The Department of Geography offers an interdisciplinary undergraduate certificate in Arctic Studies, in collaboration with the Program in Nordic Studies (SCAN), the Program in Russian Studies (RUSS), the International Affairs Program (IAFS), the Department of Environmental Studies (ENVS), the Department of Anthropology (ANTH), the Department of Ethnic Studies (ETHN) and the research entities of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR).


This certificate prepares students to address pressing environmental, political and cultural issues in the far north. A laboratory for studying the effects of global climate change, the Arctic region spans three continents, with territories in Canada, Greenland (Denmark), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the United States. Its population exhibits considerable ethnic, linguistic, and sociopolitical diversity, and contains numerous indigenous peoples. Issues as critical as nationalism, territorial rights and law, security, economic development and resource technology place the arctic at the center of global, regional and national interests. Further, the region’s natural and social characteristics have inspired influential and enduring expressive culture—produced by locals and outsiders—from antiquity to the present.

These features make study of the arctic ideal for students pursuing careers in international politics and diplomacy, indigenous rights, environmental science and climate change, humanistic scholarship or creative work.

For more information, and to apply to the certificate in arctic studies, please contact Professor Mark Serreze.

Certificate Requirements

The certificate is open to all CU undergraduates and requires the completion of six courses for a total of 18 credit hours. Credit hours are distributed in three categories: (1) Certificate Core Courses, (2) Environment and Policy, and (3) Culture and Society. Students must complete all three courses in the Core category and one course in each of the other two categories, plus one elective course. Only one 1000-level course is allowed. Nine of the 18 credits must be upper division. Up to three credits of approved study abroad experience may be applied to either the Environment and Policy or Society and Culture categories.  Up to 3 credits of approved Independent Study may be applied to either the Environment and Policy or Society and Culture categories. 

Not all courses are offered every semester.

Certificate Core Courses (9 credits)
  • GEOG 2271 - Introduction to Arctic Climate and Environment
  • PSCI 3206 - The Environment and Public Policy
  • IAFS/SCAN 3631 - Arctic Society and Culture

Society and Culture (3 to 6 credits)
  • ETHN 2013 - Critical Issues in Native North America
  • GEOG 3882 - Geography of Former Soviet Union
  • RUSS 2501 - Russia Today (course no longer offered; can be replaced by GEOG 3882)
  • RUSS 3251 - Arctic Noir: Environment, Landscape and Literature of the Far North
  • SCAN 2201 - Introduction to Modern Nordic Culture and Society (course not likely to be offered in near future; substitutes may be available)
  • SCAN 2202 - Vikings
  • SCAN 3202 - Norse Mythology
  • SCAN 3204 - Medieval Icelandic Sagas
  • SCAN 3206 - Nordic Colonialisms (course no longer offered; substitutes may be available)
  • SCAN 3251 - Arctic Noir: Environment, Landscape and Literature of the Far North
  • SCAN 3301 - Radical Nationalism in Northern Europe (course not likely to be offered in near future; substitutes may be available)
  • SWED 3010 - Advanced Swedish Language 1
  • SWED 3020 - Advanced Swedish Language 2
  • Study Abroad - Global Seminar: Identity, Arts & Ethics in Contemporary Norway (Oslo and Bergen)

Environment and Policy (3 to 6 credits)
  • ATOC 1060 - Global Change: An Earth Science Perspective
  • ATOC 4780 - Ice Sheets and Climate (formerly taught under ATOC4500 sub-topic of Ice Sheets and Climate)
  • EBIO 3170 - Mountain Ecology and Conservation     
  • ENVS 1000 - Introduction to Environmental Studies
  • ENVS 3022 - Climate Politics and Policy (formerly ENVS3521; same as GEOG3022)
  • GEOG 3022 - Climate Politics and Policy (same as ENVS 3022 and ENVS 3521)
  • GEOG 3682 - Geography of International Development
  • GEOG 4261 - Glaciers and Permafrost (course no longer offered; substitutes may be available)
  • GEOG 4271 - The Arctic Climate System
  • GEOG 4371 - Forest Geography
  • GEOL 1060 - Global Change: An Earth Science Perspective
  • GEOL 3340 - The Cryosphere: Earth's Icy Environments
  • IAFS 1000 - Global Issues and International Affairs
  • PSCI 2116 - Introduction to Environmental Policy and Policy Analysis
  • Juneau Ice Fields Research Progam

Persion riding bicycle on Arctic snowAurora BorealisCalving glacierIceburgs in waterIceberg in waterArctic ice and waterGlacier next to waterBoats near Arctic ice and waterArctic ice and snow with people hikingArctic ice and snowPeople hiking in snowMan on snowmobile in snow