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Upcoming Conference at the University of Calgary: Vimy 2017 - From Both Sides of the Ridge

Pictured from L-R: Kiernan McClelland, Dr. Saira Bano and Dr. William McAuley

Kiernan McClelland graduated with his MSS from the thesis-based program. His thesis was “A Canadian Space Odyssey: Canada, the Great Space Powers, and the Space Power Dilemma”.  Kiernan is now at Carleton University working on his doctoral degree.

Dr. Saira Bano graduated with her Doctor of Philosophy and her dissertation was on “Norm Change and Contestation in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime: The India-U.S. Nuclear Deal”. Saira is now teaching at Mount Royal University where her research focuses on the nuclear non-proliferation regime, nuclear weapons issues in South Asia and International Relations theories.

Dr. William (Bill) McAuley graduated with his Doctor of Philosophy and his dissertation was “Beyond Delusions of Grand Strategy: A Centrifugal National Security Strategy for Canada”.


CMSS offers congratulations to those graduates not in attendance.

Dr. Shaiel Ben-Ephraim graduated with his Doctor of Philosophy and his dissertation was “Can We Settle This: The settlements in the occupied territories and U.S. – Israel relations, 1967-1981”.  Shaiel was awarded the position of Postdoctoral Fellow at the UCLA International Institute’s Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies for the 2017-2018 academic year. 

Christian Halt graduated with his MSS from the thesis-based program. His thesis was “Territorial Disputes in the Artic: Prospects for Conflict and Cooperation”. Christian is currently in the U.K. pursuing his law degree.

Michael Walz graduated with his MSS from the course-based program. Mike was our first student to partake in our exchange with Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic.

In his research, Killam Visiting Scholar Whitney Lackenbauer seeks to redefine the issue of security to include the very real challenges facing people who live in the North. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Whitney Lackenbauer, the 2017-18 Killam Visiting Scholar, discovered his fascination for Canada’s North as a PhD student working with Arctic scholars at UCalgary in 2000. “Once I did my first trip, I was hooked,” says the history professor at St. Jerome’s University (University of Waterloo).

Lackenbauer, MA'99, PhD'04, combines his modern Canadian and Northern history expertise with innovative discussions about Arctic foreign and public policies as well as circumpolar affairs. He’s working to understand state-level understandings of sovereignty and security and how these have evolved, as well as more local perceptions and interests. 

As part of his scholarship, Lackenbauer seeks to redefine the issue of security to include the very real challenges facing people who live in the North.  “What is it that needs to be secured — is it food, energy, health? Then we must ask the question ‘For whom are we securing the Arctic?’ Is it for the state? Individual Canadians? Indigenous or northern communities?” he says.

There are very real threats to northern communities including problems such as a generator going down in the middle of winter — “that’s a crisis” — to Indigenous hunters not feeling safe going on the ice to try to feed their families. “This is a serious issue when all of a sudden the ice conditions and environmental conditions are changing,” says Lackenbauer. “When we look at the tremendous impacts of climate change on northern communities it’s clear that we’re observing a region that’s undergoing some pretty major change.”

Meanwhile, Lackenbauer has found that some of the media attention about potential threats to Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic is “really overblown or even fanciful.” He’s working to understand the pressing issues and priorities and “how to address the challenges and opportunities that are emerging in the North.”

As a Killam Visiting Scholar, Lackenbauer will be on campus until the end of the year, working with researchers and sharing his expertise by giving lectures in history, political science and anthropology classes, leading seminars and running a series of workshops and symposia. Lackenbauer is also planning an international conference on Canada-Russia relations in the Arctic that will be held in March, 2018.

“He is really multi-disciplinary,” says Petra Dolata, the Canada Research Chair in the History of Energy and Lackenbauer’s host at the university. “He’s one of Canada’s leading experts on Arctic history and politics and he’s very good at showing the importance of history in this specific area.”

Lackenbauer is also a fellow of the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies and the Arctic Institute of North America. “The North is incredible in its geographic expanse but also in terms of the diversity of the people who live there,” he says. “It is a very intellectually stimulating place.”

Dr. Alexander Hill

MHG members abroad

I was fortunate to be invited to present a paper at the 2017 Australian Chief of Army History Conference in Canberra this last week (October 19-20). The theme of the conference was 'The Skill of Adaptability: the Learning Curve in Combat' - how armies learn and adapt - or not - in new circumstances, and how we can derive best practice from historical examples for armies to learn and apply experience today. Details of the conference are provided in the link below, and the papers will be published online in due course. Papers covered topics from the First World War through to coalition operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and were given by both civilian and military academics. An interesting conference. It is certainly rewarding for the military historian to be applying historical examples to contemporary practice!

