This message was top of mind when Vivian set out to explore new things, taking a year’s leave of absence from her job as head editor of a provincial branch of education to make that possible: “I wanted to be involved in a way that would remind me that there was a world outside the town I lived in.” Her wish came true when, nearing the end of the leave, as a delegate from Athabasca University (AU) she attended a UArctic Council meeting in Whitehorse, Canada, with seventy-two other people at the table from eight countries in the circumpolar North. That was in 2003.
Through an AU contract, Vivian was just about to begin editing some of UArctic’s core courses for its Bachelor of Circumpolar Studies (BCS) program. “By then,” she reflects, “I had been an editor for almost twenty years and every job had been interesting in some way, but UArctic’s values, goals, and collaborative efforts captured my imagination.”
Remaining a freelance editor gave fate a chance: “I started to see that, in a small way, I now had a role in realizing UArctic’s mission, building relationships and capacity in the North.”
Vivian also edited some courses jointly developed by UArctic, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), and AU, as well as a report for UArctic-led Working Group 11: Arctic Science in the Public Interest, part of the Second International Conference of Arctic Research Planning (ICARP II).
Attending other UArctic Council meetings for AU, contributing to BCS program team meetings, and recording the proceedings of Ofelas meetings provided opportunities to maintain relationships and learn how UArctic works. Vivian is currently a member of the working group of UArctic’s Thematic Network on Global Change.
As a student in AU’s Master of Arts – Integrated Studies program, Vivian is specializing in cultural studies and global change. She attributes the inspiration for her academic goals to her involvement with UArctic and to her renewed proximity to AU friends and colleagues, having moved back to Athabasca, Canada, after being away for a decade. “There is a time for everything,” she says, “and now it is time to work towards something more.”
Her current research is on the implications of modernity for language retention and other identity-related issues. The approach is interdisciplinary, with a philosophical focus.
Where does Vivian think her studies will take her? “I don’t know what lies ahead,” she says. “One must follow one’s interests and keep the faith, but I do have hopes that I will contribute in some helpful way to efforts of Indigenous peoples and to the body of knowledge respecting language, culture, and identity.”
Vivian’s only advice for other students and her UArctic colleagues is to be careful what they wish for: “In the words of Canadian visionary Tommy Douglas, ‘Dream no small dreams.’”