St. Olaf students named Smaby Peace Scholars
St. Olaf College students Kristina Quanbeck ’21 and Manuela Novoa Villada ’21 have been named Smaby Peace Scholars.
The Peace Scholars Program is designed to expand students’ awareness of current issues relating to peace, justice, democracy, and human rights through a series of educational experiences in Norway. Two students from each of the six Norwegian-American Lutheran colleges — Augsburg, Augustana, Concordia, Luther, St. Olaf, and Pacific Lutheran University — are chosen to participate. This year, two students from the University of Hawaii at Manoa will also participate.
Students at St. Olaf receive funding to participate in the program through the Philip C. Smaby Peace Scholars Endowed Scholarship, which was established in honor of the late Philip Carlyle Smaby, a Minneapolis-St. Paul philanthropist who attended St. Olaf and three of whose children are alumni (Mark Smaby ’66, Gary Smaby ’71, and John Smaby ’76).
The program takes students to the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue in Lillehammer, where the scholars will participate in dialogue sessions. They then move to the University of Oslo International Summer School, where they will spend six weeks deepening their understanding of the history and theories regarding conflict, war, and peace.
“Through my studies thus far, I have learned that there are many instances in which peacebuilding and peace mediation techniques are needed, yet are unavailable to marginalized groups,” Quanbeck says. “As such, I am committed to working towards peace and stability for those who are facing violence, impoverished conditions, or cultural assimilation.”
As a political science and Norwegian major with a concentration in race and ethnic studies, Quanbeck has already enjoyed studying the systems for peace building in Norway and is excited to move from her classroom experiences at St. Olaf to the actual sites were those programs are carried out.
“I believe that studying in Norway is a beneficial way to learn about peace and conflict, as many Norwegian organizations work on a global scale to implement peacebuilding programs,” Quanbeck says.
Novoa Villada says that she was inspired to apply for this peace program after experiencing the effects of conflict and attempts at peace in her home country.
“I am from Colombia, a country that has been fighting against illegal armed groups for over 50 years. Not long ago, Colombia signed a peace agreement which promised people a better future,” Novoa Villada says. “Nevertheless, nowadays people back home question the effects of the agreements, and regard the government’s approach as inefficient since no visible change has been effected. Therefore, I applied to participate in the Peace Scholars Program because I am interested in grasping a better comprehension of what was done in my country, since Colombia followed the peace model recognized within the global arena.”
The opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue with individuals in the peace and mediation field is a key part the program and a piece that both scholars are eagerly anticipating.
“I am very excited for the opportunity to engage in conversations with people working in the peace and mediation field, and am excited to learn how their experiences have shaped their perspective of peace,” Quanbeck says. “This program offers the unique opportunity to meet with several groups that are active in different points of the peacebuilding process.”
Manuela Novoa Villada ’21I am looking forward to engaging in conversations with people and scholars who have different perspectives about the meaning of peace, the effects of conflict, the models for peace creation, and the methods for conflict resolution.
Novoa Villada echos similar sentiments. “I am looking forward to engaging in conversations with people and scholars who have different perspectives about the meaning of peace, the effects of conflict, the models for peace creation, and the methods for conflict resolution,” she says. “As a sociology/anthropology and philosophy double major, I am interested in getting to understand how the individual, the collective, and the structural relate, get created, and integrate.”
Throughout the program Quanbeck and Novoa Villada will live and learn in an environment where students and scholars alike will be challenged to examine war, conflict, and peace from many different sides.
“I personally believe humans have the capacity to reshape the foundations of society, since we live in a world where inequity, discrimination, racism, sexism, and disparity prevail,” Novoa Villada says. “The creation of dialogue encourages the acceptance and understanding of diversity, translated into peace.”