Well done to the Australian Army's History Unit for organising the conference, and the Australian Army as a whole for taking history seriously enough to fund it! Many officers and civilians attended the two-day conference - there was quite the audience for every session!

Alexander Hill

For more details on the conference, click here.

Katelyn Stieva visits Vimy

This past spring CMSS Master's student, Katelyn Stieva, was fortunate enough to travel with the Canadian Battlefields Foundation as part of their annual study tour.

The tour included visits to several First and Second World War sites, including battlefields of Ypres, the Somme, Vimy, Dieppe and Normandy. The tour also involved participating in several ceremonies commemorating the D-Day landings alongside some of the few remaining Canadian veterans from the Normandy campaign.

"To stand at Juno Beach alongside men who had fought there seventy-three years ago is an experience I will truly never forget. As a historian, to be able to study history in the place that it was made was what drew me to participate in the study tour, and the Canadian Battlefield Foundation provided me that opportunity and so much more." - Katelyn Stieva 

WIIS-C logo

Katelyn Stieva, a first year CMSS thesis-based student, attended the 2017 WIIS-Canada conference this past May in Montreal. The three-day event involved academics and practitioners from the fields of military studies and international security discussing issues and barriers facing women in these fields and highlighting the importance of women leaders, both current and moving forward. 

Katelyn presented research analyzing the biases that underpin Canadian Domestic and foreign policy regarding the Women, Peace, and Security agenda and offered suggestions as to how Canada could address these biases moving forward.

For more information on the conference click here.

ISMS logo

CMSS Master's student, Keith Hickerson will be attending the 2017 International Society of Military Sciences conference this November 15-17 in Oslo, Norway.

The conference will primarily focus on the role that science and education play in preparing military organizations to engage in operations. However, it will include a wide range of topics intended to appeal to individuals interested in the study of modern militaries. 

Keith, a second year course-based student, will be attending the conference and presenting his research paper on the legal and ethical implications of employing lethal autonomous weapons systems in modern conflicts. This presentation intends to make policy-makers re-evaluate the degree to which militaries should relegate complex tasks to machines.

For more information on the conference click here.

Taken from in front of the Canadian Embassy, this photo is part of a series in a book commissioned by the CMSS alumnus while working in Venezuela.

One of the Centre's alumnus recently updated us on their position working for the Government of Canada, and has agreed to share some insights of their work on our website. For security reasons, their name is not attached. In their own words: 

I am writing this as I finish my tour as the Security Program Manager in Venezuela. For three years I have lived in the one most violent non-warzone city on earth. Caracas has the highest murder and kidnapping rates in the world. Based on official statistics, my neighbourhood has a kidnapping every week and it is considered one of the safest areas. For the last three months the country has been gripped by violent civil unrest with much of the violence having took place directly in front of the Canadian Embassy. With the Ambassador it is my responsibility to ensure safety and security of all employees of the Government of Canada living and working in this troubled country. When the ambassador was absent, I have also acted as the Charge d’Affaires of the Embassy and the Government of Canada in Venezuela.


The last time I wrote to you I was working for the Security and Emergency Management Bureau of Global Affairs Canada, travelling the world and preparing our Embassies for the crises they might face. This work took me to dozens of countries, from Afghanistan (multiple times) to San Salvador, from the Palestinian territories to Cote d’Ivoire, from Rio de Janeiro to Chicago.


I am currently in transition to be posted to Beijing where I will be the first Resiliency and Security Program Manager assigned to China. Once in Beijing, I will have responsibility for the security and emergency management posture of our embassy and all our consulates.


My time at CMSS continues to be a unique asset as I deal with my assignments. My education has provided me with a unique knowledge base compared to those of my colleagues. It has helped me to address the unique challenges of working in Venezuela. I continue to be a strong supporter and advocate of CMSS and hope to one day visit the school again.

Dr. Holger Herwig, Professor Emeritus, opens the conference
Credit: David Brown, University of Calgary Imaging Services

On April 9, 1917, a century ago, 15,000 men of the Canadian Corps stormed Vimy Ridge in France and three days later took Hill 145, victorious in the face of enemy machine gun fire. The event soon became Canada’s most celebrated battlefield victory and has evolved from a significant, but costly, military victory to one of the core events of Canadian national identity, a symbol of Canada’s nationhood and independence from Britain. Yet, was this battle really that significant?

