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The Model Arctic Council 2016 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks

The Arctic & Northern Studies Program and the Political Science Department at UAF hosted the Model Arctic Council (MAC) 2016 at UAF in March 2016. This was the first fully international Model Arctic Council. We organized the program as a Thematic Network within the University of the Arctic (UArctic), and it took place during the Arctic Science Summit Week. Sixty-five students representing fourteen birth countries and thirty-two universities participated in the week-long program.

The objectives of the MAC are to: 1) develop students’ knowledge of the Arctic as a region, of  circumpolar politics, and of northern Indigenous peoples; 2) increase students’ understanding of Arctic Council objectives and processes; 3) prepare students to assume leadership roles in the circumpolar north; and 4) enhance student and faculty collaboration among UArctic institutions. 

Students wrestled with challenges the Arctic Council actually addresses in the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) working group and the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG). The two PAME themes were: 1) Cruise Ship Tourism and 2) Managing Maritime Traffic for Marine Resource Development. The two SDWG projects were: 1) Access to safe drinking water and sanitation services (WASH) and 2) Reducing the high suicide rates among Indigenous peoples (Rising Sun). Students also simulated Senior Arctic Official meetings and a Ministerial meeting.

At the Closing Ceremony of the MAC 2016, student participants presented to an audience of Arctic Council Senior Arctic Officials and other delegates, UArctic leaders, University of Alaska Fairbanks administrators, and others the Fairbanks Declaration, which addressed the issues on which the MAC participants had deliberated and produced resolutions. U.S. Special Representative to the Arctic Admiral Robert Papp, U.S. Ambassador David Balton, UArctic President Lars Kullerud and UArctic Board of Governors Chair Brian Rogers addressed the students, congratulating them on their work in the Model Arctic Council and on their commitment to resolving the challenges the Arctic faces in the coming decades.

Overwhelmingly participants have praised the program, giving it high marks for the value of the experiential learning exercise and the quality of the intercultural exchange. The vast majority of participants say they would recommend the program to others. Our vision is that a UArctic member institution in the country chairing the Arctic Council will host the MAC in even years. Thus in 2018, the University of Lappland in Finland will host the MAC, and in 2020, an Icelandic university will host the MAC, and so on.

Carolyn Kozak appointed student ambassador to UArctic

Carolyn Kozak, a master’s student in Arctic and northern studies, has been named the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ student ambassador to the University of the Arctic.
UArctic is a network of more than 170 universities and other organizations concerned with education and research in the North.

Kozak will represent student perspectives in UArctic activities and events, including the UArctic Rector’s Forum and UArctic Student Forum. She also will represent UAF and UArctic at regional events organized by UArctic external partners, including meetings of the Arctic Council, the Arctic Circle Assembly, the Northern Research Forum, the International Arctic Social Sciences Association and more. Other duties and opportunities will include communicating UArctic news through social media, promoting UArctic opportunities among students, and serving as a liaison between the UArctic student community and UAF.

Kozak was born and raised in the Chicago area. She earned a bachelor’s degree in art history at William and Mary College. She moved to Anchorage in 2009, and for six years she worked at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center as a curator.
In January 2016, Kozak relocated to Fairbanks to enter the Arctic and northern studies program. Kozak is concentrating in northern history, and she holds a research assistantship with Professor John Heaton and the Western History Association. She recently participated in the Model Arctic Council 2016 at UAF and won a prize for outstanding performance.

Kozak is an avid skier and has enjoyed Fairbanks’ great trail conditions.

Arctic in the News

Alaskans slam Obama on U.S.-Canada Arctic plan


White House focuses on the Arctic -- President Obama establishes Arctic
Executive Steering Committee

Executive Order Enhancing Coordination of National Efforts in the Arctic -- January 21, 2015


Arctic and Northern Studies students, along with other University of Alaska students and faculty, on a trip to Toolik Field Station.


Welcome to the Arctic and Northern Studies Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Arctic and Northern Studies offers a BA and an MA that allow students to learn about the circumpolar north, or regions within it, from multiple disciplinary perspectives including anthropology, art, biology and wildlife management, economics, geography, history, journalism, literature, political science.  

