Participating in an American Course based on Canadian Studies

One of the best experiences I have had the privilege of participating in at Michigan State University was ISS 336(Canada Social Science Perspective). ISS at MSU stands for Integrative Studies in Social Science, and they are part of the universities requirements to ensure that students get a well-rounded education. There are tons of options to choose, ranging from classes that focus on a specific culture or geographic area to studying human interaction with the environment. This specific class was taught by the very prestigious Dr. Phillip Handrick. The class itself was rather small, thus allowing for participation to be a strong aspect of the class.

I found it incredibly interesting to learn so much about a culture that had literally been my “neighbor” for all of my life. Although I have been to Canada multiple times, it didn’t mean I understood all the characteristics and features that makes Canada the country it is. The rich and meaningful culture of all the provinces spread from Japan to all of Europe and even parts of South America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Africa. The foods of Canada are just as colorful as the culture itself, ranging from Poutine (A fatty meal typically consisting of French fries, topping(Gravy) and Cheese Curds) all the way to dried fish in New Foundland to the amazing Japanese dishes on the West Coast.

Canada truly is an amazing country to both spend time in and to study as a topic. I highly enjoyed my time in this class and would recommend it to any student curious about the wonders that lie in wait in the Maple Leaf Nation.


Why Don’t We Know More About Canada?

As I was squandering time I could have spent working on homework the other day, I stumbled onto a YouTube video of Harvard students being asked where the capitol of Canada is. If you want to watch the video before reading the rest of this post, you can follow this link: or watch the video below.

Imagine the surprise I felt when watching this video and finding out that almost none of them knew that Ottawa is the capitol of Canada. Of all the students asked in the video, only one knew the correct answer. Want to know how she knew? She’s Canadian.

Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in America, as well as one of the most prestigious schools in the world. Harvard has a reputation for only admitting the best and brightest students, and there is the idea that getting a degree from Harvard can open essentially any door to you. You’ll find Harvard graduates in almost every field ranging from politics and finance, to archaeology and music. So with such high expectations for their students and such a large influence in almost every professional field, how is it that such highly qualified and talented students don’t know where the capitol of Canada is?

Canada is our Northern neighbor. Millions of dollars of trade goods cross the U.S.-Canada border every day. Thousands of Canadians either have dual citizenship, or cross the border regularly for work and play. Canadian snow-birds bring millions of dollars into the U.S. every year, and there are a large amount of cultural similarities between Canadians and Americans. America does more trade in goods and services with Canada than with the entire European Union on a regular basis.

The way I see it, America and Canada are highly interdependent on one other. We are nations that share not only a border, but people and resources as well. Canadian studies is a topic which should really be getting more attention than it currently does. As one of our strongest allies, don’t we, as American citizens owe it to ourselves to be informed about the nation living above us? With personal, economic, and political ties between our two nations, shouldn’t we at least know the basics about Canadian government and history? With a simple introduction to Canadian history and politics at the middle school, or high school level in the U.S., the upcoming generation would be far more knowledgeable about Canadian-American relations than most Americans currently are. It just seems ridiculous that students at one of the most prestigious universities in the world have no idea where the Canadian capitol is. If students at Harvard don’t know where it is, that’s probably a good indicator that most other students in the United States don’t know either. And that is an issue that we could easily fix.

Think my call for an early introduction to Canadian studies is ridiculous?

Have an alternative idea on the situation?

Let us know! Feel free to comment and share your thoughts!

Disparities in Reporting Neighborly News Between the U.S. & Canada


Part of my job here at the Canadian Studies Center includes sharing news stories about Canada and Canada-U.S. relationships via our social media sites.  Typically, I’m able to find a decent amount of material to share on topics ranging from health care and finance to museums and the housing market.  But recently I’ve begun to notice where all of these stories are coming from—Canadian news sources.  I felt perhaps I should give some American news sources a look to give our social media fans and followers some variety.  Lo and behold, however, that when searching American news outlets for information pertaining to Canada, there was little to choose from.

This led me to a comparative search of how much U.S. news was reported in Canada compared to how much Canadian news was reported in the U.S.  The results were disheartening.

When I compared two news sources of comparable size and stature in neighboring cities, Detroit & Windsor, (The Detroit Free Press & the Windsor Star) the difference in news was astonishing. When searching “U.S.” on the Windsor Star website almost 45,000 results are found.  Try searching “Canada” on the Detroit Free Press’ website.  You’ll get less than 2,500 results.  For two neighboring cities that are so economically interdependent on one another, this difference in recognition via news sources was very surprising to me.  According to Canadian Consul General to Michigan, Roy Norton, Michigan and Ontario have long-standing and important ties to one another.  Thousands of Canadians are season ticket holders of the Wings, Lions, Pistons, and Tigers; and many Southwestern Ontario sports enthusiasts consider Detroit teams to be ‘their’ teams as well.  More than 80 Michigan companies have operations in Canada (ex:  Dow Chemical, Kellogg, Dart Container, Stryker, Whirlpool), and 68% of all Michigan agricultural exports to the world are to Canada.  That means essentially 20% of everything grown on Michigan farms is sold to Canada.  218,000 jobs in Michigan depend on trade with Canada.  Without a strong relationship with Canada, Michigan’s economy would suffer exponentially!

