Faced with the global COVID pandemic, many universities have scrambled to put their academic programs online. The master’s program in Governance and Entrepreneurship in Northern and Indigenous Areas (GENI) was, inadvertently, well suited to weather the challenge.

When UiT The Arctic University of Norway and the University of Saskatchewan, Canada launched the GENI program in 2015, they had little choice but to make it an online endeavour. The purpose of the program is to build human capacity for governance and policy in northern and Indigenous communities by putting local challenges into the regional context of the Circumpolar North. An online program, reasoned the founders, allows students in those communities to remain in place, rather than moving to an urban centre.

“On-campus programs risk contributing to a ‘brain drain’ out of the North,” says Program Manager Emmy Stavostrand Neuls. “GENI allows students who want to remain rooted in northern communities to stay where they are needed.”

In order to facilitate the involvement of working professionals, the program is offered part time (over four years) as well as full time (over two years). GENI also allows students to benefit from the combined knowledge instructors at both institutions and from their peers around the world. Since its inception, the GENI program has welcomed students from across Europe and across North America who share important insights and lessons from their own lived experiences.

As an online program by design, GENI students and instructors have not had to struggle to adapt to the “new normal” the way that many have. The program is not, however, totally unaffected by the pandemic. Normally, GENI students are invited to participate in two week-long field schools in Northern Norway and Northern Saskatchewan. The global pandemic has made field schools impossible this year, but UArctic’s north2north mobility program has recently decided to provide funding to facilitate a “Virtual GENI Community Sharing Initiative” instead.

The program also requires students to conduct applied research projects in collaboration with community and institutional hosts, and normally this work is done on-site. “Our students have risen to the challenge and developed impressive research projects that benefit their hosts, but which don’t require travel,” says GENI’s academic coordinator, Jonathan Crossen.

In 2019, the GENI program received UArctic's prestigious Academic Endorsement for its strong alignment with the UArctic mission to develop “knowledge to address local and global challenges of relevance to Arctic peoples and societies” by providing an education relevant and applicable to the North.

More information about the program can be accessed via the USask program website, and the UiT program site.

Interested candidates are encouraged to apply before the 15 March 2021 deadline.