Alexis GuyAlexis Guy

During the 2010-2011 academic year, 202 Whitman students studied abroad in 43 countries on five continents. In 2011-2012, for the second consecutive year, Whitties will board planes to study the distinct culture of a close neighbor: Canada.

Two Whitman students were awarded the prestigious Killam Fellowship for the 2011-2012 school year: Alexis Guy ’13, a biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology major from Seattle, Wash., and Osta Davis ’13, a politics major from Mercer Island, Wash., will study at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec.

Osta DavisOsta Davis

Guy and Davis are two of only five American students selected from the Killam national open competition. An additional 11 American students were selected from partner institutions that participate in a direct exchange program.

The Killam Fellowships Program annually selects up to 40 undergraduate students – 20 Americans and 20 Canadians – for a semester or academic year exchange in the other country. American students can choose to study at one of 11 Canadian universities.

Students are selected based upon their “exceptional academic achievement, ethical fiber, maturity, leadership, self-reliance, openness to new experience, and a strong interest in Canadian culture,” according to Keith Raether, Whitman’s director of grants and fellowships.

“I am extremely pleased that we have such strong students applying for this program,” said Jack Iverson, associate professor of foreign languages and literatures, French, and the current director of the Canadian Association. “It is a tribute to their hard work and to the Office of Grants and Fellowships that Whitman College has had unparalleled success in this competition.”

The Killam Fellowship program is administered by Fulbright Canada’s Foundation for Educational Exchange between Canada and the United States of America. The organization encourages mutual understanding between the two countries through academic and cultural exchange. 

Guy and Davis follow in the footsteps of Thomas Friedenbach ’11, who studied at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver in spring 2011 as Whitman’s first Killam fellow.

“I think Canada in a lot of ways provides an excellent counterpoint to careful examinations of the U.S., given the similarities in our countries’ histories and politics,” said Friedenbach.

Friedenbach focused his study on Chinese language and Asian migrants. He spent his semester working on the production of a documentary about a controversial replica of a Tiananmen Square statue on the University of British Columbia campus.
Guy will spend spring 2012 in Montreal after a fall semester in Nantes, France, and looks forward to exploring the differences between two culturally different but linguistically similar regions.

“The opportunity to compare Quebec culture to the French culture I am experiencing this semester seemed very interesting,” she said.

Davis is already examining Canadian political structures in Montreal this fall.

“I have always had an interest in Canada,” Davis said. “As our neighbor and largest trading partner, Canada significantly impacts the United States. I think that learning about Canada is a small but important step in becoming a good neighbor. Quebec is perhaps the best example for understanding the tensions between the provincial and federal government as well as the overlaps and discontinuities in provincial versus national identity.”

Although both Guy and Davis chose to apply for the Killam independently, Whitman’s Canadian Studies Association encourages participation in Killam fellowships and other grant opportunities. Each year, the Association hosts a number of speakers, films, and cultural events sponsored by the Canadian government.

The 2010-2011 academic year marks the sixth consecutive year that the Whitman association received a Program Enhancement Grant from the Canadian government. It has garnered more than $20,000 in funding since 2005. Whitman was also awarded a total of $1,700 in 2010-2011 for the acquisition of library materials from the Canadian government and Quebec Ministry of International Relations. The association also hosted five Canadian speakers, the annual Banff Film Festival, and a Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner last year.

“Our program successfully blends academic and cultural activities that have broad appeal to faculty, students, and the community. Our program is truly multidisciplinary. Rather than being concentrated in a single department, Canadian Studies are infused across disciplines, with new departments joining our group each year,” said Rachna Sinnott ’93, director of foundation and corporate relations for Whitman.

Whitman faculty also have received Fulbright fellowships recently to study in Canada. Suzanne Morrissey, assistant professor of anthropology, was the 2010-2011 Fulbright visiting research chair in environment, health and sustainability at McMaster University in Ontario.

Whitman College is a member of the Pacific Northwest Canadian Studies Consortium and sends a representative to the annual meeting of the Association of Canadian Studies in the United States.

“Whitman’s Canadian Studies program reflects the overall mission of our Global Studies Initiative, to infuse global awareness throughout all aspects of our curriculum and co-curriculum,” Sinnott said.

– Eleanor Ellis ’13