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Bagotville Airport may be a tiny gateway into Quebec's Saguenay region, yet a big welcome awaited a McGill delegation during a visit to Chicoutimi on November 9 and 10.
Principal Heather Munroe-Blum and Janyne Hodder, vice-principal (inter-institutional affairs), headed a team of academics and staffers who flew to Chicoutimi to celebrate the many partnerships between McGill and Saguenay-area researchers.
Munroe-Blum, who twice stayed in the Saguenay to complete French-immersion courses, was thrilled to be back. "I've rediscovered this wonderful part of the world and its warm people," she said. "The Saguenay-area is a dynamic part of Quebec where we are happy to collaborate on different ventures."
The McGill team was greeted like royalty by Michel Belley, rector of the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC), since many Saguenay-area scientists and community leaders are McGill grads and the institutions have a long tradition of collaboration.
The latest UQAC-McGill project announced during the Principal's visit was a new website called Panorama sur le Québec. Accessible at www.panorama-quebec.com, the website was created to boost international access to Quebec's language, culture and tourism.
The project involved UQAC's École de langue française et de culture québécoise and McGill's Quebec Studies Program and French Languages Program, in conjunction with l'Association internationale des études québécoises.
"Panorama sur le Québec is a resource that will enable the international community to learn more about Quebec's past and present," said Hervé de Fontenay, director of McGill's French Language Programs.
"This new website is an excellent example of a partnership between McGill and the UQAC," stressed Munroe-Blum, noting researchers from both institutions are collaborating on everything from aluminum to tuberculosis.
The Principal lauded fellow delegate Tom Hudson as one of McGill's most active scientists in the Saguenay region. Hudson, a Saguenay native and director of the McGill University and Genome Quebec Innovation Centre, is currently involved in genetic studies on diabetes and asthma with Chicoutimi scientists.
Another partnership was created this November when the McGill Baroque Orchestra and the Ensemble baroque du Conservatoire de musique du Saguenay gave their first-ever joint performance. The pairing was natural, given that violinist Guylaine Grégoire (who led the Saguenay orchestra for part of the evening), is a McGill alumnae who studied under performance professor Hank Knox, who also directed the McGill Baroque Orchestra.
The McGill delegation also had an opportunity to meet more alumni and parents of current students, during a special UQAC-McGill reception. One standout was Jean-Pierre Martin, a McGill physical chemistry graduate (PhD'80), who is director of the new UQAC-based Aluminium Technology Centre. A second was McGill grad Cylvie Claveau, an UQAC social sciences professor, who said to Munroe-Blum: "I wish you'd been Principal of McGill during my studies, since you are such an inspiration."
The final highlight of trip was the Cercle de presse du Saguenay. Munroe-Blum and Belley were invited to discuss the various issues affecting their institutions during the question-and-answer forum.
Principal Munroe-Blum ad-dressed the issue of underfunding of Quebec's universities. "Our biggest challenge is chronic underfunding," she said. "This issue must be urgently settled to enable Quebec universities to maintain the ability to deliver high quality education."
The Principal also charmed her audience by referring to her outfit — a red skirt-suit. "You may wonder why I am dressed in red, since Chicoutimi is so blue," she chuckled, alluding to the area's sovereignist leanings. "I thought your region needed an infusion of McGill red."