Professor Emeritus Stephen Duguid was one of the faculty group that founded the Graduate Liberal Studies Program in 1991.

Graduate Liberal Studies celebrates 30th Anniversary in 2021

November 05, 2020

Looking back on the 30 years he’s been guiding the Graduate Liberal Studies Program (GLS), Stephen Duguid sees a line of lifelong learners, many of them friends and travelling companions. Several GLS alumni have gone on to receive PhDs and become professors themselves.

In 1991, Professor Emeritus Duguid was one of the faculty group that founded Graduate Liberal Studies as a flexible, part-time Master of Arts program designed for adults already working full time. The program emphasized social connections in equal measure with exposure to the canon of Western literature.

Today’s GLS students likewise tend to be mature students who are often steeped in their chosen careers. While each class is different due to the different makeup of students, the program's prerogative of reading the classics and exploring the issues they bring up provides a strong thread of consistency running through the past 30 years.

“You still find the same kind of issues popping up if you read these kinds of texts and these kind of themes,” Duguid says. “If a student from 1991 dropped into a class they would find the same kind of books being talked about, the same kind of issues raising problems.”

But he points out that 30 years ago is a long time in the past and a lot of things have happened since to make this generation of students different from the first cohort. Some of those changes are societal, brought on in part brought by the advent of computer technologies and social networks.

“We deliberately try to get more students from different backgrounds, different ethnicities in the class to more accurately reflect the kind of people you encounter on sidewalks in Vancouver,” Duguid says. “We are a global city now. Expo 86 set that trend for us.”

Over the past 30 years, travel has been a highlight of the GLS program and group trips abroad form memories that stick with the students for years. Due to the pandemic, current GLS students won’t be venturing abroad for the time being but Duguid hopes to find a way for them to share similar kinds of experiences.

“It's an interesting time to be teaching people,” Duguid says. “Zoom is a new kind of experience. The seminars are quite interesting and participation is much more profound than I'm used to because the students are not wasting time. They realize that time is clicking by and they have to get their two cents worth in.”

“The whole dimension to GLS about dinners after class, before class, going to a bar afterwards to talk about the session, meeting up for other kinds of things over the course of the semester. That's largely gone for this group. They have to find other ways to form those kind of connections and that's what we've been working toward.”

Duguid says that students in the current cohort have gotten to know each other quite well despite the limitations of meeting online. While the switch from seminar rooms to screens can be seen as something of a success, Duguid also says some students are struggling financially.

“It's not easy if you’ve lost rent subsidies or lost the job or whatever happened to you. I think that's why we chose to make this our 30th anniversary appeal.”

While in-person celebrations for the GLS program’s 30th anniversary cannot happen, the department is organizing a number of celebratory online events as well as feature stories on students and alumni achievements. Stay tuned to the GLS 30th Anniversary Page as details become available. Also, as part of the celebrations, GLS is appealing to the community at-large to consider contributing to three endowments that produce annual awards for GLS students.

Read more about the Ewan Clark Memorial Endowment, the L.R. (Bunny) Write Memorial Endownment, and the Stephen Duguid Endowment (Jean-Jacques Rousseau Award).