To mark the 100th anniversary of this iconic battle, the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies together with the Federal Republic of Germany's Centre for Military History and Social Sciences (Zentrum für Militärgeschichte und Sozialwissenschaften der Bundeswehr - ZMSBw) held a conference to re-examine the legend and the reality of Vimy Ridge.  Vimy Ridge: From Both Sides of the Ridge was held at the University of Calgary from April 20-22. The participation of five top German First World War scholars gave conference attendees - over 120 faculty, students, military members and the public - an unprecedented look at the “enemy’s” perspective on Vimy Ridge and the wider battlefield: a view rarely found in Vimy’s historiography. 


Additional light was trained on the battle by the top echelon of Canadian military historians including Dr. Patrick Brennan, Dr. Tim Cook, Dr. Jack Granatstein, Dr. Rob Rutherdale, Dr. Serge Durflinger as well as several up-and-coming scholars who brought a much-needed fresh assessment to aspects of the battle. The dinner keynote by Dr. Michael Neiberg detailed the American entry into WWI, giving context and colour to the daily discussions.

It is fitting that 100 years after Vimy, long held as the battle that helped define Canada, this conference brought academics, researchers, students and the general public a unique view from both sides of the Ridge. Through the continued mobilization of the discussions and presentations and the new research undertaken as a result of these discussions, this conference will change the Canadian perspective on Vimy Ridge and will have a lasting impact on Canadian political, social and military historiography.


A copy of the program can be downloaded here.

Audio Recording of Proceedings

Audio recordings of the conference proceedings are available as a YouTube playlist.


In addition to the selection of photos at the bottom of this page, the full galleries from the conference are available on Flickr as follows:
Reception - by Dave Brown, University of Calgary Imaging Services
Reception - by Timothy Choi, CMSS PhD Candidate and Web Administrator
Day 1 - by Dave Brown, University of Calgary Imaging Services
Day 1 - by Timothy Choi, CMSS PhD Candidate and Web Administrator
Day 2 - by Timothy Choi, CMSS PhD Candidate and Web Administrator

We thank our sponsors for making this event possible:

University of Calgary
Office of the President
Office of the Provost
Office of the Vice President (Research)
Department of History
Department of Sociology

Zentrum für Militärgeschichte und Sozialwissenschaften der Bundeswehr - ZMSBw

41 Canadian Brigade Group

Veterans Affairs Canada

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

A special note of appreciation to Minister of Veterans Affairs Kent Hehr for helping to open the conference!

Selected Photos

Larger versions can be viewed by either going to the Flickr links mentioned above or by right-clicking -> Open image in new tab/window.

The conference reception was held in the new Taylor Teaching and Learning Institute's atrium

Image Credit: Dave Brown

University of Calgary Chancellor Dr. Elizabeth Cannon and CMSS Director Dr. David Bercuson open the conference reception

Image Credit: Dave Brown

Scholars from the ZMSBw share a laugh at the reception

CMSS and Political Science students enjoy some refreshments at the reception

Dr. Holger Herwig and Dr. Elizabeth Cannon converse during the reception

Guests observe the opening introductions at the reception

Dr. David Bercuson gives remarks during the reception as ZMSBw Senior Scientist Dr. Michael Epkenhans looks on

ZMSBw Senior Scientist Dr. Michael Epkenhans delivers opening address at the reception

Day 1 - Royal Air Force officers in attendance converse with Canadian Army Lt. Col. David Fearon 

Image Credit: Dave Brown

Day 1 - Royal Air Force officers look on as Dr. Holger Herwig delivers remarks

Image Credit: Dave Brown

Day 1 - Dr. Holger Herwig opens the conference proceedings

Image Credit: Dave Brown

Day 1 - Dr. Florentine Strzelczyk, Vice Dean, Faculty of Arts, delivers remarks on behalf of the Faculty of Arts

Image Credit: Dave Brown

Day 1 - Minister of Veterans Affairs Kent Hehr looks on during introductions

Image Credit: Dave Brown

Day 1 - Minister of Veterans Affairs Kent Hehr delivers welcoming remarks on behalf of the Canadian government

Image Credit: Dave Brown

Day 1 - Audience listens as Kent Hehr helps open the conference proceedings

Image Credit: Dave Brown

Day 1 - Dr. Holger Herwig introduces the first panel featuring Dr. Patrick Brennan (UoC) and Dr. Epkenhans

