In the fall of my senior year, I enrolled for a semester abroad at DIS Copenhagen. I took classes ranging from graphic design to sustainable business strategy. These classes introduced me to Sustainia, an environmental consulting agency and host of the annual Arctic Opportunity Explorers challenge. It’s a competition that brings students together from all over the world to tackle environmental and development issues in the Arctic.
This past year, nine teams from seven countries focused on three specific sustainable development goals posed by the United Nations: “partnerships for the goals”, “good health and well-being” and “gender equality.” My group focused on developing a program that empowered women in rural areas of Greenland to pursue professional opportunities in the shipping industry. Advocating for increased environmental protections was an essential part of this program.
We called it the NAWS Project—Network for Arctic Women in Shipping. It tied together two big issues: the first, reversing the increased risk of Arctic eco-catastrophes, like oil spills, due to the expansion of trade through the Northwest Passage; and the second, creating a path for women to enter the shipping workforce, which is now more than 98 percent male.
As an economics and global studies double major, I found the project connected my academics and current issues. I put my knowledge to work and in return, gained experience making a difference. My economics background was especially useful when spearheading the development of the profit-generating side and while creating a budget proposal to acquire the project’s necessary funding. I also drew on conversations in my global studies classes at St. Lawrence to help me think critically about my positionality in this project as a white American male working to establish connections for women in Greenland.
My group proposed a website and app pairing that would allow women in rural places to connect with industry-leading professionals in more populous areas. This proposal aimed to inspire rural residents to continue their education in pursuit of roles in higher-paying industries. It also created incentives for companies to diversify their workforce with qualified female candidates—who could advocate for meaningful environmental protections and civil rights.
Lastly, we had to prove how the NAWS Project could become profitable. According to our model, the project would earn a commission based on the number of women hired by the shipping industry. Companies would reach out to the NAWS Project in search of local candidates, and our initiative would identify women who would be a good fit. Ultimately, this would incentivize the NAWS Project to educate and find local candidates.
This experience allowed me to connect with shipping industry professionals from the company Maersk, the head of Greenland’s political representation in Denmark, and our group’s mentor. Thanks to these connections and the unique approach of our project, my group won the entire Arctic Opportunity Explorers challenge. This accomplishment meant our hard work was recognized by professionals actively working to tackle the issues we researched.
Through this project, I was able to see how I could potentially use my degree and unique double major to pursue an interesting and meaningful career after graduating from St. Lawrence. It showed me how the passions I’ve discovered in the classroom can make a positive impact on people around the world.