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Engaged director meets students at UNIS

Harald Ellingsen meets students Monday. The class for the most popular program, Arctic offshore engineering, has 72 students who are occupying the stairs behind him. FOTO: Hilde Røsvik

Engaged director meets students at UNIS

New UNIS Director Harald Ellingsen moved to Longyearbyen on Sunday. A new office, new apartment and an exciting job were awaiting.



"I have long been looking forward to this," he said with a big smile.

His first week has been marked by hectic meetings and many new greetings. Ellingsen, 63, was formerly the head of the Department of Marine Technology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).


Ellingsen is a true Trønder. Born and raised in Trondheim, he studied and spent most of his career at the Norwegian Institute of Technology (now known as NTNU). The fact he is leaving Trondheim for four years for a fixed-term position at UNIS isn't something he feels dark about.

"None of our children are living there, so it's fine," he said.

Ellingsen is married to Anne and together they have four children – one son and three daughters – and four grandchildren. They are scattered around the country: Ålesund, Oslo, Tromsø and Bergen.

His wife Anne also got job at UNIS and is planning to move to Longyearbyen right after the New Year.

The dream of Svalbard
They both had a dream about Svalbard since they were here for the first time 25 years ago. During that visit they rented snowmobiles and drove to Von Postbreen and Hilmar Nøis' cabin at Fredheim.

"We were already was captivated by the light and the stunning scenery." Ellingsen said. "Since then we have often had Svalbard in mind."

Some years later, he, Anne and son and their son were crew on a sailboat from Longyearbyen to Tromsø. Delays due to ice in Adventfjorden gave them a few extra days in Longyearbyen. It was another experience he said was fun.

Outdoor life
The new director said he and his family love the outdoors and they are looking forward to many great experiences in the nature of Svalbard. Ellingsen went grouse hunting with his son in Tromsø, something he also hopes to do here.

"I would also like to move up to the big game exam so I can hunt reindeer," he said.

He and his wife have also traveled to Birkebeiners and Wasaloppet. They are planning to participate in the Svalbard Skimaraton next year with friends who are coming up.

"We're going to go, but we will be going fast," he said with a chuckle.

Leisure time
The new director said he isn't sure there will be time for other leisure activities. He will be busy this fall with a lot of traveling to and from Trondheim. There are subjects he is still teaching there until Christmas and he is the supervisor for a PhD student completing a thesis.

Choir singing is something he enjoys greatly and he has been a member of several choirs through the years. If he finds the time, he plans to get involved here.

"It has been many years since I have been in an active choir, so I would call myself a rather washed-up choir singer," he said with a smile. "I will do my best to share the rich cultural life here."

Much to give
Although he is approaching retirement age, Ellingsen said he doesn't seen that as a limitation. He is entering his new job with fresh courage.

"I still have a lot to give," he said. "After four years here I can perhaps start thinking about what to do with my retirement."

He describes his leadership style as social; a person who likes to do things with others and getting things together.

"I am concerned that those I an leading will think it's fun to go to work," Ellingsen said. "So we must, of course, set some future goals for us."

People who know him describe him as socially committed, intellectually curious, and concerned about the environment and sustainable solutions.

On thin ice
When asked how he uses social media, Ellingsen is a little hesitant responding.

"Well, there I am definitely a little on thin ice," he said. "I have three friends on Facebook and can well say that I am not very much active in social media. There's something I need to work on."

He said he's heard Facebook is actively used in Longyearbyen and a lot of information comes from that channel. He said his wife Anne is more active and is promising to keep him informed. Also, he said having an updated and informative website is important, and there UNIS is doing a good job.

On Sunday he moved into a furnished apartment in Gruvedalen with a bag and a suitcase. The bare essentials, like an iron and ironing board, were purchased at Svalbardbutikken. Most of the moving will occur when his wife comes up after Christmas.

"I imagine that I will be working a lot and I assume I'll be eating lunch in the cafeteria at UNIS or elsewhere in town. There won't be, in any case, very advanced cooking for meals," he said with a twinkle in his eye.

Se bildet større

Ellingsen talks to a group of students from Poland. FOTO: Hilde Røsvik

Se bildet større

Veronica Langteigen, manager of the cafeteria at UNIS, talks with Ellingsen. The new UNIS director said he plans to dine in the cafeteria frequently. FOTO: Hilde Røsvik

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