Barry Scherr, Chair of the UArctic Board of Governors
Provost Emeritus of Dartmouth College, USA

“Arctic Alliances”

Remarks for University of Lapland Opening Ceremony
6 September 2010

It gives me great pleasure to speak at the University of Lapland’s Opening Ceremony for the 2010-2011 academic year, and in particular to say a few words about the University of the Arctic and about the major role that the University of Lapland has played in that organization.

Even though the University of the Arctic is mentioned on several of your university’s web pages, I realize that many of those at today’s ceremony may not be familiar with either its structure or its activities. UArctic, as its name is often abbreviated, is not a standard university, but more of a consortium or network, bringing together universities and other organizations throughout the eight nations with territory in the Arctic. In all, UArctic currently has 126 members, with the largest numbers in Russia and Canada, while both Norway and Finland have strong representation as well. Its vision can be stated concisely: “In the North, For the North, By the North—Towards a Sustainable World.” In all its activities, UArctic works closely with indigenous peoples, placing special importance on their perspective and knowledge, valuing their key role in education and training throughout the north, and collaborating with them on specific projects. Our overall mission corresponds to that of any university, seeking both to provide high quality educational opportunities and to extend knowledge through research. But we differ from many both in our multi-national presence and in our exclusive focus is on the North, with the ultimate goal of helping to create a strong and sustainable circumpolar region by empowering northerners and indigenous peoples.

What UArctic can provide, and what no regular university can offer on its own, are multiple pathways toward collaboration and sharing. By working together, by combining their educational resources and their research capabilities, universities and other institutions throughout the North, under the umbrella of UArctic, will achieve a far greater impact than they can have individually. As Aristotle said in his Metaphysics, “The whole is more than the sum of its parts.” And it has been the task of UArctic to help create this whole by focusing on key areas where joint efforts can make a difference: in expanding opportunities for undergraduate and undergraduate education, in conducting research that cuts across disciplines and countries, in advocating for political awareness of the North’s significance, and in facilitating exchanges among students, teachers, and researchers.

However, if UArctic is to comprise an effective and powerful whole, then it must rely on both the cooperation and the quality of its constituent parts—that is, its members. And in this regard the University of Lapland has played an ever more important role alongside UArctic. Even though UArctic is in a certain sense a virtual university, with its president in Norway and the heads of its various departments scattered among the other seven Arctic nations, in a very real sense UArctic has in effect its home here at the University of Lapland. The strong support of that university’s leadership played a vital role in enabling UArctic to receive status as a legal entity within Finland, and the University of Lapland continues to provide vital support for UArctic’s operations. In particular, UArctic’s International Secretariat, which is responsible for coordinating communications among the widely scattered office of UArctic and for ensuring the functioning of its governing entities, is based in the International Office here at Lapland.

Just as importantly, though, many facets of UArctic’s key initiatives are being implemented here in Rovaniemi. For undergraduates, UArctic has established a major in Circumpolar Studies, which enables students to study the lands and the people of the North, and to become familiar with the major issues facing this part of the globe. The University of Lapland was one of the first institutions to offer this program as a regular part of its curriculum. The university has also been an active participant in the major UArctic exchange program, known as north2north, which provides students with opportunities to study at other institutions throughout the Circumpolar North. In terms of research, UArctic has furthered study of the North by organizing more than 15 thematic networks, which allow for the sharing of expertise and resources among institutions in different northern countries; one of these thematic networks, which focuses on “Geopolitics and Security,” is based at the University of Lapland, and even as I speak is hosting a 3-day workshop on “Climate Change and Human Security,” in co-sponsorship with yet another UArctic activity, its Institute for Applied Circumpolar Policy. The University of Lapland’s Arctic Centre carries out extensive research and graduate training in ways that correspond precisely to the principles of UArctic, with its focus on international cooperation, on multidisciplinary approaches, and on the issues that most affect the North today, including climate change and sustainable development.

Indeed, UArctic and the University of Lapland share a similar vision and similar goals in their strategic plan. The motto for the University of Lapland, “For the North—Into the World”, complements UArctic’s focus on the North and its desire to further greater awareness of northern concerns in the rest of the world. The University of Lapland’s vision for 2020, which includes being known for high quality research on the peoples, societies and environment in the North, corresponds closely to UArctic’s strategic vision. And thus these two institutions are logical allies in the Arctic, linked by common goals and common ideals. Continued, and indeed increased collaboration between UArctic and the University of Lapland can only strengthen both institutions and enable them to become ever more effective advocates for the North.

I thank you for allowing me to speak at your Opening Ceremony and extend my heartfelt wishes to all—to students, faculty and administrators—for a productive and highly successful academic year.