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In 2015, I completed the Jane Glassco Northern Fellowship and received my certificate of completion in my hometown of Iqaluit, Nunavut, where our last gathering was hosted in the spring. The Fellowship made a difference in my life and my certificate of completion hangs on my wall right beside my bachelor’s degree.

The Gordon Foundation administers the fellowship program and “is a private, philanthropic foundation based in Toronto, Ontario. The Foundation undertakes research, leadership development and public dialogue so that public policies in Canada reflect a commitment to collaborative stewardship of our freshwater resources and to a people-driven, equitable and evolving North.”

I initially applied to the first fellowship cohort when I was in my second year of journalism studies at Carleton University. The program intrigued me immediately upon learning of it. I was not accepted to the first round of applications, which was a disappointment for me.

However, when I completed university in 2013, I applied again and I got in. I still remember receiving the call from the program manager, Holly Mackenzie, and the sheer feeling of excitement. She told me that it was going to be a lot of work, but that was something I was quite used to and ready for. The lesson here is: don’t give up and always be determined to achieve what you desire. If your heart is in the right place, then the stars will align for you.

During the Fellowship graduation day in Iqaluit, I add moss to the qulliq that will soon be lit. Mitchell White of Nunatsiavut is behind me.
© The Gordon Foundation

The president of The Gordon Foundation during my cohort, 2013-2015, Tom Axworthy, was a guiding force for what I learned while in the Fellowship. He was principal secretary to the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau, former prime minister of Canada in the 1970s and 80s. I remember during our first gathering just outside of Yellowknife at Blachford Lake Lodge, he taught the 10 of us Fellows the term syzygy, an ancient Greek term for when planets are aligned. I inter­pret this to mean that opportunities have a way of presenting themselves when you follow your goals and dreams. I found that since learning this, when I work hard, things tend to line themselves up.

The Fellowship is an amazing program where you learn more about the different Indigenous cultures of the North. For our cohort, we learned about the cultures of the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. It was special for me to complete the program in my hometown of Iqaluit. It was gratifying to see the other Fellows learn more about Inuit through igloo-building, the lighting of the qulliq and just being able to experience the culture and show them the town where I spent most of my formative years.

Research and public policy

My individial research goal in the Fellowship was to discover firsthand how the University of Greenland, Ilisimatusarfik, was created. This experience was educational and my final paper can be found on the Foundation’s website: www.gordonfoundation.ca. I travelled to Nuuk to interview the founders of the university, the founding and current students, and Inuit professors. It was an inspiring research journey, showing how capable we are as Inuit, as we have always been.

The second component to the formal submission of writing was the group paper. Mitchell White of Nunatsiavut and Kluane Ademak of the Yukon and I wrote a paper on Integrating Traditional Practices Into Inuit Mental Wellness Programs. We found that generally Inuit who practice their culture, speak their language and spend time on the land have increased self-esteem and confidence. This paper can also be found on the Foundation’s website.

Tom Axworthy and I wait to board the aircraft, leaving the successful first gathering at Blachford Lake Lodge. © Teevi Mackay

Going into the program I wanted to learn more about public policy. I learned that guiding public policy entails the formula of research, communication, strong public opinion and interest and, of course, political will. Overall the Fellowship gave me more than just the steps toward the development of public policy. It also provided me with increased knowledge in other areas of public life. As well, it provided me with a network of Northern Fellows, mentors, and those who work for The Gordon Foundation, connections you cannot find in the textbooks of libraries.

Jane Glassco Northern Fellowship Alumni Program

Since completing the Fellowship I have utilized the alumni program funding. I was able to support a community-driven program in Kangiqsujuaq, Nunavik, with a $5,000 grant. This money was used for a youth mental health through photography workshop. Youth learned more about photography and participated in mental health discussions. It was a fitting program that I felt I had an affinity with, as a big part of my work today involves photography. I felt a great deal of gratitude to The Gordon Foundation as I was able to channel money into a meaningful program that involves mental wellness and photography – photography being an artform that I love and practice almost daily.

Calling for the fourth cohort of Fellows

The current third cohort of Fellows are set to complete the program in the spring of 2017 and applications for the fourth cohort will also be accepted during this time. I highly recommend anyone interested to apply to the program. (Applications will be available at www.gordonfoundation.ca). If accepted, you will not regret it, as there will be much to learn as there is always space to grow and develop.

Teevi Mackay