Fulbright award sends Creighton history professor to Canada
The ties binding Elizabeth Elliot-Meisel, PhD, to Canada are ancestral, scholarly and newly stamped with the academic prestige accompanying her selection as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar who this fall will teach a semester at Trent University, about 70 miles northeast of Toronto.
“My paternal grandfather was Canadian, and all of his side of the family were Canadian,” says Elliot-Meisel, an associate professor of history at Creighton. “He became an American citizen during World War II. He was a historian who taught at Columbia University.”
Bolstered by the presence of family members in the Toronto, Windsor and Georgian Bay areas of Ontario, and in Montreal, Quebec, her Canadian connection remains strong.
“Canada has just been part of my life, all my life,” she says.
So, when the opportunity arose to apply for a Fulbright Scholar grant to both conduct research and teach a history course at Trent University, Elliot-Meisel submitted the paperwork and waited to see if her third application for a Fulbright would be more successful than the previous two, which had involved different universities.
For a host of reasons, Elliot-Meisel, who will soon mark 30 years teaching at Creighton, sees the Fulbright award as a perfect opportunity to build personal and professional ties with Canadian scholars. It helps that she is an authority on the relatively unexplored topic of U.S.-Canada relations in the Arctic and the still-disputed Northwest Passage, a role that has earned her previous invitations to speak in Canada.
Fulbright a Significant Honor
Returning to her ancestral land as a Fulbright Scholar is a significant honor.
The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program is the largest program of its kind in the United States, awarding more than 800 coveted fellowships annually in more than 135 countries. Fulbright exchanges have long been valued for their contributions to international communication, a reputation Elliot-Meisel hopes to burnish with a specially designed course on comparative U.S. and Canadian history.
The weeks before she leaves for Canada in mid-August will involve research into aspects of a common historical experience that nevertheless resides differently in the national memories of Americans and Canadians — the early experience of exploring the vast frontier, for example, which in both countries involved heading west but in Canada also involved probing northern territories and cultures. Or, to skip forward a couple of centuries, the experience of Japanese Americans interned during World War II compared to the less well-known experience of Japanese Canadians who were similarly interned in Canada.
Trent University students may be confident that their visiting Fulbright professor loves her work.
“I fell in love with history as a kid,” she says. “History just tells the amazing story of people. It's like a huge, colorful, exciting jigsaw puzzle that has what you think is a particular narrative, but then you realize it has this other narrative, and then you see that that narrative intersects with the first narrative, and so it goes on, always dynamic, always with new questions to ask and to think about.”
Creighton, Elliot-Meisel says, has been the ideal university to pursue her profession.
She joined the Department of History in 1993 after earning her doctorate from Duke University, was promoted to associate professor in 2000 and served as department chair from 2001-2010.
“When Creighton asked if I wanted to come here, I said, ‘How fast do you want me?’” she recalls.
“I started 29 years ago, and my best memories are the small ones, the ones about the intimate relationships you build with so many students and wonderful colleagues. You can do that here.”