Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy Ph.D. student Rhiannon Klein represented the School at the 2016 Model Arctic Council at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and was named one of the top three performers in the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) on the Improving Health in Arctic Communities through Safe and Affordable Access to Household Running Water and Sewer: Water, Sanitation, and Health (WASH) project.
Klein simulated the role of the Canadian delegate for two projects: the SDWG on the WASH project and Reducing the Incidence of Suicide in Indigenous Groups –Strengths United through Networks (RISING-SUN). She answered tough questions from other delegates and handled criticisms aimed towards Canada regarding terrible water and sanitation conditions on Indigenous reserves and in communities in the Northwest Territories. Klein’s quick and critical thinking, along with her ability to build relationships among Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, drew high praise from participating faculty.
“Even between sessions, Rhiannon worked to mediate and facilitate,” said Mary Ehrlander Ph.D., Director, Arctic and Northern Studies Program. “Things did get rather tense as we discussed water issues and high levels of suicide (SDWG's Rising Sun project) -- challenges that are so pressing and personal to Indigenous students. Students left with an extraordinary sense of accomplishment. Rhiannon was central to that.”
The 2016 Model Arctic Council brought together 65 participants from 14 different countries in an experiential learning exercise in which graduate and undergraduate students from institutions across the Arctic and world convene to represent and simulate the work of Member States, Permanent Participants, and Observers of the Arctic Council (AC).
“I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to participate in the Model Arctic Council and to be able to work with a group of people from a wide range of disciplines and to hear their first hand experiences of living in the Arctic,” said Klein. “The experience has broadened my understanding of Arctic policy issues, and has increased my interest in learning more about the circumpolar regions and Canada’s Arctic policy.”