The University of Alaska Fairbanks’ new Climate Scholars Program launched last spring to meet student demands for climate science focused courses, and workforce demands for interdisciplinary climate science skills. This year’s cohort will receive financial support from the Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center in the form of seventeen $1200 scholarships.

The Climate Scholars program is a unique interdisciplinary experience for UAF undergraduate students which gives them opportunities to participate in climate change research, contribute to policy, and engage in advocacy while pushing them to engage across academic disciplines. By challenging students to think more holistically about climate change as a cross-cutting issue the program will prepare students to be leaders in clean energy, environmental engineering, public policy, and more. 

“Climate Scholars is like an experiential layer on top of the student’s undergraduate program.” said CASC Fellow and Climate Scholars Program faculty member Kristin Timm. “Students from any discipline are welcome, and we aim to prepare students to lead and collaborate on climate change-related work after they graduate.”

The Climate Scholars program will increase opportunities for students and researchers opportunities to collaborate in the classroom, in the lab, or in the field.

This interdisciplinary and action-oriented focus supports the Climate Adaptation Science Center’s mission in a new way. Undergraduate students fluent in the process and application of climate science will help make that science applicable to the needs of industry and communities. Whether these students go on to be boundary-spanners, researchers, or focus on putting research into practice they reinforce the cycle of actionable science.

The Alaska CASC, a partnership between the International Arctic Research Center and the United States Geological Survey, works with scientists and communities to meet climate impact, adaptation, and resilience needs. Human capacity in climate science is a critical need to all levels of government and in the private sector. The UAF Honors College is addressing that demand with the Climate Scholars Program as it pairs traditional academic work with internships, experiential learning, and a capstone project.

The future of the Climate Scholars program looks bright. The first full cohort of the program began this past fall and development is continuing. There are efforts in place to connect Climate Scholars and other UAF alumni to current students to provide advice and mentoring, while efforts to connect students to the industries and organizations that have the greatest need for their skills and passion continue.

There is a lot of enthusiasm for the new program and these kinds of collaborative scholarships, alongside other similar efforts across campus, demonstrate the leaps forward UAF is taking in terms of what is possible. 

Future mechanisms for collaboration between the CASC and the Climate Scholars Program are being discussed. With any luck, this year’s scholarships are just the beginning of a long story of fruitful collaboration.