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Program Feature - Joint Master's Program in History

Graduate Studies


Seminar in archival studies at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (c) NCTR, January 2017The Faculty of Graduate Studies recently connected with Anne-Laurence Caudano, Graduate Co-Chair of the Joint Master of Arts: History program to give us an insight about her program.

Can you give us a brief overview of the program and what makes it unique from other programs?

The Master of Arts in History (called Joint Master’s Program or JMP) is offered jointly by the History Departments of the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba. Joining the forces of the two universities at the graduate level not only raises the academic profile of the province for potential students nationally and internationally, but also allows students to benefit from pooled resources (for instance access to library, databases and services) and the creation of a critical mass of professors in selected fields. Given the wide coverage of historical and geographic areas by faculty in our departments, we are able to confidently offer training at the MA level in not only Canadian and Indigenous history but also in fields including though not limited to World History, British History, U.S. history, or Latin American history.

The strength of our combined faculty is more particularly marked in Western Canadian and Indigenous history, however. Located on Treaty 1 Territory, both universities are conscious of the need to acknowledge Indigenous heritage. The focus of our departments on Indigenous issues, as well as on diaspora and integration answers current trends with Canadian society in general, and in Manitoba in particular. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and its archives, hosted at the University of Manitoba, have already offered experience to Archival students and provide opportunities for students in the Thesis stream as well. Other research centres also provide students with much needed resources to support research in local history. The Oral History Centre [OHC] at the University of Winnipeg is becoming a strong and distinctive asset for History students. The OHC increasingly provides research consultation and support for graduate students and faculty, offering guidance in ethics, best methodological practices, equipment selection, interviewing techniques and interview processing, including archiving for long-term preservation, and effective methods for traditional and newer forms of presentation. The new Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies builds on 37 years of Mennonite Studies at the University of Winnipeg and is a unique educational initiative linking a community and a university-based program to bring a global dimension to Mennonite Studies. Mennonite Studies has typically attracted graduate (MAs and PhDs) and post-graduate students; this new initiative is, therefore, a promising ground for the development of our program.

What is the focus of the program?

There are four streams in the Master’s Program in History. Students in the Archival stream will be preparing to enter the archival profession. The curriculum follows the Association of Canadian Archivists’ guidelines for the development of Master of Archival Studies programs. Students receive training in the history of recorded communication/archival records; the history of archival institutions and functions; and Canadian history or the history of another field of history relevant to their proposed thesis. They complete an internship that will provide work experience in archives, and defend an original thesis in the field of archival studies. The Archival stream is the only program training professional archivists that is affiliated with a history department in Canada, and provides grounding not only in the practical skills of archival work but also in the history and theory of archival studies.

Students in the thesis stream write and defend orally an original piece of scholarship, based on primary research, of approximately 100 pages. Coursework provides historiographical training. Students in the coursework stream are trained in three distinct areas of historical study. They write a written and oral examination in their major field of study, gaining a sense of the shape of current research by reading a list of 30 books or equivalent articles. Finally, we have recently introduced a new Major Research Paper (MRP) option, which allows students to pursue a course-based program while still completing some primary research. Students in the MRP stream write an original piece of scholarship based on primary research of approximately 40 pages, in effect, the size of an article ready to be submitted to a journal.

Could you tell us about any recent theses or research projects by History students?

Recent theses have included a discussion of community archives and the ways in which various communities (notably Indigenous communities)  understand who they are and how to present themselves through the selection of and preservation of certain archival material (S. Ramsden, “Defining ‘Community’ in Models of Community Archives: Navigating the Politics of Representation as Archival Professionals”). Another archival student is close to defend a thesis on the decolonization of archives in Canada (J. Boiteau, “The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and the Journey Towards Archival Decolonization”). Among current history students, A. Penner is using oral history to study the life stories of Afghan refugees in Canada (“ ‘Even if I’m mistreated – I know I will not be mistreated – I will still love this country’: Representations of Canada and Canadian-ness in the Stories of Afghan Refugees in Manitoba”), while I. Mackay analyses the relationship between Church and State in the debates leading to Confederation.

Why should students study history? Where do graduates go?

The Master’s Program in History prepares students to undertake independent research, and to contextualize their findings, while ensuring that they acquire a comprehensive knowledge of at least two areas of historical study. Participation in seminar courses, production of classroom assignments (including both historiographies and primary research), comprehensive exams, or thesis defenses can help students hoping to continue their studies at the doctoral level, but historical study is also a preparation for a variety of careers where research and communication skills are important. Among the four streams of our program, Archival Studies has become the most populated section (more than two-thirds of the students). This may be explained by the unique character of the Archival stream which, culminating in a History degree, is unlike other archival degrees offered in Canada. The internships and career opportunities also attract more students than the other streams of the JMP. Many archival students currently work in archives across the city (Great West Life, UW archives, City of Winnipeg, etc.) or in Canada. Students from other streams have also been successfully admitted to doctoral programs in various universities across Canada and the U.S.

What are you most proud of with this program?

While a joint program offers tremendous opportunities for students and faculty members alike, coordinating two departments at two different universities is not without its challenges. It is to the credit of all members of both departments and their willingness to cooperate that our program is successful.

Photo Credit: Seminar in archival studies at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation ©NCTR, January 2017."

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