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‘Looking forward to change’


The personal mementos are packed away and the only thing left hanging on the wall in Dr. Keith Chaulk’s office on Hamilton River Road is his impressive doctorate degree.

“Don’t take a picture of me in front of that,” Chaulk pleads — good-naturedly — at the end of our interview, exposing a typical degree of Labradorian modesty.

Chaulk is winding down his time as director of the Labrador Institute (LI) — Memorial University of Newfoundland’s official presence in Labrador — and is preparing for his move to Calgary, where he will work as a full-time board member at the National Energy Board. Chaulk expresses his gratitude for the opportunity to guide the LI through some major growth for the last eight years.

That growth included growing a staff of approximately five people in 2007, to upwards of 35 staff as of this summer, including interns from other universities, graduate students, and visiting artists.

“When I came on board, I felt that one of the most important things to do with the LI, was to grow it,” said Chaulk, who was born and raised in North West River, a community of roughly 500 people in central Labrador.

“As I was preparing for the interview with the LI (in 2007) people expressed to me that there wasn’t quite enough on the go.

“What did ‘enough’ mean? It wasn’t quite clear; people had different interpretations of what ‘enough’ was,” he continued. “But it didn’t take long for me to appreciate that the university has two primary functions: one is research…the discovery and creation of knowledge. The meat-and-potatoes of a university is research and education. And we weren’t doing that (at the time).”

The other function, Chaulk said, is education.

“You can’t do research or teach unless you have people who have the time and skills to do that. So we placed a lot of emphasis on trying to recruit people,” he said. “We had a number of PhD candidates that were working in the area and we made room to bring them in. And it gave a sense of energy to the place.

“Not long after that, we moved into a partnership with the Faculty of Arts and we did our first post-doc and all of sudden there was a sense of movement, that highly qualified people could work in Labrador and do a good job. So we continued the post-doc program.”

Chaulk said that movement snowballed into more highly qualified professionals hanging their hat at the LI.

“We had (said) for many years that we needed more resources in Labrador, and that our stumbling block wasn’t actually equipment or whatever; it was more related to personnel. And eventually ACOA bought into it and they gave us the heads up that they would provide recruitment if MUN would match.

“It just so happened we had a new president (at MUN) and he said it sounded like a good idea. So that’s the process we’ve been in the last few years; we’ve all (ACOA, the provincial government, LI and MUN) thrown in some cash and recruited a number of researchers to come work at the LI.”

Projects

The researchers and experts are involved in various fields and disciplines, noted Chaulk, including archeology, marine sciences, indigenous education, the economic history of Labrador, geosciences, and agriculture.

“They in turn recruit people to work on their projects,” added Chaulk. “We’re now in a phase where we are delivering research programs and education programs and I really hope that continues for the foreseeable future; that the growth continues and we move away from grant funding and get more core funding to recruit and retain people.”

Chaulk said the LI has delivered — and continues to deliver — quality research and projects.

“There are so many projects, it’s hard to pick them out,” he said. “Some examples include children’s books in indigenous languages, for curriculum, which includes a science element; a PhD candidate working on issues surrounding indigenous suicide and suicide prevention; researchers who’ve documented the last surviving speakers of the Rigolet dialect of Inuktitut; and we have one the largest archeological excavations in eastern Canada on the go in Sheshatshiu.”

Chaulk added the LI’s research station in North West River also houses state-of-the-art, high-end analytical laboratory equipment to conduct progressive scientific research in areas of geoscience, chemistry and agricultural science.

“To me, the increase in resources for the LI — which is basically the new facilities and the staff and the monies we have to allow our researchers to do their work to deliver their education programs — is the most important and significant accomplishment during my tenure as the director of the LI (and) the work that went into it to make it happen,” said Chaulk.

Chaulk said he there was a time in the past where it was believed — by some — that the educational side of the LI would never come to pass.

“There’s an anecdote I’ve heard some of the staff saying — when the vice-president of MUN was here at one point in the past — that there will never be an education program offered on the ground in Labrador. And since I’ve been here, there’s been an Inuit social work program that was delivered in its entirety — in partnership with the Nunatsiavut Government — and now the Inuit Bachelor of Education program. So there’s been a total turnaround in terms of support and activities at the LI,” smiled Chaulk.

“That’s some of the biggest advances, that overall sense of movement, recruitment of highly trained professionals working in the area.”

Chaulk said growth of the LI is important, not for growth’s sake, but what that growth means.

“It means good things for Labrador and Labrador’s future. The research being done is integral, but the educational opportunities that will come out of it is also very important.”

Now, as he looks around his bare office, Chaulk said he is ready to bid farewell to the LI and move on to his new career.

“Labrador is pretty much what I lived and breathed since I moved back in 1995. I’ve spent the better part of my career working on Labrador issues…for the last 20 years. “I’m looking forward to change.”

Asked what he’ll miss about the Big Land itself, he’s not quite sure yet.

“I don’t know what I’ll miss about Labrador until I’m gone,” he said. “I expect it’ll be the outdoor stuff. But I expect to come back and do some goose hunting, or berry picking or you never know — the caribou might come back,” he grinned.

He will return one day, he vows.

“I had always planned to be buried in Labrador ever since I can remember. I’ll definitely be back — whether I’m breathing or not, I don’t know,” he quipped.

