As a historian, Dr. Gayle Thrift often leads campus tours. During St. Mary’s annual Ghost Tour in September, she showed guests the underground tunnel that once linked some of our historic buildings.[/caption](October 26, 2012) — When Dr. Gayle Thrift chose to study psychology as an undergraduate student at Carleton University, she had a nagging feeling that it should have been history.
“I thought of switching majors, but wondered what I was going to do with a history degree,” she said. “But sometimes you just have to follow your passion and trust that things will work out.”
Years later, when Dr. Thrift decided to go back to school, she enrolled in the University of Calgary’s history program, where she eventually achieved a PhD in History.
She says her studies allowed her to combine a fascination with the past with a love of writing. It also led to a rewarding career.
While completing her thesis on the Protestant churches’ response to international affairs in Cold War Canada, Dr. Thrift worked as lead curator for the Glenbow Museum’s Mavericks permanent exhibit. During this time, she accepted a part-time teaching post at St. Mary’s University.
Now a full-time professor at St. Mary’s, Dr. Thrift enjoys helping students develop their own passion for the past.
“Sometimes young people think that history is irrelevant to their lives,” she said. “But we are shaped by our histories, both as individuals and as societies, in ways that we are not aware of.”
Dr. Thrift said studying history can help students acknowledge social injustices and contribute to an ethos of reconciliation and restitution. “I love helping students who live in one region of Canada understand the perspectives of those living in other regions.”
With a full-time teaching schedule and administrative duties as Chair of Social Sciences at St. Mary’s, she still finds time to write. Dr. Thrift is a regular contributor to history journals and conferences, most recently preparing an article about the historical pageantry of the Calgary Stampede for Alberta History (Summer 2012).
In addition to history courses, Dr. Thrift teaches IDST 400, an interdisciplinary seminar that is the capstone course for students working on their three-year Bachelor of Arts degrees at St. Mary’s. Exploring the theme of collective memory, her students examine a topic through at least two scholarly disciplines, presenting their findings at a peer conference at the end of Spring term.
“At a liberal arts university, instead of creating disciplinary silos, we try to create new areas of research by combining disciplines and research methodologies,” she said.
Dr. Thrift encourages prospective students to consider St. Mary’s University. “If you love history, you will love studying it in our intimate academic community,” she said.