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Helping hands

Humanities and Social Sciences wiki created by students for students

special feature: Back to school

Part of a special feature coinciding with the beginning of a new academic year at Memorial University.

By Janet Harron

Many new students on the St. John’s campus are not just new to Memorial.

They are also new to the City of St. John’s and are looking for places to shop, where to bank, what local radio stations to listen to and recommendations for fun things to do during their brief respites from research, teaching and writing.

Created by students for students

Enter the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) Graduate Student Council and its new wiki, which is designed to be a living website of essential information enabling new graduate students to thrive in the province’s capital city.

Elahe Nezhadhossein is a sociology PhD candidate from Iran and a member of the group who designed the wiki. When she arrived in the fall of 2014, she knew she needed boots but the ones she purchased weren’t waterproof.

From left are Shannon O’Rourke and Elahe Nezhadhossein at Food for Thought on Gower Street, a local business included on the wiki.
From left are Shannon O’Rourke and Elahe Nezhadhossein at Food for Thought on Gower St.
Photo: Chris Hammond

“I won’t make that mistake again,” laughs Ms. Nezhadhossein, who is researching women’s representation in social media and movements. “Now I have winter boots, snow pants and different jackets for winter, spring and fall.”

Not surprisingly, the wiki includes a prominent link to surviving winter in Canada. It also has links to independent downtown businesses, including The Sprout, Belbin’s Grocery and Quidi Vidi Brewery, local spots of interest, entertainment options and the St. John’s Farmers’ Market.


The current subjects in the wiki are based on the interests of contributors. Council members expect it to gain greater scope as more graduate students contribute to it through regular updating.

“When the HSS grad students first talked about leaving a legacy for future students in the form of a wiki, I wasn’t sure because there are already substantial resources available from Memorial’s School of Graduate Studies, the International Students Association, MUNSU and the Graduate Students Union,” said Dr. Carrie Dyck, associate dean, graduate students, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.


She was convinced, though, when she saw the list of topics to be covered. Although extensive orientation resources are available,  the subject matter is not all in one place.

“Many topics on the wiki are in the category of information that ‘everybody knows’ . . . everybody except newcomers,” said Dr. Dyck. “We hope that this living document will provide truly comprehensive answers for graduate students living in St. John’s.”

Driving force

Philosophy PhD candidate Shannon O’Rourke has been the driving force behind the project. He is using his background in philosophy as well as in science and technology studies to organize the wiki’s information systematically and to encourage deliberation and participation. Anyone interested in participating should get in touch with the HSS Graduate Student Council by emailing hss@mun.ca and putting “Feedback on munstudents.ca” in the subject field.


“The hope is that people will come together to further organize and flesh out the wiki,” said Mr. O’Rourke. “The wiki is just a backbone — people contributing to it and debating about it, will make it a useful democratic repository. I think it can provide students, new and old, with valuable information that will make their time at Memorial more fulfilling.”

Unique concerns

The Humanities and Social Sciences graduate student council was formed in 2014. Its purpose is to address the unique concerns of graduate students in the faculty and to make students aware of the resources that are available to them.

The council is also instrumental in planning the 2016 HSS graduate student kitchen party taking place on Thursday, Sept. 22, from 5-7 p.m. The wiki will be promoted at the event and via the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Facebook and Twitter sites and throughout GradFest 2016.

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