March 28, 2008
By Kirk Sibbald
The new dean of the University of the Arctic’s Office of Undergraduate Studies will be focusing on extending the virtual institution’s base at the U of S, as well as expanding UArctic’s undergraduate curriculum once her term begins July 1.
Hayley Hesseln, associate professor with the Department of Agricultural Economics, will be taking over the position from Greg Poelzer, professor of Political Studies, who recently announced he would be stepping down as dean. UArtic is a cooperative network of 110 universities, colleges and other institutions committed to research and education related to the north, and the undergraduate office at the U of S is one of nine UArctic offices around the world.
Situated here since 2003, the office oversees the undergraduate program in Circumpolar Studies. Hesseln said this program consists of seven required courses and concentration in one specific area, such as aboriginal governance, northern tourism or international project management, among others.
Growing up in Uranium City, and focusing her scholarly research on forestry, Hesseln said she brings to the position a strong affinity for the north. The current agreement between UArctic and the U of S expires on June 30, 2009, and one of Hesseln’s main priorities will be to extend what she says is a valuable partnership for both parties.
“There are a bunch of us on campus that hope that will happen. We think having the University of Arctic here is really important, because we have a whole suite of experts in northern studies,” she said. “So having (UArctic) here really helps bring all the northern research together here on campus.”
According to a report from the Office of the Provost, the U of S has established a group to explore the feasibility of remaining a UArctic host institution beyond 2009. Once recommendations from this group are compiled, they will be reviewed by the Provost’s Committee on Integrated Planning (PCIP).
Because certain courses are only offered onsite at various affiliated institutions, Hesseln will also be pushing UArctic for more online course offerings to help bridge what can be substantial geographic barriers.
“For example, if a student in Iceland is interested in taking something that is only offered here in Canada, they could instead sign up online. In this sense, there is a lot more opportunity to expand (UArctic’s) global reach,” she said.
“Coming together over time and space is difficult sometimes, so I think that’s probably the biggest challenge.”