lot since then – we’re a lot smaller – but our commitment to community has never changed.”


Jessica (Jessie) Brown
International Student Recruitment Officer 

 “The toughest part of my job is hands down the jet lag! Last year I took almost 60 flights and flew over 100,000 km. I do try to adjust as quickly as possible to my new time zone and, even after all my years of experience, I still cannot ultimately shake it. As someone with wanderlust, there is always going to be jet lag in my life, and at the end of the day, I truly would not want it any other way. 

I am a global ambassador for MSVU. I am passionate about global education. Education is quintessential for success in global development and nation building. 

My influences are fluid and forever changing, but the students I meet are among my greatest influences. I have had the pleasure of getting to know some truly amazing students who have chosen MSVU. I get to know some of our applicants and their families very well. We FaceTime/Skype, we sit down over tea, and we even dine together in their family home. I get to understand their individual backgrounds, stories, and passions. They influence me to do the best job I can do, to help guide their dreams into reality, and make MSVU their new home away from home. 

I believe that education changes lives. As a first-generation university graduate, I know that it changed mine. I take great pride and pleasure in representing MSVU and promoting our programs, opportunities, and campus life. 

By training, I am a Physical Education teacher! After finishing my Bachelor of Kinesiology and Bachelor of Secondary Education, I taught in Shanghai, China. I came back to Nova Scotia and moved into post-secondary recruitment. I have more than eight years of experience in the post-secondary recruitment world.”


Giovanni Johnson 
MSVU alum (BSc '17)
Microbiologist/Assistant Brewer, Good Robot Brewing Company
Hometown: Nassau, Bahamas

“At MSVU, I was able to become a better scientist. For example, in microbiology labs we learned about aseptic techniques and the importance of it. This translates directly to my job as a microbiologist [at Good Robot Brewing Company] – when checking on the health of the yeast, I have to maintain these same techniques. Also in chemistry, I learned about aromatic compounds and their boiling points, acids and bases and a ton of reactions that are all involved in the brewing process. 

Being the first one in my family to complete a university degree was a big accomplishment, so being able to graduate from university has impacted my life in a positive way. 

What’s next for me? I’m training to become a certified beer judge this year and I’m completing an international brewing course. I’m also developing new recipes and brewing tons of beers, plus working on diversifying the craft brewing community, networking and giving back to others.  

MSVU means community-driven, diversity, support centre, friendship, care, learning, wellness, and environmentally-friendly. It was a great journey – the good times and hard times of being a student (I juggled two jobs while in university!) – but over!”


Mike Collins 
aka Pizza Mike
Pizza maker extraordinaire with Chartwell’s Rosaria Dining Hall 

 “What do pizza and Bette Davis have in common? They’re both inspirations for me. Twenty-one years ago I sweet talked my way into this job – I had never done this type of work. Before coming here, I had a successful showbiz career of 25 years. So having no experience in food service, I drew on what I knew. The pizza became the monologue, the heat lamps became my spotlight, the students my audience. Successful shows, successful pizza. It works, what can I say. The rest is history. Anyone can make a pizza. It’s about finding the right amount of love to make it good.”