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Book on Canadian Studies by former director

Headshot of Donald Alper from the shoulders up. He wears black-rimmed glasses and a black shit, and is smiling at the camera.

April 1, 2021

Bridging the Longest Border: A History of Canadian-American Studies at Western Washington University (2021), by Donald E. Alper, former director of the Center for Canadian-American Studies at WWU, was just released. The book tells the story about how a handful of visionaries built a program that would educate students and community leaders about Canada and the importance of its relationship to the United States.

As Alper notes in the preface, when you travel from Washington State to British Columbia, it can be hard to notice you are in a different country. “People look and talk the same, drive on the same side of the road, shop in stores with familiar names, and eat the same kind of food … It is no wonder Americans pay so little attention to their northern neighbor.” However, Alper argues, paying attention is important to the Canada-U.S. relationship.

In the 1960s a handful of faculty from Western Washington University (WWU) set out to build a program for the study of Canada to include courses, research and outreach programming. Alper notes that the book is both history and memoir. “As one of the earliest members of the program, and its director for twenty-one years, it’s been part of my own history as well. Now retired, and still living mere miles from the border, I remain convinced that ongoing education is needed to deepen time-honored bonds between our two countries.”

In the mid-1980s Alper and his team worked with Professor Douglas Jackson in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington to submit the first proposal to for a National Resource Center to the U.S. Department of Education. The proposal was funded and the rest is history – the Canadian Studies Center at UW and the Center for Canadian-American Studies at WWU have formed a successful National Resource Center on Canada since that time.

Donald K. Alper is professor emeritus of Political Science at WWU. He is the former director of the Center for Canadian-American Studies and the founder and director for the Border Policy Research Institute at WWU. Don has taught courses on Canadian politics and Canada-U.S. relations for more than 40 years.

Join the Pacific Northwest Canadian Studies Consortium on Friday, May 21st at 10 a.m. for a reading by Don Alper and discussion of his book. Register here.