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‘Pick my brain’

Academic-in-residence unpacked, settled and ready to help at Signal Hill Campus

By Dr. Mandy Rowsell

You may have heard of a writer-in-residence or an artist-in-residence, but what about an academic-in-residence?

The Signal Hill Campus-based, academic-in-residence (AIR) initiative focuses on fostering big conversations and specific, one-on-one connections with students, faculty, staff and community members.

In partnership with Memorial’s Office of Public Engagement and the Department of Geography, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Harris Centre, Signal Hill Campus opened its doors to Dr. Richard Shearmur, former director of McGill’s School of Urban Planning, early this month.

Dr. Shearmur will spend more than eight months living in the campus’s graduate student accommodations while on sabbatical from McGill, where he currently works as a professor of economic geography.

“I am happy to share my experience as an academic and to discuss my research topics and methodologies.” — Dr. Richard Shearmur

Along with leading conversations and developing collaborations related to his areas of interest, such as regional innovation, the impacts of technology on work, and urban and regional development, Dr. Shearmur will draw on his more than 25 years of academic experience to help students and the public better understand what it is to be a researcher in academia.

His tenure as AIR comes with the expectation that he will participate in campus life and frequently connect with students and the community through public engagement activities.

“I hope that I will be seen as a resource by students and the community,” he said. “I am happy to share my experience as an academic and to discuss my research topics and methodologies and am especially eager to find out what students and others can tell me about St. John’s and Newfoundland and Labrador. I am delighted to be here and look forward to joining in.”

Student office hours

One of the most important aspects of his tenure is his connection with Memorial’s graduate students, including his neighbours in the Signal Hill Campus accommodations.

In order to get to know the students, and answer their questions about his life as an academic, Dr. Shearmur will host student office hours in the Yaffle Connects space in the Emera Innovation Exchange once or twice a month, depending on demand.

These informal meetings will allow students to ask Dr. Shearmur about his experiences, challenges and advice for upcoming academics.

The first student office hours will take place on Sept. 22. Lunch will be provided. Students can register by visiting the AIR website.

“I hope students come and pick my brain. It can be on specific topics related to my research, related to academia, related to methodologies and approaches to research,” he said. “It could be because they are stuck trying to articulate a research question or a problem statement. Or it could be a general conversation. Students are welcome to send me brief emails a day or two ahead of time. I won’t have all the answers, but I’ll take all questions!”

Dr. Richard Shearmur, a white man in his mid-50s, stands in front of a cement wall.
Dr. Richard Shearmur’s first student office hours are on Friday, Sept. 22.
Photo: Richard Blenkinsopp

He will also work with graduate students from the Department of Geography, including guest lecturing in one of Dr. Nicholas Lynch’s courses in January.

Dr. Lynch says Dr. Shearmur’s expertise and insight will be “invaluable for Memorial’s burgeoning geography community.”

“The Geography department, and especially the Adaptive Cities and Engagement Space, a collective of graduate students and faculty interested in urban and regional issues, is eager to share research ideas, methodologies and fieldwork experiences with Dr. Shearmur.”

Innovation conversations

Dr. Shearmur will draw on some of his research interests to structure various public programming events over the fall and winter semesters, titled Innovation Conversations.

This regular series of panels, featuring special guests from both inside and outside the university, will provide a platform for Dr. Shearmur to both share his research and converse with other Memorial and community experts from the province.

“Ever since the late 1990s, I have been doing research on questions of regional development, in particular questioning the idea that innovation and creativity are urban phenomena — something that may be obvious to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, but that is not necessarily clear elsewhere,” he said. “I am looking forward to conversations about topics such as the impacts of remote work on how and where companies recruit qualified workers. These sessions are a great opportunity for me to converse and exchange ideas with students, businesspeople and policy-makers.”

Open session on Oct. 18

The first session, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster Initiative: A National Policy in Regional Clothing?, will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 18, at 3:30 p.m. in the multipurpose conference room at the Core Science Building.

Refreshments will be provided and parking is free in level 3 of lot 27. Dr. Shearmur will be joined by his research partner, Dr. David Doloreux; together they will share their recent research on the success of the Ocean Super Cluster as a regional economic development initiative.

For more information on this and other upcoming events (and to register to attend), visit the AIR website.

For more information on the Academic-in-Residence Program, and to get in touch with Dr. Shearmur, reach out to Mandy Rowsell.


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