The Seven Days Work Educational Foundation

Fish Head at Sunrise. View from the breakfast area at Seven Days Work


Grand Manan Island
Bay of Fundy. Canada


The Seven Days Work Foundation was established in April 2009 by Marc and Susan Shell in order to encourage interdisciplinary research, to aid physical, intellectual and cultural development in the greater Atlantic regions of Canada and the United States, and to support education in the Maritime Provinces.     

The Foundation is especially interested in bringing together thoughtful men and women of divergent backgrounds and professions with a view to pursuing common goals in novel ways.  The main activities of the Foundation are: the sponsorship of intensive, seminar-style conferences on subjects related to our mission and educational outreach programs for high school and college age young people.  It is our belief that bringing together individuals from different paths of life in wide-ranging yet disciplined discussion can help stimulate creative responses to a variety of challenges facing the greater Maritime and Atlantic regions.












The Seven Days Work Conferences:

Foundation conferences draw upon the expertise and life experience of individuals from the academy, the public and private and sectors, and the local community.  Their purpose is to facilitate dialogue and innovation in areas of broad public concern, such as regional development, cultural enrichment and literacy, public health, and cross-border relations.  They are held at Seven Days Work and nearby facilities on Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, Canada.  Participants typically meet over a period of two or three days, in a series of focused sessions, potentially with a view to publication.

The first two-day conference, held at The Inn at Whale Cove and at Seven Days Work in June 2009, was entitled "Infrastructure in the Greater Atlantic and Maritime Region."  The conference consisted of three sessions:  “Research and Publishing—Intellectual Infrastructure;” “Architecture, Geography, and Politics—Physical Infrastructure;” and “Canada and the United States.”  Participants included the directors of three scholarly presses in or near the region: Philip Cercone of McGill-Queens UP in Montreal, Michael Alpert of the U of Maine Press in Bangor, and Andrew Steeves of Gaspereau Press in Wolfville NS.  Other participants included noted artist and author Thaddeus Holownia of Mount Alison University in Sackville NB; Robert Fishman, Professor of History and Planning at the School of Architecture at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor;  Roger Nason, Manager of Applied Research at Keyano College in Fort McMurray AB; Hugh French, Director of the Tides Institute in Eastport ME; and Peter Sly of Brooklyn ME, an attorney with considerable experience in infrastructural and legal issues involving water engineering and transportation.

The title of our third summer conference is “Learning to Leave, Learning to Stay, Learning to Return—Enhancing Educational Opportunities for Young People in Local Maritime Communities” (August 2010).  This conference will begin by investigating the argument that young people living in remote areas often get the message that they basically have two choices: they can get an education for work “away,” at the cost of abandoning their community’s values and way of life, or they can choose to stay in their community, in which case formal education doesn’t seem to have much to offer. (So if you love fishing, do not bother to go to university, and don’t take education seriously even in high school.) Is this view of things, which privileges two apparently opposing movements—learning to leave permanently and leaving off formal learning—accurate?  And, if it is accurate, what can or should be done about it?  Is it possible to offer more students the option both of getting a formal education and also of being loyal to their local community and even enriching it?  Might more students leave the community by going away to college ("learning to leave") and then returning for their working lives ("learning to return")?  Might others stay in their community and still choose to get a better formal educational grounding in their local area, one that will assist them for productive work where they are ("learning to stay")?  If so, then fewer young people in such areas would be faced with the difficult—and perhaps also individually and socially debilitating—choice between going away and staying home outlined above.  Or is the economic decline of such areas inevitable, making it best to concentrate on "learning to leave” as the only genuinely viable current option? Finally, whether one educates to leave or educates to return, are there policies or programs (e.g., summer camps, school trips, and lengthier student exchange programs) that might improve the educational and other life prospects of young people in such areas?  The twelve participants at this conference include Michael Corbett, Professor of Education at Acadia University in Wolfville NS and author of Learning to Leave: The Irony of Schooling in a Coastal Community; Marilyn Cronk, elementary school teacher at Grand Manan Regional School in Grand Manan NB; Robert Griffin, high school teacher at Grand Manan Regional High School in Grand Manan NB and PhD candidate at University of Athabasca in Athabasca AB; Roger Nason, Manager of Applied Research at Keyano College in Fort McMurray AB; and Rod Wright, former principal of of Van Buren District Secondary School in Van Buren ME and former principal of Livermore Falls High School in Livermore ME.