Arctic and Northern Studies students benefit from the northern expertise and research experience of our faculty and from the comprehensive holdings of the Alaska and Polar Regions holdings of the Rasmuson Library. Faculty associated with the program have extensive northern expertise, and students have opportunities to work closely with these faculty as they conduct their research and in classes with low teacher/student ratios. For profiles of faculty who teach Northern Studies courses, follow the link to Associated Faculty.

Our students come from a variety of backgrounds and have diverse interests. The students themselves are a strong asset of the program! They tend to be preparing themselves for careers in the north and want to learn about the distinctive conditions and forces that shape our experiences.   Follow the link to About our Students for profiles on a number of our recent MA graduates.   For a partial list of MA thesis and project topics, follow the link to Student Theses and Projects.

For information about BA requirements, follow this link:   http://www.uaf.edu/catalog/current/programs/north_studies.html      

For information about the MA program and requirements, follow the link to MA in Northern Studies.

For inquiries about the program, follow the link to Contact Us.

Northern Studies Alumni Achievement

UAF Alumni Association

Kate Ripley, M.A.

Kate is executive director of the nonprofit UAF Alumni Association and director of alumni relations for UAF, a dual role she's held since December 2014. Prior to that, she worked for the University of Alaska System as public affairs director under two presidents, Mark Hamilton and Pat Gamble. She graduated with her Master's degree in Northern Studies in 2011 after spending about seven years pursuing the degree while working full-time and raising three children with her husband, UAF Journalism Professor Brian O'Donoghue. Her thesis, "Weekend Wilderness: The Cultural and Spiritual Necessity of the White Mountains National Recreation Area," explored the concept of backyard wilderness and outdoor spaces, and how proximity to urban areas makes these places unique by providing accessibility not found with designated wilderness.  Life adventures have included dog mushing, working as a newspaper journalist and building a cabin in Two Rivers with her husband. Her most recent adventure was when Brian was named a Fulbright-Nehru Scholar, which took the family to India for a year while Brian taught journalism at Symbiosis International University.The contrasts between the north country of Alaska and the Indian subcontinent were fascinating.  

NW Territories Government Consultant

Aaron Spitzer, MA

Weeks after completing his M.A. in Arctic and Northern Studies, Aaron Spitzer was hired by the Justice Ministry of the Government of the Northwest Territories, Canada, to assist in the electoral redistricting lawsuit City of Yellowknife vs. Attorney General of the Northwest Territories, 2015. Aaron’s thesis had explored a similar 1999 redistricting lawsuit pitting the largely Indigenous rural portion of the Northwest Territories against its predominantly non-Indigenous capital city, Yellowknife. Through his research, Aaron concluded that the ruling in that case, favouring Yellowknife, had facilitated the disempowerment of Indigenous Northerners in their homeland. The 2015 case had a different outcome – Aaron’s team prevailed, preserving the Indigenous share of representation in the territory.  
Following the hearing of the lawsuit, Aaron set off for the Canadian High Arctic, where he works for a few weeks each summer as an onboard history-and-politics lecturer with the expedition-cruise company Adventure Canada. This year’s cruise took him through the Northwest Passage, passing within a few miles of the recently discovered shipwreck of the Erebus, the flagship of Sir John Franklin’s doomed 1845 expedition.
Aaron Spitzer Thesis

Just Short of Magic
Dog Mushing School, Sled Dog Tours

Eleanor Wirts, M.A.

Eleanor Wirts, who earned her MA in 2010, researched the struggles that young Alaska Native males face in the 21st century. Her thesis title was: "Changes in Traditional Gender Roles Among Alaska Natives: Their Effects on Sense of Purpose, Direction, Identity, and Family and Community Stature."  Eleanor subsequently launched a tourist business based on her many years of experience in dog mushing. Just Short of Magic offers tours by dog sled to individuals and groups. Eleanor also provides lessons in dog mushing. The business is open year-round. In the summer she offers educational tours addressing a wide range of topics related to sled dogs. On the property at 16 mile Chena Hot Springs Road just outside Fairbanks, Eleanor has a Bed & Breakfast in her yurt. The cozy atmosphere, terrific northern lights viewing and her hot homemade breakfasts keep the yurt occupied night after night. Eleanor says: " I"m working my tail off, but I just love it and I'm so glad to be my own boss"  Here's a link to Just Short of Magic:  http://justshortofmagic.com/

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