Graduate student and Alumni profiles


Amanda Balyk (working with Jess Clark)

I am looking at the intersections of crime, gender, and class in Victorian London. Following research on infanticide in my fourth year, I became interested in the ways in which women are represented in trials when indicted and became curious when I noticed that men were the ones indicted for abortion trials. I intend to therefore study abortion trials and how they connect with the social mores of the time.

Lucas Coia (working with Colin Rose)

What did it mean to be Christian in medieval Europe? Historians have often approached this question through the relationship between elite and popular religion. The prevailing view is that this is mostly a false dichotomy and that the religion of ordinary people overlapped considerably with that of the ecclesiastical elite. My thesis will add a new and interesting element to this debate by examining the cult of saints in southern Italy from 1200-1500. Southern Italy is a unique case. Here, communities existed on the fringes of Latin Christendom, with rural people living in isolated mountain villages far from the cultural centres of Europe. Additionally, this was a culturally complex society with a unique blend of Latin, Greek, Arab, and Norman influences. What then did Christian identity look like in such a peripheral and culturally complex area of the world? Studying local saints will help provide an answer to this question.

Mahmoud Elewa (working with Behnaz Mirzai)

I am researching slavery, slave resistance, manumission and the African diaspora in the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf. I plan to focus on the Indian Ocean slave trade from East Africa into the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf around the nineteenth century through the early twentieth century while analyzing the history of slavery, slave resistance and manumission in this region. Prior to beginning graduate studies, I received my BA in History at Brock University. My interests include watching international films, cooking and traveling.

Derek Friske (working with Renée Lafferty-Salhany)

I have begun research on The General Church of New Jerusalem, a small but controversial schism of Swedenborgianism born in Pennsylvania. Over the course of the 1890’s the church established an identity for itself with canonical texts and dogmatic rituals. This burgeoning religious movement seems to have caused great distress to local journalists for its connection to “spirit talking.” I feel an understanding of a localized, but well defined, religious movement could illustrate much about the social and religious anxieties of the age.

Second Reader: Mike Driedger

Brandon Harrison (working with Renée Lafferty-Salhany)

My research will focus on crime and punishment aboard privateers and letter-ofmarques during the War of 1812. With an emphasis on British vessels, this project will discern how and why crime and punishment
aboard these ships differed from that of enlisted vessels.

Jessica Linzel (working with Danny Samson)

My graduate work will focus on the economic development of the Niagara region in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The project will include an HGIS component wherein I will attempt to map the trade routes that existed at the time, both within the peninsula itself and on a broader scale. I love local history and essentially want to know how the early colonial settlements in Niagara developed post-Revolution, using the visual dimension of digital tools to aid in my own understanding and to also share my research with the public in an accessible way

See Jessica’s blog…Mapping Early Niagara: A Spatial Approach to Trade Developments at the turn of the 19th century

Gabrielle Marshall (working with Renée Lafferty-Salhany)

For my MRP I will be focusing my research on issues related to women, crime and violence in United Kingdom. My particular focus will be Amelia Dyer, a notorious baby-farmer and serialkiller who was executed in 1897.

Second Reader: Jess Clark

Michael Martignago (working with Tami Friedman)

For my MRP, I will be focusing my research on the environmental history of the Vietnam War. My research will be aimed specifically at the use of weaponized chemical pesticides (such as Agent Orange), the use of Napalm, and the subsequent environmental effects on the Vietnamese landscape and population. I hope to also examine the militarization of Vietnam’s landscape by both American and North Vietnamese forces during the war.

Second Reader: Gregor Kranjc


Colin Bissell

‘Brock University’s MA in History is a challenging and rewarding program. I chose to pursue graduate work at Brock because of the knowledge and experience of its faculty. The vast experience of the faculty are a key component of their multidisciplinary program. The faculty are also approachable, supportive and know how to push students to reach their potential.

‘While some students might be challenged taking courses outside of their comfort zone, it gives them the opportunity to apply their skills in other areas. I enjoyed the graduate experience at Brock and look forward to using the skills I learned on a new project with the Lincoln and Welland Regiment Museum.’

