The Fulbright Arctic Initiative: Expanding Networks and Opportunities

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Linda Chamberlain, Founding Director & Public Health Scientist, Alaska Family Violence Prevention Project
2015-2016 Fulbright Arctic Initiative Scholar to Finland

Working with different countries and cultures can transform how you approach your field of expertise forever.  I recently returned to Finland to share findings from my Fulbright Arctic Initiative (FAI) research project.  Although my FAI project in my host country of Finland was completed, I wanted to give back to Finland and Fulbright because they have given so much to me, so I decided to return at my own expense.

My project, "Stress and Healing in the Arctic," began with two host institutions in Finland: the University of Jyväskylä, where Dr. Kimmo Jokinen shared the ground-breaking research that he and his team are doing on the emotional security of children, and the University of Oulu where Dr. Anna R. Rönkä and others would help me create relationships with the Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters.  These connections opened doors to other partners and a network of institutional linkages that continues to expand!

I am a public health scientist with an unusual specialty.  I focus on the effects of stress and trauma on brain development and well-being across the lifespan.  While this work could sound depressing, it's anything but that. We know more about healing from hard times than ever before.  Every day I learn more about resiliency and the capacity of individuals, families, and communities to overcome adversities.  

My research took me from remote northern Sámi communities to the coastal city of Helsinki in southern Finland.  New contacts and opportunities emerged all along the way.   A connection with the University of Lapland to discuss a highly innovative study is now informing our work in the United States.  That meeting led to a collaborative grant application that will now support Finnish researchers traveling to Alaska to work with me in 2018.

Fulbright Finland provided extraordinary support in creating linkages.  While I was in Finland, I was contacted by one of their board members, David Yoken with the University of Turku.  I connected David with some of my Alaskan colleagues and he is now partnering with an elementary school in rural Alaska on an international curriculum.  Meanwhile, another linkage took me to the University of Turku to visit the FinnBrain Research Project. Little did I know at that time, the FinnBrain research team would later receive a grant to translate my work on the brain, stress, and healing strategies.  We start working together this month!

The outcomes of my Fulbright Arctic Initiative project extend beyond the United States and Finland.  We just launched an open access educational toolkit called "Hard Times and Healing" for Arctic communities on an online community of practice (www.ACEsconnection.com).   The connections I have made go beyond professional networking.  My most cherished moments have been with new Finnish friends who are like family to us.  My husband and I are already planning our next trip to visit our host family in Jyväskylä, Kimmo and Kirsi, and take a smoke sauna!