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New master’s degree examines northern issues in Canada and Norway

The Norwegian cohort from Nord University in Bodo, Norway spent the fall semester studying at UNBC. Photo courtesy of UNBC

Cassidy Shuvera has lived across Canada. She appreciates its culture, people and charm.

As a UNBC student enrolled in the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (specializing in International Northern Development), she’s exploring the role Canada plays on the global stage as a northern nation.

“I’ve found something unique about living in the North and that’s why I was drawn to study it and chose the program,” she said. “I think there’s something unique about global culture and the environment.”

During her first semester of the program at UNBC, she took an international northern development class taught by Political Science Professor Dr. Gary Wilson and a feminist research methods course taught by Social Work Professor Dr. Si Transken.

“I hope to bring in a gender and Indigenous analysis to northern development and look at social cohesion and building social capital in the north,” she said.

Shuvera’s program is part of a collaborative, interdisciplinary, joint master’s degree program between UNBC and Nord University (NU) in Bodo, Norway. Dr. Wilson is the academic lead for the UNBC program and co-ordinator of the Northern Studies Program.

The new degree examines issues, opportunities and challenges associated with northern development in the circumpolar region, with a particular focus on northern Canada and northern Norway.

Like UNBC, NU is a small, research-intensive post-secondary institution located in the north, with a mandate to provide educational programming that is relevant to northern communities and people.

Both NU and UNBC are active members of the University of the Arctic, a circumpolar post-secondary education consortium and virtual university.

Shuvera is now at NU in Bodo for her second semester.

“I’m excited to go to Norway to do a comparative perspective, to see what’s going on in northern Norway compared to Northern B.C.,” she said. “And to learn about gender equality and Indigenous concerns.”

While she may be in northern Norway, she’ll be among some familiar faces.
They include her friend, Irina Kaznina, who spent last semester at UNBC on exchange from NU.

While the degree program is characterized as a joint degree and contains a number of joint activities, the degree programs at each university are distinct and students taking the degree fall into one of two cohorts.

The Norwegian cohort of seven students, which includes Kaznina, will earn a Master’s degree in Social Sciences (Specialization in Northern Development). The Canadian cohort enrolls at UNBC and receives a Master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies (Specialization in International Northern Development).

“I was very interested to hear this was a joint program which was developed in co-operation with NORD University and UNBC,” said Kaznina.  “And I was really interested to go on exchange to Canada and I knew that this program is focused on the Arctic and the northern regions.

“I myself am a northerner. I used to work and study in northern Russia. I thought it would be good to get some perspective from the Norwegian and Canadian side on northern issues.”

\Kaznina believes the University of the Arctic is a great example of co-operation of different higher educational and research institutions in the north.

“NORD and UNBC co-operate under this umbrella and it’s not easy to organize a joint program between institutions in different countries because of differences in legislation, because of distance, language and other things,” she said. “The fact that this program has appeared is a confirmation of good co-operation. The fact that students from Norway are coming here and Canadian students are going to Norway is a very good sign of its development.”

The program of study prepares graduates for further study at the doctoral level or for work in government, the non-governmental and private sectors, with agencies and organizations that are actively engaged in the political, economic and social development and governance of northern regions.

Once she completes her degree, Shuvera hopes to work with government, work on policies, research and find ways to help the North develop.

The program is funded by a joint grant that NU and UNBC received from the Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education’s High North Programme. The $1.6 million Norwegian Kroner (CDN $260,000) grant funds student and faculty mobility, course development and administrative costs during the initial three-year pilot project.


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