By Brandon Boylan, Lead of the UArctic Thematic Network
on Model Arctic Council, Associate Professor, University of
Alaska Fairbanks and
Mary Ehrlander, Lead of the UArctic Thematic Network on Model Arctic Council, Professor, Director, Arctic and Northern Studies, University of Alaska Fairbanks
The Model Arctic Council is an academic program that brings graduate and undergraduate university students together to learn about the Arctic by simulating the work of the Arctic Council. Students from various disciplines role play Arctic Council delegates, wrestling with the reallife challenges and opportunities faced by Arctic peoples and countries – issues that must be tackled multilaterally. Organized as a UArctic Thematic Network, the pan-Arctic program takes place every second year at a UArctic member university in the country chairing the Arctic Council, with regional programs held in interim years.
The first fully international Model Arctic Council took place during the US chairmanship at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) in March 2016, prior to an Arctic Council Senior Arctic Officials meeting in Fairbanks and during the Arctic Science Summit Week (ASSW). This opportune timing permitted interaction between Arctic Council delegates and Model Arctic Council participants, and allowed the students to participate in ASSW’s International Day of the Arctic, a series of forums with Arctic political leaders and scholars.
Sixty-five students representing 32 universities and 14 countries took part in the Model Arctic Council 2016. Students praised the program, saying they felt they had learned more than they would have in a conventional classroom setting. They found the intercultural exchange and the work on actual Arctic Council priorities especially meaningful. As one student later noted in an email, “The positive effects from all the activities that week will continue to ripple and be felt in the unique stories we all choose to tell with our lives. I feel so lucky to have been a part of it.”
In June 2017 Dartmouth College, in collaboration with UAF faculty, sponsored a regional Model Arctic Council within the US-Canada Arctic Science Diplomacy and Leadership Workshop & Model Arctic Council. Twenty-five students participated, mostly from US and Canadian universities. They simulated the work of the Arctic Council’s Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) on operationalizing One Health in the Arctic, and developed communication action plans on five urgent climate change-related Arctic health concerns. The Dartmouth program’s strengths included its extensive engagement with Arctic Council delegates, which lent authenticity to the program, and its emphasis on leadership development. Students also emphasized the interdisciplinary nature of the program. Some said they found the immersion in Arctic affairs and intense collaboration transformative.
The next fully international Model Arctic Council will take place October 29 – November 2, 2018 at the University of Lapland in Rovaniemi, Finland. A Senior Arctic Officials meeting during the same week will once again permit interaction between the participating students and Arctic Council delegates.