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Harvard bound Inuk

Kathleen Lippa
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Mar 29/04) - Kirt Ejesiak, the 34-year-old former secretary and chief of staff to Paul Okalik may not be the first Inuk to ever attend Harvard but as far as he knows, he is the first Inuk from Nunavut to be accepted by the prestigious school in Cambridge, Mass.

Kirt Ejesiak visiting Harvard University in the winter of 2003. He will become the first Inuk from Nunavut to attend Harvard in August, 2004. - photo courtesy of Madeleine Cole

School starts in August 2004, and Ejesiak will pursue a masters degree in public administration.

"I am really excited about it," he said. "I feel honoured."

Ejesiak never thought he would end up working for the Premier, let alone attend an ivy league school like Harvard.

He describes his early life growing up in Iqaluit as difficult.

Although he was bright, Ejesiak was not a straight 'A' student. Like most kids, he got into trouble occasionally and was once caught breaking into his high school with a bunch of his friends to steal stuff.

Things were not looking good for the Iqaluit teen. He found himself on probation, having to clean up the school as punishment.

Somewhere along the way, deep inside of him, Ejesiak felt he was destined for better things. He decided to clean up his act. He graduated from high school in Iqaluit and got himself into a good university -- Acadia in Nova Scotia -- where he studied Engineering. He failed physics twice but never gave up. He was going to be somebody.

After Acadia, Ejesiak moved to Yellowknife where he worked as a highway engineer and draftsman.

Only man on staff

Being Inuk, Ejesiak was soon drawn into various Inuit organizations, working for Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, even Pautuuiit Women's Organization where he had the distinction of being the only man on staff.

He loved being on Iqaluit city council when they passed the no-smoking bylaw and watching his city grow and change right before his eyes.

It was exciting, an experience that rates right up there with his best moments ever.

Now, after a year serving as principal secretary to Paul Okalik, Ejesiak has resigned from his job to attend Harvard, a move he has been planning for a year.

In a statement released March 18, Okalik thanked Ejesiak for his contribution to the Government of Nunavut in the final year of the first mandate, and for "ensuring a smooth transition to our new priorities."

Ejesiak calls the last year "an amazing opportunity."

He doesn't rule out being premier himself one day.

His parents are proud of him and how far he has come.

Ejesiak doesn't think Harvard is going to be his last stop in his educational pursuit.

On top of everything, he is even going to be a father soon. His partner is Dr. Madeleine Cole.

The master of public administration program at Harvard is one full year, and is geared for executives and senior managers.

Though the lure of beautiful Cambridge, Mass. may be strong for Ejesiak and Cole, he says he would like to come back home and work for the Nunavut public service again one day. "My interest is in the circumpolar field," he said.

"Either circumpolar affairs or international trade. Inuit should be working closer together. So the idea of reducing barriers between our neighbours is of high interest to me," he said.