Arts alum takes history lessons to Asia – TRU Newsroom
Having one eye on the future and one eye on the past has carried Dr. Dan Connolly to heights in the academic world and different corners of the globe he never imagined as a kid growing up in Barriere, B.C. He is now an acclaimed professor teaching the subjects he is passionate about at a prestigious Korean university.
Coming out of high school, Connolly stayed close to home and attended Thompson Rivers University, where he eventually graduated in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts in history, also receiving the TRU Medal in Arts for his high GPA.
Looking to further his education at the University of British Columbia (UBC) the following year, Connolly went unclassified, taking ancient history, Latin and Greek language prerequisites for a master’s degree in archology. After a year studying languages from the past, he decided that a master’s in military history was more interesting, but was rejected because there wasn’t a professor at UBC he could work with in that area of study.
Connolly decided to take a year off to regroup, save some money and figure out how to continue his academic path moving forward. He was faced with two options: head up north to work in the oil fields with some friends from Barriere, or join a few of his TRU classmates who were travelling overseas to teach in Asia.
Never one with a passion for travel, Connolly soon found himself aboard a flight to Seoul, Korea, in 2002 where he got his start with a kindergarten class teaching English.
“That was the hardest first day of work in my life. I couldn’t understand the kids and they had no clue what I was trying to say. That first day almost broke me,” said Connolly, 42.
Resilient, Connolly became acclimated to the new culture and job. He soon met a woman and decided to tack another year onto his contract. Before he knew it, the contracts kept getting renewed and he was married in 2007.
Throughout all those years, the itch to complete his master’s never abandoned him.
“I started to get the sense that elementary students didn’t have the appetite for Christopher Columbus, the Age of Imperialism and my other interests that I was trying to teach them. I knew it was probably time to revisit my master’s,” said Connolly.
He enrolled at Korea University (KU) in 2011 and began his two year process to complete his master’s degree in international studies (peace and security), where he wrote his thesis about shipwrecked sailors in Asia from the 1600s to the 1800s.
Two years after completing his graduate degree, he was back at KU, where he began his PhD in international relations (peace and security), studying how the controversies surrounding the use of drones in warfare and in domestic air spaces.
Those degrees allowed him to pursue an academic career where he can philosophize about Asian relations and the future of war to a more suitable audience.
Throughout his incredible academic journey, Connolly has always maintained a scholarly background in history—one that blossomed from an interest to a passion while at TRU.
“TRU’s history program was incredible. During my master’s and PhD, working with professors from places like Stanford and Yale, they did not match the level of classroom instruction that I received from TRU. Professors like Andrew Yarmie, Michael Gorman, Bruce Baugh and John Fudge were simply fantastic. They always encouraged classroom discussion and were there because they truly wanted to be,” said Connolly.
Connolly said he has tried to recreate those elements in each of his classroom settings ever since going overseas. These days, he is well equipped to handle the online lifestyle the world is becoming accustomed to and it can all be traced back to his time at TRU.
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