Two Sámi women wearing traditional Gákti at the Fulbright Arctic Initiative reception at the House of the Estates
Fulbright Finland News Magazine

International Collaboration to Address Shared Challenges

9 June 2019 • Text: Maija Kettunen, Photos: Studio Terho Photography

The 2018–2019 Fulbright Arctic Initiative brings together a cohort of 16 established researchers, early-career specialists, and indigenous knowledge experts from around the circumpolar North to form a network of scholars to conduct research in two broad focus areas: Resilient Communities and Sustainable Economies.

Coinciding with the Finnish chairmanship of the Arctic Council, the Fulbright Finland Foundation organized the Mid-Term Plenary Week for the Fulbright Arctic scholars in Finland. The week kicked off in Helsinki with policy briefings and strategic discussions with government officials, parliamentarians, climate scientists, Sámi representatives and other experts discussing Finland’s chairmanship priorities and how they relate to the two focus areas of the current Fulbright Arctic Initiative program.

The scholars were invited to the Presidential Palace for a briefing including how the Office of the President of the Republic of Finland is leading by example in reducing carbon footprint and tackling climate change in the Arctic.

Fulbright Arctic Initiative scholars discussing over breakfast with Jukka Siukosaari, Head of the Cabinet and Secretary General and Petri Hakkarainen, Foreign Policy Adviser of the President at the Presidential Palace.
The scholars were invited to the Presidential Palace for a briefing by Jukka Siukosaari, Head of the Cabinet and Secretary General and Petri Hakkarainen, Foreign Policy Adviser of the President. Photo: Fulbright Finland Foundation

At the Parliament House the scholars were hosted by Katri Kulmuni, Member of the Parliament and the current chair of the Finnish Delegation to the Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region. During a thought-provoking dialogue with Kulmuni, the Fulbright Arctic Initiative scholars discussed tips on how to effectively communicate their scientific research to policymakers.

The scholars were also generously hosted by the City of Oulu, and the plenary week culminated in the public symposium at the University of Oulu. The scholars shared their innovative collaborative research, and highlighted their ongoing projects developing actionable recommendations for national and international Arctic policymakers.

At the conclusion of the week in Finland the Arctic scholars were connected with the Friends of Fulbright Finland alumni network in the United States and already two months later the Friends of Fulbright Finland network organized an alumni get-together for the scholars in Anchorage, Alaska.

Understanding Life in the North

In conjunction with the Fulbright Arctic Initiative Plenary week, the Fulbright Finland Foundation also brought over 20 current U.S. Fulbright grantees in Finland and their family members to Oulu to meet the Arctic scholars and learn about Arctic issues. Experiencing another side of Finland also added to the U.S. grantees’ understanding of the life in the North. “Up until now, I had pictured the Arctic as the northern equivalent of the Antarctic, distant and inhospitable. This was far from the truth. The Arctic is a place of thriving communities and life, and the challenges they are overcoming are a lot closer to home than I initially believed,” says U.S. Fulbright student Clinton Welsh. “From visiting Oulu with the Fulbright Finland Foundation, I feel that I have a better appreciation of how resilient people of the north and their communities can be, and also that they are not distant, but close neighbors,” he adds.

While in Oulu, the U.S. grantees also had a chance to travel back 5000 years in history and explore how people lived during the Stone Age at the banks of the River Ii during a day at Kierikki, the Europe Nostra Cultural Heritage Award winning pre-historic settlement and research site. The magical Aurora Borealis completed the northern experience.

See the program of the plenary week and recording of the symposium: www.fulbright.fi/event/fulbright-arctic-research-action

Read the whole Fulbright Finland News magazine 1/2019!