The Arctic Internship Fellowship supports students at the University of Michigan to pursue independent, student-designed research projects in the Arctic Region. Past interns have worked with Inuit Circumpolar Council-Alaska, University of Alaska Fairbanks Arctic and Northern Studies Program, and other reputable organizations. Students from any major can apply for the Fellowship. Program participants come from a diverse academic background, including anthropology, chemistry, neuroscience, political science, and more. Since 2012, 37 University of Michigan undergraduates have been awarded the Arctic Internship Fellowship.
Dr. David Scott is the primary donor for the Arctic Internship Fellowship. To celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the fellowship, we sat down for a conversation with Dr. Scott to discuss the history and future of the program.
The origins of the Fellowship are humble. In fact, it started with a student: history undergraduate David Scott. “I ended up taking a history degree [at the University of Michigan], which I had always been interested in,” Dr. Scott explained. After moving back to the city with his wife, Dr. Scott saw the opportunity to improve his skills while also pursuing his passions. “I was able to get into a second undergraduate degree program, which wasn’t easy at Michigan,” he acknowledged.
His classmates were his fellow undergraduates, aged 18 to 22. “I’m an Iraq war veteran, and I was in the Navy reserve at that time. I actually joined the student veterans. Most of them were mid to late 20s,” Dr. Scott remarked with a laugh, “but they all said they felt like dinosaurs!” However, rather than feeling like the odd-man out, Dr. Scott said that being on such a young campus was “energizing.” He added, “the students were great to be around, I enjoyed it and I tried to get involved. For a while I was even on the board of the Michigan Union, which was great.” Making the most of his second-undergraduate experience, Dr. Scott explained, “I just tried to see things, do things.”
As a student, Dr. Scott had the chance to explore all the opportunities offered by the University.
“I became aware of all of the international internships, and…I noticed there was really nothing in the Arctic or subarctic region. There's so much going on there: climate change, social justice, military and security issues. There are so many aspects of society where the Arctic is at the forefront.”
Dr. Scott’s admiration for the Arctic region started at a young age. “My father grew up next door to J. Hammond, who was later an important early governor in Alaska. So, I was interested in Alaska from way back. I made several trips to Alaska when I was in the Navy, and I’ve been [there] on my own.” Dr. Scott added, “I’ve been to Greenland, Iceland, some of Scandinavia,” but he never had the opportunity himself to study abroad as a student. “Study abroad wasn’t a part of my life –– but that’s another reason why I wanted to fund these internships. I wanted to get these students out in the field and see how other people live.”
As for why Dr. Scott continues to support the program, part of the reason is legacy, “it’s something we can leave behind.” In this day-and-age, too, Dr. Scott added, “I think an internationally oriented education is important.” Even ten years later, Dr. Scott emphasized that “I believe in [the program] as much as I ever did. There are important things happening in the Arctic that our students should know about.”
Today, the Arctic Internship Fellowship is as important now as it was ten years ago. “I think the important message is that not everybody lives like we do, not everybody wants as we do, and we have to make an effort to understand what’s going on there. What happens there affects us –– we have a self-interest, if nothing else, in what’s happening in other parts of the world.”
These days, Dr. Scott’s interest has turned to writing. His latest book, “A Short Mission,” is soon to be published. Drawing upon his experience of military service and international travel, Dr. Scott primarily writes military thrillers.
For students at the University, Dr. Scott offers the following pearls of wisdom: “This is a piece of wisdom my father gave me. Every now and then, do something you don’t expect to like or read something you don’t expect to like, and even if you don’t like it you can make something out of it.” He took his own advice by reading a Young Adult novel to inform his own writing and curiosity. “I didn’t like it,” Dr. Scott admitted, “but in terms of being a writer… I thought it was interesting.” For an activity on campus, Dr. Scott recommends the Kelsey Museum, a favorite spot from his time on campus.