ACUNS’ governing body is a council of representatives from member institutions (post-secondary and research) who meet annually to discuss strategic issues relevant to ACUNS’ goals. An elected Board of Directors meets quarterly to decide on and facilitate the direction of activities of the Association. Day-to-day operations are currently implemented by two staff members for the organization who oversee organizational growth, program management, administration, and communications. Activities include the administration of awards and scholarships, support for the organization of student conferences, and providing resources for northern researchers.

How to be a Director

How to Become your Institution’s Representative




Gary Wilson, University of Northern British Columbia

Gary Wilson is a Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Acting Chair of the Department of First Nations Studies at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC).  He is also the Coordinator of the Northern Studies Program at UNBC. Gary teaches comparative politics, including courses in comparative northern development, and politics and governance in the circumpolar north.  His research focuses on Inuit multilevel governance and regional politics in Canada, Russia and Norway.  Gary has been involved in ACUNS as the representative for UNBC since 2007 and was elected to the Board in 2009.  Before becoming President of ACUNS in 2017, he served as Secretary-Treasurer and Vice President.


Audrey Giles, University of Ottawa

Audrey Giles is an applied cultural anthropologist and a professor in the School of Human Kinetics at the University of Ottawa. She first started going to the Arctic and sub-Arctic for summer jobs during her undergraduate years at Queen’s University. She then went to the University of Alberta for graduate school, during which time she conducted her research in the Deh Cho region of the NWT. Audrey has been heavily involved in promoting northern studies and particularly issues that pertain to equity within the discipline. She has served on the Canadian Northern Studies Trust committee for five years, facilitated the Northern Scientific Training Program process at the University of Ottawa, and was the Co-Chair of the 2003 ACUNS International Student Conference for Northern Studies. Audrey succeeds Hugo Asselin as Vice-President after serving the Board of Directors as Secretary-Treasurer.


Stephanie Irlbacher-Fox, Carleton University

Stephanie Irlbacher-Fox earned a BA in Political Science and MA in Political Science at the University of Alberta. She received her PhD from Cambridge University in 2005. Stephanie holds appointments as Adjunct Research Professor with the University of Carleton School of Public Policy and Administration and with the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta, and Research Associate at the Stefansson Arctic Institute, Iceland. She is author of the critically acclaimed Finding Dahshaa: Self-Government Social Suffering and Aboriginal Policy in Canada (UBC, 2009). Currently, she is Implementation Director of self-government Treaty-based Deline Got’ine Government. She also works with NWT Indigenous governments as a governance advisor and negotiator and is Scientific Director of a CIHR-funded NWT health research support unit. She is also Project Director for a major research grant application on Treaty Implementation with the Land Claim Agreements Coalition. She lives in Yellowknife with her husband and two sons.


Hugo Asselin, Université de Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue

Hugo Asselin holds a BSc in biology, a MSc in forest ecology, and a PhD in palaeoecology. Now a professor at Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, he holds the Canada research chair in aboriginal forestry. His research themes are ecology and palaeoecology of the boreal forest and forest tundra, as well as social and aboriginal forestry. When he was a PhD student at Université Laval’s Centre d’études nordiques, Hugo was part of the organizing committee of the 6th ACUNS National Student Conference on Northern Studies (2000). Hugo has served on the ACUNS Board of Directors since 2007, most recently as Vice-President from 2018-2019.


Crystal Fraser, University of Alberta

Crystal Gail Fraser is Gwichyà Gwich’in and originally from Inuvik and Dachan Choo Gę̀hnjik in the Northwest Territories. Her PhD research focused on the history of student experiences at Indian Residential Schools in the Inuvik Region between 1959 and 1996. Crystal’s work makes a strong contribution to how scholars engage with Indigenous research methodologies and theoretical concepts, our understanding of Indigenous histories during the second half of the twentieth century, and how northern Canada was unique in relation to the rest of the settler nation. Dr. Crystal Fraser was awarded the 2020 John Bullen Prize by the Canadian Historical Association for her thesis, titled T’aih k’ìighe’ tth’aih zhit dìidìch’ùh or By Strength We Are Still Here. The prize honours the outstanding PhD thesis on a historical topic submitted in a Canadian university. Crystal was elected to the ACUNS Board of Directors in 2020.


