25-Year Partnership Advancing Arctic Science and Diplomacy Celebrated in Iceland

Deepening its 25 year partnership with the Stefansson Arctic Institute (SAI) of Iceland, the Institute of Arctic Studies in the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth was honored to co-host the 2023 Stefansson Memorial Lecture and Arctic Policy Dialog at the University of Akureyri, Iceland, from November 14-17 with over 35 participants from academia, non-governmental organizations, and government interests discussing the future of Arctic science and diplomacy.

The Stefansson Memorial Lecture by UC San Diego Professor Emeritus Oran Young, Keeping the Flame of Arctic Cooperation Alive in Difficult Times, framed the meeting by exploring if and how Arctic governance systems might keep Arctic science cooperation moving forward to tackle global challenges - from climate change to healthcare and food security - after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, one of the largest Arctic nations. This event followed the 2022 Stefansson Memorial Lecture held last year in Hanover where Dartmouth hosted Iceland's President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson. The President met with students, toured campus, and discussed the key role Iceland plays in Arctic international relations.

"The annual Stefansson Memorial Lecture continues to solidify Dartmouth's legacy and global reputation as a trusted convener of international policy dialogs in Arctic science and governance," said Dr. Melody Brown Burkins (Guarini '95 '98), Director of Dartmouth's Institute of Arctic Studies and UArctic Chair in Science Diplomacy and Inclusion at Dartmouth, "The event also marks, and reaffirms, 25 years of close partnership between Dartmouth and Iceland that we intend to grow with student and faculty engagement over the next 25 years."

The Akureyri event was particularly special for Dartmouth this year as keynote Professor Oran Young was the founding director of Dartmouth's Institute of Arctic Studies in 1989, the first Stefansson Memorial Lecture speaker in 1998, the recipient of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) Medal in 2018, and the recently-announced recipient of the prestigious 2024 Mohn Prize for Outstanding Research in the Arctic. 

In addition, Dartmouth alumna, geographer, and ecologist Dr. Fiona Danks (D '96), was able to attend the event in her personal capacity. Dr. Danks, who will become the Executive Secretary of the Akureyri-based Arctic Council Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) Working Group in February 2024, was a Dartmouth Institute of Arctic Studies Stefansson Fellow in 1995 and has served as leader of the Norwegian Polar Institute's Ny-Ålesund research station and Head of Science at the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC).

The annual Stefansson Memorial Lectures have been held since 1998 to honor the Arctic scholarship of Vilhjalmur Stefansson, Arctic explorer, ethnologist, and author who was a lecturer at Dartmouth and created Dartmouth's first Northern and Polar Studies program in 1947. His wife, Evelyn Stefansson-Nef - an Arctic explorer and scholar in her own right - helped found the Dartmouth-Iceland Stefansson Memorial Lecture partnership and donated the world-renowned Stefansson Special Collection on Polar Exploration to Dartmouth's Rauner Library. Rauner continues to curate the Stefansson Collection, fully recognizing that Stefansson's achievements relied heavily upon his engagement with Arctic Inuit communities and Indigenous Knowledge holders across northern Canada and Alaska.