Mille Porsild (Denmark) - Program Director, Team Member
Click here if you would like to send Mille a note of encouragement or would just like to say 'Hello' while she is on the expedition.
Mille is an educator, arctic explorer, web developer, writer and K-12 lecturer. She has logged thousands of miles of travel by dog sled in the Arctic regions; becoming a voice for Arctic education. As lead developer of collaborative online education programs she is responsible for authoring and managing the framework, design and curricula of online classroom environments.
Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, Porsild has arctic exploration in her genes. Her great grandfather, Morten Porsild, a contemporary of Robert Peary and friend of Knud Rasmussen, was the founder of the first arctic research station in the world which he placed on Disko Island in Greenland. His sons Erling and Thorbjorn Porsild later moved to Canada where they traveled throughout the Northwest and Yukon Territories by dog teams, managing, amongst others, the renowned Reindeer Expedition and building the Reindeer Station in the Mackenzie River Delta.
Porsild first carried on the tradition in 1992 when she joined Polar Explorer, Will Steger, at his Homestead in northern Minnesota to participate in the development of the International Arctic Project 1992-1995 (IAP). Featured in National Geographic in January 1996, it was a first-of-its-kind educational expedition program employing exploration as a catalyst for learning.
Upon the successful completion of IAP in 1996, Porsild co-founded NOMADS Adventure & Education, Inc., extending her commitment to combine adventure with classroom education. Through continuing initiatives she strives to foster cultural understanding and environmental responsibility while developing truly collaborative tools for learning in holistic, online classrooms.
A frequent speaker at schools around the world, Porsild has shared her enthusiasm with more than 70,000 students of all ages throughout the United States alone. In person or via the Internet she is a dynamic advocate of the use of education to instill proactive behavior and inspire adventurous spirits.
Interview With Mille Porsild
What is your favorite food?
Oh, I just LOVE food. If you ask me while I am out on the trail it is caribou meat, deer sausage…and salad! A big bowl of green salad with lots of fresh goodies AND blue cheese. I love blue cheese. I love my mom’s fried pork liver. Other favorites are the Danish “fiske-frikadeller” (fish meat balls), in the summer time and “Ridengrod,” (sort of like rice pudding) in the winter time. Mmm, a juicy leg of lamb with fresh potatoes is also amazing. And then of course butter. When I was a kid, they had to remove the butter plate, or I would try to sneak eat it all. It is endless!
What kind of music do you like?
Music is a very important part of my life. I am not very good at naming groups of music or specific artists – but I listen to a lot of music everyday. It keeps me going. What kind of music depends on my mood, but I actually like it all from classic, jazz, country, rock, pop, rap, folk…you name it. More important I love loud music. I love dancing!
Hobbies or interests.
I am a pretty passionate person who likes to do a lot of things. Drawing, writing, swimming, having fun, cooking a good dinner, talking to kids, watching a play or a movie, travel and being with friends and family! I don’t get to do it much anymore, but if I had a hobby it was probably horse back riding. I trained trotting horses back in Denmark, and I miss that a lot. Else, I really enjoy being with the Polar Huskies, reading a good book or having a good discussion. I have always had a profound interest in the world that surrounds us, and in cultures and people. Being “cozy”, lighting the candles and having hot chocolate with whip cream is also very important to me. All of that said, I think my greatest interest has to be the Arctic and education. I really love what I do – and a lot of times that pretty much absorbs me.
Favorite classes or subjects in school?
As much as I loved the vacations, I loved school. All of it. My favorite subjects were probably Social Studies and Danish literature. I find everything that has to do with culture and our societies extremely interesting, and always have, I guess. I liked the subject Danish so much, because I really enjoyed gaining an understanding of, and discussing the various perspectives different authors have on life and the world as they see it. Besides from that, I think language and the many forms of communication are beautiful. That said, I actually did dislike one subject. It was English, because I was not that great at it. Which is a little funny if you think about that today I live speaking and writing in English every day!
Favorite childhood memories?
Probably being at my grand parents farm. Riding horses, playing with the dogs and hanging out learning to do stuff from my grandmother. Oh, and playing cowboys with my two cousins – we were like sisters.
How did you choose your current career path? Who or what inspired you?
I am easily inspired. I think my greatest inspiration besides from grand people - such as the Indian philosopher Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, the Danish author and adventurer Karen Blixen, the Greenlandic explorer Knud Rasmussen and the Danish educator Grundtvig - I have been tremendously inspired by the life of my great grandfather Morten Porsild. He was a farmer son that became the first in my family to continue on with his education. He moved on to graduate as a Doctor in the field of botany and biology. With a profound interest in all Arctic, a love for the outdoors, and some strong believes in the value of research and education from the field, he built and founded the first Arctic research station in the world, in a for him completely foreign, and distant far away land of Disko Island, Greenland. He lived and raised a family there for forty years. A forerunner in his field he often struggled, meeting lots of resistance, but he endured and believed in his dreams. Actually, I think it is safe to say I have been inspired by my entire family, from who I have learned many of life’s lessons with lots of love. What continues to inspire me in my work today, are the teachers we work with – and most importantly kids!
What advice do you have for the students of today?
Keep exploring! Stay open minded. Always remember there are many perspectives. Make it your duty to learn from your surroundings. Do not be intimidated and always strive to belief in the future. You hold it in your dreams and aspirations. Believe in that you can do anything you truly put yourself towards. Be responsible - towards your own opportunity, towards society and our global environment.
Why is it important to study the Arctic
The Arctic is a fragile, remote region with a valuable traditional culture, from which I belief we have a lot to learn. Being that the Arctic is so foreign to most people it is an exciting place of study. In our studies we can learn the important lessons of interconnectivity, both in regards to nature, the environment, the world society and even in human relation. The bonds formed between team members, and the kindness with which we are treated entering remote communities are important lessons. I also think the Arctic, with her stark beauty and brute force, is great at reminding us to be humble as humans and to value every pleasant moment we have! As my favorite cookie jar says “Live. Laugh. Learn.”
How and when did you first become a dog musher?
Well, I dreamed of being a dog musher traveling in the Arctic since I was a kid! In 1992, when I was 19 years old and living in Denmark, preparing to go to veterinary school, I was invited to volunteer for polar explorer Will Steger at his Homestead in Minnesota, to take care of the Polar Huskies for the summer. It was an absolutely amazing experience. I worked hard, loooong hours; moving fire wood, rocks and building materials - you name it – and working in the yard with the dogs early morning and late night. I loved every minute of it. That fall, I was then invited to take part in a 72 day dogsled expedition from Winnipeg to Yellowknife. My parents were a little nervous, but as they always have, they encouraged me to go, to explore and to belief in that one can do whatever one puts the mind to. I had never been winter camping before, but I thought “why not!.” That’s it - I was hooked.
Responsibilities on the trail
Prior to the expeditions I work with almost all angles of GoNorth!, in my role as Program Director, which I really enjoy. The same goes for when we are out on the trail. I work closely with Paul on moving the expedition forward - running the Polar Huskies - but at the same time I spend most of my time thinking about and working with the other team members on the delivery of the education program to the Online Classroom, as well as with the Basecamp staff.