Karla Jessen Williamson, University of Saskatchewan

Karla Jessen Williamson, is Assistant Professor of Educational Foundations University of Saskatchewan. She is a kalaaleq – an Inuk born and grown in Greenland. Since moving to Canada, Karla undertook Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in her third language (English) through the University of Saskatchewan. Her Master’s work was based in Pangnirtung, Nunavut. Her Doctoral studies at University of Aberdeen in Scotland involved studying gender relations in post-colonial Greenland Inuit community. Since then she has published a book titled Inherit my Heaven (2011), a number of articles and book chapters, and has edited the Journal of Indigenous Studies. Karla was Executive Director of the Arctic Institute of North America at the University of Calgary, as the first female Executive Director since its inception in 1945. She chairs the University of Saskatchewan’s Northern Studies Training program, and initiated Beadwork Group, which looks for ways to further Indigenous education. She is also a published poet both in kalaallisut and in English.


Heather Nicol, Trent University

Heather Nicol is the Director of the School for the Study of Canada and a Professor in the School for the Environment at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario. Her research is focused on exploring the dynamics that structure the political geography of the circumpolar North, with a specific focus on the North American Arctic and Canada-US relations. She is currently exploring both the history of circumpolar geopolitics, security and borders in relation to globalization and post-global paradigms.  Heather is a member of the Academic Leadership Team at the University of the Arctic (UArctic), and also sits on the International Advisory Board of Polar Research and Policy Initiative (PRPI) and serves as its Canada Lead. She was the 2015-16 Visiting Fulbright Chair to the University of Washington, at the Centre for Canadian Studies and the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies.


Gabrielle Slowey, York University

Gabrielle Slowey (UofT, UNB, UofA) is the Director of the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies and an associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at York University (Toronto, ON) where she teaches courses in Canadian, Aboriginal and Arctic Politics. Her research investigates the intersection between governance, resource extraction, Indigenous development, the environment and the state in multiple regions (Northern Alberta, Northern Quebec, Yukon, NWT, Ontario, the United States, Australia and New Zealand). Her current research concentrates on pressures to develop shale gas reserves and investigates the variation in response by local communities. She is the author of Navigating Neoliberalism: Self-Determination and the Mikisew Cree First Nation (UBC Press, 2008) and numerous book chapters.


Audrey Steenbeek, Dalhousie University

Dr. Steenbeek is an epidemiologist that specializes in the epidemiology of infectious diseases like chlamydia, gonorrhoea and HIV in remote Inuit communities. She specializes in quantitative methodology particularly around rates of transmission, risk factors, predictors, and in community-based research with a focus on prevention, health promotion and education around cervical cancer and HIV. Dr. Steenbeek is a Professor at Dalhousie University School of Nursing with a Cross-Appointment in the Dept. of Community Health and Epidemiology.

Student Director

Émilie Desjardins, Université du Québec à Rimouski

Émilie Desjardins completed an undergraduate degree in biology at Université du Québec à Montréal, bringing her to Université du Québec à Rimouski to pursue an accelerated master’s to doctoral program. Her commitment to nature conservation and a love for outdoor activities were the impetus to follow post-graduate studies in wildlife management and conservation. As someone who is very engaged in her community and in nature, she works as a volunteer for several organizations that raise awareness and advocate for biodiversity, such as the Observatoire d’Oiseaux de Rimouski and Havre de la faune. She is also part of several organizing committees including the Point Biologique and a science-popularization student group. Following her first summer field season in the polar desert at the tip of Ellesmere Island in Nunavut, she developed a passion for northern landscapes. The primary motivation of her research is to better understand these ecosystems so as to actively contribute to the conservation of these relatively undisturbed sites. Émilie was elected to the Board of Directors in 2020.

Previous (2017)

President: Monique Bernier, Institut National de la recherche scientifique

Vice-President: Gary Wilson, University of Northern British Columbia

Secretary-Treasurer: Audrey Giles, University of Ottawa

Director: Alexandre Poulain, University of Ottawa

Director: Kevin Turner, Brock University

Director: Ken Caine, University of Alberta

Director: Hugo Asselin, University de Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue

Director: Stephanie Irlbacher-Fox, Carleton University

Director: Karla Jessen Williamson, University of Saskatchewan

Director: Charles Gignac, Institut National de la recherche scientifique

Director: Gabrielle Slowey, York University

Student Director: Élise Devoie, University of Waterloo