Lasting Impact of Experiential Learning…With a Student Group Above the Arctic Circle (45 Years Ago!)

Hello to my followers – I’m going to be active once again on my blog this year. Look for more regular posts on the same issues I’ve addressed for many years: education abroad, student career development, international education and its impact on employability – from both a US and international perspective.

If you’re new to Global Career Compass, I hope you will browse through the categories on the right and see if what I’ve written about resonates with you.

The title of this column is prompted by a segment I was listening to on my local NPR affiliate station. It focused on the impact of recent decisions to explore for oil on Inuit lands on the North Slope of Alaska [these villages are the most Northern Inuit communities in North America]. As always, there were balanced points of view aired: Inuit organizations which were new to me, business representatives, environmental nonprofits and others. As I listened, it dawned on me that I had heard EXACTLY this same conversation about virtually the same divisive socio-economic and political issues 45 years ago!

Specifically, in the summer of 1978 when I took a group of students and faculty to explore the impact of the newly built Alaska pipeline cutting North-South through the middle of the state. We spent a week in Anchorage and then flew up to Barrow, just 400 miles from the North Pole and the hub of what’s referred to as Alaska’s North Slope. We lived in Barrow for about two weeks.

That’s the context for this piece…that an educational program which I created (with help from many local connections, including the President of the only private university in Alaska, Alaska Pacific University and a fledgling (since disbanded) community college based in Barrow) was so easily recalled in much detail four decades later!

I was leading this group on behalf of a pioneering organization called The Lisle Fellowship (ERIC-EJ911574). The foundational principle for Lisle intercultural programs that had been conducted since 1936 was rooted in the impactful interpersonal learning derived from intense structured experiential learning. There are not many experiences I’ve had that have left as sharp an imprint on both my mind and my heart as this engagement with Alaskan Inuit leaders and their lived life in Barrow.

Of course, the pandemic has forced educators and institutions to develop and implement more virtual educational options — but, will they remain in the memory of today’s students 45 years later?

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