Every January, Centre College’s three-week CentreTerm gives students and faculty the chance to explore unique topics and faraway places through immersive courses, studying abroad or completing an internship or research project. A new course titled “Canada, the U.S. and Kentucky,” taught by Rahim Mohamed, visiting assistant professor of international studies, allows students to study the Canada–U.S. trade relationship and its impact on the Bluegrass state.
“Upon arriving in Kentucky this past summer, I was surprised to learn just how much of the state’s economy relies on trade,” Mohamed said. “International trade generated about 38 percent of the state’s gross domestic product (GDP)—making us one of the most trade-dependent states in the country—and Canada is by far and away our number one partner.”
Mohamed’s class is a first-year course, intended for students who have an interest in cross-border relations and learning how trade works. Several of his students are looking to major in economics or international studies.
“The intimate classroom environment and intensive format of CentreTerm makes it ideal for focused special topic courses like the one I’m teaching this term,” he said. “The topic of Canada–U.S. trade and its reverberations for the state economy here in Kentucky has also allowed me to bring a number of fascinating guest speakers. I’m thrilled to be able to provide my students such a unique learning experience.”
In conjunction with the World Trade Center Kentucky, Mohamed arranged a number of state business leaders to visit his class. Erran Persley, former commissioner of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, recently delivered a keynote address to the students, in addition to other guest speakers who discussed their respective experiences in cross-border commerce and on the implications of the new U.S.–Mexico–Canada trade deal for the state economy.
“Canada is the U.S.’ closest political ally and number one trading partner, but we often take it for granted,” Mohamed said. “As the respective economies of Canada and the U.S. will only become more intertwined, it’s important for students to develop at least some familiarity with the institutions and culture of our friendly neighbors to the north.”
Mohamed said the purpose of his course is “to give the students a sense of how Canada–U.S. relations have evolved over the years and a better theoretical understanding of how free trade agreements work.
“I hope to foster a general familiarity with Canada—and in particular its cultural distinctiveness from the U.S.,” Mohamed continued. “I’m also hoping to give them a foundation they can use to make sense of the ongoing political discourse that surrounds free trade and trade agreements.”
Through this course, Mohamed hopes his students will be able to distance themselves from the often heated political rhetoric surrounding trade agreements, like the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), and develop a greater understanding of these agreements and their potential impacts at a state and local level.
by Kerry Steinhofer
January 21, 2020
Header image: Erran Persley, former commissioner of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, delivers a keynote address to the students.