Society Profile: the Historical Studies Society

Front row: Professor Shafique Virani, Chair of the Historical Studies Department. Second row: Ashley Yoannou, Kathleen White. Third row: Professor Mairi Cowan, Casandra Kubik, Kristina Terpoy, Professor Ken Derry. Back row: Jenn Hunter, Anna Kostetska, Josh Aebig. Puneet Kohli/Photo

The Historical Studies Society at UTM is by no means among the newest academic societies that UTMSU adds to its roster each year, but it could be mistaken for one. With a new constitution, coat of arms, and panel of executives, the HSS is virtually  unrecognizable as the low-key society it was in previous years. This past summer, the HSS underwent a complete restructuring, with a new mandate: to involve faculty and students at all levels in both educational seminars and social events.


“Our goal is to provide a forum for junior and senior undergraduates to discuss, share, and learn about academic initiatives offered by the Department of Historical Studies, as well as host social events on and off campus,” said Ashley Yoannou, the new president of the HSS. “Being named a recipient of a Dean’s Academic Society Initiative Prize was the highlight of our first term together.”


The new elected executive team is made up of Ashley Yoannou, president; Kathleen White, events coordinator; Casandra Kubik, secretary; Kristina Terpoy, marketing director; Jenn Hunter, advertising director; Anna Kostetska, external affairs liaison; and Josh Aebig, treasurer.


“I am very excited for the way in which we have completely rebranded the society,” said Hunter. “We literally started the HSS with a clean slate this year. Our goal was to create a much more recognizable and involved society for all history students at UTM. I am truly excited to see that our new coat of arms, our rewritten constitution, and a completely new panel of execs have been recognized on campus so rapidly. We have also been getting a profound amount of encouragement and support from both the history department faculty and the students at UTM.”


“I am very excited by the work that the HSS has done this year,” said professor Ken Derry, who serves as one of two faculty liaisons to the HSS. “They’re organized and committed, and in their many events have done a great job addressing varying aspects of student life at UTM—academic (student-faculty networking), extra-curricular (Summer Abroad), and social (toga party!). I look forward to seeing what they come up with next term, and what seeds they plant for 2012–2013.”


Professor Mairi Cowan, the second faculty liaison, had similar sentiments.


“I attended the meet and greet this fall, and really enjoyed meeting historical studies students in a social venue that was more relaxed than the lecture hall or seminar room. Our students are such interesting people, and it’s a lot of fun to get to know them as the people behind the papers,” she said.


So far, the newly reorganized HSS has hosted UTM’s first-ever Toga Party Pub at the Blind Duck, the Student-Faculty Networking Luncheon, the semi-annual General Meeting, and Activism and Awareness Day, which included a keynote address from Holocaust survivor Judy Cohen, a screening of the PBS documentary Worse than War, and a lecture called “Activism in the Shadow of Trauma”, given by professor Joan Simalchik, followed by discussion.


The society has also taken part in many campus events, such as the fall Clubs Week, the “Get Experience Fair” (hosted by the UTM Career Centre), Fall Campus Day, and the Prandium seminars.


The HSS has also cosponsored many academic events, such as JHI’s Adventures in Research for Undergraduates in the Humanities Presentation and the U of T Study Abroad Fair & Student Experience Panel, which was held at UTM.


For the coming winter term, the HSS executives plan to hold sessions to assist historical studies students with questions about program requirements, including a panel discussion with current students and faculty from the  department.


The HSS is also hosting their inaugural Historical Studies Week from January 23 to 26. This four-day event will feature faculty presenting their research, a diaspora and transnational studies mixer, and sessions that provide students with the opportunity to ask their professors questions about the graduate school application process.


To conclude HS Week, the executive has planned a guided tour of the Royal Ontario Museum exhibition “Maya: Secrets of their Ancient World”.


“There is always something new to learn about at the museum, and I think that the excitement that  I personally have for the museum is shared by many fellow historical studies students—which will likely make this trip a very popular event for the winter semester,” said White.


“I can probably speak for the rest of the HSS executives when I say that we are very happy with our accomplishments thus far,” Hunter concluded. “Our main goal was to rebrand ourselves and create an approachable, relatable, and recognizable society for all history students at UTM. For the remainder of the year, we want to get more history students involved both in our academic  and social events. We aim to  make the HSS a society which will continue to preserve the  recognition we have achieved thus far in our 2011–2012 year.”


The HSS recruits members for their outreach committee throughout the year; if you’re interested in volunteering, contact them at  or join them on their Facebook page, “Historical Studies Society at UTM”.

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