It pays to read your e-mail, Dr. Chris Dunn said. Intrigued by a group e-mail inviting interested faculty to apply for the 2007 Study of the United States (U.S.) Institutes, the political science professor did just that. Now he’s on a six-week junket through five American cities, attending intense academic seminars on American politics and political thought.
Dr. Dunn is the Canadian representative and one of only 16 academics chosen from a worldwide pool to be invited to this year’s political institute, which is hosted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst and funded by the U.S. State Department.
Similar programs in what were formerly known as the Fulbright American Studies Institutes are held in fields such as literature, economics and history. According to the State Department’s website, all are intended to enrich curricula and teaching about the United States in academic institutions internationally.
“Basically, I hope to deepen my knowledge and gather extra tools, especially anecdotes that I can use in my teaching,” said Dr. Dunn, who has taught courses in American politics at Memorial in the past. “I’ll always be a Canadian specialist, but I like to pull in examples from different countries.” For example, in writing about Canadian issues such as constitutional or institutional change, he finds it useful to draw on experiences from the U.S. and the U.K. He also plans to do some comparative work in the future.
“One of the things I noted in my application was that, while America is a superpower in the world, there’s a paradoxical lack of understanding of some American concepts. There’s really not that much serious, engaged study in Canadian universities on U.S. politics.”
Dr. Dunn is particularly interested in resurrecting an old notion of the North Atlantic Triangle, which consists of Canada, the U.S. and Britain, and which, at one time, was considered the important frame of reference and the relevant political arena. That notion, however, has fallen out of favour in recent decades as teachers and scholars became more interested in other countries.
“I think it’s relevant to bring it back. These three places do deeply affect each other,” he noted, adding, “The only overt attention this receives these days in is relation to the conflict in Afghanistan.”
Finally, Dr. Dunn expects the experience will help him to establish a web of international contacts.
That web will be wide. In his travels through Boston, New York, Harrisburg, Virginia, and Washington D.C., he will be joined by participants from Chile, Cameroon, China, Ukraine, Italy, Venezuela, Vietnam, Nepal, Ecuador, Egypt, Turkey, Romania, Philippines, Uganda and India.