From May 28-30, I had the pleasure of participating in the students' program of the 2014 University of the Arctic Rectors' Forum at the University of Akureyri, Iceland. Nineteen students attended the students' program, hailing from seven countries and 13 institutions of higher educations that are among the members of the University of the Arctic. Our educational backgrounds were extremely diverse, which I found to be appropriate given the broad spectrum of issues faced today by Arctic populations and institutions of higher learning. Students came from graduate and undergraduate studies, from fields ranging from health and nursing to aquaculture, glacial geology, tourism, and Sámi language education.

I participated along with two classmates from the University Centre of the Westfjords, Râna Campbell and Lucian Renita, immediately following the successful completion of our master’s studies in coastal and marine management. For the University Centre of the Westfjords, the event provided a somewhat exceptional experience. As this was the first Rectors’ Forum to be held in Iceland, the University Centre of the Westfjords, a longtime partnering institution of the University of the Arctic and one of the network’s smallest members, was able to attend the forum for the first time.

During the students’ program, we had the opportunity to hear faculty speak on the subject of flexible and co-operative learning methods and to discuss these themes among ourselves while drawing upon our diverse educational backgrounds. We were also able to see a bit of the breathtaking countryside surrounding Akureyri. The forum organized an afternoon of horseback riding for the students, as well as and an excursion to some of Iceland’s most famous sites, including Lake Mývatn and Goðafoss waterfall.

At the end of the program, we were able to make our voices heard to the forum, by presenting a declaration to the Rectors, which was then included in the rectors’ declaration. It was fascinating to take part in the dialogue that took place following the student presentation. The experience provided a good opportunity to learn more about the aspirations of the University of the Arctic network and the hopes and challenges shared by member institutions as they continue to develop their curricula and enhance the University of the Arctic network. We also learned about an exciting possibility for students of the University of the Arctic: to become ambassadors for the network at their home institutions. This is an intriguing potential program and will hopefully help to increase both the roles and the responsibilities that students can share as the University of the Arctic continues to develop.

If there is one lesson I took from those three days at the University of Akureyri, it is that institutions of higher learning in the Arctic regions have drawn a fascinating and diverse array of talented people who are doing fascinating work in Arctic areas and on Arctic issues. We have developed a Facebook page to stay in touch, share pictures, and continue the dialogue we began at the forum last month.

Many thanks to the University of the Arctic and to our home institutions for this fabulous experience!