"A day to remember."
Olav Hesjedal attended the University of the Arctic’s (UArctic) launch in 2001 at the Arctic Centre in Rovaniemi Finland, as the council representative for the Scandinavian Seminar Group, which has offices in the US and Sweden. He says he remembers the day of UArctic’s launch with a lot of pride.
"It was a great thing," says the native Norwegian. "It was nice to have the media and the political focus it brought with it."
Hesjedal also says he was happy that UArctic was able to overcome some hurdles to become a reality.
"It is always difficult to launch collaborations like this," he says. "We were all proud that we could launch UArctic at this time."
Hesjedal’s attendance at UArctic’s launch wasn’t the first time the academic advisor for the Scandinavian Seminar Group was involved with UArctic. Hesjedal first heard about the idea to create the UArctic in the autumn of 1997. After several contacts between UArctic Interim Council and Scandinavan Seminar, a formal agreement on the development and implementation of an Interdisciplinary Circumpolar Studies Program was signed in 1999. Based on the agreement, Hesjedal on behalf of Scandinavian Seminar joined the UArctic Interim Council an also assisted in the development of two of UArctic’s flagship programs: the Circumpolar Studies Program (BCS) and north2north. Later, he has been involved in the GoNorth program development and the initial phase of the UArctic Course Database.
Looking back at the past five years of UArctic’s existence, Hesjedal sees the development of a platform for circumpolar collaboration on higher education, along with the launching of several programs as a major success. He says UArctic, despite limited resources and funding, has developed very well as a collaborative effort. The reason behind this achievement is the ability of everyone in UArctic to work together in developing the organization. "There is a lot enthusiasm involved," he says. "Without that, it wouldn’t be a success."
Despite UArctic’s successes, Hesjedal says the organization has many areas to expand on among others Open Learning. He also says UArctic needs to continue to find ways to financially support an even broader participation by member institutions in UArctic programs.
Looking ahead, Hesjedal believes UArctic will have an important role in educating the world about the North. The Circumpolar North has been receiving more political attention in recent years because of climate change, and the search for more natural resources. Hesjedal believes these issues will gain even more importance in five years time.
"I hope politicians see UArctic as an invaluable vehicle in the work for strengthening the Circumpolar North by building human capital through higher education," says Hesjedal.