Featuring Karen Brglez

Graduate Studies

Karen Brglez

MA in History graduate Karen Brglez talks about her plans after graduation this Spring

The Faculty of Graduate Studies recently connected with History student Karen Brglez to talk about her studies in a joint program between the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba. Karen will be receiving a Graduate Student of Highest Distinction award this Spring when she graduates with her MA. 

Can you tell us about your academic background and the program you just completed?

I completed a BA in intercultural studies from Providence College in 2006. I worked for a few years before returning to school where I completed a second BA in history from the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, B.C. in 2011. My major undergraduate work at UFV examined political and cultural policies in East Germany at the end of the Cold War. This project was the beginning of my interest into modern German history, which I chose to pursue further with the MA. I enrolled in the Joint Master’s program for history at the U of M and U of W in 2012. I defended my thesis at the end of 2014, and I plan on attending convocation this May.

Can you talk about your work with Alexander von Plato during his time here?

At the beginning of the MA program, I took a seminar course at the University of Winnipeg with a visiting professor from Germany, Alexander von Plato who had been awarded the John Diefenbaker Fellowship for 2012-2013 to continue his work on German unification at the end of the Cold War. His intention while in Canada was to determine the role of the middle power countries in the process of German unification, specifically the role of Canada. Shortly into our seminar, Dr. von Plato invited me to work with him on this research and to adopt this topic for my thesis. With the assistance of the Oral History Centre, Dr. von Plato and our seminar class interviewed seven Canadian politicians that were involved with the government during this period. Dr. von Plato and I also travelled to Ottawa, where we conducted research in the national archives. After the coursework was completed, Dr. von Plato returned to Germany and I began the task of turning our research into my own independent thesis project. 

What was your research project for which you received SSHRC funding?

My thesis examined Canada’s role in the diplomatic process of German unification at the end of the Cold War. I argue that the Mulroney government consistently supported German unification as long as it was tied to western controlled institutions, specifically under NATO and in the European community. The government believed Canadian security was bound to Europe and the best mechanism to maintain that security was through NATO, and so it supported German unification because it strengthened its security alliance and economic interests in the post-Cold War era, and resulted in a win for Canadians at the end of the Cold War against the Soviet Union. 

What was the best part of your graduate program experience? 

A highlight of my graduate experience was co-editing with Dr. von Plato a “special issue” publication of our research for the Oral History Forum d’histoire orale that was published spring 2015. The link can be found here Overall, I really enjoyed graduate studies and found it to be a truly rewarding experience. Completing a thesis can be an arduous project, and thankfully I had great supports along the way with Dr. Alexander von Plato, and then later Dr. Alexander Freund from the Oral History Centre, as well as my peers that encouraged me right to the very end.

What are your upcoming plans after graduation? 

I am currently doing freelance historical research for an independent Canadian historian. I plan on working for a few years and in that time turn my thesis into an article with the hopes of it being published. I plan on returning to academics in the near future to pursue the PhD and continue my study of Canadian foreign policy for Europe at the end of the twentieth century and into the post-Cold War climate. 

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