‘Deeply Enriching’: Kennedy School Students Build Leadership Skills, Connections at Arctic Frontiers

| Mar. 24, 2023

In January, Harvard Kennedy School students Jonny Yau (MPP 2024) and Stirling Haig (MPP 2024) traveled to Tromsø, Norway, for a week-long intensive workshop hosted by the Arctic Academy for Social and Environmental Leadership (ARCADE). As part of the workshop, Yau and Haig joined Arctic Initiative team members at the 2023 Arctic Frontiers Conference, an annual meeting of scientists, policymakers, and business leaders focused on sustainable development in the Arctic. 

ARCADE is led by the Center for Arctic Studies in collaboration with the Institute for Sustainability Studies at the University of Iceland, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Ilisimatusarfik - University of Greenland, the Arctic Circle, and the HKS Arctic Initiative. Launched in October 2022, the 10-month leadership program focuses on training students to develop creative, interdisciplinary solutions to meet the challenges of the fast-changing Arctic. It aims to give students the tools to influence policymakers and present their research to the media and the public. 

As part of the inaugural ARCADE cohort, Yau, Haig, and 12 other graduate students from across the Arctic will take part in three workshops in Norway, Greenland, and Iceland, providing the students with a unique, on-the-ground opportunity to explore the dramatic effects of climate change in the region. They will work on individual and group projects under the guidance of academic experts, which will be presented at the 2023 Arctic Circle Assembly, the largest annual international gathering on the Arctic. 

Attending Arctic Frontiers as part of the ARCADE program was “eye-opening” for Yau, who hails from Hawaii. “Though I had studied the region academically, physically being there gave me a tangible grounding. Not only did I learn from experts at the conference, but even just speaking with my program mates from Iceland, Denmark, and Greenland really expanded my understanding of the challenges facing the Arctic.”

Despite having grown up less than a mile from the conference venue in Tromsø, Haig agreed that the experience helped him see the Arctic in a new light. “The conference covered a wide range of issues, from cutting-edge polar science to diplomacy, and my multidisciplinary ARCADE cohort brought perspectives beyond my own background in Arctic security and governance,” said Haig, who works as an Arctic Initiative Research Assistant mapping Arctic geopolitics. “The issues facing the High North are beyond the capacity of any single field, so approaching regional issues alongside students from a variety of disciplines helped provide a wider lens with which to understand the region.” 

Jonny Yau and Stirling Haig

Yau and Haig pictured near the Husøy lighthouse.

In addition to attending sessions at Arctic Frontiers, a highlight of the trip included a day visit to the “breathtaking” island of Husøy, where they were guided around by local secondary school students, toured the local seafood corporation, and got a presentation on the Smart Senja energy project. “Husøy’s successful, inclusive industrial model provided a strong example of sustainable development in remote regions,” said Haig. 

Yau, who supports the Arctic Initiative’s community resilience work as a Research Assistant, added that he appreciated the workshop’s emphasis on Arctic Indigenous communities and their agency and role in climate and land decision-making. “I look forward to continuing this focus on empowering and including the most marginalized voices throughout ARCADE and in my future work in climate equity and advocacy.”

The Arctic Initiative was also represented at Arctic Frontiers by Associate Director Brittany Janis and Senior Fellow Jennifer Spence. While in Norway, Janis delivered a lecture on communicating with policymakers to the ARCADE cohort as part of their communications training, beginning preparations for their eventual participation in the Arctic Innovation Lab at the Arctic Circle Assembly in October 2023. 

Over the next few months, the ARCADE cohort will stay connected through online presentations and discussions with scientific experts, before reuniting in Reykjavík, Iceland, in May for a second week-long intensive program on climate change mitigation and adaptation in the Arctic. In the meantime, Haig and Yau have returned to Harvard Kennedy School “invigorated and eager to continue working on Arctic Issues.”

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Hanlon, Elizabeth. “‘Deeply Enriching’: Kennedy School Students Build Leadership Skills, Connections at Arctic Frontiers.” News, , March 24, 2023.

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