By Ellen Tsaprailis
Photos by Lindsay Ralph

Zachary Chackowicz is the first Carleton University graduate student to complete a thesis in the only program of its kind in Canada.

The Master of Arts in Migration and Diaspora Studies (MDS) student will receive his degree along with a Senate Medal for his thesis at Fall Convocation on November 12, 2022.

Chackowicz’ medal-winning thesis is titled, Diaspora Nation: Ireland’s Diaspora and Asylum Policies, and the Attempt to Deterritorialise the Irish State. With a transnational approach, Chackowicz brings Irish policies of building ties with its mostly American diaspora into conversation with Ireland’s asylum policies and treatment of immigrants.

“While aspects of these policies have been studied separately, Zach makes a novel scholarly intervention by demonstrating how both of these policies are part of a larger project aimed at deterritorializing the Irish nation in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis,” says Associate Professor of Modern and Contemporary European History James Casteel, who is Program Director for MDS and Chackowicz’ grad supervisor. “His work will be extremely useful as a model for the study of diaspora policies in other states by showing how migration and diaspora policies are embedded in complex dynamics of inclusion and exclusion.”

Zachary Chackowicz, MA in Migration and Diaspora Studies

The MA program in MDS began in September 2020 and Chackowicz has been a part of the first cohort that has gone through the program, and the first to complete the thesis pathway.

“We have three pathways for the degree,” says Casteel. “There’s a coursework pathway, a research essay pathway, and then the thesis pathway. Zach is the first one who chose and finished the thesis pathway and that’s an important milestone for us to see that process come to fruition. And we are very pleased he was awarded the Senate Medal for his thesis.”

With both a bachelor and master’s in history from McGill University, Chackowicz was intrigued by Carleton’s new MDS program to take on a second master’s degree.

“The impact that generations have on the creation of identities and integration through migration and immigration has always interested me,” says Chackowicz. “To see that there was a program speaking to those exact interests, I was incredibly interested.

“I came in diaspora-centric but it’s impossible to take away the role that migration plays, so because of this program I feel I have the well-rounded skill set to work in the heritage sector or immigration.”

Within this first MDS cohort was a mix of students of different generations with many having substantial work experience that brought new ideas and perspectives that Chackowicz appreciated.

“It was people describing how the course readings applied to their life that made an impact. And so, I had this incredibly fascinating situation within an academic context that I’d never experienced,” says Chackowicz. “I’m very grateful because that really put things in perspective for me.”

Zachary Chackowicz with his grad supervisor and MDS Program Director James Casteel

Online Experience
In the second year of the program, Chackowicz moved to Ottawa with the intention of going to class in person but public health guidelines changed and classes were back online.

“In spite of the fact that the program ended up being all online, I was very fortunate that I loved all my professors and ended up in a great situation,” says Chackowicz.

Chackowicz’ only requirement to be in-person ended up being for his thesis defence.

“Zach’s thesis defence was great because it was the first time he met some of the committee members in person and it was his first official visit to campus,” says Casteel.

An unusual experience but a positive one says Chackowicz.

“Being online was its own unique challenge and I think about how we are going to talk about this unprecedented moment in history. It’s interesting to be part of such a moment with the highs and lows, but overall, I think I came out for the better.”

Wednesday, November 9, 2022 in
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