Sam McGaw, a fourth-year biochemistry student at Mount Allison University, recently discovered something key to the heart health of brook trout, a species of freshwater fish native to North America. McGaw spent the summer in the university’s MacCormack Laboratory, under the supervision of biochemistry professor Tyson MacCormack, exploring the effect of the amino acid taurine on cardiovascular function. As it turns out, taurine deficiency leads to poor outcomes for brook trout. It’s a finding that could translate to human health.
Undergraduates helping to conduct complex research is a regular occurrence at Mount Allison. “We rely on them,” says MacCormack. “There are lots of researchers at Mount Allison publishing high-impact, peer-reviewed studies, and most of them are working with undergraduate students.”
The university in picturesque Sackville, New Brunswick, is back on top in the Primarily Undergraduate ranking after slipping to second place last year. In addition to its robust research opportunities, the university offers a growing suite of student services. Responding to criticism about its handling of sexual violence on campus, Mount Allison has introduced a secure online platform for reporting incidents, which is available 24/7. It also hired a full-time sexual violence prevention and education coordinator, as well as a sexual violence response and equity, diversity and inclusion consultant. Students can speak with the consultant about what a formal complaint process looks like, says Anne Comfort, vice-president of international and student affairs at Mount Allison. They can also make an anonymous report.
Over the past year, Mount Allison also hired a multi-faith chaplain and spiritual care coordinator, expanded the school’s Writing Centre to include writing for the sciences and, as an extension of its COVID response, continued offering counselling and accessibility services online.
The pandemic didn’t stop the development of new programs at Mount Allison. In 2021, the university opened the Pierre Lassonde School of Fine Arts, a state-of-the-art, 50,000-square-foot facility that includes dedicated studio space for drawing, sculpture, photography and printmaking. And this past April, Mount Allison introduced a new degree minor and certificate options in Indigenous Studies, as well as an interdisciplinary health studies degree.
Meanwhile, a series of indoor and outdoor infrastructure investments are under way at the university, with $100 million allocated to renovating facilities like the Athletic Centre, Charlotte House residence building and R.P. Bell Library. The library will include a “flipped classroom,” which substitutes the standard lecture model for immersive, in-class problem-solving. Think colourful, movable furniture arrangements (no bolted-down chairs here) and tech-enabled features like LED screens and tablets.
For Mount Allison president Jean-Paul Boudreau, the upgrades signify one of Mount Allison’s greatest strengths as a small liberal arts institution: the ability to nimbly respond to shifting tides. “We’re reimagining liberal arts for 21st-century learning,” he says. “Innovation isn’t just a buzzword here.”