Chaulk will take up his new duties with the National Energy Board next month.

bonnie.learning@tc.tc

 

“Don’t take a picture of me in front of that,” Chaulk pleads — good-naturedly — at the end of our interview, exposing a typical degree of Labradorian modesty.

Chaulk is winding down his time as director of the Labrador Institute (LI) — Memorial University of Newfoundland’s official presence in Labrador — and is preparing for his move to Calgary, where he will work as a full-time board member at the National Energy Board. Chaulk expresses his gratitude for the opportunity to guide the LI through some major growth for the last eight years.

That growth included growing a staff of approximately five people in 2007, to upwards of 35 staff as of this summer, including interns from other universities, graduate students, and visiting artists.

“When I came on board, I felt that one of the most important things to do with the LI, was to grow it,” said Chaulk, who was born and raised in North West River, a community of roughly 500 people in central Labrador.

“As I was preparing for the interview with the LI (in 2007) people expressed to me that there wasn’t quite enough on the go.

“What did ‘enough’ mean? It wasn’t quite clear; people had different interpretations of what ‘enough’ was,” he continued. “But it didn’t take long for me to appreciate that the university has two primary functions: one is research…the discovery and creation of knowledge. The meat-and-potatoes of a university is research and education. And we weren’t doing that (at the time).”

The other function, Chaulk said, is education.

“You can’t do research or teach unless you have people who have the time and skills to do that. So we placed a lot of emphasis on trying to recruit people,” he said. “We had a number of PhD candidates that were working in the area and we made room to bring them in. And it gave a sense of energy to the place.

“Not long after that, we moved into a partnership with the Faculty of Arts and we did our first post-doc and all of sudden there was a sense of movement, that highly qualified people could work in Labrador and do a good job. So we continued the post-doc program.”

Chaulk said that movement snowballed into more highly qualified professionals hanging their hat at the LI.

“We had (said) for many years that we needed more resources in Labrador, and that our stumbling block wasn’t actually equipment or whatever; it was more related to personnel. And eventually ACOA bought into it and they gave us the heads up that they would provide recruitment if MUN would match.

“It just so happened we had a new president (at MUN) and he said it sounded like a good idea. So that’s the process we’ve been in the last few years; we’ve all (ACOA, the provincial government, LI and MUN) thrown in some cash and recruited a number of researchers to come work at the LI.”

Projects

The researchers and experts are involved in various fields and disciplines, noted Chaulk, including archeology, marine sciences, indigenous education, the economic history of Labrador, geosciences, and agriculture.

“They in turn recruit people to work on their projects,” added Chaulk. “We’re now in a phase where we are delivering research programs and education programs and I really hope that continues for the foreseeable future; that the growth continues and we move away from grant funding and get more core funding to recruit and retain people.”

Chaulk said the LI has delivered — and continues to deliver — quality research and projects.

“There are so many projects, it’s hard to pick them out,” he said. “Some examples include children’s books in indigenous languages, for curriculum, which includes a science element; a PhD candidate working on issues surrounding indigenous suicide and suicide prevention; researchers who’ve documented the last surviving speakers of the Rigolet dialect of Inuktitut; and we have one the largest archeological excavations in eastern Canada on the go in Sheshatshiu.”

Chaulk added the LI’s research station in North West River also houses state-of-the-art, high-end analytical laboratory equipment to conduct progressive scientific research in areas of geoscience, chemistry and agricultural science.

“To me, the increase in resources for the LI — which is basically the new facilities and the staff and the monies we have to allow our researchers to do their work to deliver their education programs — is the most important and significant accomplishment during my tenure as the director of the LI (and) the work that went into it to make it happen,” said Chaulk.

Chaulk said he there was a time in the past where it was believed — by some — that the educational side of the LI would never come to pass.

“There’s an anecdote I’ve heard some of the staff saying — when the vice-president of MUN was here at one point in the past — that there will never be an education program offered on the ground in Labrador. And since I’ve been here, there’s been an Inuit social work program that was delivered in its entirety — in partnership with the Nunatsiavut Government — and now the Inuit Bachelor of Education program. So there’s been a total turnaround in terms of support and activities at the LI,” smiled Chaulk.

“That’s some of the biggest advances, that overall sense of movement, recruitment of highly trained professionals working in the area.”

Chaulk said growth of the LI is important, not for growth’s sake, but what that growth means.

“It means good things for Labrador and Labrador’s future. The research being done is integral, but the educational opportunities that will come out of it is also very important.”

Now, as he looks around his bare office, Chaulk said he is ready to bid farewell to the LI and move on to his new career.

“Labrador is pretty much what I lived and breathed since I moved back in 1995. I’ve spent the better part of my career working on Labrador issues…for the last 20 years. “I’m looking forward to change.”

Asked what he’ll miss about the Big Land itself, he’s not quite sure yet.

“I don’t know what I’ll miss about Labrador until I’m gone,” he said. “I expect it’ll be the outdoor stuff. But I expect to come back and do some goose hunting, or berry picking or you never know — the caribou might come back,” he grinned.

He will return one day, he vows.

“I had always planned to be buried in Labrador ever since I can remember. I’ll definitely be back — whether I’m breathing or not, I don’t know,” he quipped.

Chaulk will take up his new duties with the National Energy Board next month.

bonnie.learning@tc.tc

 

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