Robarts Centre relaunches Odessa Prize for the Study of Canada

After a four-year hiatus, the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies is relaunching the Odessa Prize for the Study of Canada. This award recognizes the best essay written in either English or French in a fourth-year undergraduate course at York University on a topic relevant to the study of Canada, including but not limited to: Canadian history, environment, politics, public policy, society, arts and literature. The winner of the competition will be awarded $1,000.

Faculty members are invited to submit one essay on behalf of a student, with a short covering letter explaining the context in which the work was written. The deadline for fall term courses is Jan. 25. The deadline for winter and year-long courses is May 3. Submissions will be adjudicated by a committee formed by the Robarts Centre, and the winner will be announced by June. Faculty members are asked to submit an electronic copy of the essay and provide the nominee’s York student number and current email to 

The Odessa Prize is one way the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies promotes a research culture at York University that advances the study of Canada. “This award helps us celebrate the research of our undergraduate students,” said Robarts Centre Acting Director Jean Michel Montsion. “It also creates opportunities for our young researchers and aspiring scholars to connect with the research networks on Canada that exist at York.”

Irvin Studin

Initially created in 2008, the Odessa Prize for the Study of Canada is made possible by the generous donation from York alumnus Irvin Studin (BBA ’99, PhD ’11), past Rhodes Scholar and Governor General’s Gold Medal winner, captain and two-time soccer All-Canadian with the York University men’s varsity soccer team. The Odessa Prize is dedicated to Studin’s parents, Yuri and Sima, both of whom hail from the famous port city of Odessa. The award was originally founded through the combined contributions of the many writers in Studin’s 2006 book, What is a Canadian? (McClelland & Stewart). Studin explains the rationale behind the creation of the award: “I hope the Odessa Prize plays some small role in spurring and rewarding the imagination of talented young Canadian thinkers and scholars as they examine the future of Canada and the grand potential of the Canadian project in the general human condition.”

In the past, this award not only recognized the exceptional work of York undergraduate students, it also encouraged them to pursue their academic aspirations. The most recent winner of the Odessa Prize, Jesse Thistle (BA ’15), is now a PhD candidate in the Department of History at York University. “Amongst undergrads whose work falls under the umbrella of topics related to Canada, the Odessa is the biggest award one can win,” said Thistle. “I remember when I first heard I’d won and the validation I felt and still feel today. To be appreciated and rewarded on such a high level did much to change the trajectory of my scholarly career.”

Besides the cash prize and the recognition associated with the honour of authoring the best undergraduate essay on a topic relevant to Canada within the York community, the winner of the Odessa Prize will be nominated by the Robarts Centre for the Best Canadian Studies Undergraduate Essay/Thesis Prize awarded by the Canadian Studies Network.