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Saint Paul University: Ottawa’s engaged, human, open and spiritual university is a hidden gem

Saint Paul
Saint Paul

Contrary to popular belief, Saint Paul University is not solely a religious institution. For example, while students are learning to look within and beyond themselves in classes taught at the university, elsewhere on the Ottawa campus, local seniors are exchanging ideas at a workshop hosted by the Centre for Aging and Community. Meanwhile, a couple from the neighbourhood are engaged in therapy in the university’s School of Counselling, Psychotherapy and Spirituality — the city’s largest provider of psychotherapy services.

Over at the Centre for Indigenous Students, important conversations are continuing. International students from Africa, the Middle East and other regions are in virtual and physical classrooms with Canadians to complete evolved programs in human science, philosophy, theology and canon law.

Off campus, a family of new Canadians is benefiting from the services of one of the many recent graduates of the National Newcomer Navigation Network program, designed to help workers in hospital settings and community centres work effectively with new Canadians.

“Saint Paul University is fostering a coalition of change among people of all ages and experience levels who share a commitment to serving their community, whatever that community may be,” says Chantal Beauvais, the rector and chief executive officer championing transformation of the 173-year-old bilingual centre of learning. “We bring together students, professors, researchers, non-profit organizations, faith communities and social justice advocates from across the city, the country and from across the globe.”

Saint Paul

One place where people of all stripes work in partnership is the Mauril-Bélanger Social Innovation Workshop (the Atelier). Established three years ago, the Atelier is a hub for training, collaboration, co-working and launching social organizations dedicated to fighting poverty and advancing other positive impacts in the community.

“The idea was to create an ecosystem where everyone would help one another. Everybody is welcome,” Beauvais says. Inclusive relationships are built among people who strive individually and as a group to identify and discuss issues, find solutions and join forces to promote them.

Members of the Atelier have access to physical spaces for teaming up on projects, networking and other key tasks. Social entrepreneurs are able to float their concepts and gain the wisdom of the group. Social organizations claim work areas in the social innovation hub and get down to business, including Cooperative Ontario, which supports people who form and grow their own co-ops.

“Knowledge sharing is so important,” says Beauvais. “We’re not just producing and communicating knowledge to benefit our university students, we are generating information our community can use.” Sensitive that Canadian universities receive public funding, Saint Paul University believes that by offering the public access to its research and initiatives, “we are fulfilling part of our accountability to citizens.”

saint paulThinking minds have ample support for development at Saint Paul University, where the ratio is one professor to every 12 students — substantially smaller than most other universities. Professors get to know their students and are available to talk. They provide feedback that helps individual students reach their potential.

Professor Martin Blais, interim director of the School of Social Communication, notes, “Teaching in a small class, our professors can see when a student is struggling to adapt to technology, cultural differences or other issues.

“Passionate students who like to question and challenge have more room to express themselves. Insecure students find our classes provide them with emotional security,” he observes.

“I really like teaching. It matters to me that my students transform, that they become more confident, and they write and speak better,” Blais says.

The mix of students is broad, with the majority registered in human sciences programs, including human relations, ethics, social justice, social innovation and counselling. Half choose to study in French, the other half in English. Twenty per cent belong to the LGBTQ2S+ community. Four per cent are Indigenous. Twenty-three per cent are international learners. Although the university is a Catholic institution, it serves everybody, regardless of religious affiliation.

While this year’s enrolment features many young undergrads and graduate students, other learners are older and committed to adding credentials to enhance their careers in civil service, the diplomatic core, counselling and other community-focused fields.

SPStudents evidently resonate with Saint Paul University’s style of education. Two years ago, students’ feedback indicated a satisfaction level of 92 per cent — approximately 20 points above the Ontario average.

Employers also give the Saint Paul University education high marks. “Our data confirms that our graduates find employment in their fields,” Beauvais says. “We help evolve our students’ emotional intelligence, an advantageous trait that employers are seeking. We take pride in our graduates, who have been trained to work with others, communicate, identify ethical issues and resolve conflicts. These benefit both workplaces and our world.”

Saint Paul University offers accelerated degrees and more than $750,000 in scholarships, while the university’s tuition fees are among the most competitive in Ontario.

For information about Saint Paul University, call 613-236-1393 or visit

This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Saint Paul University.