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Trent University launches new School For the Study of Canada

By Roderick Benns

Leading up to the 150th anniversary of Canada, Trent University has launched a new School for the Study of Canada.

Arising from the collective desire of scholars and students to understand Canada in its local, regional, national, and international contexts, The School for the Study of Canada will engage students in wide ranging projects and dialogues about Canada.

Led by over 40 scholars at Trent who study Canada across multiple programs and disciplines, many of them national and international experts in their field, students will be challenged to explore issues of relevance to Canada, and what it means to be Canadian. Issues facing critical examination at the new school will include themes such as sovereignty, nationalism, health and aging, the environment, indigeneity, regionalism, multiculturalism, immigration, labour, and peacekeeping.

“Essentially, the creation of the school is to recommit Trent to the study of Canada as a distinctive feature of the university,” says Christopher Dummit, who is undergrad chair of Canadian Studies at the university.

“Trent played a huge role in establishing Canadian studies as a field across the country – founding the Journal of Canadian Studies, creating innovative undergraduate and graduate degrees in Canadian Studies – and long before anyone else was doing so,” he tells Leaders and Legacies.

Dr. James Conolly, professor of Anthropology at Trent was recently named director of the new school. He says the news school “confirms Trent as ‘the’ place for the study of Canada.”

“The school will build on Trent’s existing leadership in Canadian Studies and draw upon Canadian-focused scholarship from other disciplines including Geography, Sociology, Anthropology and Environmental and Resource Studies, reinforcing the study of Canada as a central part of Trent’s broader mission,” he adds.

The School brings under one umbrella all existing Canadian Studies programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels: the Bachelor of Arts in Canadian Studies; the Masters in Canadian and Indigenous Studies; and the PhD in Canadian Studies under one umbrella. At all levels, the school will facilitate exchange programs that will allow students to study across borders, promote forms of community-based research and develop summer internships for students in the humanities and social sciences. The school also plans to offer public lectures, seminars and themed symposiums.

National Online Dialogue to Set Stage for Conversation about Canada

One of the first initiatives of the School for the Study of Canada will be supporting the Canadian Difference, a project between Trent and the philanthropic leadership of Ontario-based executives William A. Macdonald and William R.K. Innes. The project is set to evolve into a bilingual online community dedicated to encouraging open and thoughtful discussion about “What makes Canada work?” and “What could make Canada work?” Centered on a number of topical issues, and with Mutual Accommodation as an underlying theme, it will seek to crowdsource a wide range of perspectives and understanding from a diverse audience of engaged Canadians. Grad students at Trent will both moderate the forums and work behind the scenes to evaluate the discussion.

A Canadian First

“It was Tom Symons at the outset who headed up the Royal Commission on the idea of Canadian Studies in the 1970s making Trent the first to have a Canadian Studies department in Ontario and the second in the country. It’s only fitting that Tom Symons is the honorary director of the new School,” says Dummit. 

To learn more, visit the School for the Study of Canada.


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