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#TrentExploresCanada: From the Cold War to the Classroom

July 11, 2019

Canadian political historian & award-winning author enjoys mentoring Trent Durham GTA students

Dr. Robert Wright (‘79)

If the Internet was born before you were, chances are you won’t remember the anxiety and uncertainty felt by everyday Canadians growing up during the Cold War. But for Trent alum and Trent University Durham GTA history professor Dr. Robert Wright (‘79), it’s a period of time he’ll never forget.  With the near constant threat of nuclear war looming over everyone’s head, “the world seemed like a pretty scary place growing up,” recalls Professor Wright, who at an early age became an avid consumer of national and foreign policy.

“If I was a teenager in today’s world, I might’ve used Google or YouTube to seek answers,” he said. “Instead, growing up in the 1970’s I opted to study history in order to make sense of my world.”

“Cold War Kid” becomes best-selling author
Prof. Wright’s keen interest is in Cold War politics and the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis led him to pursue a prolific career exploring Canadian politics and foreign affairs. Over the years, he’s made name for himself as the defacto expert in Canadian-Cuban relations, writing three award-winning books on the subject. His commitment to historical accuracy and accessible writing style has earned him not only rave reviews for his books, but the respect of government officials and dignitaries. Shortly after his book Trudeaumania: The Rise to Power of Pierre Elliott Trudeau was published in 2016, Prof. Wright joined diplomats, government representatives and trades officials on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's visit to Cuba. Having written extensively on former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s notable trip to Cuba in 1976, Prof. Wright noted the significance of Justin’s ‘homage’ to his father’s relationship with the country, adding that it was great to be a “fly on the wall for such an historic occasion.”

Translating a passion for Canadian politics to transferable career skills
Though his publications challenge the way we think about Canadian history, foreign policy and sovereignty issues, Prof. Wright feels as though biggest impact takes place in the classroom.

“Because of the small class sizes at the Durham GTA campus,” he explains, “I get to know my students extremely well, and I take a deep interest in their futures.” Since he first started teaching at Trent in 1985, the Canadian historian and author has committed to offering experiential learning opportunities to his students. Over the years, he’s provided writing mentorship, helped students prep for graduate school and LSATs, and even led students on trips to Havana for the National Conference of Canadian Studies. Moreover, he notes that career development and experiential learning is fundamental.

“The anxieties students face today are different. They’re under intense pressure to find a career,” he said. “I see my main goal in the classroom as imparting to students a skill set that translates to work success.”

Canadian Studies was born at Trent University. This story is part of the #TrentExploresCanada series, spotlighting the leadership, interdisciplinary teaching and research expertise of individual faculty members, including those within Trent’s renowned School for the Study of Canada