Meet Canadian Studies: Board Member Kathleen Thompson Hill

Kathleen Thompson Hill

A Berkeley native, Kathleen Thompson Hill received degrees from U.C. Berkeley and the Sorbonne, followed by a Fellowship in Public Affairs with the Coro Foundation in San Francisco. Eventually she earned an M.A. in political psychology at Sonoma State University. Kathleen served as executive coordinator of the 25th Anniversary of the United Nations, worked for the Peace Corps and in the White House, and with her husband co-authored three political dictionaries, four law dictionaries, and an Encyclopedia of Federal Agencies and Commissions. She is currently Food & Wine Editor of the Sonoma Index-Tribune. Kathleen collects antique kitchen implements; an exhibition of her collection opens at the Napa Valley Museum later this month.

What is your connection to Canada?

I am not Canadian, but my husband Gerald and I had a home and lived in Victoria for 15 years. I regret selling it daily. We originally moved to Victoria because that was where my husband’s two older children live.

Out of deep interest in Canada, my husband and I researched and wrote papers comparing Canadian and US governmental approaches to environmental, justice, medical, and political systems. Those papers culminated in one called “What a Difference a Border Makes,” presented to several state, western states, and provincial political science associations, and to the International Political Science Association meeting that year in Quebec City.

How did you get involved with Canadian Studies?

One of the organizations that expressed interest in our papers was the Canadian Studies Program at my alma mater, Berkeley. At that time, Canadian Studies was led by Professor Tom Barnes, who founded the program, and longtime director Rita Ross. Professor Barnes taught history and law, and we got to know each other professionally and personally. Eventually, he invited my husband and me to substitute for him occasionally in his history and law classes.

What has your career been like in the US and Canada?

Tom and Rita introduced my husband and me to Richard Johnston and Ken Carty at the University of British Columbia, and they invited us to teach American politics and government, campaign management, comparative politics and comparative healthcare systems at UBC. We also taught these courses at the University of Victoria and Sonoma State University. Twice I was a Visiting Scholar with the Institute of Governmental Studies at Berkeley, and was hired by then-director Nelson Polsby to be the Institute’s marketing director.

Simultaneously, my husband and I were writing guidebooks to wine regions of the west coast of North America. We were awarded UBC prizes for our books on Victoria, Vancouver Island, and the Northwest Wine Country, and received UBC’s Just Desserts Award for “exceptional service to the students.”

What do you enjoy most about Canadian Studies at Berkeley?

I enjoy learning from varied backgrounds and interests represented by Canadian Studies’ Advisory Board members and speakers. I frequently attend the colloquia and the Zoom discussions that draw speakers and listeners from longer distances who could not participate if we only met in person in Moses Hall.

What are your goals as an advisory board member?

I am most grateful to have been invited to join the Advisory Board, as I always learn from the many experts who attend and present at our colloquia. As our out of date paper, “What a Difference a Border Makes” suggests, I would like to help develop a program to study and present a forum to create greater understanding among the countries of Canada, the U.S., and Mexico about what the three might do to work together on problems we share in these fast-changing times. I would also like to help create programs that attract Canadians and Americans around the Bay Area to participate in what we do and what we offer. To that end, I helped organize Canadian Studies’ first ever wine tasting of Canadian wines this year.

What was a memorable experience being an American in Canada?

While I was living in Victoria, I made a fool of myself on my daily walk along Dallas Road by carrying a full wine bottle upside down in the air to practice carrying a 3-pound torch for the 2002 Winter Olympics.