Agreement & meeting boost UArctic at U of S
By Lawrence McMahen
The University of Saskatchewan’s involvement in the fledgling University of the Arctic took a leap forward this month with expressions of interest in new northern programs from many across campus, and with the formal signing of an agreement for the U of S to host UArctic’s Office of Undergraduate Studies (OUS).
UArctic doesn’t have its own campus. It is a network of about 70 universities and other bodies committed to circumpolar higher education that is relevant and accessible to northern students.
UArctic Director Lars Kullerud of Norway visited the U of S Feb. 10 to sign the OUS agreement with President Peter MacKinnon and to meet with faculty and researchers interested in pursuing new northern programs linked to other circumpolar universities through UArctic.
Kullerud and Greg Poelzer, the U of S assistant professor of Political Studies who is Dean of UArctic’s Undergraduate Studies Office, located on campus, say they were overwhelmed by the large turnout for the academic meeting with Kullerud.
Sixteen U of S people came out, including representatives of the Northern Ecosystems Toxicology Initiative (NETI), Extension Division, the Political Studies department, the Library, the Plant Sciences department, the University Secretary’s Office, and the Institute of Space and Atmospheric Studies. Some of them told Kullerud they are already either offering programs in conjunction with other northern universities or planning to, and virtually all said they are eager to pursue more research or teaching with other universities that are members of UArctic.
One faculty member told Kullerud the U of S will host the 2007 International Plant Cold Hardiness Conference, and wants to develop a two-week-long graduate-level course on the subject, to be offered in Saskatoon to students coming through UArctic member institutions. Poelzer notes that the U of S has many areas of excellence which are good candidates for linking up to a wider audience through UArctic.
He says the Arctic Parasitology Group, the Hydrology Centre, and NETI are all excellent examples.
In fact, he adds, in December the U of S approved new program offerings in Aboriginal Public Administration and Northern Land Contaminants, which will also be new “advanced emphases” for UArctic.
Kullerud told the meeting he is interested in seeing tangible, focused projects which develop specific courses that can be linked and offered to students at UArctic member institutions. He said he’s “very impressed” with the capacity for this at the U of S and he sees “enormous possibilities for partnerships” with other universities and research bodies.
The UArctic-U of S agreement formalizes U of S hosting of UArctic’s undergrad office, and Poelzer’s position as dean of that office. The U of S also agrees to provide two offices and some other support in kind. Poelzer is supported by Program Assistant Heather Exner and half-time Science Co-ordinator Tuula Thomlinson.
Poelzer notes that he administers an umbrella UArctic program – Bachelor of Circumpolar Studies (BCS) – which has already put through 535 students in a variety of interdisciplinary north-related courses.
The U of S joined UArctic in 2002 and began hosting the undergraduate office in mid-2003 when Poelzer came to the University from the University of Northern B.C.
Poelzer says the response of President MacKinnon and Provost and Vice-President Academic Michael Atkinson in supporting UArctic “has been tremendous”, and he adds Arts and Science Dean Jo-Anne Dillon is lending a great deal of support in helping the Northern Studies degree program gain approval through University Council and its committees.
UArctic member institutions are in Canada, Russia, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, the United States, Greenland, Denmark and the United Kingdom.