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Independent mind

Science student recognized with self-directed learning award

special feature: Student success

Part of a special feature celebrating the success of Memorial's graduates. This feature coincides with spring convocation 2017.


By Jennifer Batten

Nicholas Brown is a creative and critical thinker, an explorer and an adventurer, and is someone who persistently seeks the answers to questions that interest him in his field of study.

He is also the recipient of the inaugural Memorial University Award for Outstanding Self-directed Learning. In recognition of his accomplishments, he was presented with a framed certificate and a cash award of $1,000 at a ceremony on the St. John’s campus on May 9.

Nicholas Brown
Nicholas Brown presents his self-directed learning experience.
Photo: Jennifer Armstrong

Personal vision

The soon-to-be graduate of Memorial’s bachelor of science (honours) program has gone above and beyond the typical expectations of student performance, deeply and meaningfully engaging fellow undergraduate students, graduate students and professors and demonstrating independence in carrying out and evaluating his learning.

“Nicholas was able to combine his interests in psychology and ocean environments with scuba diving and envision a future career in which he will contribute to animal behaviour research and help conserve marine ecospheres,“ said Dr. Noreen Golfman, provost and vice-president (academic).

“For demonstrating initiative, persistence, creativity and hard work in forging his own learning path to achieve his career goals, Nicholas Brown is a most deserving recipient of the 2016 Memorial University Award for Outstanding Self-Directed Learning.”

During the award ceremony, Mr. Brown presented an overview of his self-directed learning experience, reflecting on his desire to push boundaries and challenge convention as he worked toward the completion of his honours project, which focused on the sea cucumber’s response to predatory sea stars.

“Dr. David Wilson and Dr. Pat Gagnon, my co-supervisors, have inspired me as long as I have known them.” — Nicholas Brown

He also commented on the learning outcomes he achieved, including the value of detailed planning, clear communication and collaboration. Mr. Brown noted that he developed skills in leadership and time management over the course of his work, and acknowledged the assistance of faculty members, graduate student researchers and undergraduate student assistants. Mr. Brown’s award submission is available here.

Exceptional experience

“I was very honoured to be recognized for my unique honours project,” Mr. Brown said during the ceremony. “However, my two supervisors deserve equal if not more recognition for their role in my success. Dr. David Wilson and Dr. Pat Gagnon, my co-supervisors, have inspired me as long as I have known them. They were constantly available and encouraging from the very beginning, and made the link between my dream and the realization of this project.

“I strongly believe that an exceptional education is driven by exceptional professors, and David and Pat have the intelligence, creativity and intuition to recognize and encourage undergraduate students to go beyond what is normally expected of them.”

Honourable mention

Lucas Morneau, a Grenfell Campus student who graduated May 12 with a bachelor of fine arts (visual arts) was recognized with an honourable mention for his exceptional award submission. Mr. Morneau’s submission focused on how his experience with the artwork of James Turrell during a three-month study semester in the United Kingdom profoundly affected his own creative expression and influenced the his final-year independent art project. Mr. Morneau and guests at Grenfell Campus joined the award ceremony in St. John’s via video conference.

The Memorial University Award for Outstanding Self-directed Learning is the first of its kind at Memorial, and celebrates undergraduate students with the qualities and skills that enable them to manage their own learning and successfully undertake self-directed learning projects during their formal studies.


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