Catching up with alumni: Tyler Wacker

Welcome to our “catching up with alumni” series where we introduce you to previous UW students over the years. Tyler Wacker is a 33 year old alum who graduated from the Coastal Communities and Regional Development master’s program in 2022. Tyler's hobbies include biking, surfing, and skateboarding.

What brought you to UW?
I was drawn by a bit of the unknown. Iceland was this relatively undiscovered place for me and I wanted to live abroad. I found that education would be the easiest way to do that but it also didn't hurt that I wanted to pivot from a pure engineering focus to more community planning experience.

What did you like about studying here?
I enjoyed the hands-on nature of the courses and meeting a lot of people in the Westfjords. The people here are very open to ideas new and old. I learned from a broad geographic range of teachers and my classmates were from all over the world.

Did you experience any culture shocks in Ísafjörður?
Plenty, but none that were unmanageable. There is a certain pace that life happens here and it took a while to match that after living in the states for all of my life.

Which UW instructor would you choose as a teammate for a pub quiz?
Peter Krost. While I never had him as an instructor, the few interactions we've had have been highly enjoyable. Not to mention, we may be the only two people who have biked to attend UW!

What was student life like here? What activities did you enjoy?
Student life was very nice. The cohort really sticks together and gets you through the hard times and is also there for the highs. I enjoyed the multicultural aspect of student life - learning from cultures from around the world as well as connecting with students from the states as well.

Do you have any tips for current students?
Easier said than done, but be open minded when coming here. Iceland is full of surprises and changed plans, and it's best to be flexible and roll with them as they come.

What was your favorite study spot?
I studied a lot at the university itself. The environment helps you focus and there's always someone there that you can bounce an idea off of. I've also had my fair share of lattes at the local coffee shop Heimabyggð.

Where did you do your thesis research and why did you choose that location?
I chose Iceland for my thesis research. I wanted to continue living in Ísafjörður and Matthias was involved with an innovation project that had funding for thesis research. It was a perfect match.


What was your research on?
My thesis is titled, "Unconditional Basic Income as a Means to Foster Innovation in Rural Iceland". The aims of my research were to answer the question if Icelandic citizens received an unconditional payment each month, how likely would they be to innovate and/or move to the countryside of Iceland. The results were quite positive and the participants were interested in moving as well as starting more community based projects.

What is something that you learned here that you took with you?
I've learned so much by attending the UW program. One thing I'll take with me is to not be afraid to execute an idea. The whole program is built on a "can do" attitude. Starting a university in the middle of nowhere Iceland attract international students to come? Sure why not. Have an academic program that is as hands-on as it is in-class teaching? Sure why not. It all starts with an idea and the will to do it. So it's a good lesson to not let those ideas just stay in the brainstorm.

What do you currently do?
I work in bike tourism and own the bike shop in Ísafjörður. With Cycling Westfjords, I organize a 1,000 km bike race in the summer that starts and ends Ísafjörður. It is a 4-stage race that takes you around the Westfjords Way. The race has a unique aspect, where participants are required to stop at two "Cultural Connections" per stage. Cultural connections are predetermined points of interest such as cafes, hot pots, or museums. Because of the hands-on nature of UW and field trips around the Westfjords, it helped me tremendously when we started the bike race. I knew who to talk to

In a zombie apocalypse, which UW staff member would be most likely to survive?
Peter Weiss, hands down.