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'Possibilities are endless': Nunavut Arctic College collaboration

special feature: Indigenization

Part of a special feature chronicling the transformation of the academy through the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge, voices, critiques, scholars, students and materials at Memorial.

By Nora Daly

Being chosen by Nunavut Arctic College (NAC) to partner to build capacity at the college over the next decade was “humbling,” says Dr. Rob Shea, Memorial’s lead for the initiative.

“An honour has been given to us,” he said.

Nunavut Arctic College
Nunavut Arctic College’s Nunatta Campus Building A in Iqaluit, Nunavut.
Photo: Mariana Barney

In October, Nunavut Arctic College announced it had chosen Memorial to be its partner as NAC seeks to strengthen university education across the territory.

While many northern colleges have partnership agreements with southern universities for program delivery, this is the first time a northern college has opted to work with one university in order to increase its academic capacity, with the goal of eventually transitioning to university status.


According to Dr. Shea, associate vice-president (academic and student affairs) at the Marine Institute, this is a novel approach in the North.

One unique feature is that Nunavut Arctic College is leading the way, determining what the institution and the people in Nunavut want and need.

“By selecting Memorial University as their partner, they have indicated that Memorial can best support them in such diverse areas as academic capacity, learner development, teaching and administration, instructional design and delivery, and research,” Dr. Shea pointed out.

Dr. Shea says the vision of the joint steering committee that is guiding the partnership is to establish a true collaboration between the two institutions, where both will benefit from each other’s knowledge and experience.

“The college supports one of the largest post-secondary service areas in the world located in a region of major research interest. With Memorial’s strong focus on cold oceans, northern and sub-Arctic research, the possibilities are endless.”

Truth and reconciliation

Dr. Shea notes that Memorial University is moving forward with its consultations on an Indigenization strategy and the university’s Labrador Institute is working towards a new strategic plan.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” — Dr. Rob Shea

He also says the opportunity to learn from partners at Nunavut Arctic College is “critical” as Memorial moves forward to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Dr. Shea. “We are helping to navigate a new university in the North. We’re building it in true partnership just like our predecessors did when they envisioned Memorial University College and then collaborated to make it a university. I believe there is tremendous synergy between the aspirations of NAC and the history and aspirations of Memorial.”

It is anticipated a 10-year partnership agreement will be signed in the coming months, with Memorial’s bachelor of education program ready for roll-out this fall and other academic partnerships to follow.

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