Distinguished Canadian alumni: The Right Honourable Kim Campbell

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From 1970 to 1973, The Right Honourable Kim Campbell pursued three years of graduate work in Soviet Studies at LSE.

We are pleased to share her reflections on her program of study at the LSE, what student life was like in London – as well as her advice for current students.

Interview by Ryan Khan
Edited by Hilary Carter

Why did you choose LSE?

“I liked the idea of travelling and studying in Britain. The great thing about LSE was it was in the heart of London, where other schools such as Oxford and Cambridge were a bit more secluded. In London, there were many exciting and adventurous things to do.”

What in particular did you enjoy doing when not in class?

“I very much enjoyed going to the theatre. I saw it as a way of forming and shaping my personal development. Consequently, I spent every spare penny at the theatre. My most memorable opera was Il trovatore, and my favourite actors included Judy Dench, Sir Ralph Richardson, and Laurence Olivier, to name a few!”

Were you a part of any extra-curricular activities at the LSE specifically?

“I was President of the LSE Music Society and was part of the choir. At the LSE there was a great interest amongst my colleagues for a balanced life and in being a well-rounded person.”

What was happening in London during the time of your studies?

“One of my memorable moments was the Women’s Liberation March, which started from Hyde Park and proceeded to Trafalgar Square. At the time I didn’t realize how historic the march would come to be seen. We were men and women marching side-by-side. Women’s Liberation was still seen as somewhat radical. In fact, the London Times coverage had a headline to the effect of: “Pendulous Breasts under Heavy Coats,” as they assumed we women were all braless! It was pretty outrageous- the only thing they could think of to say about it!”

What were the highlights of your Soviet Studies doctoral program?

“I saw notable speakers presenting at the school, in particular, George F. Kennan, Isaiah Berlin, and Michael Oakeshott. My supervisor was Prof. Leonard Shapiro, one of the great Soviet Studies scholars. My 3-month study trip to the Soviet Union in 1972 was a remarkable experience.”

How did you come to the decision not to complete your graduate studies?

“In the third year of my PhD, I got married and when I returned to Canada the following year I began teaching at the University of British Columbia as a Sessional Lecturer. It was then that I discovered I did not necessarily want to be a scholar. Instead of studying policy, I wanted to be making policy.”

How did your LSE studies benefit you throughout your career?

“One of the greatest takeaways from the environment of the LSE was that there were students from all over the world, so whenever an international event or crisis occurred, some part of the student body would be demonstrating, or speaking out or otherwise expressing concern. I also came to see the reality of the British class system, which is much more defined than any social hierarchy in Canada.”

What advice do you have for recent graduates?

“It is critical to note that what you get from a degree is not necessarily the skills that you need for the job market, but they are certainly the skills that are needed to navigate through the world. One of the greatest takeaways from the learning process is having the skills to “know how to learn.” This is to be emphasized greatly, as a major component of learning and studying at the LSE is research, and understanding how to research critically and effectively. Of particular interest in this day and age are the numerous different career paths that exist today that didn’t exist years ago, so it’s crucial to “keep your mind open.” This is why being in London is so wonderful, as being in such a globalized and international location presents numerous ways in which to engage your brain and your world, in and of itself. Most notable for individuals currently studying in London is: take advantage of London!”

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