Congratulations to Gail Fondahl on her retirement from the University of Northern British Columbia after 32 years as a founding faculty member there! We will miss Gail's advice and guidance as a member of the Læra Institute Steering Committee, and we are especially grateful for her service over the past two years. We are also especially grateful for Gail's dedication to Circumpolar education and research throughout her academic career, and we echo the following celebration of her work on the occasion of her lifetime honorary membership award from the International Arctic Social Science Association (IASSA):
Over the past three decades, Dr. Fondahl has demonstrated sustained and significant contributions to Arctic social sciences and humanities. Her dedication to research, service and teaching in the area of Arctic studies has been truly outstanding and, as a result, we feel that she is fully deserving of this award. Dr. Fondahl is a Professor of Geography at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) in Prince George, Canada. She is one of the founding faculty members of UNBC and has played a critical role in its development as one of Canada’s leading small research-intensive universities. She holds a PhD and an MA in Geography from the University of California Berkeley and a BA in Geography and Russian Studies from Dartmouth College. Dr. Fondahl’s research focuses on the geographies of Indigenous rights in Russia and Canada and, more broadly, human development and the cultural and legal dimensions of sustainability in the Arctic. She is the author or co-author of numerous publications and reports in these fields, including 32 academic journal articles, 16 book chapters and several books. Of particular note is her 1998 book, Gaining Ground? Evenkis, Land and Reform in Southeastern Siberia (Allyn and Bacon) and her 2017 co-edited book, Northern Sustainabilities: Understanding and Addressing Change in the Circumpolar World (Springer Press). She also co-edited the 2010 Arctic Social Indicators Report and the 2014 Arctic Human Development Report II: Regional Processes and Global Linkages.
Dr. Fondahl is one of the leading western experts on Indigenous Peoples in Russia. Her connections to Russia are deep and stretch back to her time as an undergraduate student, when she first developed a passion for the Russian culture and language. Over the years, she has collaborated with colleagues and stakeholders throughout Russia and is well-respected for her work with Indigenous communities in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia). She is a tireless advocate for the promotion of Russian and Siberian studies within the Academy.
Dr. Fondahl’s contributions to the Arctic research community go well beyond her academic publications and demonstrate a strong commitment to international collaboration at the highest levels. From 2011- 2018, she served as the Canadian Representative and Chair of the Social and Human Sciences Working Group of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC). She also served as the Co-Chair of the Social, Economic and Human Expert Group of the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) of the Arctic Council from 2013-2017 and was a member of the Arctic Council’s Social, Economic and Cultural Expert Group (SECEG).
From 2011-2014, Dr. Fondahl served as the President of the International Arctic Social Sciences Association (IASSA). She represented the Arctic social sciences community for three years across the globe, and in 2014, was Co-Convener of the International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences (ICASS VIII) in Prince George, where the conference theme was “Northern Sustainabilities”. ICASS VIII was a very successful gathering; it was the largest ICASS to date, with 470 delegates from 26 countries participating in 109 sessions and presenting 411 papers.
Dr. Fondahl has played an important role in the coordination and development of international Arctic research initiatives. She was actively engaged in the organization of the International Polar Year (IPY) and represented IASSA in its work with the 3rd International Commission on Arctic Research Planning (ICARP III). Under her presidency of IASSA, efforts were made to improve the Association’s Terms of Reference, and much time was dedicated to the meetings of the IASSA Council. Dr. Fondahl has promoted Arctic social sciences and through her efforts has influenced our general understanding of Arctic science. She has brought a strong dimension of international collaboration to the Arctic research community, and has also built a network of researchers from non-Arctic states such as Japan, Korea and China.
Throughout her academic career, Dr. Fondahl has taught numerous courses within the discipline of Geography that complement her Arctic research and service. These courses have inspired her students to learn more about the circumpolar north and pursue further academic studies on Arctic and northern issues. Dr. Fondahl has also supervised many graduate students and early career scholars, thereby contributing to the training and development of the next generation of Arctic social scientists and humanities scholars.
Through her research, service and teaching, Dr. Gail Fondahl has displayed a strong and unwavering commitment to the values and mandate of IASSA. She has been a role model and mentor to many IASSA members, including her nominators for this prestigious award. Moreover, she has made a significant contribution to the growth and development of both IASSA and social science research in the Arctic. It is with the deepest respect and gratitude that we submit this letter of nomination for your consideration.
Text by Gary Wilson (University of Northern British Columbia), Diane Hirshberg (University of Alaska Anchorage) and Peter Sköld (Umeå University), and originally published in IASSA's Northern Notes 55.