WKU to host IACN director this week

Justin Turner

This week WKU will be hosting Embla Eir Oddsdottir, the director of the Icelandic Arctic Cooperation Network, to expand and enhance the collaborative partnership WKU has formed with both the IACN and Iceland’s University of Akureyri.

Last year, WKU signed a Memorandum of Agreement making the partnership among WKU, the IACN and the University of Akureyri official.

The partnership encourages collaborative research, education and economic development for the purpose of addressing both local and global effects of climate change.

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“There is no better place in the world to do research in climate change than in Iceland,” said Bernard Strenecky, WKU scholar in residence. “We are operating a course there every year where we have students from WKU and students from Akureyri.”

Both WKU and the IACN wish to increase the number of study abroad and exchange students going to and from the University of Akureyri, a goal that exemplifies their ideals of collaborative education.

Oddsdottir is scheduled to meet with a variety of departments on WKU’s campus, including Housing and Residence Life and the Office of Study Abroad and Global Learning, due to their significant involvement in study abroad and student exchange programs.

“My favorite part of the schedule is its diversity because there’s so many different people that I am going to be meeting and so many different things we are going to be doing,” Oddsdottir said.

Additionally, two representatives from Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada, will be visiting. Oddsdottir hopes this visit will allow for the continuing formation of partnerships.

She also plans to further define goals of cooperation with regard to research and economic development.

Some might ask what universities in Kentucky and Iceland gain from working together, but Oddsdottir emphasizes an open mind. In the scope of global climate change, she thinks the partnership is a perfect fit.

“When you look a little bit further, you do see the connection because the overarching theme that we’re working with is climate change,” Oddsdottir said. “It’s something that is being felt in a lot of different locations globally.

“I think for comparative purposes, in terms of research of adaptation capacities and resilience of communities, this is a very interesting comparison to make.”

Leslie North and Jason Polk, assistant professors in WKU’s geography and geology department, are both faculty leaders for the Iceland study abroad program and will be hosting Oddsdottir with the help of Strenecky.

North hopes Oddsdottir’s visit impacts students with the reality of WKU’s international reach and with how important cultural perspectives are in an academic setting.

“I think it opens up many opportunities for our students, for our faculty and staff, for our community to be involved in these issues and to think globally,” North said.

Oddsdottir will give a lecture called “Wicked Arctic” at a geography and geology seminar Friday at 3 p.m. The lecture will be held in Environmental Sciences and Technology Building, room 260.  Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to attend.

North and Polk will also discuss WKU’s collaborative research with Iceland in their presentation “Iceland: Extreme Learning in the Land of Fire and Ice.” The lecture is part of WKU Libraries’ “Far Away Places” series and will be held Thursday at 7 p.m. at Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 1680 Campbell Lane.