Brent Brenyo

Supervisors: Dr. McLeod and Dr. Patrias

I chose the Graduate Program because of the stellar experience I had with the History Department as an undergraduate student at Brock. Faculty members were approachable and helpful, and wanted to see students succeed. The prospect of working with them in a close capacity while furthering my own post-secondary studies was an attractive proposition. The Department even facilitated with applying to the program. The Department offered information sessions and the Grad Program Director kept in touch during the application and admission process. This allowed for any initial questions to be answered (including funding and TA work) and ensured a smooth transition from Undergraduate studies. I would strongly encourage prospective Grad students to attend in advance. The Graduate Program offered a diverse range of courses, while allowing me to pursue the area of historical study I wanted with my Major Research Paper (MRP). The courses allowed me to become more knowledgeable in many areas of history, as well as historical method. My MRP allowed me to draw on my interest in public education and Bachelor of Education degree. The MRP focused on the censorship of the LGBTQ+ community in public education in Ontario, the struggle for curricular inclusiveness, and the educational value of law in affecting change in the schooling system. The faculty were supportive and encouraging. Department colloquiums also helped to create a collegial atmosphere and offered a chance to socialize. The ability to work closely with supervisors and faculty was quite beneficial.

Renée Girard

“The experience of completing an MA in History at Brock has been for me an exciting and fulfilling experience. It has been a pleasure to share ideas and discuss not only with my peers but also with all the members of the faculty who have been more than supportive throughout the whole process. Being in the History department at Brock is like being part of a family. While support and encouragement is offered, the expectations are high. The program is challenging, and provides adequate preparation for further studies. Furthermore, I have had the opportunity to develop valuable skills through my participation in many conferences and as a teaching assistant. I thus feel confident that I can start a PhD program in History with a strong foundation, and look forward to this new challenge.”

Steven J. Lee

Class of 2012

Being a Master’s Candidate in Brock University’s history department was the most fulfilling and engaging part of my post-secondary education. I honestly believe that the experience could not have been the same at a different school. At Brock the professors outnumber the students in the graduate program. This means that the professors quickly get to know you, form personal connections and one-on-one support is always available.The MA program consists of small, three-hour seminars. My class sizes ranged from six to fourteen (the entire class), which meant that there was plenty of time for each student to express his or her thoughts and build discussion. Professors constantly push students to critically analyze, challenge their ideas and support their claims. This compelled me to become better at formulating academic arguments, and perhaps more importantly, become more confident in my ideas and myself. The history MA program fosters a true sense of community both between the candidates and the entire department. The history MA program is not easy, and requires a great deal of dedication and hard work, but the rewards and rich experience make it all worthwhile in the end.

Steven Lee is a Brock University graduate who currently works at the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archive in Brampton, Ontario, and as a teacher at Oxford Learning Company.

Nicholas Timmers

Supervisor: Dr. R. Andrew McDonald

I am researching the later Christianizaton process (the development of the established church) of the Scottish Northern Isles (particularly Orkney) during the 12th and 13th centuries.

I have had a great experience with the program.  While I wish the program had a more medieval focus in terms of the course work, the co-op position which I had has more than made up for it.  Between May and September of 2013, I worked as an intern for the Centre for Nordic Studies in Shetland, as a part of the co-op portion of my degree.  In this position, I helped the Centre for Nordic Studies build a Viking database as well as organize and assist with the annual Viking Summer School in Shetland.  Another perk of the position is that I worked in the same place as the history I am studying, which has enabled me to conduct great research! Through the co-op aspect of the History program I have learned many practical strategies which will help me in the future.  I have learned how to apply my research skills in a professional position, instead of a student paper.  I realized that my skills which I have developed over the past 5 years are easily transferable. I think Brock University’s Master of Arts History program is a great program.  I do like that it exposes you to numerous areas of history and it introduces new historical strategies. It is also nice having a small program because you really get know to your colleagues both professors and other students.

Venetia Whiting (Boehmer-Plotz)

Class of 2011

“After completing my graduate research on Aboriginal fisheries in post-Confederation British Columbia with Dr. Maureen Lux, I began the bijuridical civil and common law program at McGill University in fall 2011. The program was demanding, allowing me to maintain my commitment to academic excellence while honing the oral and written communication skills and efficient research strategies that I acquired through the graduate program at Brock. The experience I gained balancing graduate course work, independent research, and community involvement has prepared me for both academic and professional success in law.  I excelled in my roles as a Pro Bono legal intern at a Native women’s shelter, as a research assistant studying reconciliation jurisprudence, and as a senior journal editor. I am confident that the graduate program’s rigorous academic standards, commitment to excellence, and continued mentorship will serve me well in my new capacity as an Associate in the Regulatory department at Bennett Jones LLP. I am grateful for the confidence and sense of initiative that I gained through the seminar program and through the strong faculty-student support that is unique to Brock’s graduate program.”

After completing her MA in History at Brock University, Venetia went on to complete her Common and Civil Law degrees at McGill and was named to the Dean’s Honour List. Venetia is currently an Associate at Bennett Jones LLP in Calgary, Alberta, where she practices regulatory, Aboriginal, and environmental law.