Our first Leviathan Retreat (May 2012), sponsored by the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy and convened at the Seven Days Work Foundation, focused on "Origins of Constitutional Democracy: The Political Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes."  At Grand Manan's Whale Cove ("leviathan inlet"), the group engaged in a study of a seminal text in the history of modern constitutional thought, Hobbes' Leviathan (1651). Discussion included how enhanced understanding of this text, and others like it, leads to enhanced classroom experiences for undergraduate and graduate students in the greater Gulf of Maine and Bay of Fundy region.  Principal congress participants, from Boston College, included: Nasser Behnegar, Associate Professor of Political Science; Alice Behnegar, Associate Professor, College Honors Program; Robert Faulkner, Distinguished Professor, Department of Poltiical Science; Robert  Bartlett, Behrakis Professor  of Hellenic Political Philosophy; and Susan Shell, Professor and Chair, Department of Poltiical Science.  Independent scholars included Amy Nenza.  In process now is an edited volume based on this conference.

Future conference and retreat topics under discussion include: “Sustainable Fishing Communities,” “Local Education for a Global Economy,” “Comparative Politics of Canada and the United States,” “Transportation in the Atlantic Region,” “Literacies: Problems and Opportunities,” and Tidal Energy:  Realistic Promises and Avoidable Pitfalls.”

Youth Outreach:

“Going Away/Coming Back I”—a conference for college-age students about higher education and future prospects for local communities—was held at The Gathering Place at Grand Manan’s Castalia Marsh in August 2009.  College students and others from the Bay of Fundy region included Madeleine Ballantyne, Duncan Cronk, Jesse Dexter, Jason Guptill, Zach Nixon, Kyle Roode, William Rice, Saad Samad, and Peter Sonnenberg. “Going Away/Coming Back II” was held at Seven Days Work in August 2010.

Together with island residents, the Foundation has begun to organize a high-skill summer apprenticeship program for secondary-school and college-age students with a focus on sustaining local economies.  Current proposals under review include commercial sailing and whale research, fine woodworking, artisan breadmaking, printing and engraving, and stone masonry.

Foundation Directors and Fellows:

Marc Shell, a MacArthur Fellow, is Irving Babbitt Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University.  He is the author of many books, including Money, Language, and Thought; Wampum—An Essay on Money in North America; and Grand Manan: A Large History of Small Island.  Marc was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, and attended university in Canada, England and the US

Susan Shell is Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at Boston College.  She formerly taught at Concordia University in Montreal, and at Brock and McMaster Universities in Ontario.  She has published books and essays on political theory and public policy.

Foundation Fellows include men and women from the local community as well as university presidents, corporation leaders, members of the legislature, lawyers, publishers, and scientists from Canada and the United States.

Site and Facilities:

The Foundation site (Seven Days Work) on Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, Canada, offers an attractive and stimulating setting for the conferences and research we seek to promote.  The main building sits atop "Seven Days Work" (a large and impressive cliff with seven clearly visible strata) and overlooks the Bay of Fundy and the Gulf of Maine.  An old legend says that, in order to create the cliff, the Lord worked seven full days instead of the usual six.  The Bay, which marks a border between Canada and the United States, has the highest tides in the world.  In summer months, whales and other sea mammals are often visible from the main building and its nearby scenic walking trails.  Eagles, peregrine falcons and other bird life are also commonly sighted.

The main building at Seven Days Work is a steel and cedar structure constructed in 1980 and built directly into the basalt rock of which this part of Grand Manan is mainly composed. The main meeting room has douglas fir beams, a fireplace open on three sides, and large windows to the north, east, south, and west. Other nearby facilities include the Willa Cather House and variously available private seaside cottages, an excellent restaurant, a kayak and bike renting area, and a sailing launch for whale-watching.

Poster and slide show.  (Downloading takes a few seconds.  Click on poster to enlarge.)

 Further information:

Support: The Seven Days Work Educational Foundation, Inc., is a registered not-for-profit organization.  Individuals, corporations, and public institutions, both in Canada and the United States, support the work of the Foundation.  For inquiries about participation, please contact Professor Susan Shell or Professor Marc Shell.

Address: The Seven Days Work Educational Foundation Inc., 244 Whistle Road, Village of North Head, Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick Province, Canada E5G 5A1. 

Travel directions and map: click here.

General inquiries: email; click here.