By: Abby Nelson, Staff Writer
On September 18, USM was officially accepted into the University of the Arctic. UArctic is an association of over 200 colleges, universities, research institutes and other non-profits from the North Arctic region with a mission to “empower the people of the Circumpolar North by providing unique educational and research opportunities through collaboration within a powerful network of members,” according to the UArctic website.
“Over the past four years, the University of Southern Maine has played a leading state and national role in establishing North Atlantic partnerships and initiatives with universities and organizations here and overseas,” President Cummings said. “Being approved for membership in the University of the Arctic will now provide new research and partnership opportunities for our faculty and students in this ever-increasing important region of the world.”
President Cummings just returned from Sweden, where he gave a presentation before being accepted as a member of the UArctic.
“There’s a lot going on,” said Ross Hickey, the Assistant Provost for Research Integrity at USM, “From collaborative courses, Reykjavik University students taking USM classes online, and joint research initiatives. Becoming part of UArctic is one piece of USM’s ongoing work in the North Atlantic.” An example of this is the MeRTEC/Honors Program Scholarships offered by USM to help students spend a semester in Iceland or Norway while interning at a local company.
By joining the UArctic, USM, through the Maine-North Atlantic Institute, will enable programs like the MeRTEC/Honors Program to access funding and collaborators in the Arctic and High North Atlantic regions which will expand avenues for students to get direct hands-on international experiences where they will learn what is going on in the Arctic and its impact on other parts of the world.
“Through the Institute, USM is providing them (students) the opportunity to be engaged globally in a way that matters and informs their career pathways. For example, the Institute enables our students to be involved in those economic, social, environmental, cultural, and health questions related to the impacts of climate change on our communities and become leaders in the state in finding ways to solve those issues,” said Dr. Terry Shehata, the Senior Policy Associate for Research and Economic Development & Coordinator of the Maine Economic Improvement Fund at USM as well as the point person for the Institute.
USM’s connections with the North Arctic region began in 2013 when Iceland’s oldest shipping company Eimskip, moved its port of call from Virginia to Portland. This resulted in economical, social and educational exchanges with the Arctic, and USM wanted to be apart of it.
In 2015, a group of faculty from USM led by President Cummings traveled to Iceland where the annual Assembly of the Arctic meeting is held. It was there that connections were first formed and the initiative to become a part of UArctic was conspired.
“To our pleasant surprise, the interest among not only the faculty but the students, blossomed,” said Shehata, who was a member of the 2015 trip. He also accompanied President Cummings recently to Sweden.
This new connection shows that the university is not alone; there is a bigger initiative that reflects what the state of Maine is doing economically and socially with the Arctic.