The event will draw university presidents, chancellors and other leaders from eight circumpolar nations for discussions about postsecondary education’s role in serving northern communities.

“The University of the Arctic is an extraordinary network of over 120 postsecondary educational institutions across all the countries of the circumpolar north,” said forum chairman and UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers. “The Rectors’ Forum is the only annual international gathering of the leaders of these institutions and UAF is honored to host the 2010 meeting. Participants will discuss how the UArctic network can best address the educational and other needs of an arctic region that is undergoing rapid and unprecedented change.”

The forum is preceded by a student workshop with a similar focus. The student workshop began today and runs through Saturday.

“The UArctic students in the workshop, which runs parallel with the Rectors’ Forum, will identify gaps in how universities serve northern communities as well as best practices for solving problems common to the Arctic,” said UAF professor Rich Boone, who serves as UAF’s representative on the University of the Arctic council. “It’s an opportunity for a fresh perspective from graduate students who will become future leaders in science, policy, resource management, and governance in the eight Arctic nations.”

The University of the Arctic is a network of universities and other higher education organizations that work together to build educational programs that address the needs of circumpolar communities. The University of the Arctic currently offers a bachelor’s-level certificate in circumpolar studies. Courses are open to students at all member institutions and are delivered online.

Work to establish the University of the Arctic began in 1997; UAF is one of the founding members. The first rectors’ forum was held in 2007. The forums are an opportunity for the leaders of the member institutions to meet face-to-face and determine direction for the network.

The forum will open with a reception on Thursday, Aug. 12 and will be followed by two full days of workshops and presentations from scientists and leaders, including Denali Commission co-chairman Joel Neimeyer, UAF professors John Walsh, Scott Rupp, Terry Chapin and Terrence Cole, and UAA Chancellor Fran Ulmer. Sessions on Friday afternoon will focus on higher education, business and tourism, health, and climate, energy and natural resources. On Sunday, participants will make their final recommendations and sign a declaration that will provide direction for the coming year.

The student workshop began today, when 15 graduate students from nine universities met on campus for the first time. In advance of the workshop, students surveyed their local leaders about how universities can best serve communities. Most of the morning on Thursday will be spent in a panel discussion about how universities can help communities deal with the challenges they face. Students will join rectors for plenary sessions on Friday and Saturday and will present the results of the workshop to the rectors’ forum on Saturday afternoon. The student workshop has been organized by four graduate students in the UAF Resilience and Adaptation Program.