New Arctic studies minor approved

Arctic Studies

Arctic Studies -

UW students in the winter quarter 2011 Task Force on Arctic Governance stand in front of Foreign Affairs, Canada in Ottawa. 

Photo by Nadine Fabbi | Courtesy Photo

The proposal for a new interdisciplinary minor in Arctic Studies by the Canadian Studies Center, Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Oceanography, and College of the Environment has been approved.

Vincent Gallucci, chair of the Canadian Studies Center in the Jackson School and director of the Center for Quantitative Sciences in the College of the Environment, said the minor initiative, the first of its kind outside of Alaska, is part of a larger mission to educate students on the globe-spanning social and ecological impacts of climate change affecting the poles of the planet.

“It’s absolutely the right timing, if not even late, to be trying to learn as much as possible about those poles — what will happen to them and what will be the consequences for the rest of the world,” Gallucci said. “Training students to be knowledgeable and capable of working in these environments is a major function of a university.”

The lead-up to the proposal for the minor introduced four courses starting Winter 2014 available under the new ARCTIC prefix in the UW course registration catalog. The establishment of the minor will give undergraduate students the opportunity to obtain the relevant skills with the objective of tackling major science and policy issues in the Arctic.

Nadine Fabbi, associate director of the Canadian Studies Center, said that training experts for the future is important in order to deal with this critical emerging region.

“[Access] to new resources are opening up, shipping lanes are opening up, indigenous peoples are working with nation states on decision making for the Arctic region,” Fabbi said. “All those are new things that are occurring.”

The Canadian Studies Center has had an Arctic initiative for more than a decade and had become involved with the University of the Arctic, a collaboration of universities, colleges, and organizations with an interest promotion research and education in the Arctic, in 2008. The partnership with the University of the Arctic in the minor initiative means that UW students can engage in arctic-subarctic research collaboration apart from taking up courses offered by the northern network of institutions. Fabbi added that being a part of the University of the Arctic network offers UW students the opportunity to be involved in a global virtual university. “It’s a terrific opportunity to be involved with students from around the circumpolar world. Students can be a part of a network that’s really trying to build a regional identity through education,” Fabbi said.

In a 2010 report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, minimum Arctic sea ice extent observed each September has diminished by a 12 percent average per decade compared to the 1979-2000 average. As climate change continues to alter the polar landscape and environment, unmeasurable shifts in the social, economic, and political foundations of populations in the circumpolar region require the attention of the social sciences. The Arctic studies interdisciplinary minor will be an educational intersection of policy, culture and science while simultaneously addressing the opening up of the emerging region on an extensive international scale.

“The nature of the minor is trying to offer a perspective on the Arctic that includes both the natural sciences and social sciences,” said senior Walter O’Toole, an English major who is interested in Inuit literature. “Any student interested in policy and natural sciences should definitely look into [pursuing] the minor.”

Fabbi also talked about the relevance of major science and policy issues at the Arctic gaining place in academic instruction.

“One of the beauties of this minor is that we designed it in such a way that it isn’t a stand-alone. There are electives from 20 different departments. [The minor] is meant for students to build on their major but also to look at it through the lens of the Arctic,” Fabbi said.

Reach reporter Naqiah Azhar at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @naqiaz

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