The Department of English, Culture, and Communication


About the Department of English


Since its formation, the Department of English has served the Royal Military College of Canada's educational mandate by offering a broadly based humanities programme focused around the analysis of literary texts. Modeled on its counterparts at other universities, the English programme emphasizes communication and critical thinking skills, integrated with the study of traditional English literature and the literatures of the contemporary world. Through their studies, English students develop both a set of practical skills and an intellectual insight into the social and cultural values that have shaped our civilization in the past and which are an integral part of the dynamic forces shaping our present world. The skills acquired are important tools for professional development, and the knowledge gained provides an intellectual context in which to evaluate and pursue professional activity.

This type of education is especially valuable where leadership demands form a significant part of professional responsibility. Communication skills, thinking skills, and a strong sense of social and cultural identity provide the kind of educational foundation that allows English graduates to pursue successfully leadership positions in the profession of arms, in addition to such careers as Teaching, Law, Business Management, Politics, and Public Administration.

English Programme Testimonials

Ben Deutsch"I sincerely believe pursuing an education in English was the best decision I made while at RMC. Apart from the more obvious advantages it brought - such as skill in writing, communication, and comprehension - I found it gave me a more diverse and valuable outlook on the world around me. Through exploring literature through the ages, I could see into the trials of people from different times, cultures, and circumstances. I was forced to challenge my own views and adapt to interpret the words in front of me. In many ways, I found myself feeling the same pain or joy through the words of great writers and minds, and seeing the world as they must have – be it from a country churchyard or staring across the bay at the Lighthouse. I finished my time studying English with not only a better understanding of myself, but more importantly the ability to understand the perspectives and beliefs of others around me. I believe that is the most valuable asset an officer, or indeed any leader, can possess."

Ben Deutsch, Flag Lieutenant to the Commander Maritime Forces Atlantic/Joint Task Force Atlantic

"My education at RMC, particularly in English Literature, set me up to be successful in the field of emergency medicine. The consistent analysis of a plethora of texts has given me an exceptional ability to seek out, parse, and analyze the deluge of often conflicting information that a practitioner of emergency medicine must incorporate into their treatment plans to provide life-saving care. In addition, the level of participation encouraged within English classes taught me vital networking and professional discussion skills -- skills that are indispensable in hospitals where a vast array of health-care professionals collaborate in chaotic situations."

Jacob Charbonneau, former English major

"The beauty of an English degree is the depth of education that it provides to you. Not only are you receiving an education in literature, but you are receiving an education in history and culture. Here are a few examples of how my English degree helped me in my career:

In gender and literature and literary theory classes we studied stories of transgender people and issues, and gender performativity, which I was able to use when the discussion of the integration and acceptance of transgender people in the CAF started to be widely discussed a few years ago. I had a deeper understanding of the issue than most of my peers and subordinates, and I was able to have discussions with them, educate some, and help others see a point of view they may not have first considered, thus helping us grow as a team and make better decisions based on understanding and not prejudice.

Through Canadian literature classes, I learned about what makes up our collective identity as Canadians – who we are as a nation, what matters to us, and why we are the nation we have become. Being deployed in a multinational operating environment, and now working overseas, I have been, and I am, frequently challenged on what being Canadian means. The stories we read and discussions we had helped me understand my own identity as a Canadian, and also explain it to others. I believe my degree experience has strengthened my credibility as an officer in a multinational environment, but also helped me be a strong ambassador for my country.

In serving my country I may be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice; war literature provided an insight into the thoughts and feelings of those who made that sacrifice. I also learned of the weight words have when remembering the fallen, and how they shape our personal and collective memories. Serving your country is a complex, challenging, and difficult task, so reading stories from those who have gone before you helps you understand the significance of this task. Such stories have shaped the ethos and values I use and depend on every day to make the right choices.

My final example of how the degree has helped me professionally is as recent as a few months ago. The United Nations Command Headquarters (UNC HQ) required a structural change in order to meet the requirements of the operational environment and the demands being placed on the Command. An operational planning team (OPT) was conducted to determine the way forward for the Command. The task started with an analysis of the Terms of Reference for the UNC (a strategic level document published by the US government). I was the most junior person in the room in both rank and experience, but my ability to analyse language made me an important member of the team. My English degree taught me that every word is important and not to be overlooked. When the OPT was drafting the final documents I was able to challenge senior officers and see the difference between two words, close in meaning, and how the use of one over another may alter the meaning of a statement. My input was appreciated, and I have since participated in a follow up OPT during which I was tasked to draft and review the final order to be published. This kind of trust is not often placed in junior officers in this type of work environment, and I believe it was given to me because of the skills and knowledge I gained while studying in the English, Culture, and Communication Department.To me the OPT was no different than any of the classes I attended on the third floor of the Massey building, as it was not consideration of tactics that was of importance, but words, and choosing the right ones."

Capt Shona Couturier, Adjt, Canadian Contingent United Nations Command Korea / Canadian Armed Forces

"In my experience, the ability to communicate articulately and with confidence is the most important skill that a Naval Officer can possess. Whether you’re briefing the Commanding Officer on the bridge of a warship, providing detailed orders to ship’s  company, or conveying messages to Allied partners, communication is at the cornerstone of what we do. It’s true: a Naval Officer must understand the principles of math and physics. But at the end of the day, sailors don’t care about your ability to calculate nautical twilight. They’re concerned with your ability to motivate and lead through words and actions. I truly believe that learning to communicate and deliver a message in a way that your audience understands is a skill best learned through the study of language."

