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Sunday, 24 September 2006

Megan Shore Profile

A Return to UW
New leadership in an old role at SJU

Dr. Megan Shore began her academic career here at the University of Waterloo, and this year she has returned to St. Jerome’s University (SJU) as staff, with a new leadership role. Dr. Shore is now the director of the St. Jerome’s Centre for Catholic Experience.

The Centre’s first lecture is this Friday, when Dr. William F. Ryan S.J. will be speaking on the topic of Globalization and Catholic Social Thought: Present Crisis, Future Hope at Siegfried Hall 7:30pm. Dr. Shore recently took some time from her busy schedule to answer some questions for Imprint about the SJU Centre, life, the universe and everything.

Megan you began your university career at UW completing your B.A. here before moving on to an M.A. at Dalhousie University and a Ph.D. at the University of Leeds. Is taking the role as Director of the St. Jerome's Centre for Catholic Experience a homecoming of sorts for you?

I guess you could call this a homecoming; however, I never really left St. Jerome’s. Although I have lived in many different places, I have remained connected to members of the St. Jerome’s faculty and staff and community.

What excites you most about this year’s lecture series and your role in bringing it to fruition?

I am excited about our topic “Catholic Social Teachings”. This is a great opportunity to discuss this “Best Kept Secret” and raise awareness of the social justice dimension of the Catholic tradition. Too often Catholicism is equated almost exclusively with sexuality. The reality is that the Catholic tradition has a long history of promoting just labour practices, a fair distribution of wealth, and sustainable development. These are some of the topics we want to highlight this year.

This being your freshman year as director is there anything you intend to do differently? Any big changes you see for the future of the series?

I don’t plan on changing things too much because the series is already so successful. Besides, with David Seljak stepping down as director and Michael Higgins moving to St. Thomas University, the public face of SJU is already undergoing a fairly major transformation. Former Director of the Centre, David Seljak, did a remarkable job making the lecture series one of the most respected in the country, so I will primarily be following his lead.

This year’s series seems to have fewer lectures then the past few years. Is there any specific reason for that change?

We usually try to have at least one lecture a month during the academic year. That is how I focused on setting up the program so there was no conscious decision to hold fewer lectures this year. Last year we had a few “extra” lectures, which were actually re-scheduled lectures from the previous years—weather and the health of a speaker or two a few years back meant we had to cancel one or two lectures. The number of lectures fluctuates each year.

All but one of the lectures have some type of corporate sponsorship. Are you actively seeking new partnerships for more lectures, and if so, with whom?

I wouldn’t say they have corporate sponsorship. All of our lectures have been endowed through generous gifts to St. Jerome’s. We have a tradition of highlighting these names in our programs and in the lecture to show our thanks. I’m not actively seeking new partnerships or endowments, but they are always welcome. Our development office, under the direction of Harry Froklage, is usually the point person on this.

Going back o your days as an undergraduate at UW, did you attend any of the lectures? If so did you have a favorite speaker or series?

Yes I attended events when I was a student. It would be hard to pick one favorite, but if I had to, I would say Sr. Helen Prejean in 1998. She is a passionate and engaging speaker. I admire her personal commitment to social justice that stems from her faith.

At many of the lectures in the past, undergraduate participation appears to be minimal - 15 to 25% of attendance. Do you have any plans on how to increase this student participation?

We realize students are busy and they typically see Friday nights as “down time”. Still, a number of lectures do attract the undergrad population. In the past, lectures by Helen Prejean, Joe Clark, and Romeo Dallaire, brought out large numbers of undergrads. This year I think undergrads will find the lectures by James Loney (the Canadian held hostage in Iraq in Nov-Dec 2005) and Adele Reinhartz (on religion and Hollywood…the CBC lecture) particularly exciting.

This year, as well as in past years, the Centre has had some very big names in lectures, such as Jean Vanier, Sr. Helen Prejean, Henri Nouwen, Joe Clark, Romeo Dallaire, Karen Armstrong, John L. Allen Jr. and many, many more. Are you specifically courting any for next year? Will any of these notary speakers be asked to return under your directorship?

We try to get a good blend of speakers who can speak to the political, social, and cultural issues facing Canadians today. Our purpose isn’t to advance just one viewpoint in the series, but to provide as many perspectives as possible. This is why we try to avoid over-exposing speakers.

Dr. Shore, with teaching at King's University College at University of Western Ontario in London this year, do you foresee any difficulties carrying out your duties as director of the program?

I have amazing support at both St. Jerome’s University and King’s University College. Most importantly, I have Carol Persin helping me at St. Jerome’s, so I don’t believe there should be any difficulties carrying out my duties.

From your new seat as director, is there anything you would like to share with the readers of Imprint, either about the Centre or your role there or even about yourself?

I’m honored to be heading up this lecture series. David Seljak and those associated with the lecture series over the years have set a very high standard. For example, our new partnership with CBC reflects the quality of lectures. Because we are now working with the Ideas program on CBC radio, all of Canada will be able to take part in a lecture series that has a tremendous local and regional reputation. Being a part of this kind of forward-looking lecture series is truly exciting.

What would you advise today’s undergraduates based upon your years and experience in academia?

Study what you love. If you have passion for what you are studying, it won’t seem like work!

Dr. Shore has shared with us some of the wisdom she has gleaned over the years. Part of that wisdom came from the lecture series at SJU. Some of us at Imprint look forward to this year’s series and where Dr. Shore will lead us in the future.

(First Published in Imprint as ‘Shore, a fresh return for STJ’ 2006-09-22)

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