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Fulbright Arctic Initiative: Research and Policy Findings for Sustainable Arctic Communities and Economies

Date & Time

Oct. 31, 2019
1:00pm – 4:00pm ET


6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
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The Arctic faces critical policy challenges on many issues including climate change response, public health and health care infrastructure, energy, environmental protection, sustainable management of the Arctic Ocean, infrastructure, Indigenous rights, and governance. These challenges require international cooperation and policy decisions that are grounded in Indigenous and local knowledge and western science and informed by Arctic residents. The Fulbright Program, with its 73-year history of creating connections in a complex and changing world, formed the Fulbright Arctic Initiative to support interdisciplinary policy-relevant research important to residents and stakeholders vested in the future of the Arctic.

This Symposium reports on research findings and selected policy recommendations from the Fulbright Arctic Initiative thematic research teams, who during 18-months of collaborative work focused on 1) supporting health and well-being to ensure that Arctic communities develop pathways to thrive and, 2) addressing scales of risk from local to global to enhance economic sustainability in the Arctic. The discussion that followed, focussed on possible research priorities and opportunities for the next round of scholars in the Fulbright Arctic Initiative, 2020-21.

Read the Fulbright Arctic Initiative Policy Brief >>>>

Selected Quotes

Mike Sfraga, Director, Polar Institute, Wilson Center, and; Fulbright Arctic Co-Lead Scholar

“Today’s a celebration of the work done by sixteen incredible scholars; you will hear about that more soon. This was work that was done of the Arctic and for the Arctic because all of us either live in the Arctic or we have a passion about the Arctic.”

“These Fulbright Scholars have been together, working together, for the past 18 months but really it’s been a two-plus year program … Driven by policy-relevant motivations—not just an academic exercise—and it was really research with focus on actionable results.”

"We have seen, as you have seen, the Arctic is no longer in this Arctic exceptionalism; it’s no longer a bubble of politics and policy, it now is part of the larger international frame of discussions.”

“Each one of these programs is labor-intensive but they’re labors of love, and so even though people say, ‘Don’t worry it’s not a problem,’ it’s a problem. And when you ask somebody, ‘Do you have the time,’ they say yes, and they don’t. But there’s just an incredible group behind us all that enable for things to happen.”

Ross Virginia, Director, Institute of Arctic Studies, Dartmouth College, and; Fulbright Arctic Co-Lead Scholar (Part Three)

"It’s pay the experience forward...So, we’re going to have a new group of Fulbright Scholars in this program. And the first cohort helped you, and you’re going to help that third cohort, and we’re building this ever-expanding network of networks which will have real impact on the Arctic.”

“The most amazing part of my academic experience has been working with these two sets of scholars, I think we’ve had 24 across the two groups, 24 webinars, and six international events covering the Arctic and interacting with so many different people and that really is what Fulbright is about. It’s about international exchange of scholars, and it’s not just about our science or outreach, it’s really about relationships and meeting people and sharing our culture with others and that truly is the value and the benefit and the lasting investment in a new arctic.”

“It’s changed the way that I teach, the way that I relate to my students, and I hope it’s changed the way my colleagues at Dartmouth approach these issues about the Arctic. They come to me now and say, ‘What’s going on in the Arctic and where have you been?’ And half the time I’m talking about Fulbright and this symposium and this group and this new paper coming out. So, these are really deep and lasting impacts certainly on my career and very personally, and I just want to thank all of you and everyone for this opportunity.”


Ambassador Bergdís Ellersdottír, Embassy of Iceland in Washington D.C.

“In an increasingly complex world, basing our decision on sound science and know-how is and will be of the essence for sustainable development. People, not least our young people, are calling for responsible decision-making and decisive action towards sustainability, and events such as this one contribute to and support the work of the Arctic Council and I want to, in this context, to thank the Wilson Center for their tireless efforts in this regard.”

“In our view, the ultimate goal for the future of the Arctic must be economic prosperity and social well-being in a healthy environment, and I think there we see eye-to-eye. Therefore, a secure and sustainable Arctic is a key foreign policy priority for Iceland. This is not least because our future as a nation is dependent on how things develop in the region.”

“The Arctic, as we all know, is one of the world’s regions most affected by climate change or climate crisis, the term being used by the government of Iceland these days, a reality that all of us; governments, industries, and the general public, alike, all over the world will need to both adapt and react to in a decisive and responsible manner. And Iceland will continue to try and lead by example.

