There probably is not a more suitable location for one of the world’s only interdisciplinary certificates in Arctic studies than the University of Colorado Boulder.
“In some ways we couldn’t afford not to do it,” said Assistant Professor Benjamin Teitelbaum, who will serve as the director of the certificate that will be administered by the College of Arts and Sciences’ International Affairs Program.
“We have a world-class research institutes like INSTAAR (the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research) and CIRES (Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences), a program in International Affairs, a program in Nordic Studies, and the Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies.”
“With all that already in place, there is relatively little new that is needed,” Teitelbaum said. Indeed, talks between International Affairs, INSTAAR and CIRES, which oversees the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), were initiated little more than a year ago.
“Part of the impetus to creating the certificate was our recognition of the growing geopolitical significance of the Arctic area in general,” said Teitelbaum, noting the growing potential for international conflict over natural resources as shipping lanes open.
In addition to International Affairs, INSTAAR and CIRES, the undergraduate certificate is also supported by the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures, the Department of Geography, the Environmental Studies Program, the Department of Anthropology, and the Department of Ethnic Studies. Teitelbaum credited NSIDC Director Mark Serreze, a geography professor, and Tom Zeiler, director of international affairs, with really getting the ball rolling in early discussions.
“Of course, one of the most pressing issues is ice melt; where we see the effects of global warming taking place at a greater degree than elsewhere,” Teitelbaum said. “But we’ve designed this certificate to crisscross the boundaries between the humanities, social sciences and the natural sciences.”
The program’s first offerings will begin in spring 2017 semester and are open to all CU undergraduates. The certificate requires the completion of six courses for a total of 18 credit hours.
“I think this is going to attract a wide range of students. Students interested in geopolitics, or students interested in environmental studies or students interested in policy can all concentrate in areas they are familiar with, though we want to make inroads in showing people that the environment, politics and arts are all affected together.”
Credit hours are distributed in three categories: certificate core courses, environment and policy, and culture and society. The core courses include Geography 2271 - Introduction to Arctic Climate and Environment; Political Science 3206 - The Environment and Public Policy; and International Affairs 3631 - Arctic Society and Culture.
From the core courses, the program offers flexibility for undergraduate students to follow their own strengths—for instance, in choosing among science-, policy- or societal-driven studies. That’s important to Teitelbaum, who hopes that the program attracts a good cross-section of students who will also bring differentiated interests on board.
“I think this is going to attract a wide range of students,” he said. “Students interested in geopolitics, or students interested in environmental studies or students interested in policy can all concentrate in areas they are familiar with, though we want to make inroads in showing people that the environment, politics and arts are all affected together.”
While perhaps the Inuit people in Alaska and Canada get at least some coverage by the American press, there is growing nationalism and conflict involving indigenous people in northern Europe, Russia and Siberia, as well. Teitelbaum's doctorate is in ethnomusicology, but his studies have extended into such areas as radical nationalism and neofascism in the Nordic countries, and he said that cultural offerings in the certificate will also explore modern culture and politics.
For more on the certificate in Arctic studies, click here.