Mizzou’s Canadian Studies Program highlights close ties
University of Missouri Economics Professor Thomas Johnson gets a variety of answers when he quizzes his students about the origin of oil imports to the United States.
Many students guess that Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia, provide the largest share, but they’re wrong.
“Rarely would they guess Canada, but that’s the reality,” Johnson says.
While Missourians regularly underestimate Canada’s importance to our economy, the Canadian Studies Program at the University of Missouri is working to help raise awareness of our ties to our northern neighbor.
Founded more than a decade ago, the Canadian Studies Program brings together multiple academic disciplines. The program hosted a four-day Canada Days event at the university in February. It included presentations from Mizzou academics and Canadian officials on politics and trade. The event also included a selection of Canadian films.
Johnson, who is originally from Saskatchewan, has been involved in the Canadian Studies Program since the beginning. He says that despite Canada’s massive presence here, the country tends to fly under the radar.
“If you asked a hundred people who our closest trading partner is, you’d probably get more people who would answer China just because it seems to be in the news a little more,” he says. “For the most part, the relationship between Canada and the United States is very non-controversial. It doesn’t rise in the news to where people are going to bring it up or debate it. Canada is not exotic in so many ways.”
Yet Johnson believes it’s important for students, especially those studying international relations, to understand Canadian culture, history, and politics. The Canadian Studies Program offers students opportunities to study abroad and participate in Canada-focused research. Students can even earn a minor in Canadian Studies.
Looking from the other angle, Johnson says many Canadians don’t know very much about Missouri. However, his hockey-loving home province is well aware of the St. Louis Blues.
That said, Canadians follow US politics because their country often seeks to stay aligned with the United States on foreign policy. He says Canadians are closely watching the 2016 elections.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Canadians know just as much about the candidates as Americans do,” Johnson says. “Whoever wins the presidential election, whoever takes power in Congress is really important to Canadians.”