The Office of Undergraduate Studies had requested all current and former Canadian students who completed courses in the Circumpolar Studies Program to submit their student stories, providing an in-depth testimonial with creative and innovative linkages to their northern education, personal (and professional) growth, and especially how completion of courses in the Circumpolar Studies program affected and transformed their life.

Again, congratulations to Marlon and thanks kindly to all who submitted a testimonial – all stories were a pleasure to read and show that the impact and importance of UArctic is far and wide across our Circumpolar North!
“The Arctic Gap”

When I think of the Arctic Gap I don’t think of Akurekvik Pass, of Kitingirak Gap or even the depleted ozone gap that began the serious discussion about greenhouse gases. Rather, I am referring to a “learning gap”. Those of us in the middle of our lives often get a rude awakening to the serious holes in our education. These holes or gaps leave us grasping at straws to remember what we learned about Alexander the Great, or Napoleon – or whether in fact we ever did learn about them. These gaps become more evident as we move through upper level university courses and sometimes, even casual dinner conversations.

The Arctic Gap, I suspect, is rarely discovered by most of us. At what occasion are we given the opportunity to reflect on our knowledge, understanding or insight into this northern sphere? The University of the Arctic has provided me (a French Canadian, city dwelling, south of sixty inhabitant) the chance to acknowledge a huge gap in my own education and to begin filling it with northern substance. Isolated from the Arctic in more ways than one, UArctic creates a distance-learning environment that coordinates teachers and students of all disciplines to meet through common ground (and high speed internet). For me, it annihilated acute conceptions I had of a linear Arctic history and people and replaced it with a multi-faceted, polemic that deserves serious consideration from anyone willing to look north.

As a working professional looking to diversify my knowledge, interest and training, I took courses that suited my time constraints and circumstance. To my pleasant surprise, I “met” student colleagues who challenged my worldview, my picture of humanity and her tribes, as well as my neatly packaged hopes of world peace and unity, that in retrospect, really only started somewhere south of Iceland. These courses have helped to re-orientate my professional interest toward environmental education. In my current role as a Student Life Manager at a post-secondary institution I have begun the conversation around Canada’s Arctic understanding and the Northern students at this institution.

Personally, I look to the North far more than before. Instead of unfathomable mystery I see diversity, complexity, humanity, fragility and strength. People who fell into my Arctic Gap now become part of the human story I know – the Gwich’in, the Sami, the Nenets. Really, my knowledge is child-like still. I do not know the whole story and have a broken picture; but at least it is there. At least, I was able to navigate my way through this learning gap to understand much more than I did. The UArctic, among other initiatives, needs to continue to serve as a map to the North for people like me.
Marlon Davies