St. Olaf College students Pearl McAndrews ’19 and Ulises Jovel ’20 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. 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).
The Peace Scholars 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.
McAndrews is a political science and sociology/anthropology major, and is studying abroad in Denmark this semester. Jovel is a political science and economics major with concentrations in statistics and Latin American studies.
Jovel says he was inspired to apply for the Peace Scholars Program after having experienced the long-term effects that war has had on his home country.
“I am from El Salvador, a country that has been socioeconomically damaged by the 13-year civil war that ended almost 26 years ago — a civil war that caused a continuous deterioration of our civil society,” he says. “This deterioration comes in the form of violence, insecurity, and corruption.”
The country is experiencing increasing polarization that is created, he says, by a lack of communication, a lack of dialogue, and a lack of understanding from the parties involved. He hopes that the Peace Scholars Program will provide a platform to learn about nonviolent conflict resolution alongside students from different countries, cultures, and religions.
“I have seen through my own eyes what violence does to my country,” Jovel says. “I believe we must give dialogue a chance.”
“I have seen through my own eyes what violence does to my country. I believe we must give dialogue a chance.” — Ulises Jovel ’20
McAndrews says she has been inspired by past participants of the Peace Scholars Program and the engaged and thoughtful work she has seen produced via the program. She is looking forward to examining the concept of peace and challenging her own given notions.
“I believe that while the hope for peace is an important ideal towards which to strive, there must also be a critical reflection in an application of any supposedly ‘universal’ concept; just as there may be numerous experiences of what it means to be ‘at war,’ we must take into account differing narratives of what peace entails for various individuals, states, or communities,” she says.
McAndrews hopes this program will help her bridge the gap between academic theory and everyday practice.
“I am looking forward to engaging in challenging, honest, and fruitful discussion with my peers,” she says, “and to critically analyze the role we each have to play in moving power to create an inclusive and justice-centered movement.”