St. Olaf College students Anne Halloin ’18 and Gabrielle Simeck ’18 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 University, Concordia, Luther, St. Olaf, and Pacific Lutheran University — are chosen to participate. This year the group will also include two scholars from Sacramento State University and the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
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 2017 program will begin with six days at the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue in Lillehammer, where the scholars will participate in dialogue sessions with students from the Balkans and Caucasus regions in addition to other conflict areas.
The scholars will 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. In addition to lectures and seminars, they will visit some of the leading peace organizations in Norway, including the Nobel Peace Center and the Peace Research Institute.
Scholars also have an opportunity to take an additional undergraduate course of their choice. Simeck will take a course in Scandinavian government and politics, while Halloin will study international politics.
Simeck, a native of Lake Forest, Illinois, looks forward to focusing on peace studies and exploring questions of conflict resolution and social change.
“The Peace Scholars program was the perfect fit. I’m excited to get a chance to conduct my own research in a vastly different context than St. Olaf and gain practical experience facilitating constructive dialogues,” says Simeck. “I am looking forward to meeting students from all over the world and digging into questions of politics, culture, and identity.”
As a political science major, Simeck has studied international relations, international law, and non-violence resistance.
“As a French major who is currently abroad, I was hoping to continue sharing in an intercultural exchange,” she says. “I look forward to learning about Norway’s unique role in the development of peace studies. I’m thrilled to have the chance to participate!”
Halloin, a native of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, hopes to bring something unique to the program as a religion major.
“The most inspiring part about this program is that violence and conflict are not mysterious happenings, but rather the result of poor international policy and economic patterns — meaning that conflict can be resolved, and violence can be prevented,” says Halloin.
Halloin’s studies have revealed to her that religions — especially monotheistic religions such as Christianity and Islam — have peace as one of the main elements of their theologies, but can be justified for violence.
“It’s easy to see differences between people, and between different religions,” she says. “But it’s more important to note that every religion ends a prayer (whether that be shalom, salam, shanti, or amen) with asking for peace.”