Marsalie MacKenzie, BAH English, RMC; MA War Studies, RMC; MA Journalism, Georgetown, (ongoing); Lieutenant (Navy); Flag Lieutenant to the Commander Canadian Defence Liaison Staff (Washington) Canadian Armed Forces.

"After graduating from the RMC English programme in 2012, I have flown numerous search and rescue missions as a navigator, deployed as an operations officer overseas, privately purchased a business, and more recently begun a staff tour at the busiest air base in Canada. Looking back at each of these experiences, I know that the foundational skills I learned during my English degree have been essential to my success. Arguably, the core of the English programme is applied critical thinking – distilling complex problems into their component parts and creating persuasive arguments. Whether flying in an operational squadron or supporting those operations in a staff position, the ability to identify problems quickly and clearly communicate solutions is paramount in the military context. This is what a degree in English gives you. The same skillset is also fundamental in running a company: you must be able to separate the signal from the noise in order to value a business. I have no doubt that the four years I spent learning to read critically and craft arguments prepared me for the professional challenges I have faced, and cannot recommend the department of English, Culture, and Communication highly enough as a solid foundation for a rewarding career."

Andrew Sheahan, former English major

"Every day at CJOC, the current Commander reads and listens to the words of numerous advisors and then makes decisions based on his own thoughts and the input of others; this does not happen without advanced critical thinking. Some of you might end up in that position one day. Some of you might become CDS. If so, you will have developed the same skills over the course of a long career in the CAF. But maybe you want to get a really big head start. Studying literature here will give you that head start. And it doesn’t matter which occupation you chose. You’ll become skilled at reading a text or listening to a speaker and determining the message. And these skills will prove especially valuable when you are in a fast-paced environment or handling an emergency situation. You’ll see times when you’ll find the message when others cannot see it. And, as a result, the answers will come to you quicker. The answers will come to you more quickly because your professors here encouraged you to closely examine words. The answers will come to you because you studied literature. The answers will come to you because you know that once you’ve read critically and think you have a response, you need to think some more. You’ll think about what answer your boss is looking for and you’ll think about what answer is appropriate. Sometimes these won’t be the same responses. Studying literature will not only prepare you for responding to leaders, but it will prepare you to be a leader. Studying literature is studying the human experience. It is the study of works written over many years by many authors. It is not one story, but many stories. The professors in the English, Culture, and Communication Department here at RMC encourage you to weigh and consider the reason and emotions of other humans. In doing so, they prepare you well for a life as a leader in the Canadian Armed Forces."

Kirk Sullivan, BAH English, MA Journalism (Georgetown, ongoing), Captain, Public Affairs Officer specializing in information operations and non-munition solutions during Canadian Armed Forces missions, Assistant Public Affairs Attaché, Canadian Armed Forces, Embassy of Canada, Washington, D.C.

"Since graduating from the RMC English program in 2015, I've constantly employed the skills I developed while completing my Honours English degree. As an intelligence officer, I'm expected to glean relevant information from a variety of sources, and develop a coherent assessment to present to the commander. These demands are remarkably similar to the skills required to excel in the RMC English, Culture, and Communication programme, where students are expected to gather a number of source documents, develop a thesis based on the information therein, and present it coherently to their audience. To me, the parallels are obvious. The study of literature also makes it possible for us to live vicariously through the experiences of others, to empathize with them, and understand their ways of thinking. This ability is valuable in the intelligence field, where we must routinely place ourselves in the position of our adversary, so that we might predict their future actions. An RMC English, Culture, and Communication degree will also teach you to express your ideas clearly and accurately, which I value immensely, as I'm now called upon to brief and create written products on a near daily basis. Clearly written and grammatically correct reports are afforded far more credibility than those riddled with spelling errors. Lastly, and I believe most importantly, the RMC English program fosters an innate curiosity for the world around us, a trait that has kept me motivated in challenging situations, and has driven me to continue learning and growing in my both my professional and personal life."

Captain Lauren Van Veen

“The English programme at RMC taught me three lessons: how to think critically, how to write well, and that academic work (contrary to popular belief) can actually be fun and fulfilling. The first two lessons have been indispensable to my military and civilian career. Whatever you know, or however clever you believe your ideas to be, is rather meaningless unless those ideas have survived the rigours of logic and critical thought. Clever ideas, moreover, are only as effective as they are communicated clearly. The Department of English, Culture, and Communication will brand these lessons into your cerebral hide and you will be grateful for it. If you are curious about the world, desire to understand how people work, and are prepared to be challenged by thoughtful and tolerant professors, then I would consider enrolling. Life exists outside of CADPAT, weapons drills, and battle procedure. Strive to understand how the rest of the world lives.”

Prior to taking on doctoral studies at Oxford, Matthew served in the CAF for almost a decade as an armour reconnaissance troop leader and an air strike specialist. He also worked for a King’s College London think-tank which specialises in open-source intelligence research in the security and nuclear non-proliferation field.

- Matthew Zelina, former English major, MSc (LSE, Conflict Studies), DPhil candidate (Oxford, International Relations), Current Research: non-state armed groups

Faculty and Staff of the Department of English


Phone: (613) 541-6000 ext. 6447

Fax : (613) 541-6405


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English, Culture, and Communication Undergraduate Programme

Programme requirements for the undergraduate English, Culture, and Communication programme at the Royal Military College of Canada.

Undergraduate English, Culture, and Communication Courses

Course descriptions for the undergraduate English, Culture, and Communication courses.

Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities Graduate Studies Programmes

Graduate Studies Masters and Doctoral programmes offered by the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at the Royal Military College of Canada.

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