Students explore the realities of peace and conflict as Smaby Peace Scholars
“A holistic view of peace questions and seeks to address origins of violence, injustice, or inequality, as well as the structural forces which may perpetuate them,” Pearl McAndrews ’19 says. “What sort of responsibility do we have toward each other, and how do we each choose to interact with that responsibility?”
This was a question that McAndrews and fellow St. Olaf College student Ulises Jovel ’20 grappled with during a seven-week program in Norway as Smaby Peace Scholars.
McAndrews and Jovel were selected to participate in the program, which aims 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 each year. In 2017 students from Sacramento State University and the University of Hawaii at Manoa also joined the program.
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).
McAndrews and Jovel began the program at the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue in Lillehammer, where the scholars participated in dialogue sessions. They then moved to the University of Oslo International Summer School, where they spent six weeks deepening their understanding of the history and theories regarding conflict, war, and peace.
One of the most notable takeaways from the program was the opportunity to unpack the ways in which dialogue is often seen as a solution to social or political issues. “I think about how often calls for ‘dialogue’ are used as a cheap alternative for real social change, or reflect a shallow binary of two supposedly equal sides,” McAndrews says. “True dialogue like the kind we glimpsed at Lillehammer cannot take place, or even truly start, without recognition and a consideration of injustice, both on a personal or structural level.”
Throughout the program the students spent long days discussing peaceful solutions to conflict with other scholars and students from around the world. “One of the best experiences from the program were the people,” McAndrews says. “I met so many wonderful individuals who both challenged and humbled me, and who actively embodied these forms of peace and commitments towards equity.”
What I personally enjoyed the most out of my experience in Oslo were the daily opportunities we had to ask, challenge, and constructively question and engage with people who had and still have a great impact in peace and relief work in Norway.Ulises Jovel ’20
Jovel echoed similar sentiments. “What I personally enjoyed the most out of my experience in Oslo were the daily opportunities we had to ask, challenge, and constructively question and engage with people who had and still have a great impact in peace and relief work in Norway,” he says. “Oslo provided us with an intellectually challenging environment where we could challenge and criticize the Norwegian concept of peace and find ways to make it more intersectional with the aim to focus on a variety of people rather than white Europeans, something that I personally was not expecting.”
“Returning from Oslo has prompted me to question how at St. Olaf we celebrate certain aspects of Norway, but do not often critically engage with other parts: such as racism, social inequality, the treatment of the indigenous Sámi people, and its role as a major exporter of weapons for conflict,” McAndrews says.
The program in Norway contributed to both students’ career development. “After graduation I am planning to work as a sexual violence victim advocate or potentially do research,” McAndrews says. “Going forward, this past summer has complicated my understanding of what our responsibilities towards one another are in a wonderful and challenging way.”
For Jovel, the learning experience in Norway has prompted him to look at a career in teaching.
“After having spent the summer reading and interacting with master’s students, Aid relief activists, NGOs, a wide variety of professors, I would like to contribute to other students’ academic journeys by becoming a professor and hopefully have an impact as strong as my professors have had on me,” Jovel says.