Brock History professor David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye was recently elected to one of Canada’s top scholarly bodies – the Royal Society of Canada.
Founded in 1882, The Royal Society of Canada (RSC) is the senior Canadian collegium of distinguished scholars, artists and scientists. The Society is dedicated to increasing and supporting research in the arts, humanities as well as the sciences.
Schimmelpenninck was one of 87 academics to be elected into the society this year after the RSC’s election committee’s intensive vetting process. Considered one of academia’s top honours, Schimmelpenninck will join a society of scholarly elites and an extremely valuable network of academics.
Brock University English Language and Literature Professor Elizabeth Sauer was inducted into the RSC last year, as well.
“Being elected to the RSC is a great honour,” said Schimmelpenninck, “it’s a recognition of the importance and validity of your work in the field. It’s also an opportunity to get to know senior scholars in a wide range of disciplines”.
Schimmelpenninck began teaching at Brock University about 18 years ago in the History Department, and in his time here, he has observed its continued growth and maturation.
“It’s great to see that in the last 18 years the History Department has doubled in size,” Schimmelpenninck commented. “Today, we have a young and energetic department that is invigorated by a new wave of productive scholars.”
Despite being a growing department, one of the most important aspects of teaching at Brock for Schimmelpenninck is the department’s intimacy.
“Smaller university settings simply facilitate better relationships between faculty and students,” said Schimmelpenninck. “Smaller class sizes remove a layer of separation between professor and student. Additionally, there’s also a lot of flexibility in teaching specifically what appeals to students.”
Schimmelpenninck’s main area of study is Russia’s role in Asia, which includes the Russo-Japanese war and Russian Orientalism. For the 2015/2016 academic year, he’s set to teach three classes, “War and Peace in the Modern Age” (HIST 2P64), “The World of Genghis Khan: Inner Asia since 500 B.C.” (HIST 3P60) and a first-year survey course, “World History Since 1914” (HIST 1F95).
“[HIST 1F95] is one of my favourite courses to teach. The course covers a wide range of major historical events over an extremely interesting period. It’s a challenge making these difficult concepts accessible. In some respects, it’s more difficult than teaching a fourth-year class with a more sophisticated subject matter,” said Schimmelpenninck.
Teaching the first-year survey course provides him an opportunity to teach many incoming students taking history courses for electives, minors and majors. Schimmelpenninck encourages humanities students and students in general studies to pursue the study of history, which contrary to some mislead opinions, opens up countless career opportunities after graduation.
“The real value of a history degree is that it teaches you to analyse complex thoughts and, more importantly, to express them. In times of such rampant technological change it’s difficult to predict what types of jobs will be important 20 to 30 years from now. History, like many of the Humanities, opens up a general avenue of career paths by providing students with highly transferable skills. Communication skills are universally important,” said Schimmelpenninck.
Schimmelpenninck’s election to the RSC is a result of his productivity as well as his passion for research. He is currently authoring a book entitled “Russia’s Great Game: The Struggle for Mastery in Central Asia”, which he is expecting to complete within the next several years.
“On average, productive scholars produce books every 8 to 10 years. This book however requires a lot of deep archival work,” Schimmelpenninck said. “As a grad student I could go to Russia for half a year at a time, but now with personal and professional responsibilities, it’s far more difficult.”
In addition to his book, Schimmelpenninck is also currently working as an editor on an international, collaborative project with more than 200 authors globally. The project, entitled “Russia’s Great War and Revolution”, is an extremely ambitious multi-level “re-appraisal” of a transitional period in Russian history between 1914 and 1920. More information is available at russiasgreatwar.org.
Schimmelpenninck is to be inducted into the Royal Society of Canada at the group’s Annual General Meeting taking place in Victoria, British Columbia in late November.