Published on Brock University (http://www.brocku.ca)
Haley Gienow-McConnell’s Testimonial
Class of 2011
My name is Haley Gienow-McConnell and I am an alumnus of the Graduate Program in History at Brock University. I am currently pursuing my PhD in History at York University, and was recently awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Canada Graduate Scholarship to support my research. I am currently thriving at York University, and I feel this is in large part because of the solid foundation I built at Brock University.
When I learned the exciting news that I had been awarded a SSHRC scholarship, I immediately contacted my former Graduate Program Director and my Major Research Project (MRP) supervisor at Brock University to share the news with them. That I am still inclined to contact my former mentors at Brock University is, I think, a testament to the strength of Brock University’s Graduate Program in History. That they actually cared and were delighted to hear from me is even more compelling evidence of the quality of Brock’s Graduate Program in History.
The quality and dedication of the faculty in the History Department attracted me to Brock University. Among the adjectives that come to mind to describe the faculty are: supportive, encouraging, collegial, open-minded, innovative, diverse, ambitious, and most importantly, flexible and available. The faculty with whom I worked committed themselves to being the best possible resources for me. They were readily available, whether by email or via a visit to their offices thanks to Brock’s unofficial open-office-door policy, to support me in whatever way was necessary for me to achieve my personal goals.
Something unique about Brock’s Graduate Program in History is that the faculty strives to allow the students to set the parameters of their own goals. The faculty are not interested in creating carbon-copy academic minions; they are interested in crafting creative minds, independent learners, good investigators and problem solvers, and ultimately good people who have something to offer the world. It is true that Brock’s MA History program has boasted some award-winning and incredible talent over the years, but the heart of the program is about skill-building and self-worth, not about the ivory tower of academia. No matter what one’s professional or research goals, everyone is treated with the same respect and consideration. While I chose the more traditional academic route and decided to pursue a PhD after graduating from Brock, my cohort also matriculated students interested in pursuing careers in law, international development, library sciences, public history, and teaching. Each of us in the cohort were given individualized support to help us achieve our short-term goals in the MA program, and support to achieve our longer-term professional and life goals. Small class sizes and a plethora of dedicated faculty made this dynamic possible.
I couldn’t be happier with my decision to pursue my MA at Brock University. Initially I had some concerns about how a mid-size department with a relatively new graduate program could serve my professionals interests, but my fears proved unfounded. I was awarded SSHRC funding for both my MA and my PhD, and was admitted to and courted by every doctoral program to which I applied. I am now thriving at one of the largest and leading universities in Canada. Ultimately I realized that the intimacy and collegiality of Brock’s History department served me well. As to the newness of the program, I now realize that a new program means an innovative program, and one that is flexible and adaptable. I like to think that these qualities are reflected in the graduates of Brock’s Graduate Program in History.