University of Vermont

The College of Arts and Sciences

Ottawa visit ‘indelible experience’ for U.S. students

UVM History Professor David Massell and students from two Vermont universities (University of Vermont and St. Michaels College) take in the National Gallery of Canada. They are studying Canadian history and politics. Photograph by: PAT McGRATH , THE OTTAWA CITIZEN

OTTAWA — When WikiLeaks released scores of cables written by American diplomats a few years back, several that originated from the U.S. Embassy on Sussex Drive referred to Canada’s “inferiority complex” — this deeply-held notion that Americans pay far less attention to us than we do to them.

If it’s true that many of us think most of them wilfully ignore us and our Hudson Bay blankets, perhaps we’d be surprised to learn about the University of Vermont’s Canadian Studies program, which has been around for almost half a century and has brought American students to Ottawa for a three-day field trip for nearly just as long.

Every October, the students go up the Peace Tower and sit down for question period. They visit the National Gallery and the newly renamed Canadian Museum of History.

And, perhaps fittingly, they drink our beer and watch us play hockey.

“There’s absolutely no way I can do in the classroom what I can do on Canadian soil,” said Dave Massell, who teaches Canadian history at the Vermont university’s Burlington campus.

Massell has organized the annual trip to Ottawa for the past 15 years, this time bringing about 35 students from his school and nearby Saint Michael’s College, where political scientist Jeffrey Ayres teaches a Canadian politics course.

With Burlington less than an hour from the Canadian border, Massell said it’s possible that many of the students have been to Canada before. But this is the first time most will see firsthand what they’ve learned in class about our history and political institutions