The university goes back to the 1850’s, and in the recent decades have invested an estimated $120 million for the improvement of its academic buildings, athletic facilities, and residences. The most recent developments that it made were the $11 million restoration of the Plessis, Fraser, and Burke residences. They have also added new heating, electrical systems, wireless internet access, elevators, plumbing, and single/double occupancy rooms. Recently, the campus has started constructing the Schwartz School of Business. Student residences are also offered by the university, and first-year students are guaranteed residence. Students have the option of choosing from: Bishops Hall, Cameron Hall, MacKinnon Hall, Mount Saint Bernard, Lane Hall, and MacIsaac, or they can opt for apartment style residences, such as the West St., Power Hall, and Somers Hall.
St. Francis Xavier University offers Service Learning to its students. It gives them the opportunity to put all the theoretical studies that they have learned into practical application while enhancing their awareness about the importance of community development and organization. The student newspaper of the campus is The Xaverian Weekly, managed by the Xaverian Weekly Publications Society. Students who are graduating have the distinguished option of getting the most coveted X-Ring on December 3. This happens every year before they graduate.
Students of St. Francis Xavier are lobbied by the St. Francis Xavier University Students’ Union. It offers students activities and services that include orientation activities, medical and dental plans, organized concerts, and many others. It is housed in the Bloomfield Centre, together with other societies, such as the Golden X Inn, bookstore, post office, MacKay Room, Jack’s Lounge, and cafeteria.
The school is a member of the Atlantic University Sport. They include the X-Men teams: cross-country, hockey, soccer, basketball, and football. The X-Women teams include cross-country, volleyball, basketball, hockey, rugby, and soccer. Those who are into arts and culture can try the Great Blue Heron Writing Workshop (where writers can participate in four genres: creative non-fiction, screenwriting, poetry, and fiction), the StFX University Art Gallery, The Antigonish Review (publishes poetry and prose by experienced and emerging writers), Theatre Antigonish (non-profit community theatre), and Festival Antigonish.
Some of the academic programs offered by the university include: Aquatic Resources, Art, Biology, Business Administration, Chemistry, Economics, Education, Engineering, English, Human Kinetics, Human Nutrition, Information Systems, Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, Music, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, Religious Studies (formerly Theology), Schwartz School Co-op Program, Sociology and Anthropology, and Women's Studies.
There are famous alumni who studied at St. Francis Xavier University. They include: Seamus O'Regan, Co-host of CTV's morning television programme, Canada AM, Ronald J. MacDonald, World Record holder in Running and Boston Marathon Champion from 1898, P.J. Stock, former NHL player and Montreal sports radio broadcaster, Mike Smith, Canadian actor, Mary Jane Lamond, Canadian folk musician, John Ralston (actor), Canadian actor, Gerry Dee, actor and comedian, Danny Gallivan, Sportscaster for the Montreal Canadiens, Daniel Petrie, American-based Canadian television and movie director, Charles V. Keating, Canadian businessman, Brian Mulroney, Prime Minister of Canada 1984-1993, Aselin Debison, singer, Allan J. MacEachen, first Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, and Alistair MacLeod, Canadian writer.
Antigonish is considered to be a service centre as many of the local businesses are based in the service sector. There are no major industrial operations located in the town or county. The workforce is primarily white collar with the largest employers being St. Martha's Regional Hospital and St. Francis Xavier University. Another major employer in Antigonish is Canada Post's National Philatelic Centre, which provides mail-order services for worldwide collectors of Canadian stamps.
The retail landscape of the town and county changed significantly because of a building boom. Much of the growth has taken place in the Post Road area, just outside of town. Atlantic Superstore, Wal-Mart, and Central have constructed new stores while the former Atlantic SuperValu, also located in this area, has been redeveloped as a Staples Business Depot.
Other areas have also seen growth. In June 2005, Shoppers Drug Mart opened a new store downtown while the NSLC opened a new store attached to the existing Sobeys store, located next to mall. The following month a new GM dealership opened on the outskirts of town.