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The Canadian Studies Center Welcomes the First Arctic Minor Student!

Walter O'Toole

December 31, 2014

I began my Arctic studies with simple curiosity. While registering for Fall 2013 classes, I found a course on the Jackson School International Studies (JSIS) class listings: Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit. My father worked in the Alaskan Arctic for two decades, and I grew up with a strong (if second-hand) fascination and interest in the Arctic and Inuit culture. I sent an email to Nadine Fabbi inquiring about the class. She arranged a unique opportunity for me to study Inuktitut with Caitlyn Evans, the (Foreign Language Area of Studies) FLAS scholar who had arranged the course. I entered the class with the enthusiasm and support of both Nadine and Caitlyn, as well as the course instructor, Mick Mallon. I met Mr. Mallon and his wife Alexina Kublu during their visit to the University of Washington in December 2013. The class is conducted over videochat and Mick and Kublu work as a team, Mick handles the technical and linguistic concepts and Kublu is always ready to correct him. Through these courses at the UW, I have come to appreciate that Inukitut is “more than a language, it is a culture.” I was fascinated by the “beautiful juxtaposition of the richness of the life, culture, and wildlife in the Arctic and the extreme climate.”

About halfway into the quarter, Nadine asked if I would be interested in the newly created Arctic Studies Minor. I was greatly enjoying learning Inuktitut, and through the process, my fascination with the culture and environment behind the language was increasing. So I told her to sign me up!

My major is English, and I’m excited to see how these two fields of study will intersect. I’m interested in the ways literature and language relate to Arctic identities and cultures. I’m particularly interested in the oral literature of the Inuit, both in its traditional forms and in its presence in contemporary Arctic literature. Additionally, the relationships between people and wildlife are fascinating to me, and I look forward to exploring these in the context of the Arctic and in my own writing.

Arctic & International Relations ( is a Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies (JSIS)-wide initiative, led by the Canadian Studies Center since 2008, to address the Arctic as an emerging global region and actor on the world stage. JSIS and the Center are working in partnership with a parallel initiative, Future of Ice – a College of the Environment, College of Arts and Sciences, and Applied Physics Laboratory initiative – to enhance the University of Washington’s (UW) profile in research, education and public engagement about the polar regions.

by Walter O’Toole, English Major, Arctic Studies and Andrea Banel, Graduate Student, Evans School of Public Affairs; Canadian Studies Center Reporter