UArctic comes into fruition
Lex Treinen/Special to the Sun Star
February 12, 2013
UAF prepares to host dozens of university chancellors at the University of the Arctic’s Council meeting this summer. Few students at UAF have heard of the University of the Arctic, and even fewer know what it does, but the University of the Arctic stretches across UAF departments and countries and offers huge possibilities for research collaboration and student exchanges that many of us take for granted.
This year, I was invited by the UAF Office of International Programs to attend the UArctic’s Student Forum in Winnipeg, Canada to offer a perspective from UAF. Like most UAF students, I had little idea what UArctic was, but when I arrived at our midtown hotel in Winnipeg, I found out that I was not the only one who was confused—hardly anyone knew what UArctic was and what they were supposed to be doing in Winnipeg.
“The name University of the Arctic is misleading,” Pierre-Andre Forest, a senior administrator of UArctic told us soon after we arrived. First of all, UArctic is not really a university since it has no curriculum or even a physical location. As UAF Office of International Programs Director Donna Anger put it, UArctic’s character is that of its member institutions, including UAF. Most UAF students might be exposed to the UArctic through North2North, one of the OIP’s exchange options, which allows students to study at any of the member universities in the North while paying their home university’s tuition. This year UAF is hosting five students while sending two abroad.
At the Forum in Winnipeg, there were students from Sweden, Russia, Finland, Sweden,
Canada, Japan and even Malaysia. We spent our first day in downtown Winnipeg getting to know each other and starting brainstorming. The thick new snow and blizzard winds that shut down the highways around Winnipeg reminded us what a unique and precarious place all students of the Arctic work in, while the diversity of our group helped us understand the challenges of intercultural cooperation and understanding. The next day we went to a resort on the border of Riding Mountain National Park. At the end of our stay, we returned to Winnipeg and presented a declaration to the rectors of UArctic that included a proposal of a student council with a representative from every member institution.
Anger said that developing a sense of an Arctic identity was a turning point in her understanding of her life in the North as well as UAF’s. According to Anger, our university used to try to be as similar as it could to universities in the Lower-48, but now it is discovering that as America’s northernmost university, UAF has much in common with other Northern universities too.
North2North program participant Salla-mari Koistinen, an
Art student from the University of Lapland in Finland said that being in the North is not just a physical location, “its how your life feels: the nature, the life, the time.”
To some, the exchange program is the opportunity for educational opportunities. Timofey Postnikov, a Petroleum Engineering student from the Northern Arctic Federal University in Arkhangelsk,
has worked with the engineering experts at UAF on technology “that has not been implemented anywhere else.”
University of Oulu in Finland student Aino Oester, has also used her time in Alaska to explore the indigenous peoples, by taking classes like Native Cultures of Alaska. Not only do these students help fulfill the mission of UArctic, but also of UAF, which promotes itself as an “international center for research, education, and the arts, emphasizing the circumpolar North and its diverse peoples.”
As UArctic continues to develop in the coming years, I hope that UAF students and faculty will see more
use in the programs it offers. UAF, one of the founding members of UArctic, plays a prominent role at the administrative level with Chancellor Rogers serving as a member of the UArctic Board of Governors.
Whether you are a sophomore looking for a winter of snowboarding in Sweden
or a grad student looking for expert advic e and state-of-the-art facilities in Finland, UArctic has can help you achieve your goals while simultaneously developing connections with friends and colleagues throughout the North.
If you are interested in the possibilities of UArctic, students
should visit the University of the Arctic website at UArctic.org, like the University of the Arctic Facebook page and attend the study abroad fair this Monday, Feb. 11 or Tuesday, Feb. 12 to discover the possibilities of studying abroad.