Image Credit: Dave Brown

Day 1 - Chaired by Dr. Jean-Sébastien Rioux, the second panel featured Dr. Gerhard Gross (ZMSBw), Lt. Col. David Fearon (Canadian Army), and Dr. Mark Humphries (Wilfrid Laurier University)

Day 1 - Dr. Hans-Hubertus Mack of the ZMSBw delivers his luncheon keynote

Day 1 - Dr. David Bercuson introduces the third session

Day 1 - Session three, chaired by CMSS Associate Director Dr. Ian Brodie, included Dr. Mike Bechthold (Wilfrid Laurier University) and Major Bill March (Canadian Armed Forces)

Day 1 - Participants enjoy their 15-minute "health break" between sessions (click to enlarge)

Day 1 - Session four begins with Dr. Bercuson introducing the chair, Dr. Rob Huebert (CMSS), and speakers Dr. Christian Stachelbeck (ZMSBw) and Dr. Geoff Jackson (Ambrose University College)

Day 1 - Final session concludes with Dr. Andrew McEwen and David Thuell

Day 1 - The evening banquet saw the conference hall transformed into a more elegant space

Day 1 - Conference attendees converse prior to dinner (panorama image - click to enlarge)

Day 1 - Dinner attendees were treated to a performance by the Calgary Highlanders' Pipes and Drums

Day 1 - The Dinner keynote was delivered by Dr. Michael Neiberg of the US Army War College

Day 2 - Panel one saw Dr. Rob Rutherdale (Algoma University), Dr. Serge Durflinger (University of Ottawa), and Carla Stokes (O'Keefe Ranch) chaired by Dr. Holger Herwig

Day 2 - Carla Stokes speaks on the wartime photography of William Ivor Castle

Day 2 - Panelists engage the audience during the Q&A

Day 2 - Session Six saw Dr. Jack Granatstein, Dr. Tim Cook, and Dr. Michael Neiberg engaging that most significant of questions, "Did Vimy Matter?"

Day 2 - Session Six

Day 2 - During lunch, Krista Cooke from the Canadian War Museum presented the CWM's new Vimy exhibit

Day 2 - Dr. David Bercuson closes out the conference 

Congratulations to Saira Bano on the successful defence of her doctoral dissertation! Passing with minimal revisions, the defence concluded ahead of the maximum allotted time, with intermittent laughter heard from the room. Supervised by Dr. James Keeley, Bano's dissertation is entitled, "Norm Change and Contestation in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime: The India-US Nuclear Deal." 

Congratulations to the latest CMSS graduates, Dr. Timothy Cake, Dr. Valerie Yankey-Wayne, and Masters of Strategic Studies Samantha Hossack, Harris Stephenson, and Michael Worden!

Of particular interest to the CMSS attendees was the granting of an honorary Doctor of Laws degree to "the voice of Canada", Peter Mansbridge, at the beginning of the morning ceremony. Delivering an evocative speech about the importance of combating hate online and offline, he cited Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi on the centrality of communities in building resilience to violence and discord. Given the recent state of international relations, this had clear relevance to the CMSSers who crossed the stage. 

The degree recipients came from a wide variety of backgrounds, reflecting the diversity of approaches and subject matter for which the Centre is known:

Dr. Timothy Cake, under Dr. James Keeley's supervision, wrote his dissertation on "America's Intelligence Failure in the Prelude to Operation Iraqi Freedom: A Study in Analytic Factors";

Dr. Valerie Yankey-Wayne, supervised by Dr. Rob Huebert, had written hers on "Great Power Politics Among Asante and its Neighbours in the 18th and 19th Centuries: An Offensive Realist Explanation";

Samantha Hossack, supervised by Dr. John Ferris, wrote her Master's thesis on "Intelligence Systems Failures in Responding to Threats from Afghanistan";

Harris Stephenson, under the supervision of Dr. Terry Terriff, wrote his on "Tribal Ways of Warfare: Combat Branch Conceptualizations of Warfare in the United States Army, 1983-1999";

and finally, Michael Worden graduated as part of the course-based program and is currently serving with the Calgary Police Service, though he was unable to attend the ceremony. 

Of particular note was Hossack's reception of the University of Calgary President's Award due in part to her multi-year service in the Graduate Students' Assocation (GSA), including this past year's term as President of the GSA. Only one student in each ceremony is awarded the prestigious honour. Despite CMSS's small size, it has had an outstanding presence at convocation ceremonies, and Sam is the latest in a long line of CMSS graduates who have made their mark on the University of Calgary.

Congratulations to all!