By Dr. Greg Poelzer, one of three Fulbright Arctic Scholars from Canada
The challenges facing the people and lands of the Circumpolar North are huge. So, too, are the opportunities. Coming to grips with the sheer breadth and complexity of interdependent issues ranging from energy to water, and from infrastructure to health, requires problem-oriented, multidisciplinary research teams, drawing on diverse experiences from around the Circumpolar North. For scholars who have dedicated their life’s work to research, teaching, and community engagement in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, the Fulbright Arctic Initiative represents a once-in-a-life time opportunity.
Photo by Acacia Johnson
The Fulbright Arctic Initiative was publicly launched through a panel discussion on the ‘Challenges of Conducting Research in the Arctic’ in Ottawa, Canada on April 22, 2015. A launch is an exciting affair. A launch bursts with anticipation of the new possibilities and partnerships, and of life-long working relations among new colleagues and soon to be new friends. A launch also marks the significance of the event. In the case of the Fulbright Arctic Initiative, the significance is a public declaration by the participants of their professional commitment to devote their research energies to a greater public good, namely, toward the betterment of the lives of residents of the Circumpolar North. As one of the panelists on that day, it was impossible not to be struck by the tremendous opportunity and the important responsibility that the Fulbright Arctic Initiative represents. The launch of the Fulbright Arctic Initiative itself could not have been better timed. The launch preceded the Arctic Council ministerial meeting in Iqaluit, with the handing of the chairmanship from Canada to the United States, but it also took place on Earth Day.
Opening remarks were given by U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman
Dr. Michael K. Hawes, Fulbright Canada CEO introduced the Fulbright Arctic Initiative and the Arctic scholars
Panelists included Ross Virginia, Director of the Institute of Arctic, Dartmouth College, and Co-Lead of the Initiative; myself, one of the three Canadian scholars selected to participate in the endeavor; and Tracy Coates, a Mohawk scholar working at the University of Ottawa, who brought important insights and reflections on the role of Indigenous knowledge in contemporary research. Ross provided an overview of the Initiative itself, and the scholars involved, as well as his perspectives on the challenges and opportunities ahead. Ross and his Co-Lead, Michael Sfraga, Vice-Chancellor, University of Alaska Fairbanks, bring tremendous leadership experience to guide this international endeavor.
A few weeks prior to the launch, the Fulbright Arctic Initiative Scholars had an opportunity to meet one another via webinar. Although we are diverse group with unique life experiences and different research career paths, we quickly discovered that we were fundamentally united in a commitment that our research should, first and foremost, emerge through partnerships with Northern communities and, equally as important, serve the betterment of the peoples and regions of the Circumpolar North.
But, perhaps one of the most rewarding moments of the event was when an Inuk young man asked how we can connect Northern youth with our research, and Northern research in general, and how we can build capacity in Northern communities through research. He reached out to us, underscoring a core value of the Fulbright Arctic Initiative. We can do tremendous things working together and harnessing all of our talents, energies, and visions. The future of the Arctic has never looked brighter!
Dr. Greg Poelzer, Michèle Phillips, Program Officer for External Relations at Fulbright Canada, Acacia Johnson, Photographer and Fulbright Scholar, and Dr. Ross Virginia, Co-Lead Scholar of Fulbright Arctic Initiative – Being silly at the vernissage