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.

Tianyuan Yu
Assistant Professor, Department of Business Administration and Tourism & Hospitality Management
Years at MSVU: 3
Hometown: Changchun, Jilin Province, China, now Halifax, Nova Scotia

“ ‘A healthy society should not have just one voice.’ These are the words left by Dr. Li, Wenliang, who died of the coronavirus he warned against. In 2013, I left China in the hopes of living in a society tolerant of diverse voices. People talk about the ‘American dream’ and ‘Chinese dream.’ But what really counts to me is the ‘Canadian dream’ – that one can start all over again to lead a life that is financially stable, ethically sound, and spiritually fulfilled.

MSVU is the place where my Canadian dream came true.

I grew up in a poor and broken family and made my way to a successful academic career in China. In 2013, I left all my external achievements behind and started from scratch in Canada. I have witnessed many new immigrants with foreign-earned doctorate degrees and professional work experiences being discouraged by systemic discriminations and language barriers. They eventually gave up their academic careers and became cleaners, taxi drivers, cooks, self-employed professionals, etc. I made it to MSVU after four years of job-seeking, which involved relentless effort towards getting my name known in western academia, adequate resilience to combat recurring financial and psychological distress, a couple of very supportive friends, and some right timing – or luck.

I chose to be a Canadian because I identify with Canadian values, including democracy and freedom, equity, diversity, and inclusion.

The Chinese community has long been heavily underrepresented in top management positions in Canadian workplaces and in the political arena. As a first-generation female Chinese immigrant, perhaps no one understands our disadvantages and sufferings better than I do. On the other hand, being an MSVU professor, I am increasingly aware of the many privileges I already have. MSVU is a place that gives hope to the hopeless. I have dedicated, respectful, and inclusive colleagues everywhere at MSVU. I feel grateful and humbled working with them.

The mission of our founders, the Sisters of Charity, is to provide support for poor and marginalized people. MSVU is committed to advancing women’s success, promoting social justice, and fostering equity, diversity and inclusion. All these are incredibly relevant to me. This is a self-empowering process and I am working on it.”

This National Accessibility Week (May 31 to June 6), we are thrilled to return to our People of MSVU series by featuring Public Policy student Ifeoluwa Oluwatomisin Adesina.

Ifeoluwa is an insatiable learner and strong advocate for students with disabilities. She’s also a poet, deeply spiritual, and lover of spicy food and ice cream. Hear from Ifeoluwa below.

Ifeoluwa Oluwatomisin (Tomi) Adesina
Third-year Bachelor of Public Policy student (anticipated graduation 2022)
Centre Manager at the Centre for Social Innovation and Community Engagement in Military Affairs at MSVU
Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria

“The grass is green, the world is growing and will grow. MSVU is growing and will grow. I am growing and will grow. We just need to make sure that we are determined to be progressive. As a student with a disability, I pray for a more socially inclusive world because there will always be people like me. Even if medicine and God ‘cure’ my disability, there will always be people like me. So what are we going to do? Exclude them until they become ‘normal?’ No, we have to accept and empower our differences, only then can we have a truly loving, integrated, and progressive world.

MSVU, through its well-educated instructors, has empowered me to advocate for myself and given me knowledge on procedures, processes and institutions to further my advocacy.

And though advocacy is an important part of public policy, I am really interested in creating solutions. That’s the essence of public policy – creating solutions. I can’t wait to learn more about creating solutions and applying them globally. I want to be a part of policy change globally, and someday see myself making change at home in Nigeria and other developing countries. When I graduate. I’m confident that I will have the knowledge I need to go out there and make a change.”

Read Ifeoluwa’s articles “A tool kit for incoming university students with disabilities” and “HRM’s shopping centres are a no-go zone for folks with accessibility needs” in The Coast.


Temilola Olowookere
Graduate student in Applied Human Nutrition (anticipated graduation May 2020)
Research Assistant, Centre for Applied Research
Black Student Support Assistant
Hometown: Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria

“One of the biggest steps I’ve taken in my life was coming here to the Mount from Nigeria – I didn’t think I would survive it.

What I’ve come to learn is that adaptation is easier when you are surrounded by good people and those who can relate with your challenges.

My involvement with the Black Student Support Office on campus has been very important to me for the opportunity to make moves in forming a solid community and a safe space within the community. Community plays a big role in my life.

My journey has been filled with so many challenges, but the Mount has played a great role in my self-discovery and, most importantly, given me a drive to add immense value to society at large.

One of my proudest Mount moments was the moment I realized my research (thesis) is a novel project. It made me believe I could be part of something bigger than myself. Dr. Luhovyy has been a big influence for me. I have worked closely with him and he has challenged me a lot, encouraged me to do things I thought I couldn’t do.”

Mahx Mason
International Communications Coordinator at the MSVU International Education Centre
MSVU alum (MEd in Teaching English as a Second Language ‘15)
Hometown: Linjiang, Jilin Province, China

“People are often surprised to learn that I failed to be accepted to university after high school. At a mature age, I started to teach myself English and later obtained a master’s degree. Now I’m working successfully in an English-speaking country, Canada.

Coming to MSVU was a turning point in my life. I fulfilled my academic goal by studying at the Mount, which makes me more confident in myself. In addition, MSVU has been treating me like family, which satisfies me with a sense of belonging.

It is my strong will and perseverance that prop myself up to overcome all the difficulties and to achieve my goals.

Now I work in the International Education Centre at MSVU where I’m a one-stop-resource-service provider for mostly (but not limited to) MSVU international students. The toughest part about my job is working to understand cultural differences and avoid offending others.

What’s next for me? I want to develop my professional skills by taking some lessons in communication, learn some Spanish, and save some money to buy a property. 😊”

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.”