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Impact of the 2008 International Canadian Studies Institute at the UW

September 30, 2008

by Carl Sander

2008 International Canadian Studies Fellow Carl Sander is the Public Programs Manager at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at UW. His duties often bring him into contact with a wide variety of Canadians, particularly Aboriginal artists and scholars.

International Canadian Studies Institute

The 2008 International Canadian Studies Institute took scholars from universities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska on a twelve-day trek through business, government, and cultural centers of British Columbia and the Yukon. A total of twelve professors from a wide range of disciplines made the excursion under the excellent guidance of Kevin Cook, Political, Economic and Academic Officer for the Canadian Consulate General in Seattle. Over ninety presentations by mayors, police officers, border security, business promoters, ambassadors, and curators filled each day with a comprehensive overview of how Canada views itself and us.

The days were a lively mix of boardroom debriefings followed by tours. For example, we spent four days on Vancouver Island with visits to a fish hatchery, a plywood veneer mill, the Parliament Buildings, the Royal British Columbia Museum, Maritime Forces Pacific Headquarters, and Butchart Gardens. In Vancouver, our stay coincided with the 18th annual Pacific Northwest Economic Regional Summit, affording us an opportunity to witness how policy is “hammered out” across borderlines to regulate commerce and promote trade.

Three days in the Yukon provided me with a rich resource of contacts for the Alaska Yukon Pacific (AYP) Exposition centennial celebration in 2009. The AYP Exposition was instrumental in the early planning of the UW campus, and its centennial will offer many opportunities for UW to connect with the Yukon once again.

I was struck by the difference between visiting Canada and visiting Europe or Asia. Usually, you return to the States with a vivid sense of North America’s uniqueness. However, a visit to Canada is like a family reunion or seeing a sibling use a tool in a way you’ve never seen before and thinking, “I wonder where s/he picked that up.”

The Burke Museum is evaluating its strategic mission, and the Fellowship provided me with a singular overview of Canadian practices in the field. My report on this subject to our planning committee is sure to inform and increase the breadth of our discussions. I also had the good fortune to meet numerous colleagues and make professional connections that will last a lifetime.