Iceland Country Brief

Scenic skyline of Reykjavic

For a small country, Iceland maintains a large number of connections to Minnesota and the University. The University of Iceland is a key partner of the University of Minnesota, starting with the establishment of a student exchange in 1982 that continues today. Minnesota is home to a large population of Icelandic descendants, and local heritage organizations support the University’s relationship with Iceland. An enthusiastic alumni chapter promotes Minnesota-Iceland connections and engagement among alumni living in Iceland. Faculty exchange and research partnerships are growing in the fields of nursing, public health, education, and science.

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Research and Faculty Connections

  • School of Nursing Dean Connie Delaney has been engaged with the University of Iceland for more than twenty years. She holds a professorship at the University of Iceland in both the Faculty of Nursing and the Faculty of Medicine. 
  • Mary Jo Kreitzer, Center for Spirituality and Healing, has two collaborators at the University of Iceland with whom she collaborated to write a book on Integrative Nursing. In 2012 the University of Minnesota School of Nursing and Center for Spirituality & Healing the 1st International Integrative Nursing Symposium in Reykjavík. 
  • Ann Garwick and Wendy Looman, School of Nursing, have multiple collaborations with the University of Iceland in adolescent nursing practices.
  • Teddie Potter, School of Nursing, and collaborators at the University of Iceland teach an online and week-long seminar on Nursing Leadership. 
  • Merrie Kaas, School of Nursing, is participating and teaching in an international course co-sponsored by University of Iceland and University of Minnesota schools of nursing. The course also includes faculty and students from Sweden, Norway, and Latvia. 
  • Susan K. Walker, CEHD, holds a guest professorship with the University of Iceland, School of Education. She provides consultation on the development of a Masters of Education in Family Education program, and has forged an MOU for the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) and UI and a collaboration for co-teaching in two UMN courses. These online courses in parent-child interactions and on parent learning and development blend Icelandic and UMN students, deepening practitioner students' intercultural awareness through collaborative, engaged learning spaces.
  • Paul Imbretson, College of Science and Engineering, leads students to Iceland, Denmark, and Norway each May term to study existing and emerging energy production methods and energy usage. 
  • Leonard Ferrington in CFANS leads a short course to Iceland focused on natural resource and environmental management. 
  • Thorunn Bjarnadottir, International Student and Scholar Services, has co-created with Erla Kristjansdottir an intercultural curriculum called “Cultural Detective Iceland” that is used in international business classes at the University of Iceland.  
  • School of Public Health researcher Sara Veblen-Mortenson is exploring an academic exchange program with the University of Iceland’s Department of Sport, Leisure Studies and Social Education. 

Institutional Partners

University of Iceland

The University of Iceland is one of the University of Minnesota's longest and strongest partners. Founded in 1911, the University of Iceland is a progressive educational and scientific institution, renowned in the global scientific community for its research. It is a state university, situated in the heart of Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland. The University of Iceland is a leading Icelandic university and an active participant in the international scientific and academic community.

UMN Partners and Related Units

UMN Units with Partnerships and Projects in Iceland

  • Center for Spirituality and Healing
  • College of Education and Human Development
  • College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences
  • College of Science and Engineering
  • School of Nursing

Related Units

  • The Global Programs and Strategy Alliance is the central international office for the University of Minnesota system and has a leadership role in supporting and maintaining the UMN relationship with the University of Iceland.
  • GO Minnesota is the University's program for visiting international students. GO Minnesota manages the University's bilateral student exchanges, including with the University of Iceland.

Funding Opportunities

Carol Pazandak Iceland-Minnesota Travel Fund
Funds available to support visits by University of Iceland faculty and staff to the University of Minnesota for the purpose of consulting, visits, or research.

See "Student Mobility" section below for information on the student scholarship exchange program between the University of Minnesota and the University of Iceland.


Alumni Chapter

The first students from Iceland came to the University of Minnesota starting in the 1930s. In 1981, when discussions for the student exchange began, the University of Minnesota already had 100 alumni living in Iceland. In 1984, University of Minnesota alumni in Iceland formed a chapter of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association (Minnesota Hollvinnafelag).

Distinguished Alumni

Geir Haarde earned his master’s in economics from the University of Minnesota in 1977. He became prime minister of Iceland in 2006, adding to his distinguished career as a member of the Icelandic parliament, minister of finance, and minister of foreign affairs. The University of Minnesota awarded him an honorary degree, the University’s highest honor, in May 2007. He is the current ambassador from Iceland to the U.S.

Student Mobility

Icelandic Students at UMN

2 students (2019-20)*

UMN Students in Iceland

49 students (2018-19)+

UMN students can choose from several learning abroad programs in Iceland, including an academic year exchange and several short-term programs.

Student Exchange

The formal relationship between the University of Minnesota and the University of Iceland began in 1982 with the establishment of a student exchange. The incoming Icelandic students are supported by the Val Björnson Icelandic Exchange Scholarship. The scholarship is generously supported by the local Icelandic community, including the Hekla Club, the Icelandic American Association of Minnesota, and the Consulate General of Iceland in Minneapolis. Every five years, the student exchange agreement is re-signed by the University of Minnesota President and the University of Iceland Rector, alternating locations between Minnesota and Iceland. GO Minnesota manages the University's bilateral student exchanges, including with the University of Iceland.

*Source: ISSS Annual Report (Twin Cities only)
+Systemwide, source: Learning Abroad Center

Community Engagement

Support from local organizations and individuals has been key to the long-standing success of the University's relationship with Iceland, including financial support of the Val Björnson Icelandic Exchange Scholarship.

Minnesota and neighboring North Dakota are home to a significant number of people of Icelandic descent (3,900 and 2,800 respectively, out of a total U.S. population of 51,000 descendants). Only Washington state and California claim more of the Icelandic diaspora in the U.S.

Key local organizations include:

  • Honorary Consulate General of Iceland in Minneapolis: In addition to assisting Icelandic nationals in the U.S. with any of their problems, the Consular staff works on trade issues and helps organize and promote a wide range of programming sent by Iceland to the U.S. It also assists on any visits of Icelandic dignitaries to the U.S. and performs such other duties as requested by the Icelandic government.
  • Icelandic Hekla Club: The Hekla Club is a women’s group, formed in 1925, to celebrate their Icelandic heritage and to support the community. It is the oldest continuously meeting Icelandic club in the U.S. Today, efforts are more community- and education-based, as the Club supports the Val Bjornson Icelandic Exchange Scholarship Fund at the University of Minnesota and other Icelandic and education related organizations across the Midwest.
  • Icelandic American Association of Minnesota: The Icelandic American Association of Minnesota was founded in 1994. It promotes Icelandic culture, past and present; supports events that celebrate Icelandic culture and strengthen appreciation of Icelandic heritage; and provides an organization for anyone interested in Iceland.