After this I decided to see if other parts of the country were lacking Canadian news as much as Detroit.  The New York Times seemed like a good place to look—and it’s true, the results of typing “Canada” into the New York Times’ search bar on the website produced far more results.  About 23,400 from the past twelve months to be exact.  Searching “U.S.” in the search bar for the Globe and Mail website however, puts that number to shame.  236,995 results show up.  Granted I will admit, I have no idea if those results are from the past twelve months or longer, but still, having a difference of over 200,000 seems like a big difference to me.

With the trade and economic interdependence of the U.S. and Canada, I have to wonder why more Canadian news isn’t reported in the U.S.  Many border states share natural resources and depend on each other as partners in trade—so why isn’t there more recognition of that on the U.S. side of the border?  What’s happening in Canada has an effect on us in the U.S., so we need to be aware when events are occurring in Canada.

Thoughts, anyone?

For more info on the U.S./Canadian (specifically Michigan/Canadian) relationship, check out these articles written by Canadian Consul General to Michigan, Roy Norton:

MSU & Canadian Olympians

With the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics finally over, athletes are returning to their home countries to begin training yet again for the 2018 Olympics.  As an Olympics-enthusiast, I love being able to watch all the events I can tune in for.  This year however, was very different for me.  In the past I’ve always been a die-hard Team USA fan, but since I work at the Canadian Studies Center, I felt that I had to support Team Canada too.  For the most part it wasn’t an issue-the only time I truly felt torn was when I was watching hockey-and I was honestly happy to see the Canadian team do so well.  But something I found interesting was learning about the all the places athletes trained.  I had no idea that just because an athlete represents a certain country doesn’t necessarily mean that they train in that country.

So that got me pondering how many Canadians train in the U.S., and from there I began to wonder about their education and where they live as well.  Eventually I found myself wondering about Michigan State and whether or not we had any Olympians amongst our alumni.  After a quick google search I felt silly for even wondering that in the first place.  As a Big Ten school with outstanding athletic programs, I should have expected to find a list of Olympians over a page long.  What did surprise me though was how many different countries our Olympian alumni represented.  From South Africa, to Belgium, and Nigeria there are about a dozen different countries which have been represented by an MSU alum.  After a little research I was able to find some information on a few Canadian Olympians who attended MSU.  I’m sure you will (not) be shocked by the amount of hockey players I found.

ernestine russell weaver

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Ernestine Russel-Weaver:  Gymnastics, 1956 (Melbourne) & 1960 (Rome) Summer Olympics.  Ernestine is originally from Windsor, Ontario.  She began as a ballerina, but soon after she took up gymnastics instead and then never stopped.  She was 17 when she competed in her first Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, and though she finished less than a point behind the gold medal winner, she won no medal herself.  She graduated high school in 1956 and in 1960 competed in her second Olympics.  Again she did not medal.  After her Olympic experiences she attended Michigan State University and earned a degree in physical education and dance.  She taught high school for five years and later she became the head coach for the University of Florida’s gymnastics team for thirteen years.

marilyn corson whitney

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Marilyn Corson Whitney:  Women’s Swimming, 1968 (Cuidad de México) & 1972 (München) Summer Olympics.  Marilyn as born in Parry Sound, Ontario.  She was born into a swimming family, with a mother who was a top American swimmer and coach and a grandfather who was a coach at the University of Michigan as well as a coach of the 1952 American Olympic Team.  At the age of 18 she competed in the 1968 Summer Olympics, where she was on the team that won bronze in the 4×100 meter freestyle relay.  After the Games she began attending Michigan State and competed on their swim team.  Her final Olympic appearance was in 1972 where her relay team took seventh in the 4×100 meter medley relay.

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Jason Woolley:  Ice Hockey, 1992 (Albertville) Winter Olympics.  Jason was born in Toronto, Ontario.  He played for Michigan State from 1988 through 1991, even though the Washington Capitals selected him 61st overall in the 1989 NHL Entry Drafts.  He played for the Canadian Olympic team at the 1992 winter Olympics in Albertville, France where he recorded five assists and scored a shootout goal.  The Canadian Ice Hockey team won the silver medal over Czechoslovakia.  He closed out his NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings. Jason is currently a player agent in Birmingham, MI.

Norris, Dwayne

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Dwayne Norris:  Ice Hockey, 1994 (Lillehammer) Winter Olympics.  Dwayne was born in St. Johns, Newfoundland.  He began playing hockey at a young age and played for the St. John’s Capitals of the Avalon Junior League.  He left home at the age of 14 to play for the Notre Dame Hounds.  Following his time with the Hounds he joined Michigan State where he played hockey until he joined the AHL’s Cornwall Aces after being drafted by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft.  He played for Team Canada in the 1994 Winter Olympics where Canada’s hockey team won silver.  He is currently the director for the elite youth hockey program in Michigan, the Oakland Junior Grizzlies.


