Last summer, Students on Ice welcomed alumna Caitlyn Baikie as our new Arctic Youth & Partnerships Manager. This is a new role at SOI focused on building capacity in Canada’s North, developing new partnerships and programs that support our northern alumni and future participants. We interviewed Caitlyn on her role with SOI and her experience going from an alumni of the SOI program to program lead.
1. Tell us about your experience going from an alumni (Antarctic 2013) of the Students on Ice program to joining the recent Arctic 2015 expedition as SOI’s new Arctic Youth & Partnerships Manager.
It has taken me a while to completely reflect on Students on Ice’s (SOI) 2015 Arctic expedition, for many reasons. The Arctic is a vast landscape full of beauty and inspiration, and a place I call home. Getting to experience it with nearly 200 people from many corners of the world on a two-week expedition as an educator and SOI staff has been life changing. This was not my first SOI expedition. I was first engaged with SOI in 2013 on an Antarctic expedition when I was a post secondary student looking for adventure.
The Antarctic, to me (someone who is from a sub Arctic region of Canada), was so barren, though it looked like parts of the Arctic I previously visited, and felt so desolate, much like the Arctic, but it still felt so uniquely different to me. Though the landscapes, and some wildlife, such as the minke whales, and scents of the ocean were very comparable between the poles, I didn’t have an emotional connection to the Antarctic upon arrival.
I feel very lucky to first have participated on an SOI expedition as a student. Participating as a student allowed me to get to know the organization and experience the landscape and learning for the first time, with brand new eyes. I got to spend alone time observing the beauty and collecting my thoughts after a day of lessons with some incredible educators.
Fast forward to this past summer when I joined the 2015 Arctic Expedition as an educator and staff. I felt prepared to answer students’ questions and to support the staff in whatever ways they needed. Having experienced an SOI expedition, I was familiar with the ebb and flow, which came in handy when unexpected events, happened, as they always do in the spirit of an expedition!
Getting to help develop education content, to help select students to join the expedition, and work as a bear guard in safety of participants was really fun and something I never thought I would have the opportunity to do.
2. What interested you in joining the team at Students on Ice?
Getting to work for SOI has been a dream come true. While going through post secondary school, I felt limited to what I could do to fill my thirst for adventure, and travel to the landscapes I call home. When I participated as a student in the 2013 Antarctic expedition, my passion and drive for the environment was once again ignited by an incredible landscape, and by the people we sailed with. Since then, I have vowed to always create those opportunities for myself, and to surround myself with people who dedicate their time to educating people on the importance of a healthy environment, and specifically the Arctic, the home to my culture and identity.
It also gives me the opportunity to provide life-changing experiences for youth who are much like who I was, the student looking for passion and an opportunity to make a change in the community I live in. Not only do I work on making the opportunity become a reality for youth, I get to meet them and travel with them on Arctic expeditions. Being able to observe change in the environment and youth’s lives is a dream for me and fuels my passion to represent Inuit on circumpolar issues and topics.
3. Tell us about the exciting projects you are involved in at Students on Ice.
Right now, I am working with some of our amazing alumni on making their community project ideas come to fruition. It has been an interesting experience sending out emails to hundreds of youth letting them know about some pretty amazing opportunities for them to further their learning and passion to make a difference in the world, whatever that may look like to them.
The other side to my job that not many get to see, that I find very interesting (and fun!) is getting to work with our many partners to make these youth opportunities a reality. A lot of my time is spent reaching out to partners who have supported SOI since the beginning, and provide generous scholarships that allow youth participation on Arctic expeditions. I am also reaching out to potentially new partners to grow the opportunities that SOI can offer it’s amazing alumni to foster further growth, education and many more opportunities.
Being involved in the Aboriginal community of Ottawa, and Canada as a whole has always been a priority of SOI’s and I am honoured to be able to represent SOI in these communities. This past August, right after the Arctic expedition, I headed back up North to Iqaluit to represent SOI at the National Inuit Youth Summit career showcase. The summit allowed over 70 Inuit youth from all over Canada and even a few from Greenland, to gather and discuss topics that matter to them.
4. What is something many people may not know about you?
If you have ever met me, you would likely say I am an extrovert. I would say that I am an outgoing introvert. I love spending time in large crowds of people and participating in big discussions, networking with a group of people I am so eager to get to know. I am probably a lot more happy hiking a mountain, going for a long bike ride or run, painting on a large canvas, skidooing for hours or sitting with my colouring books (I have 4). People who get to know me, tend to be surprised by the amount of time I spend alone with my closest friends and family, and in nature soaking in its beauty.