“Iceland will further continue to work for a stronger Arctic Council and give due attention to the Council’s inner workings. We will also work towards strengthening cooperation with other stakeholders in the Arctic engaging not only the observers, but also businesses, communities, and individual Arctic residents. A key for success in that respect is that all actors contribute to the projects of the Arctic Council in a meaningful way.”

“By keeping an open attitude and learning from the people whose ancestors lived in the Arctic for thousands of years, adapting to an environment and accumulating a body of knowledge handed down between generations, we discovered that the Arctic can be a friendly and hospitable place. For me, the core is we need to listen and learn from those who live in the region and want to continue to do so in the future.”

Meredith Rubin, Senior Arctic Official, U.S. Department of State

“The United States is cognizant of how changes in the Arctic have created challenges and opportunities in each Arctic nation, including for our own citizens in Alaska. We will continue to work closely with our own citizens, with our partners, and with our allies to address these challenges, to embrace the opportunities, and to face the responsibilities that we all have as stewards of this great region.”

“Scientific research, including through the Fulbright Arctic initiative, is an essential component of United States engagement in the Arctic. Throughout history, we’ve relied upon our scientific enterprise to help us to make sense of change. Scientists provide the knowledge that leaders need to navigate uncharted waters in all areas of society.”

“I want to conclude by noting the importance of collaboration because so many of the issues related to the Arctic are complex and they touch upon multiple scientific areas. The Fulbright Arctic Initiative is an excellent model for collaborative research by bringing together scientists and experts from many countries and many disciplines. Fulbright is helping a diverse group of scholars from around the Arctic to break out of the traditional boundaries of their scientific disciplines. The United States will continue to work closely with partners and allies to support transparent and high-quality scientific research that advances our national interests.”

Keynote Speakers

  • Ambassador Bergdís Ellersdottír, Embassy of Iceland in Washington D.C.
  • Meredith Rubin, Senior Arctic Official, U.S. Department of State

Fulbright Arctic Initiative Overview

  • Mike Sfraga, Director, Polar Institute, Wilson Center, and; Fulbright Arctic Co-Lead Scholar
  • Ross Virginia, Director, Institute of Arctic Studies, Dartmouth College, and; Fulbright Arctic Co-Lead Scholar

Fulbright Panel Topics

  • From Resilient to Thriving: Supporting Health and Well-being in Arctic Communities
  • From Local to Global: Scales of Risk and Pathways to Sustainable Arctic Economies
  • Next Steps: Policy Relevant Research Priorities for an Expanding Fulbright Arctic Network

Fulbright Panelists

  • Eleanor Bors, Postdoctoral Scholar, Marine Mammal Institute, Oregon State University, United States
  • Katie Cueva, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska, Anchorage, United States
  • Elena Gladun, Associate Professor, Institute of State and Law, University of Tyumen, Russia
  • Daria Gritsenko, Assistant Professor, Aleksanteri Institute and HELDIG, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • Sean Guistini, Manager, Nunavut Arctic College Media Department of Language and Culture, Nunavut Arctic College, Canada
  • Gwen Healey, Co-Founder, Executive and Scientific Director, Quajigiartiit Health Research Center, Canada
  • Lara Johannsdottir, Associate Professor, School of Business, University of Iceland, Iceland
  • Nicole Kanayurak, Assistant to the Director, North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management, United States
  • Christina Larsen, Senior Advisor, Research Director, Center for Public Health (Greenland), National Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark
  • Sanne Larsen, Associate Professor, Department of Planning, Aalborg University, Denmark
  • Josée Lavoie, Director, Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing, University of Manitoba, Canada
  • Soili Nysten-Haarala, Professor, University of Lapland, Finland
  • Elizabeth Rink, Associate Professor, Department of Health and Human Development, Montana State University, United States
  • Todd Sformo, Research Scientist, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, United States
  • Jon Petter Stoor, Clinical Psychologist, Sámi Norwegian National Advisory Unit of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Sweden
  • Svetlana Tulaeva, Assistant Professor, Department of Comparative Political Studies, North-West Institute of Management, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Russia

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Hosted By

Polar Institute

Since its inception in 2017, the Polar Institute has become a premier forum for discussion and policy analysis of Arctic and Antarctic issues, and is known in Washington, DC and elsewhere as the Arctic Public Square. The Institute holistically studies the central policy issues facing these regions—with an emphasis on Arctic governance, climate change, economic development, scientific research, security, and Indigenous communities—and communicates trusted analysis to policymakers and other stakeholders.  Read more

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