University of Vermont

The College of Arts and Sciences

Global and Regional Studies Program


UVM Canadian Studies Program Updates - 2012/2013

from David Massell, Professor of History, Director of the UVM Canadian Studies Program


I. Termination of the Canadian Studies Major:

The four-decade-old Canadian Studies Program witnessed a significant and sorrowful change in 2012 as we launched the process to terminate the Bachelor of Arts in Canadian Studies, i.e. the major. Given the importance of this step in the life of the program, it seems fitting to provide an explanation. Below, therefore, is found the proposal to terminate the major that I submitted to the College Curriculum Committee on October 2, 2012. The Curriculum Committee approved this recommendation on October 3; as did the College of Arts and Sciences faculty on November 6. The Senate approved it in December.  Most recently, the Board of Trustees approved the termination of the major on Feb. 8, 2013.

“On behalf of the UVM faculty who hold an interest in the study of Canada, I propose that the university terminate the B.A. in Canadian Studies. I do so with regret and sadness.

From an intellectual standpoint, we believe that it is essential that UVM continue to offer a profile of courses and activities dealing with Canada, for reasons derived from simple geographic proximity. Canada is the U.S. and Vermont's most important trade partner; Vermont and New England trace a significant percentage of their immigrants to Quebec; and Canada provides the closest and least expensive means by which we can expose our U.S. students to some international/comparative education, for example by taking them on field trips to Montreal and Ottawa.

Nevertheless, our faculty lines have been so gutted across the last generation that it is no longer possible to serve a major. Professor Paul Martin’s departure from the Department of English in 2011 left us with just one member of the faculty – myself – teaching primarily Canadian-content courses. Others (in Anthropology, Business, Economics, English, French, Geography, Politics, and Sociology) have not been replaced. At its peak, the major attracted 17 undergraduates (in 1979), but the number is now well below 10; and few, if any, of these students are actually graduating with the B.A. degree. Why? It may be in part due to the near-impossibility of completing the major. Just as likely: most so-called ‘majors’, I have discovered, are in fact out-of-state undergraduates who are using their declaration of a Canadian Studies major to get a tuition break through the New England Board of Higher Education’s (NEBHE) Regional Student Program (RSP). Whatever the explanation, the numbers are paltry: from 2005 to the present, between two and nine students declared a major in Canadian Studies (depending on the year), but only two actually completed the degree. Going back a full decade, to 2001, we find merely four students who graduated with the major.

Whether the declining numbers of majors is due to students’ reduced interest in Canada is difficult to say. American interest in our non-threatening northern neighbor has never been strong. It requires good teachers and good courses to introduce U.S. undergraduates to this part of the world; when such courses are offered, they enroll well. Conversely, fewer courses by fewer teachers means reduced student exposure to this marvelous and accessible comparative laboratory of inquiry.

Regardless, as Director of Canadian Studies (since 2011), I, along with the other members of the faculty, feel that it is unethical to offer a major that (1) we cannot staff; and (2) serves only as a loophole by which out-of-state students secure cost savings on a UVM education. Our minor will stand; and I have already adjusted that minor with the College Curriculum Committee to reflect our current and much reduced faculty numbers....”

II. Changes to the Canadian Studies Minor:

Where the Canadian Studies Minor is concerned, the old requirements read:

Minors must complete 18 credit hours as outlined below:
Six courses (18 credits) chosen as follows:

One required core course (3 credits), either: AIS 91 Introduction to Canada, or HST 66 Canadian History

Five additional Canadian Studies courses

(15 credits) to be chosen from the Canadian content list (see major listing for approved courses). At least 12 hours must be at the 100 level or above. Students will fulfill the language requirement with French.

The new requirements will now read:

Minors must complete 18 credit hours including: HST 65; Fren 51 or above or its equivalent; four additional courses from the Canadian Studies listings. No more than three courses may be in any one academic discipline; and 9 credit hours must be taken at or above the 100 level.

III. Canadian Studies Program still active:

Despite these structural changes to the major and minor, Canadian Studies continued to support a marvelous variety of activities on-campus and off-campus to further our students’ education and internationalization. In March of 2012, in collaboration with the Alliance Française of the Lake Champlain Region, we brought Dr. Robert Vezina to UVM. Vezina is Interim Director of the Conseil Supérieur de laLangue Française in Quebec,and an expert in the history of the Quebec language/dialect. Vezina met with Professor Ching Selao’s upper-level French course in Quebec Literature and also delivered a public lecture.

Also in March, with the support of the Canadian Consulate in Boston as well as contributions from Global and Regional Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, and the Global Village Residential Learning Community, Canadian Studies hosted a one-day conference in coordination with the Women’s World Hockey Championships held in Burlington. Entitled “The Face of the Game: Women’s Hockey in North America,” the conference brought together authors Angie Abdou, Richard Harrison, Cara Hedley and Paul Martin to discuss Women’s Hockey and the Literary Imagination; as well as Tim Bothwell, Elizabeth Etue, Jeff Gerson, Meg Hewings, and Andy Holman to discuss Women’s Hockey Today. Paul Martin, now of McEwan University in Edmonton, and historian Andy Holman of Bridgewater State, are to be congratulated for assembling such a dynamic group of presenters at such an opportune moment.

Professor Pablo Bose, similarly, is to be congratulated for a highly successful one-day conference in September 2012. Entitled “The Face of Change in the Arctic: Climate Change, Sovereignty, Impacts”, this conference also enjoyed the generous support of the Canadian Consulate in Boston. Panelists included Stephane Roussel, Canada Research Chair in Canadian Foreign and Defense Policy; James Manicom, of the Balsillie School of International Affairs; biologist Amy Seidl of the University of Vermont; Noor Johnson of McGill University; independent researcher/filmmaker George Tombs; Rachel Hirsch of Memorial University; and Kathleen Osgood and Steve Young of the Institute for Circumpolar Affairs and the University of the Arctic.

The autumn of 2012 also saw two field trips to Canada. In October, Professor Massell brought his History of Montreal seminar on a two-day trip to explore that great city. Our well-informed guide on day two was geographer, Montreal resident, and occasional UVM instructor Pierre Deslauriers. Also in October, students from Massell’s History of Canada class joined forces with Professor Jeff Ayres Canadian Politics course at St. Michael’s College for the annual three-day trip to Ottawa. Tom McGrath of UVMs Transportation Research Center again acted as invaluable trip organizer. In addition to visits to Parliament, museums, and attendance at a Friday night match of the Gatineau Olympiques, the trip was unique in that the Ottawa Citizen published a story on our group’s visit to Canada’s capital. The link is below.

Ottawa Student Trip 2012, Students in front of Parliament


I should note finally that Tom McGrath jumped in to teach Canadian-American Relations (Hst 165) in the spring of 2012 (as I was otherwise occupied in a one-year position as Interim Associate Dean). By all accounts of his students, McGrath did a terrific job. Professor Ayres also much enriched our curriculum by teaching Canadian Politics at UVM that same semester; as did Professor Pierre Deslauriers by offering Quebec in North America; and UVM Professor Shelly Rayback offered her course on Arctic Canada. I will be on sabbatical during the 2013 year. I am grateful to Professor Leslie-Ann Dupigny-Giroux for holding the reins in my absence.



Last modified February 27 2013 12:09 PM