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USM joining partnership to help Greenland prepare and shape tourist industry

The University of Southern Maine is deepening its ties to the Arctic with a new collaborative project aimed at helping Greenland prepare and shape its expanding tourist industry.

Tracy Michaud, an assistant professor and chair of USM’s Tourism and Hospitality program, has joined experts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Penn State University, the University of Greenland and the US. Department of State.

Tracy Michaud

“There are few places that feel undiscovered in the world, but for many people, Greenland is one of those,” said Tracy Michaud, assistant professor and chair of USM’s Tourism and Hospitality program. “I think it is increasingly going to be a place that people are going to want to visit, especially as more and more people are looking for nature, space and fresh air.”

Their partnership — the Arctic Education Alliance — will build vocational education programs that support training in sustainable tourism, hospitality, and land and fisheries management in Greenland.  The project will foster collaboration between U.S. and Greenlandic education communities and expand educational and economic opportunities. The partnership is being funded by a two-year, U.S. Department of State grant totaling $1.8 million.

The agreement is another result of USM’s work in the region. In 2019, USM was accepted into the University of the Arctic, a cooperative network of universities, colleges, research institutes and other organizations concerned with education and research in and about the North. In 2018, USM formed the Maine North Atlantic Institute to forge greater business, educational and social connections between Maine and countries throughout the North Atlantic. The institute brought together dozens of ongoing projects in which USM students and faculty are working with schools such as Reykjavik University in Iceland and the University of Tromsø in Norway, and businesses such as Whole Oceans.

For USM, the Greenland partnership’s work might lead to student exchanges or other collaborations with the University of Greenland, Michaud said.

This work comes at an extraordinary time for Greenland. Tourism there is building on a warming climate and its perception as an untouched corner of the world, Michaud said.

“While Greenland has long had a strong indigenous population it is increasingly going to be a place that other people want to visit," Michaud said. "In our work through the State Department grant, there is a need for 'true collaboration' between the US and Greenlandic partners in order to see how we can be of assistance as they build their sustainable tourism education system. We want to listen and learn from the people there and help support and sustain the existing cultural and natural assets."

The program goal is to support the development of Greenland’s vocational education capacity in land and fisheries management, hospitality, sustainable tourism, and vocational English by leveraging specialized American professional expertise, Arctic environmental experience, Inuit and Indigenous cultural relevance. The team, which includes Arctic community educators, internationally recognized technical experts, and Greenlandic partners, will:

  • Build an extensive network of contacts and stakeholders in and around Greenland.
  • Identify Greenlandic needs for vocational education in the fields, as well as needs associated with administering this education and placing students in productive positions after completion.
  • Develop and conduct exchanges of teachers and students between Greenland and the United States to develop mutual understanding and transfer of technical skills.
  • Conduct linkages among Greenlandic, American, and Arctic educational institutions to expand Greenlandic access to educational resources, strengthen collaboration, and better integrate Greenland and America in the educational, social, and economic domains.
  • Design and initiate the educational curricula in the fields.
  • Work toward building the capacity necessary to sustainably administer and offer these curricula.
  • Monitor and evaluate the ongoing efficacy and efficiency of our efforts to accomplish and improve implementation of the above activities with annual reports on the overall outcomes and impacts of the project.
  • Design a sustainability plan to continue the program beyond the grant period