Asgeir Brekke had always had an interest in the cooperation between different higher education institutions in the North. So, when he was approached by the University of Tromsø in 1997 to get involved with a new organization called the University of the Arctic, it was a natural response for him to say "yes".
"I have had a long career in the North," says Brekke, who is a professor at the University of Tromsø in Tromsø Norway.
Brekke’s involvement lead him to become the interim chair for the Council of UArctic from 1998-2001. As chair, his main job was to arrange the meetings, and also to lead them in an orderly fashion. He says UArctic did face some challenges in the early years, especially in getting funding from all the circumpolar countries involved, especially Canada and Norway. However, when UArctic officially launched in 2001, he knew that it would help to alleviate some of the funding problems.
"I was kind of relieved that the organization was in good shape and that they would hire a full-time director," he says.
According to Brekke, an important aim during UArctic’s early years was to get Russia involved. Therefore, he says, Russia could benefit from being involved with UArctic. He also says the increased involvement of Russian institutions since UArctic’s launch goes to prove UArctic’s success.
"If it’s improved a lot, it’s a good assessment for UArctic and I’m happy about that," he says.
Brekke strongly believes that UArctic has an important role in the Circumpolar North to help indigenous young peoples to get access to post secondary education. He also says that he believes that UArctic will continue to be strong in another five years.
"UArctic has created more interest in circumpolar countries, so it will expand UArctic," he says.
Brekke left UArctic to pursue other projects in 2001. However, he says his experience with UArctic was positive and has continued to follow the organization and its accomplishments a little bit. He also had many warm memories.
"What I remember best and with some joy was all the trips UArctic offered in the arctic areas, and being able to meet people in those areas and visiting the small colleges there," he says.