Her excitement is evident when Dorothy Tootoo talks about running a new pilot program currently taking place in Rankin Inlet.
Tootoo from Arctic Buying Co. is Co-Leading Creativity for Entrepreneurship, a five-week intercultural international entrepreneurship course piloted by the University of Minnesota.
The youth that make up the class in the program are as close as Arviat, Rankin Inlet, and Manitoba, and as distant as various cities in the United States and India.
The class, which began on February 3rd, is a combination of self-directed learning and live zoom video conferencing in English and Inuktitut.
One of the many unique features of the class is that the University of Minnesota actually encourages families to enroll for the course together.
This has resulted in entire families with children, their parents, and even some grandparents signing up for the learning and creativity of the course.
Creativity for Entrepreneurship is touted by stakeholders as a great experimental approach to new educational opportunities, funded by both the University of Minnesota and the United States National Science Foundation.
The university names the objectives of the course to diagnose personal creative abilities by engaging in activities in the virtual and physical world, learning through practice and reflecting on the blocks that inhibit creativity, developing self-directed learning skills and making cross-cultural connections.
According to Tootoo, the process began with an invitation to participate in a Global Dignity Day project, which then went to ArcticNet – a network of Canadian centers of excellence that brings together scientists, engineers and managers from the natural, health and social sciences with their partners Inuit organizations, northern communities, federal and provincial agencies and the private sector to study the effects of climate change in northern Canada.
She said everything grew from what it is today.
“It is so true that when you deal with different organizations and people and deal with their way of thinking, it quickly becomes all about inclusivity, diversity, equity in people and all of that,” Tootoo said.
“It evolved so that we also have a place at the University of Minnesota and, in particular, with two professors, Dr. Aparna Katre and Dr. Olaf Kuhlke, who have spent a lot of time researching in Arviat in recent years.
“He told Jamie Bell (formerly of Nunavut Arctic College and the Nunavut Research Institute in Arviat) and I about this project where they wanted to experiment and develop an entrepreneurship program that included different learning methods while looking for ways to make the process easier for people to understand with one voice and participate in.
“They have actually developed another new experimental approach to exploring our cultural entrepreneurship. With that in mind, they are also introducing us to an international audience to find out what it means and how people can learn to be entrepreneurs.”
Tootoo said there are some in the class who don’t have access to social media and they iron it all out while they deal with communication, connection and various other topics.
She said it was a challenge, but it was also a really good learning experience for everyone involved, including yourself.
“If we have problems, we just send them to Dr. Katre and Dr. Kuhlke back and they say they’ll set us up for a chat in the university’s chat room. It was just amazing.
“I am amazed at how much help has been given through all of this program and how it connects us. They do their best to keep us connected and are always there to help when things go wrong.
“The experimental approach to exploring this entrepreneurship course is great as it really is about families coming together and learning in this digital environment and I don’t think this will be the last because it’s so exciting.
“The course participants will lose a real sense of inclusion and we will all get away with a new appreciation for creativity. The message we get over and over again is that we are designing this course so that we really help shape an international audience or develop together. “