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UAF, Alaska Will be Busy Through 2016 During U.S. Term as Chair of Arctic Council

Arctic Council

Now that the United States has assumed chairmanship of the Arctic Council, the University of Alaska Fairbanks will play a central role in carrying out the U.S. agenda in the region, UAF’s top two administrators said Friday.

Chancellor Brian Rogers outlined that role Friday morning before a live webcast of the Arctic Council meeting at the Murie Building on the campus’s West Ridge. During the meeting, Canada formally relinquished the presiding role to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Rogers told a group watching the event that as the nation’s Arctic university and founding member of the international academic organization known as the Arctic University, UAF has always been active in shaping and informing U.S. policy for the far northern regions. Rogers says UAF’s role will increase during nation’s two-year term heading up the Arctic Council.

“This is a really important time for the University of Alaska-Fairbanks as well,” he said. “We have the expertise, we have the reputation to make significant contributions to support the work of the Arctic Council, to support Arctic policy and science generally.”

Rogers says members of UAF’s administration, staff and faculty have contributed to the work of the eight-nation council over its 20 years of existence, along with it several auxiliary and advisory panels.

Credit Leah Glasscock-Sanders/UAF
Evon Peter, UAF’s vice chancellor for Rural, Community and Native Education, attended last week's ceremony in Iqaliut as a representative of the Gwich’in Council International, one of six organizations that represent indigenous peoples of the Arctic. The six organizations are permanent participants of the council.

He noted that the UAF’s Vice Chancellor for Rural, Community and Native is a member of one of the panels representing Arctic indigenous peoples, and that he was attending the council’s ministerial meeting in Iqaluit, the capital of the Canadian territory of Nunavut.

“Vice Chancellor Evon Peter is representing one of the permanent participants, the Gwich’in Council International,” Rogers said.

He says two others from UAF were among 17 others from around the country chosen as Fulbright scholars to work with the Arctic Council. They are UAF assistant professor of ecology Tamara Harms and Gwen Holdmann, director of the UAF Alaska Center for Energy and Power

Vice chancellor Mike Sfraga serves as co-director of the Center for Arctic Policy Studies and helped select the 17 Fulbright scholars who will work with the council. He says they’ll help the U.S. carry out its agenda to research climate change, protect the Arctic Ocean and help improve the quality of life for the people who live the region.

“There are four areas that these scholars will focus on in the next 18 months: energy, water, infrastructure and health,” Sfraga said.

Rogers says UAF will see a lot of Arctic Council-related activity over the next two years, and beyond that will attract international scholars and diplomats from all council member nations and several observer and advisory groups.

Upcoming activities include an Arctic Energy Summit and a Polar Law Symposium this fall, which will include events at the University of Alaska-Anchorage; and a major event, the Arctic Science Symposium, in March.

Rogers says the council itself will be meeting in Alaska over the next two years. He says members of its delegations and its advisory panels will frequently be coming to the state, along with observers and non-governmental organizations that are associated with the council.