Samantha Craig-Curnow, Veronica Guido, Val Muzik and Darren Zanussi are all fourth-year students in the Department of Political Science in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) at York University. They recently came away with accolades for their standout performances at the Model Arctic Council (MAC) held at the University of Alaska Fairbanks from March 8 to 15.
The Model Arctic Council (MAC) is a simulation Arctic Council that is open to student participants from all over the world. In 2016, the highly competitive program drew more than 65 undergraduate and graduate students from 13 countries to debate and address pressing issues in the Arctic. Each participant was given a role to represent either an Arctic state, an indigenous organization or an observer state within one of the Model Arctic Council’s working groups. In addition to drawing emerging leaders, the event, which coincided with Arctic Science Summit Week, also saw the presence of numerous high-ranking officials and luminaries in the field.
Craig-Curnow, representing Gwich’in International, was given the honour of presenting part of the council’s declaration in the final closing ceremony. Guido and Muzik were both awarded top performance awards for representing Gwich’in International and Iceland respectively in the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) simulation. Zanussi also won a top performance award for representing Canada and chairing a discussion on resource development and transportation in the Arctic.
The program was an invaluable learning experience for the students. For Zanussi, who will be conducting research on identity politics and decolonization in his master’s program this fall, the best part of Model Arctic Council “was without a doubt the opportunity to approach key issues alongside peers from all over the world with an incredible variety of disciplinary backgrounds,” he said. “The exchange of culture and ideas was truly amazing and an experience I will never forget.”
Muzik, who plans to study the impact of climate change on security in the Arctic in graduate school, said, “The ability to participate in an experiential exercise like MAC really shaped my understanding of Arctic politics and the issues the region and its peoples face. What happens in the Arctic is actually very important in the global context for a number of reasons, and now I know this firsthand.”
When asked about her experience, Craig-Curnow was grateful for the opportunity to learn about and advocate for an indigenous nation that was not her own. “As an Anishinaabe student,” she said, “it was an honour to meet members of the Gwich’in nation before and after the simulation, and to be able to relate their politics and world views to my own.”
The students were unanimous in their thanks to York Professors Gabrielle Slowey, Dennis Pilon and David Mutimer, and to the Department of Political Science, the Centre for Aboriginal Student Services, the Vice-Provost Students, York International and Diane Woody, associate dean teaching and learning, LA&PS, for their tremendous support and guidance.
The students all took Slowey’s course in Canada and the Arctic, which included an experiential education component – an in-class simulation of the Model Arctic Council. They said the exercise was extremely helpful for their preparation for the meetings in Fairbanks.
“I feel extremely proud of our students and faculty for creating such inspiring moments,” said LA&PS Dean Ananya Mukherjee-Reed.
The next Model Arctic Council will be held in 2018 in Finland following the chairmanship of the Arctic Council. More information about Model Arctic Council 2016 is available at assw2016.org/about/mac.