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Rod Brind’Amour:  Ice Hockey, 1998 (Nagano) Winter Olympics.  Rod was born in Ottawa, Ontario.  At the age of 18 Rod was drafted 9th overall in the first round of the 1988 NHL Entry Drafts by the St. Louis Blues.  The following season he attended Michigan State where he played on the hockey team where he earned the nickname “Rod the Bod” due to the fact that he was known for working out constantly, even after games.  His coach at the time said they would have to padlock the door to keep him out of the weight room occasionally.  Following this collegiate season he joined the Blues during the 1989 NHL playoffs.  In his debut game, he scored a goal on his first shot.  At the end of his first season he had scored 27 points in the first 24 games.  He continued to play in the NHL for 20 seasons.  He played for the Canadian Ice Hockey Team at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, but Team Canada did not medal.  He currently acts as the assistant coach and development coach for the Carolina Hurricanes.

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Duncan Keith:  Ice Hockey, 2010 (Vancouver) & 2014 (Sochi) Winter Olympics.  Duncan was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  He began playing hockey at a young age and grew up a Boston Bruins fan.  He was recruited by Michigan State and played college hockey for two years.  He left Michigan State during his second year after 15 games to join the major junior ranks.  He played for the Kelowna Rockets in British Columbia for a season and was then selected by the Chicago Blackhawks during the second round of NHL Entry Drafts in 2002, as 54th overall.  For two years he played in the AHL with the teams affiliate the Norfolk Admirals and in 2005 he finally joined the NHL as a member of the Blackhawks.  He was selected to be on the Canadian Olympic Hockey teams for 2010 and 2014 where the Canadian Team won gold over the American team both years.

Finding My Way to the Canadian Studies Center


When people find out that I work at the Canadian Studies Center (CSC) at MSU, almost everyone asks me the same two questions. 1)  Am I Canadian?  And 2) MSU has a Canadian Studies Center?  The answer to the first question is no.  I am not Canadian.  I am quite the mix of ethnicities, but Canadian is not one.  The answer to the second question is yes.  MSU does have a Canadian Studies Center.  Not only does it have a center, but our center is the oldest university based Canadian Studies Center in the nation.  Established in 1958 by A.J.M Smith, Poet Laureate of Canada and Russel Nye, Pulitzer Prize winning author, the Canadian Studies Center has been functioning at MSU for over 50 years to help foster learning, research, and outreach opportunities related to all aspects of Canada and its role in the world.  And that’s just the center alone.  The MSU Press publishes more scholarly books on Canada than any other university press in the U.S., and the MSU Main Library is an official repository for Canadian government documents.  MSU and Canada are entwined in so many relationships it’s astonishing to me that more people aren’t aware of it.

And that brings me to how I ended up working at the Canadian Studies Center.  In the spring of my freshman year here at MSU, one of my professors had a guest speak at the beginning of one of our lectures.  The woman was from the Canadian Studies Center and was letting us know that the center was looking for students interested in applying for internships with the office and that there would be a scholarship available for interns as well.  I took a flyer, but I initially didn’t think much of it.  Like most others, I had no idea that there was a Canadian Studies Center on campus, but if there was a scholarship opportunity I felt that I owed it to myself to look into the details at the very least.  But, as time passed I ended up doing nothing about it.

Fast forward to the spring semester of my sophomore year.  I had begun thinking about whether or not graduate school was something I potentially wanted to pursue after I got my degree from MSU.  It’s true, I had another two years before this would become an immediate concern, and some people might think me odd for trying to plan out my future so early.  But that’s just me.  I’m a planner, always have been and always will be.  So I started to look into Universities that have good anthropology graduate programs.  My search uncovered many universities within the U.S.; but the school that I kept finding myself coming back to was, you guessed it, in Canada.  Realizing that this school was in Canada made me think about the Canadian Studies Center and my lack of follow through from the year before.  As my disappointment in myself grew, I decided to email the center and see if they were looking for interns again.

Lo and behold when I logged into my email, I had an email from my adviser advertising that the Canadian Studies Center was once again looking for interns.  Taking this as a sign that I was meant to work at the Canadian Studies Center I immediately updated my resume to send in.  Within a few weeks I had secured an interview, and eventually an internship position with the center.

Currently, I’ve been with the center for about a year now.  While it’s been hectic at times, it’s been completely worth it.  I’ve been blessed with more opportunities than I ever dreamed this position could give me.  I initially thought the biggest advantage I would have from joining the center is being able to increase my chances of getting into a Canadian university.  But I’ve been given so much more.  Having the opportunities to meet and network with professionals from all fields has helped me learn what type of problems are affecting our society and the skills employers are looking for.  I’ve met people who have become mentors that have given me countless bits of advice and assistance when it comes to anything from needing a letter of recommendation to helping me find additional work and scholarship opportunities.  I’ve gotten to travel and speak in front of people, and my leadership skills have never been better.  I feel more innovative and confident about my ideas.  I’ve learned how to propose a project and maintain databases; and my arts and crafts skills have been put to the test.

When I first started working at the Canadian Studies Center my main thought was “What can the center do to forward my career?”, but the longer I’m here, the more I keep thinking about what I can do for the center.  And that, is the most valuable thing I have gained.