Several ACNS students and alumni attended and participated in the Alaska Historical Society and Museums Association conference September 27-30 in Anchorage. Pictured standing from left are: Carolyn Kozak Loeffler, Katie Hayden, Janine Dorsey, Russ Vanderlugt, Brenda Dow, Leanna Williams, Mary Ehrlander (ACNS Director), Michael Bach and Susan Larrabee. Kneeling are Chris Allan and Angie Schmidt. At the conference Carolyn Kozak Loeffler, Katie Hayden, Russ Vanderlugt, Mary Ehrlander, Pierce Bateman and Anne Rittgers (these last two missing from the photo) presented on their research. Also, ACNS alumnus Hild Peters (2014; not pictured) and her husband Guy Peters made a joint presentation at the conference.


Arctic & Northern Studies graduate students Angela Linn, Brenda Dow, Carolyn Kozak and Katie Hayden stand in the Great Hall, Fine Arts Complex, in front of posters featuring their research, during the Week of the Arctic at UAF. Mary Ehrlander, Director of Arctic & Northern Studies, stands in the center of the group.

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:     

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
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:

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