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‘Sense of community’

Marine Institute fall graduate guided by family, instructors and fellow students

The Gazette’s latest special feature celebrates Memorial’s newest alumni.

By Moira Baird

This month fall graduate Emma Butler will walk across not one, but two, convocation stages.

One ceremony was for her undergraduate ceremony that was postponed by the pandemic in Virginia; the other is for her Memorial University graduate degree.

Earlier this month, Ms. Butler received her bachelor of science with a double major in environmental geography and government from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

On Thursday, Oct. 21, she will collect her master’s in marine studies (fisheries resource management) at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre.

“I learned to fillet a fish, gut it and all that with my doll in hand when I was very young.” — Emma Butler

The online master’s program is offered by the Marine Institute’s School of Fisheries.

“It’s a busy October – thankfully I’m able to attend both,” she said.

“My next steps will be finding a career where I’m constantly being challenged, still learning things and building more sustainable fisheries whether that be in the private sector or in the public sector.”

Family ties

Ms. Butler lives in Virginia but her family roots are in Newfoundland and Labrador: her father is from the Burin Peninsula town of Red Harbour.

“It’s my happy place. I fished with my grandparents on a small vessel. I learned to fillet a fish, gut it and all that with my doll in hand when I was very young.”

Born in St. John’s, she grew up in both this province and New Brunswick where her father, Ross, worked with Cooke Aquaculture Inc.

In high school, her family moved to Virginia where her father became chief executive officer of Cooke Seafood USA and Wanchese Fish Co.

Father’s footsteps

It was her father’s suggestion that got her thinking about the Marine Institute.

An MI alumnus, he completed a food technology diploma in marine products in 1982; he later completed a business administration and management degree from Memorial.

“There were no technical glitches the entire year, which I think is amazing.” — Emma Butler

“My parents really wanted me to find the right spot for me and didn’t try to sway me too much one way or the other.”

Ms. Butler decided MI’s graduate program combined her interests in fisheries, marine environments and policy. She checked it out online and found the course offerings “pretty fascinating.”

I picked out a few – marine environmental law and pollution control and fisheries technology.”

Online community

She opted for a course-based master’s and studied full-time to complete the program in a year.

“The Marine Institute has developed a pretty strong online program. There were no technical glitches the entire year, which I think is amazing.”

The program provided opportunities to interact with other students, including online discussion forums for each course. She says some of her courses were almost entirely group based.

“In my fisheries technology class, for example, my professor had a synchronous class every week and encouraged us to interact with our classmates. It was all really effective in creating a sense of community for an online program.”

World class

Her fellow classmates were from all over Canada and the world.

“There were a lot of mature students who had years of experience in jobs and research, and the perspectives they brought to the classes were remarkable.”

One student owned fishing vessels and provided insights on how fisheries policy affects day-to-day fishing activities. Another managed Arctic caribou herds and highlighted the similarities between surveys of fish and wildlife.

“I learned just as much from my classmates as I did my professors.”

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