UArctic Academics: Equipping Students for Their Northern Journeys
By Michael Castellini, Vice-President Academic, UArctic, Interim Dean, Graduate School, University of Alaska Fairbanks
From an academic perspective, a major goal of UArctic is to develop and provide pathways that allow students to learn more about the North, its peoples and its environment.
While most students involved in UArctic are from the North, there are many from other nations that are not polar but have a keen interest in northern issues.
Our approach to UArctic academics is to work with our 200 member institutions to provide classes, programs and study opportunities to all who are interested. UArctic itself does not provide degrees, teach classes or have faculty members, but relies on its member institutions to deliver programs through their own faculty and degree programs.
Throughout this magazine there are stories of individual students and their journeys in northern studies. Many of these are unique pathways of study, but they all share a common UArctic approach that we provide and support. There are five major themes found in UArctic academic programs:
Regardless of the subject area that a student may be interested in investigating, there must be access to that field of study. If a student wants to study international polar law related to land rights, there must be a way to access classes and faculty within the UArctic network. We highlight a wide range of opportunities through the UArctic Study Catalogue that are available to all students, either as on-site or online studies.
Classes are relevant to northern or polar studies. Courses in business models for equatorial water development would not be in high demand, while courses in water health issues in remote northern communities would be highly relevant.
If classes are both accessible and relevant, they directly lead to awareness of northern issues. There are significant concerns about food security, health, transportation, land use, resource development and many others in northern communities. It is vital that an academic pathway exists so that the awareness of these issues can be expanded both inside our member institutions and beyond to the public and leaders around the world.
Education about polar issues must extend beyond the world of sound-bites, 24-hour news cycles, billboards and bumper stickers. Only when a student is educated about these topics do they begin to understand the depth, complexities and background behind the headlines. UArctic provides these educational opportunities through academic classes offered by our members, endorsed programs and discussions on special topics.
When a student has moved through UArctic-supported classes that are accessible and relevant, they begin to understand the need for awareness and have the education in order to take action on those topics. That might include working on a public committee, publishing a story about the Arctic, or becoming teachers themselves. Through action, Arctic concerns can be addressed, advanced, debated and delivered.
The dozens of academic options within UArctic welcome you to join in our Shared Voices and shared stories. Hopefully you will be inspired to find classes and programs that are important to you and relevant to your communities. We urge you to investigate and sign up for some of those courses, study the issues, become aware of the depth of those issues, and finally take action to further your role in the future of the North.