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WKU student completes summer internship in Iceland

WKU student Tara Sorrels on top of Svinafellsjokull glacier tongue, which the Climate Change Challenge Study Abroad Group explored prior to the start of her internship and research endeavors in Iceland.

WKU student Tara Sorrels on top of Svinafellsjokull glacier tongue, which the Climate Change Challenge Study Abroad Group explored prior to the start of her internship and research endeavors in Iceland.

WKU senior Tara Sorrels, an International Business major and Honors College student from Taylorsville, completed an internship this summer at the Icelandic Arctic Cooperation Network (IACN) in Akureyri, Iceland, under the direction of Embla Eir Oddsdóttir.

During her time in Iceland, Sorrels also conducted research for her WKU Honors thesis on scenario planning for climate change within Icelandic fisheries, which she is completing under the direction of Dr. Leslie North in the Department of Geography and Geology.

The goal of the IACN is to facilitate cooperation among Icelandic public and private organizations, institutions, businesses, and bodies involved in Arctic issues. The organization works with these entities to encourage research, education, innovation and monitoring, or other activity relevant to the Arctic region.

The IACN is one of two Icelandic partners in the Memorandum of Agreement signed between WKU and Iceland as part of the North Atlantic Climate Change Collaboration (NAC3) project. During her internship, Sorrels researched markets in Iceland and Kentucky to discover if there are possible trade opportunities between the two places. She worked with individuals within the Arctic Portal, the University of Akureyri, Matís, and the Stefansson Arctic Institute.

Tara Sorrels (right) at the office of the Iceland Arctic Corporation Network (IACN) alongside Embla Eir Oddsdottir, Director of the IACN, and WKU student Jody Dahmer, a political science major from Fisherville who also visited Akureyri for research purposes.

Tara Sorrels (right) at the office of the Iceland Arctic Corporation Network (IACN) alongside Embla Eir Oddsdottir, Director of the IACN, and WKU student Jody Dahmer, a political science major from Fisherville who also visited Akureyri for research purposes.

During her internship Sorrels also had an opportunity to collaborate with Ambassador Robert Barber, the Ambassador from the United States to Iceland, and Ambassador Stewart Wheeler, the Ambassador from Canada to Iceland. Providing interns with opportunities to work with diplomatic personnel is hoped to be a hallmark of the program; authentic experiences such as these provide students with the skills necessary for working in international settings.

“My internship experience in Iceland was enriching and life-changing in many ways. I never knew I could learn so much in two weeks,” Sorrels said.

Sorrels spent three weeks in Iceland prior to her internship participating in the Climate Change Challenge WKU study abroad program, which focused on many issues throughout the country as they relate to climate impacts, which helped prepare her for the internship work that followed.

While completing the internship, Sorrels also was doing research for her Honors College capstone experience thesis titled “Using a scenario planning approach to assess how the Icelandic fishing industry is preparing for climate change,” and was able to speak with several individuals within the Icelandic fishing industry and the Fisheries Science Center at the University of Akureyri in Iceland. She also worked with Captain Rick Fehst, an experienced Alaskan fisherman and advocate of Arctic environmental issues, to learn about the U.S. approach to fisheries management.

“Tara is a wonderful student who has a very bright future ahead of her,” said Dr. North, who is one of the co-leaders of the NAC3 project. “We were thrilled to have her represent WKU as the first NAC3 student intern. She is like a sponge, learning all that she can during her time at WKU. It is such a joy to watch her grow and learn from this and other experiences she is pursing. I am grateful to have her as a student and to be able to advise her Honors thesis research.”

The view from the Icelandic Arctic Cooperation Network office located in Akureyri, Iceland.

The view from the Icelandic Arctic Cooperation Network office located in Akureyri, Iceland.

Oddsdóttir, Director of the IACN, said: “It is very important for the NAC3 cooperation to include student exchange and internship opportunities, and we at the IACN were very lucky that the first student was such an excellent one. Tara’s enthusiasm was an inspiration, and she brought a unique perspective to the issues of climate change in general and specifically in terms of adaptive capacity of fisheries to a changing climate. In addition, Tara’s talent for thinking out of the box in terms of opportunities for trade between the two countries led to a stronger focus on knowledge industries, bringing the attention beyond traditional avenues of primary resources.”

“Tara was the first among many students we hope to take advantage of the unique collaborative partnership that has formed between IACN, the University of Akureyri, and WKU,” Dr. North said. “Although this partnership centers around the topic of climate change, which many people assume to simply be important for the physical sciences, the climate change topic is very broad and can be related to virtually any discipline or field of study. Tara is a perfect example of that fact.”

Sorrels received an international FUSE grant, DELO Study Abroad Award, WorldTopper scholarship, Jarve endowment grant, and assistance from the Gordon Ford College of Business to make her study abroad and internship experience possible. Sorrels also received an Honors Development Grant and Hershberg Foundation Study Abroad Scholarship to specifically cover her housing and other expenses associated with her internship and research experience. The David Hershberg Scholarship was established in the memory of David Hershberg, a Louisville educator and mentor for thousands of students. The prestigious scholarship for international summer study is awarded through the World Affairs Council of Kentucky & Southern Indiana (WAC).

For information about Sorrels’ internship or the NAC3 partnership, contact Dr. Leslie North at leslie.north@wku.edu.

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