CENES History

Brief Overview of the History of the Department of Central, Eastern, Northern European Studies (CENES)

by Karl Zaenker

The current department has existed under this name and in this format only since the beginning of the 21st century. However, since its core program was made up of two former separate departments, the Department of German (or at times: “Germanic Studies”) and the Department of Slavonic Studies, it might be of interest to look at its pre-history, its first century, and honour some of its former members.

Germanic Studies

Beginnings to the End of WW II

Since the inauguration of UBC (1915) in downtown Vancouver and, ten years later, after its move to its current Point Grey campus, the Faculty of Arts and Science offered a program in German language and literature as part of its Modern Languages Department. The German section Head of over 30 years, Dr. Isabel McInnes, (1) is still fondly remembered in the annual granting of a student scholarship in her name. So is her successor, Dr. Joyce Hallamore who was an even longer serving faculty member, from 1928-1968.

Post WW II to 1980

The overall expansion of UBC’s course offerings after WW II brought along the creation of a separate Department of German in 1946, initially with Dr. McInnes as Head, followed by Dr. Hallamore (2) after two years. In the 20 years during which Prof. Hallamore headed the German department, its student enrolment more than doubled, a doctor of philosophy degree program was introduced, and emphasis was placed on strengthening the senior undergraduate and graduate programs. When she retired in 1968 (and was honoured with a Festschrift by her colleagues and students), half a century of “matriarchal rule” came to an end. British medievalist Dr. Michael S. Batts (3) was appointed new Head. Under his leadership (1968-80) the department’s status increased further and it became recognized as one of the most significant in the country. Among the newly hired senior faculty members was Dr. Mark Boulby who taught at UBC until his retirement. A good co-operation with the newly founded Goethe-Institute ensued until the latter, unfortunately, fell victim to budget cuts by the German government.

Post 1980 into the 21st Century

With UBC’s changing to a rotating system for Heads, the next quarter century saw a sequence of several senior departmental members taking on this onerous duty for a five years term. The first Head was comparatist Dr. Marketa Goetz-Stankiewicz (4), who served from 1980-85. She was followed by Drs. Klaus Petersen (1985-90) (5), Edward Mornin (1990-95)(6), and Peter Stenberg (7) who served two consecutive terms (1995-2006). During these years the department added a Scandinavian section with courses in Swedish and Danish language as well as in Northern European literature (including Baltic literature). After the merger with the former Slavonic Department the undergraduate program in Modern European Studies became part of the newly formed CENES department. The department also joined the Canadian Year in Freiburg exchange program and sent one of its professors, Dr. Karl Zaenker, on an exchange year to Freiburg University together with 28 Canadian undergraduate students each (2001-02 and 2005-06). Dr. Thomas Salumets served as Head from 2006-2011, followed by Dr. Gaby Pailer, who was Head from 2011-2014. The current Head Dr. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young began in July 2015. With unique course offerings, newly hired faculty, and climbing enrolment figures, the department of CENES is confidently going into its second century.