Olivia Paruk '24 is part of the winning team of the Arctic Opportunity Explorers Challenge. S... Olivia Paruk '24 is part of the winning team of the Arctic Opportunity Explorers Challenge. She is looking for ways to expand on her team's project, Arctic ReWild, as she pursues her interest in sustainable business at College of the Atlantic.

The Arctic Opportunity Explorers program tasked teams of students to develop sustainable solutions to some of the most pressing problems of the ecologically critical area. Paruk and her team, including students from the University of Edinburgh and the Higher School of Economics, Moscow, created the project the judges deemed the winning solution—Arctic ReWild, which focuses on ecological restoration in Alaska.

“I am really so honored to be part of the team that was selected, because there were so many other amazing, talented young people who probably had more experience than our group had, but I think it just shows that with perseverance, collaboration, and just trial and error that you can actually pull something off,” Paruk said. “It gives me a lot of confidence knowing that some of the ideas I’ve had are actually valuable to the world!”

Arctic ReWild explores the ways permafrost thaw can impact children and pregnant women. Paruk and her teammates, Constance Beswick and Yulia Skrupskaya, worked with the goals outlined in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to craft their solution. The team, who were randomly selected, all came from a variety of backgrounds, Paruk said. In fact, this was her first experience of any kind with a project like this.

“I’ve always been really interested in sustainable business, so I thought this would be a cool way to just kind of jump into that world. I definitely fell a little bit harder into it quicker than I had imagined I would, during my first term of college,” she said. “Now I’ve been taking some sustainable business classes, and still continuing to work on this project, to see how I might continue with it, or expand it down the line.”

The winning proposal of the Arctic Explorers Challenge investigates the negative impacts of perma... The winning proposal of the Arctic Explorers Challenge investigates the negative impacts of permafrost thaw on pregnant women and children and aims to reduce these effects through rewilding Arctic areas starting in Alaska.

The Arctic Opportunity Explorers program is a collaboration between Copenhagen-based climate group Sustainia, five Scandinavian universities, and College of the Atlantic. The goal of the program is to empower young people to become changemakers in the Arctic through sustainable entrepreneurship. Funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers, the project was facilitated by Novozymes’ HelloScience digital platform, which brought together students to create solutions to real world challenges in the Arctic. Participants included students from 11 universities in nine countries.

The students in the program attended webinars and training sessions and worked with mentors including COA Sharpe-McNally Chair of Green and Socially Responsible Business Jay Friedlander, who presented on his Abundance Cycle theory of sustainable business development. Friedlander said he was impressed by Paruk’s work on the project.

“It was not at all surprising that Olivia and her team were the winners of AOE. Their idea, Arctic ReWild, exemplifies the best of what happens when sustainability is done right,” Friedlander said. “Having seen Olivia in class, I’m not surprised she sought to build a virtuous cycle, renewing the environment and restoring community health while building economic prosperity for all.”

Taking part in the project was a positive and inspiring experience, Paruk said, and one that reinforced her drive to learn everything she can about sustainable business while at COA.

“I’ve always been a person who tries to create new ideas for solutions, but I’ve never been in a place where that work has been judged, so it was super exciting,” she said. “It also shows that business, which we sometimes think of as a really evil or greedy sector of the world, can actually be used for good. If I can be part of something that actually betters the world, that’s an awesome thing.”