Jessica Louise Hall (Photo: Submitted)
Jessica Louise Hall (Photo: Submitted)

Embracing exciting possibilities with the GENI Program

Jessica Louise Hall was accepted into a PhD program in the UK when she discovered the GENI program on UiT’s website. What followed next was 'the best decision' she ever made.

By UiT The Arctic University of Norway

Why did you choose to study the GENI program at UiT/USask? 

I had previously studied a BA and an MSc in Comparative Literature in the UK, and I wrote my thesis on Indigenous ecological poetry as a form of protest against colonial legacies, in Alaska and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Whilst writing this thesis it became abundantly clear to me that it was no longer just the poetry that I was interested in, and I struggled to stick to the poetical analysis and to not veer off the research track.

Once I had completed this degree, I knew I wanted to pursue further studies in Indigenous ontologies and to gain a more in depth understanding of Indigenous-led ecological restoration. I was accepted onto a PhD program in the UK at the same time I found the GENI program on UiT’s website. And once I had read the description it was an easy decision to begin a second master's degree. I knew I needed more foundational knowledge and to better understand concepts of governance and policy before I could start a PhD. It was the best decision I have ever made.  

What do you think about the program? 

In the beginning I remember feeling quite inadequate on our first field school and just amazed by my fellow classmates who, I felt at the time, knew so much more about this topic. But this feeling surpassed very quickly as I realised we all had a lot of knowledge and value to bring to the discussions.

I was incredibly impressed by the staff from day one, not only their knowledge and passion to share this, but also the wide range of knowledges and perspectives that they brought to the table. The field schools are beyond valuable and I cannot express this enough. To meet with community members and to learn from elders and knowledge keepers is an absolute honour that not many academic programs would offer or even think to include. But that is what is special about this degree – it goes above and beyond all expectations at every turn.  

What is it like to be a student with the GENI program? 

I feel lucky and I feel like I am in the right place and doing the right thing with my life – GENI has given me that. As I have mentioned, the field schools are the most valuable experience and this is not just in terms of the community connections you are able to build. The connections that are built in your cohort begin with the first field school, you find your academic family for the next few years and quickly realise how utterly fantastic everyone is. And we have all held onto these connections. Your peers become your greatest support whilst studying online and it makes such a difference.  

There are also so many opportunities for growth and learning outside of the course which are supported by our schools. For example, the Emerging Leaders Arctic Frontiers conference. I was lucky enough to be selected and I have now been able to attend and speak at multiple conferences in Canada, Norway and Finland. This has been an incredible achievement for me as I have been able to build on my CV and experience both academically as well as professionally, and to grow my social network.   

Your thoughts and concerns for the world are always validated and valued. You are encouraged to have an opinion on the structure of the course and to voice any thoughts you have on the classes.  

What are your plans for the future?  

Oh, tough question!

I want to pursue further studies at PhD level with the research focus on Indigenous-led ecological restoration in relation to nuclear testing conducted on ancestral lands, throughout the Arctic.

I would also really like to gain more experience in research and develop my academic skills. From this course I am also interested in the policy process and I am keen to explore this further. That’s almost the only issue with GENI: I now feel able to do so many different things, I have no idea where to start. But it is a very positive and exciting confusion.